Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sepia Saturday: The Boomers

This photograph was taken in a small studio or booth at the Alabama State Fair in Birmingham, October 1951. That is my sister Carol Sue on the left with her pale strawberry blond hair, adorable freckles, and of course, her cowboy hat. Yep, you got it, I am the baby sister. This is the only baby picture I have ever seen of myself. We had an older brother and sister, born before WWII. I believe my mother must have had her hands full. At this time, my father was on active duty for the Korean War and was stationed at Mountain Home, Idaho. All five of us had just returned from the first train trip across the country and back to visit him. God bless her; my mom still had enough energy to take us all to the fair! Amazing!
For more Sepia Saturday participants, click HERE!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monroeville & Mockingbird Magic

This is just one of the many Mockingbird houses on the Mockingbird Historic Trail in Monroeville, Alabama. The house was designed by an engineer and painted by a local artist.
This one is just outside the door of the Monroe County Courthouse.

View from the balcony where Jem & Scout watched as Atticus defended Tom Robinson. (The movie set was designed to be identical to this room.)

Niece Nancy and actress Mary Badham - "Scout " -- get acquainted in the Heritage Museum gift shop. Mary was in town for the four day celebration along with hundreds of MOCKINGBIRD fans. We visited with her before we did our reading in the courtroom, in the evening at the 1930's Dinner, and the following morning at the Beehive Bookstore.
Many thanks to the star of the film who graciously signed our books.

This plaque, mounted on a large stone which rests on the courthouse lawn,
is well worth reading! (Click on photo to enlarge, then click again.)

In the documentary FEARFUL SYMMETRY: The Making of To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck talked of his meeting with Mr. Amasa Coleman Lee. Though none of the scenes in the movie were actually filmed in Monroeville, many of the people involved with the production visited the town in preparation for the Academy Award winning film. The actor explained how Lee would hold a pocket watch as he was talking or thinking: "I stole that from him," he confessed. Mr. Lee once defended a black man in a murder trial and lost the case, just as Atticus lost his case for Tom Robinson. As a result, Mr. Lee never practiced law again.
After her father's death, Harper Lee gave his watch to Gregory.

Life and art merge, and devoted readers remember in this small,
Alabama town named as the Literary Capital of the state.

The Hybart House was a gift to the town from the Hybart family and has become a cultural center. (This was where Truman Capote and Harper Lee dined with friends the night before they left for Kansas to do research for Capote's In Cold Blood.) And this is where we attended the 1930's Dinner. Some of the guests were the townspeople in their costumes who play the different roles in the annual production of the play held every May. There was music of the era played on a grand piano and foods prepared by Chef Clif Holt of Little Savannah restaurant in Birmingham. The menu included fried chicken, potato salad, spiced peaches, ham, cornbread, turnip greens, and lane cake -- all foods mentioned in the book. A special drink was served on the lawn: the Tequila Mockingbird.

One of the terms on the vocabulary list for teaching the novel is
"shinny" which is, of course, the local and affectionate term for moonshine!
I took the photo of the birdhouse, and all other photographs are courtesy of Stevie Wonderful, my nephew and lucky husband of Nancy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Listen to the Mockingbird

Over the past few days I have been pacing through the downstairs rooms of my house reading aloud from To Kill a Mockingbird. My only listeners have been my dogs. You see, I am rehearsing for my 15 minutes of fame. As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the publication of Harper Lee's novel, a reading marathon begins at 9:00 A.M. CDT in Monroeville, Alabama in the Monroe County Courthouse. The second day will be Saturday beginning at 9:00 A.M. until the entire book is completed. Though this is just one of many such marathons throughout the country this weekend, it is the one in the hometown of Miss Nelle Harper Lee and the fictional Maycomb. My actual fifteen minutes begins at 2:30 CDT. I have tried to gauge the pages I will read. As it is not an exact science, I have decided to concentrate on chapters ten though thirteen and just hope that I am close. Yes, I have been immersed in the book and the film and numerous articles. I have always been fascinated by the beautiful and melancholy opening scene as a child's hands open a cigar box of gathered treasures accompanied by the tender and nostalgic music of Elmer Bernstein . And yes, I have always been proud of the two children from my county who gave life to Jem and Scout Finch: Phillip Alford and Mary
Badham. (Word has it that Mary may be reading, too!)

