The Remagicing of Birmingham

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I’ve been reading Fannie Flagg’s I Still Dream About You, and it has made me look into so many aspects of Birmingham’s history. One is the refurbishing/reopening of  many lovely buildings downtown, most of which I’ve yet to see. Such as….

 

Florentine Building

Located at Second Avenue North and Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard, it first opened in 1926 and has always been an events center. It sat empty for about six and a half years until Corretti Catering bought it and remodeled it. It has a newly renovated ballroom and they hope to have a cafe open for lunch in April.

 

Redmont Hotel

This  hotel first opened in 1925, and some of it’s original features are the 10-foot chandelier, marble staircase, moldings and iron railings found in the lobby. Harvest Restaurant & Bar on the ground floor is a fine-dining restaurant that serves farm-to-table fare with an Italian twist. The hotel’s Cafe 2101 serves pastries and other treats made on-site, along with Revelator coffee.  Two ballrooms and two board rooms make up most of the meeting room space and there are 120 guest rooms. There is also a new rooftop lounge. The Redmont Hotel Birmingham is located downtown at 2101 Fifth Avenue North.

 

Pizitz Food Hall

The Pizitz Building was built in 1925, but it had been vacant since the early 1980s. It recently reopened with restaurants, retail and apartments. Pizitz Food Hall  is a unique dining experience with a wide variety of vendors, from traditional burgers to Asian to Ethiopian to Israeli cuisine.

Thomas Jefferson Tower

The twenty story Thomas Jefferson Tower, completed in 1929, had been  vacant since 1982. The 96 renovated apartments are ideal for living in the middle of the magic of Bham.  The newly opened  Roots and Revelry restaurant here is worth a visit.

 

Lyric Theatre

The Lyric Theatre, built in 1914 for vaudeville shows, underwent an $11 million restoration project and relit its  marquee in 2013. It features a restored 38-foot mural, “Allegory of the Muses,” that was painted by local artist Harry Hawkins.

 

The Carver Theatre

Now known as the Carver Performing Arts Center, it was originally opened in 1935 as one of the first movie houses for African-Americans to see first-run films. It closed in the 1980s, but reopened in 1993 and is now the location of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

 

The Empire Building

This Classical Revival style 16-story building was built in 1909 and was the tallest building in Alabama at the time. After being remodeled, it reopened as City National Bank. It was again sold in 2012. After a $27 million renovation, it is now experiencing new life as the Empire Hotel, which includes a restaurant and rooftop bar.

 

ledz2

photo – Hannah Scofield

Led z

photo – Hannah Scofield

The Alabama Theatre

Now this is one I have been in. And I love it. I’ve been in similar – perhaps sister- theatres in Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida. They are all lovely. The Alabama, built in 1927  as a classic movie palace with gorgeous  Art Deco style, underwent a major renovation and restoration in the late ’90s.
Birmingham has indeed once again earned the right to be called the Magic City.

Adventures in Subbing #5

On the other hand he tried to point out her that she shouldn’t give money to the beggars in the street, as they’d only buy schnapps with it. But she kept doing it.

“They can do what they like with the money,” she said.

When Ove protested she just smiled and took his big hands in hers and kissed them, explaining that when a person gives to another person it’s not just the receiver who’s blessed. It’s the giver. – from A Man Called Ove

ove

A few weeks ago I gave a writing prompt to some fourth graders. They had been focused earlier on the character trait of “caring” , so I told them to pretend I’d given them $100. But, the catch was they had to give it to someone in need or a charity. Some of the students shared what they had written, and one young boy reminded me of Ove, and of myself in days past. He told of giving to the homeless, but also went on to say some of them would not use the money for food like they should. I remember grappling with this same issue years ago. I now believe that if I give money, it’s between them and the Lord what they do with it. I am not to be the judge.

A few other responses touched my heart from those students. Like the girl who said she would give it to her mother so they could move out of her grandma’s house and get their own home.

The past few years I have learned to give anonymously. Though I long to see the joy on a child’s face on Christmas, I am happy knowing I made it possible for someone. And when I don’t know someone well enough to seek them out for a hug in times of grief or crisis, I can ask God to bless the little I can give, and to send comfort along with it.

A Thought from All the Light We Cannot See

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“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.

In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in  the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.

Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.

After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.

This year, summer has far outlasted its welcome. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte. But, even more, I long for rain.

Pieces of My Culture

1961done

1961

christmas 1965

1965

 

A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad.

Music is a big part of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Funerals are prefaced with lots of food; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting. I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.