Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: F. SCOTT AND ZELDA FITZGERALD HOME

When I was in college, I had a special interest in the literature of the first half of the 20th century, and so visiting the home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in Montgomery was especially intriguing. Opened in 1989, it is the only museum dedicated to the Fitzgeralds. Zelda was born in Montgomery, and this house, where Scott, Zelda, and their ten-year-old daughter Scottie lived for only six months (October 1931 to April 1932), was not far from her parents' home.
F. Scott and Zelda FItzgerald Home, Montgomery, AL / Souvenir Chronicles
While they were living here, Scott was working on his book Tender Is the Night, and Zelda was writing her only book, Save me the Waltz, which ended up being one of many the thorns in the Fitzgerald marriage:
After the Fitzgeralds moved out, the house was subdivided into four apartments, and just a few of the rooms are currently open to the public. Today, the museum curator/tour guide, who is working on a graduate English degree, lives in one of the apartments. He is very knowledgeable and has an obvious passion for the Fitzgeralds.

The rooms are full of memorabilia from many periods of the Fitzgeralds' tumultuous lives:
F. Scott and Zelda FItzgerald Home, Montgomery, AL / Souvenir Chronicles
This is not so different from the manual typewriter I learned to type on in eighth grade. We've come a long, long, LONG way since then:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: THE KING PARSONAGE, THE DEXTER AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH, AND THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER CIVIL RIGHTS MEMORIAL

A trio of very important civil rights-related buildings are within blocks of each other in downtown Montgomery.  The first is the parsonage where Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived from 1954 to 1960. Martin and Coretta moved into this house in January 1954 after two months of marriage and when Martin was just 25 years old. They were living here two years later when the Civil Rights Movement got kick-started by Rosa Parks and the bus boycott in December 1955. As the well-known and very articulate local pastor of the Baptist church, King was naturally drawn into the fray.
Martin Luther King Parsonage, Montgomery, AL / Souvenir ChroniclesFrom the very beginning the work required great personal sacrifice. King was determined to follow a course of non-violent resistance, but the white community, including law enforcement, was not so inclined. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was common for him to receive as many as 40 death threats via phone and mail a day, and he knew he was putting his own life and the lives of his wife and baby daughter at risk. He had already spent time in the Montgomery Jail, and his will was beginning to falter.

According the David J. Garrow's Pulitzer prize winning biography Bearing the Cross (see review at the end of this prior post), one night after a particularly vicious day, ". . . he was about to retire when the phone rang and yet another caller warned him that if was going to leave Montgomery alive, he had better do so soon. King hung up and went to bed, but found himself unable to sleep. Restless and fearful, he went to the kitchen, made some coffee, and sat down at the table. 'I started thinking about many things,' he recalled eleven years later. He thought about the . . . many threats he was receiving. 'I was ready to give up. . . . With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward.'"

King reviewed his life up to that point, which he considered to be very happy. He thought about his religious views, and how he had grown up in the church. He said, "The church meant something very real to me, but it was a kind of inherited religion and I had never felt an experience with God in the way that you must, and have it, if you're going to walk the lonely paths of this life."
Kitchen in the King Parsonage
Garrow continues, "But that night, unable to be at peace with himself, King feared he could take it no longer. It was the most important night of his life, the one he always would think back to in future years when the pressures again seemed to be too great." King thought about his baby daughter, and the fact that she could be taken from him. He thought of his wife Coretta, and the fact that she could be taken from him or he from her. King said, "And I got to the point that I couldn't take it any longer. I was weak. . . . And then I discovered that religion had become very real to me, and I had to know God for myself."  He bowed his head over his cup of coffee and prayed to know what he was doing was right, and for courage to see it through.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: HAMBURGER KING AND ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Every now and then I have to throw in a word about our meals, especially if we go somewhere that's a little unique.


Such a place is Hamburger King on 218 West Main in Montgomery, which gets a 93% rating on Urban Spoon and 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp. The interior decor is definitely nothing special, unless you like diner-style blue-collar joints, and it's location is pretty dicey. If Guy Fiero hasn't visited this place on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, someone needs to get him here quick.

 I had the "Cheeseburger All the Works," and wouldn't say it's the best burger I've ever had, but I can see why this place is very popular with the locals. My burger was loaded with add-ons and had just the right amount of greasiness. It was a nice old-fashioned burger served up in a nice old-fashioned joint. Definitely worth a stop.

From the Hamburger King, we made our way to St. John's Episcopal Church, a Gothic revival building erected in 1855 and famous for being the church that Jefferson Davis attended.  It also hosted the Secession Convention of Southern Churches in 1861.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: FIRST WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY

Just a few blocks from the Alabama State Capitol building is the First White House of the Confederacy. This house only served this purpose from February 1861 to May 1861, and then the capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia. However, Jefferson Davis and his family made a significant mark on Montgomery in that short period of time.
The house was originally located about a mile from this site, but it was moved when its original neighborhood was undergoing renovation.
The house back-in-the-day. Looks like the white
siding we see today is not original.
Inside, we were allowed to take as many (flash-free) pictures as we wanted to. Finally. 
Jefferson Davis, U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, 1853

Monday, April 14, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: STATE CAPITOL BUILDING

Alabama was a key state in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Many events that are now written into our history books occurred in this state, including Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus in 1954 and the resulting Montgomery bus boycott that lasted more than a year and led to the desegregation of the city's buses.  It was in Montgomery that Martin Luther King, Jr., a young minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. It was from a jail in Alabama that King, who had been arrested during anti-segregation protests, wrote his 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which defended non-violent resistance to unjust laws and racism and became a key document in the movement. A few months later, police used fire hoses and dogs to control demonstrators in Birmingham, and the images spread rapidly around the world, garnering much sympathy and respect for the civil rights protesters. Later that year, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham church, killing four girls attending Sunday School. In March 1965, protesters on a march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights were stopped by police using tear gas, whips, and clubs, resulting in 50 people being hospitalized and spurring on the enactment of the Voting Rights Act a few months later. A third attempt at a Selma to Montgomery March was successful, ending on March 25, 1965, with 25,000 protestors at the base of the capitol steps.

Knowing these facts makes a visit to the state's beautiful Greek-revival capitol building even more interesting.
Jefferson Davis stood under the front portico of this building on February 18, 1861, and took the Oath of Office of the President of the Confederate States of America.
Most of the capitol buildings we've visited have statues honoring famous people. I liked this one in Montgomery honoring law enforcement officers:



Thursday, April 10, 2014

STROLLING AROUND MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA

Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, and with a population of just over 200,000 it is the state's second-largest city, just behind Birmingham. In spite of its population, it has a very small-town feel.

It was rainy when we were there, so very few people were out and about as we took a nice stroll downtown next to the Alabama River. One of the things I really enjoyed was a series of murals on the buildings. I come from a city filled with public art like this, so I'm always on the lookout for it when we travel. These are especially fun paintings:
This giant fish looks like he about to swallow not just Jonah, but the entire Garden of Eden and the stable with Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ALABAMA'S HIGHEST POINT: CHEAHA STATE PARK (With a side order of Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles)

Bob and I had plans to climb to the highest point in Alabama, and we knew we needed to fuel up before leaving Atlanta, so we stopped for lunch at Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles Restaurant: 
I like Gladys Knight a lot, and I like her even more now that I've seen the rules she has posted in the window of her restaurant:

I've never thought to combine chicken and waffles on the same plate, and I can't say that I plan on doing it for our next dinner party, but it was pretty fun to try it in Atlanta. In fact, it's a common combination all over the South.
Bob's Southern-fried chicken
My waffle--moist and soft with a slight sweetness
Our sides were the best part of the meal: corn, cheese and grits,
black-eyed peas, and collard greens

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: JIMMY CARTER LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

We love Presidential Libraries/Birthplaces/Museums. Looking at history in the context of one individual's contributions is enlightening. This was particularly true of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, which happens to be next door to but run separately from the Carter Center, a non-profit human rights agency founded by Jimmy and Rosalyn in 1982.
The approach to the Library and Museum includes a roundabout lined with state flags.
 The library is built on the spot where Union General William T. Sherman orchestrated the Battle of Atlanta in 1864
Carter took office in January 1977, the middle of my senior year of high school. His was the first presidency that meant something to me on a political level. I remember that my mother, usually a Republican, voted for him because of his stance on human rights. I still find him to be one of our most interesting Presidents, partly because of his farm boy roots, something I can identify with.
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