"One-shot Finch"
In Chapter Ten, Scout complains that Atticus just can't do anything. When a rabid dog is seen walking down the street, Atticus is summoned from the courthouse by Calpurnia. The two children are stunned to discover that their father is quite a marksman.

Jem's wide eyed wonder at his father... captured by Phillip Alford

Mary Badham's favorite scene with Atticus-- the name she used even for her offscreen and lifelong friendship with Gregory Peck.


Of the many articles, special features, and critiques and facts about the novel and the film that I have studied this week, one offers a truly fresh perspective. In the summer 2010 publication of Alabama Heritage, (click to read entire article) Auburn University historian and professor, Dr. Wayne Flint concluded his six page article "Universal Values: The Enduring Legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird" with his customary wisdom and insight that have made him famous in this neck of the woods:
"In one of those delicious ironies for which Alabama is reknowned, a novel written by a white woman from Monroeville, on the edge of the state's Black Belt has become the primary literary instrument worldwide for teaching values of racial justice and tolerance for people different from oursleves, and the necessity for moral courage in the face of community prejudice and ostracism. Inside the pages of the book, readers may discover not only a New South but perhaps even a new humanity."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Star Spangled

for William & Thomas

Coffin Flags

I keep two neatly folded flags
within a bedroom window seat
among outgrown children's clothes, cedar, and woollens
things seasonal, seasonally forgotten.

On the Glorious Fourth they unfold
along with distant pain and loss
that a younger sister shouldered inside her silence
then left with me to be remembered.

I keep two neatly folded brothers:
The Korean statistic lost above the 38th parallell,
A patriot eternally deployed
While his WWII brother waits in Elmwood.

I keep two neatly folded soldiers
whose stars stare bravely back at me
and see a wife not theirs
and see my sons, not theirs
and see their future cruelly stolen.

And in their stars I see the gentle heroes
who make Independence Day bittersweet
and free the heart from any doubt
of why we celebrate liberty and love of country.

I keep two neatly folded souls
and remember.

Click HERE for details on William & Thomas

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Diana: A Celebration...Born July 1, 1961

Among the many artifacts in the the childhood gallery of Diana: A Celebration were several small figurines. I know at least one was a Beatrix Potter character, with its ear or arm broken off. I wish I had written myself a note. For some reason, it is the most haunting memory I have from my May 28th visit to this special presentation at Atlanta's Civic Center. Also quite striking, was the blue HALO vest over a plain white shirt and pale tan jeans that Diana wore when visiting Angola to bring attention to the great dangers of land mines. It was in the gallery with many of her most elegant evening gowns, suits, and matching shoes. We have all seen the images of maimed children, and of Diana comforting them. Perhaps the tiny little figure (no photographs allowed), still much loved and cherished, helped her foresee her future. It stood proudly and left a powerful impression on me, as did her girlhood ballet slippers and her oh so small school uniform.

There are thousands of tributes to the memory of Princess Diana, but on this 49th anniversary of her birthday, July 1, 1961, I thought I would send you to one prepared by the Spencer family. Here is the website of Diana: A Celebration, which closed on June 13th, with the next installation scheduled for Grand Rapids sometime in November. It is beautiful and tasteful, as was Diana. I did not go there expecting to sit in quiet wonder in the gallery with her wedding gown for thirty minutes, but I did. I did not go there expecting to read the hand edited version of Charles Spencer's eulogy and weep for her again, but I did. I did not go there expecting to see a wall of bookshelves filled with condolence books from towns all over the world which were sent to the Spencer family, but there they were! I did not go there expecting to sign a remembrance book, which her brother seemed to KNOW I would need, but I signed it:
" I miss her presence in this world, still ... and every day."

About Me

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Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat