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Beyond the Polka: Accordion aficionados keep squeezebox’s legacy alive

Frank Caravella, president of the Alabama Accordionists’ Association, played in Las Vegas clubs and ballrooms in the accordion’s heyday. Photo by Danny Weston

By Aaron Tanner

Once a popular and even glamorous instrument, the accordion fell out of favor over the years, as rock ’n’ roll came to dominate the musical landscape. But some Alabama musicians are working to promote the once noble squeezebox by introducing its versatile sounds to some who’ve never heard one performed live.

Members of the Alabama Accordionists’ Association gather not just to play, but to promote the “orchestra in a box,” so named because of its portability and ability to play a wide range of notes. Such versatility makes it useful as a solo instrument as well as part of an orchestra. “It is a perfect instrument,” says Craig Funderburg, who is in charge of organizing concerts sponsored by the organization.

Every genre of music features the accordion, from Latin and Big Band to Zydeco. The instrument is also prevalent in many countries other than the United States, such as China and Italy, where a majority of the world’s accordions are manufactured.

And the accordion has experienced a bit of a comeback in today’s popular music. Several current acts, such as Arcade Fire and The Lumineers, feature the accordion, perhaps because of its retro style and sound that makes it stand out from string-based instruments.

Alabama Accordion Club from AREA on Vimeo.

Association President Frank Caravella remembers the heyday of the accordion, when he played at some of the most popular parties at Las Vegas clubs and ballrooms. One of his favorites was the Polish-American Club, where the lively atmosphere allowed him to entertain the audience while they mingled throughout the evening. “Great fun and good money for the venue,” Caravella says.

The rise in the popularity of rock music, coupled with the relative affordability of guitars, took a toll on the beloved accordion – by the 1960s and ’70s, fewer students were interested in learning it.

“Some people have never heard an accordion,” Funderburg says. “Most people in the United States have never been educated about the accordion and what makes it the most perfectly designed musical instrument.”

But association members are working to educate young people by visiting schools across the state. Caravella gave concerts at a couple of elementary schools in Morgan County this past November, showing the youngsters how an accordion works. Both students and teachers enjoyed his performance.

“Most of the children and adults have never heard an accordion live – in concert,” Caravella says. “So when we show up for a performance or class, it is something new and different.”

The organization also hosts concerts for the general public. Last year’s concert featuring Canadian accordionist Michael Bridge was so popular with audiences who saw the first show that some stayed for his second performance that same evening. “You just don’t hear these types of concerts very often,” Caravella says.

A new generation

Though many association members are older, they are influencing some younger folks to play the instrument. Current UAB student Terence Penn was inspired by one of the organization’s concerts to learn the instrument as a way of getting back into music after taking a hiatus to focus on his studies.

“I thought it was a neat opportunity to learn a relatively uncommon instrument that utilizes my background in piano and music theory,” says Penn, who is currently taking lessons from one of the association’s members.

As a kid, Kyle Owen of Madison was encouraged by Funderburg, along with his own self-motivation, to pursue learning the accordion after deciding to move beyond the toy version his mom bought him. “I didn’t want to just make noise on the toy accordion, I wanted to make real music,” Owen says.

There are different reasons why people choose to play the accordion over a more familiar instrument, such as a piano or a saxophone. For Owen, he plays to stand apart as a musician. “Being unique is what defines me.”

Caravella continues performing for the joy it brings him. “Any musician worth his salt plays his instrument for the love of the music,” he says.

For Mike Hymes of Trussville, playing the accordion is a way of honoring the memory of his mother, who was part of a traveling band in the Caribbean with her cousin. “They were quite the entertainers back then,” says Hymes, who inherited his mom’s 1940s-era accordion.

As the accordion slowly regains popularity thanks to the newer digital models that can produce sounds electronically, Caravella is optimistic that future generations will decide to play the same instrument he started learning over half a century ago.

The Alabama Accordionists’ Association has members of all ages and skill levels. To learn more about the group and their yearly concert series, visit their website at


South Forty: steaks, burgers and more

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week to hungry patrons in Conecuh County.

By Allison Law

Most folks don’t venture into the restaurant industry during their retirement years. But for Don White, the decision to start running a restaurant was rooted in a desire to help his family as well as a commitment to the little community he calls home.

White’s investment in the South Forty restaurant, which is served by Southern Pine EC, has been a boon to the tiny town of Repton in Conecuh County, population 282. There are few dining options around, and to have a place that serves a variety of hot, tasty food three times a day is invaluable.

“It’s been very good to us, and we’ve enjoyed it,” White says.

After he retired from the railroad, he and his wife, Patricia, wanted to help their sons get started with a business. The idea was for them to buy the existing South Forty restaurant, work together as a family to build up the customer base, and then White would step back to let the younger generation take over.

But sons and their families found success in other businesses. Many of them still help out at the restaurant, so it’s very much a family affair, but no one is really in a position to take over full time. So White has put it up for sale, but has had to counter the rumor that he was going to close the restaurant.

“I told my wife, it won’t sell overnight. You’ve got to be patient and wait. Somebody will come in and buy it. You’ve got to find somebody who wants to step out on a limb. We definitely stepped out on a limb.”

He’s been approached by a couple who asked if he would stay on while if they purchased the restaurant. He has no problem with that, he says; he wants to see someone succeed. “You work 10 years for something, then to just watch it go down? I don’t want that.”

Steaks, burgers and more 

A full pound of hamburger steak with gravy and onions is one of the many dinner options available at South Forty.

The prices at South Forty are tough to beat: A 16-ounce ribeye with a side, beverage and a salad is just over $20. White can keep his costs down, thanks to family members who pitch in to help; because he has his retirement from the railroad, the restaurant isn’t his main source of income.

“I’ve got one up on everybody else, because I can set my prices like I want,” he says, but that doesn’t mean he skimps on the quality of the food.

The South Forty’s steaks, which are fresh cut weekly, are popular choices, but burgers are his biggest sellers. These are no skimpy patties: they’re one-pound, all-beef burgers. “When I bought (the restaurant), people said, don’t change them,” and he hasn’t.

Besides the beef burgers and ribeye steaks, there are dinners featuring catfish, chicken tenders, fantail shrimp, country fried steak and more; appetizers (including the “South Forty Roundup” – homemade potato slices loaded with cheese, bacon bits and chives, a holdover from the previous owner); sandwiches; and loaded baked potatoes.

And there are salads, including the “Trashcan Salad,” another holdover from the previous owner, with grilled and fried chicken, popcorn shrimp, ham and turkey.

“How she came up with that name, I don’t know! The salad is huge – you cannot eat the whole thing,” White says, laughing.

It’s about community

White is proud of the charitable contributions South Forty makes – “probably more than we should.” They donate mostly to local causes and organizations, and have been known to comp the meals of first responders as well a few folks, “who, you know they’ve been through a lot.”

One of those folks was Steve Fugate, known as the “Love Life guy,” who lost a son to suicide and daughter to an accidental overdose. Fugate has walked across the country multiple times to spread his message of loving life, and to use his tragedies as a way to encourage others.

His travels took him near the South Forty, and when White’s family saw him, they fixed a meal for him. Fugate made an impression on White, who felt moved to contribute toward his cause; Fugate, in turn, mentioned South Forty in his book.

Given its rural location, the patrons are mostly locals; White says To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee and her sister, Alice, would come to eat from nearby Monroeville, “and nobody would bother them.”

Perhaps the Lee sisters also liked the friendliness of the staff. “We put an emphasis on friendliness and pleasing the customer,” he says. Whatever the complaint, White says they’ll make it right.

“If they’re not happy, they’re not coming back. If you don’t have repeat customers, especially in a small place like this,” you won’t succeed.

Taste, don’t waste: Group raises awareness of less popular fish

Derek Johnson with Reel Surprise Charters shows off a porgy caught while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico south of Orange Beach, Ala. Photo by John N. Felsher

Growing up in South Louisiana, where people eat anything that doesn’t eat them first and some things that do, I tasted about every fish species found in the Gulf of Mexico or associated waters. Some I only tried once. Some I spit out about as fast as it hit my tongue.

But there’s a group based in Gulf Shores that wants people to try different species of fish, like jack crevalle. Large, hard-fighting sport fish that can challenge any fishing tackle with lightning runs and devastating strikes, jack crevalle seldom show up on dinner plates because most people believe that the bloody red flesh makes them unpalatable.

Chris Sherrill, the executive chef at Coastal restaurant ( in Gulf Shores, and Chandra Wright want to change that perception. They co-founded the Nuisance Underutilized Invasive Sustainable Available Noble Culinary Endeavors, or NUISANCE Group, to convince more people to eat underutilized species like jacks, bonito and others that most anglers consider “trash fish.”

“Our purpose is to raise awareness of flora and fauna that are a nuisance, underutilized or invasive, but sustainable and available through noble, culinary endeavors,” Wright says. “Sometimes, people look at us like we’re crazy when we offer them a piece of jack crevalle to eat, but we want to educate people on eating these fish and show them how to treat and prepare them. When prepared certain ways, many underutilized species can be quite tasty. Not too many years ago, most people considered redfish trash fish and didn’t eat them.”

If people eat more undesirable species like jacks, Sherrill and Wright say, that might take pressure off popular species like red snapper, grouper, redfish and speckled trout. Also, catching something different to bring home for the table could give recreational anglers, charter captains and even commercial fishermen more opportunities to keep different kinds of fish.

When they first started the group, Wright challenged Sherrill to invent a recipe that would make jack crevalle appetizing so they could serve it to a congressional staff delegation visiting the Alabama coast. A friend brought the chef a jack to prepare. When cleaning it, Chris noticed that the meat looks similar to beef, so he decided to treat it like beef. He cut the dark red bloodline out of the meat and marinated it.

“Jack crevalle has been our biggest surprise,” the chef admits. “I thought it was inedible, but the bloody red flesh looks like raw beef. If we cubed it, marinated it like steak and grilled it medium rare, it might taste like steak, I thought. We did and it came out beyond anyone’s expectations. We had to check to make sure nobody slipped in some prime rib, it was so good.”

Now, the chef experiments with many other less desirable fish. He frequently offers samples to his friends, usually without telling them the species until after they taste it. Some other underutilized species include stingrays, pinfish, scorpionfish, bearded brotula, gafftopsail catfish, porgies and others.

“I’m the guinea pig-in-chief,” Wright says. “I’m the one who gets to eat all the weird stuff Chris cooks to see how it tastes. Many less desirable fish are wasted. If people realized how good they are to eat if prepared properly, they might be more likely to keep some for the table.”

The group especially wants to promote lionfish as a delicacy. Native to the Pacific and Indian oceans, beautiful but dangerous lionfish invaded the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, probably as aquarium fish released into the wild. Highly prolific with no natural predators on this side of the world, lionfish multiplied and spread rapidly. Now, they displace or eat many native species.

“Lionfish are terribly voracious and prolific invasive species that eat just about anything and outcompete many native species for space and food,” Wright warns. “It’s a huge threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico. We want to wipe them out here. They are delicious, but people need to handle them with care. They have 18 venomous spines that people need to avoid. The meat is not poisonous and is very white, flaky and delicious. People can fix it a variety of ways.”

Not everything makes the dinner table menu, despite the chef’s best efforts. For instance, he doesn’t like hardhead catfish, a well-known bait-stealing pest. I tried hardheads – once!

“I’m still on the edge with hardhead catfish,” Sherrill says. “When it’s ultra-fresh, it has some firmness to it, but it deteriorates rapidly. Another chef made some ceviche and cured hardhead catfish in lots of citrus juices to make it more firm. It’s pretty good with that, but it’s still probably my least favorite fish along with skipjack or ladyfish.”

Feel like eating something new? Some anglers bring their catches to the restaurant to ask Chef Chris to cook it for them. For more information on the NUISANCE Group, see its Facebook page at or email

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

Understanding your energy bill can help you save

This is an image of an externally-fitted A/C heat pump. For many homes, heating and cooling require more energy than any other end use.

Q: Every month, I look over my electric bill, but a lot of it doesn’t make sense to me. Is there information included on my bill that can help me save money?

A: It’s always a good idea to understand how you’re spending your money. You look over your credit card statement carefully each month, so you should do the same with your utility bills. As you’d suspect, analyzing your bill can help you save energy and money.

If you live in an all-electric home, all of your home energy costs will be on the monthly bill from your electric cooperative. This bill will probably have one or more fixed charges that cover some of the costs your co-op incurs in delivering the power to your home.

Beyond these fixed fees, you will pay for the power you have used that month, which is sold in kilowatt-hour (kWh) units. One kWh is equal to 1,000 watts over a one-hour period.  Think of 10 100-watt lights that are used for one hour. Most electric co-ops charge the same rate for a kWh no matter when you use it, but some offer a Time-of-Use rate that is higher during peak energy hours – when the wholesale price of electricity is higher because there’s greater demand.

Some co-ops have different rates for different use tiers, so the rate could be higher or lower as monthly use increases. Electric rates can also vary by season and cost more during high-use months.

If you’re being charged more for energy use during On-Peak hours, you can often adjust the time you use certain appliances and equipment, like your dishwasher, air conditioner, clothes washer or oven to Off-Peak hours. This won’t reduce your electric use, but it can save you money if your co-op offers a Time-of-Use rate.

Most energy bills include a chart that shows your electric use over the past 12 months. If your home is electrically heated, you will see how much your use goes up in the winter. This chart can also show how much your use goes up during the summer when you’re running your air conditioner.

Your electric co-op may offer tools on their website to help you track energy use and estimate how much you use for space heating, air conditioning and water heating, which are often the three largest energy uses. Knowing how much you spend on heating or cooling can help you determine how much you might save by installing a new heat pump or other energy efficiency upgrade.

Some co-ops also offer online energy audit tools that provide ways to reduce energy costs based on a detailed set of questions about your home. If your co-op doesn’t offer an online audit tool, or if you want a different perspective, you can try the ENERGYSTAR Home Energy Yardstick at

This resource can give you a good idea of your space heating and cooling use without using an online tool. Just total up your average electricity use for the months when you use the most energy and subtract the average amount you use in “shoulder months” – when you’re not cooling or heating your home. The difference is likely the amount you pay each month for heating and cooling.

If someone says switching to a new heating or cooling system could save you 20 percent, they may mean you can save 20 percent on heating or cooling costs. Some homes also have significant uses besides heating and cooling that increase their winter or summer bills, like a well pump, spa or swimming pool.

You may receive a separate monthly bill for natural gas, or for propane or heating oil, which might be delivered on an as-needed, keep-filled basis. The Home Energy Yardstick can accommodate any type of fuel you use in your home.

I hope this information can help you analyze your energy bill and give you some general ideas on how you might be able to cut your energy expenses. The best way to turn these ideas into specific actions is to conduct an energy audit of your home. Contact your electric co-op to see if they offer free energy audits or if they can recommend a local professional.

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on understanding your utility bill, please visit:

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to for more information.

Chill out with frozen treats

Don’t bemoan the heat. Beat it by whipping up some delicious frozen dishes.

By Jennifer Kornegay

You can eat ice cream, popsicles and other tasty frozen treats all year long. But there’s an extra layer of pleasure when enjoying one in the heat of summer. The temperature difference alone is a little thrilling. That first touch of frigid contact on warm skin (made even hotter by our annual seasonal sweater) is a sensory jolt.

It’s a bit magical too; every lick or bite calls up the sights and sounds of childhood: The memory of an ice cream churn’s dull whir, spinning to transform a few basic ingredients into a frozen dream. (Or watching in anticipation and relief as some unlucky someone other than you hand-cranks an old contraption.) Running toward the tinkling tunes of the ice cream truck, trading allowance for something cold and colorful, eating it fast to fight the melt, slurping too quickly and suffering the dreaded brain freeze, but still keeping your smile.

Those were charmed days, and we’d all do well to not just remember the carefree attitude they represent but relax and embrace it once again. So when the temps approach triple digits, we can moan and complain with zero effect. Or we can head into the kitchen and spend a little time and effort creating our own edible AC. Be cool and choose the latter this summer, and use this month’s reader-submitted recipes to indulge in some frosty fun.

Cook of the Month: Mary Rich, North Alabama EC

Mary Beth Rich enjoys cooking for her family; it’s one way she expresses love. Her family loves that she loves cooking for them, especially her Frozen Samoa Pie, a cool treat she describes as “refreshing, rich, yummy goodness.” “It is great for family get togethers and goes really well with a cookout,” she says. “It is a big request from my family in the summer.” It’s second only to her homemade biscuits, a delight she’s now teaching her five-year-old granddaughter to make. Rich has been cooking since she was a child, and in addition to desserts and biscuits, she makes jars and jars of jellies and jams, including a few unique floral-based flavors. “I make a jelly from the blooms of Queen Anne’s Lace and one from dandelion flowers,” she said. “It tastes like honey and sunshine.”


Frozen Samoa Pie 


  • 50 Nilla Wafers
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • (not margarine)
  • ¼ cup sugar

Pie filling:

  • 4-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup Cool Whip, defrosted
  • 4 cups toasted coconut, divided
  • 2 cups caramel, melted and divided
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Make crust: In a food processor, pulse Nilla wafers until they are fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a bowl, then add butter and sugar and stir until combined. Grease a 9-inch pie plate and press in the crust mixture.

Make filling: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Mix in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt until fully incorporated. Fold in Cool Whip. Make middle layer: In a medium bowl, mix 2 cups toasted coconut with 1 cup caramel.

Pour half the cream cheese mixture into the pie pan and cover with coconut caramel. Smooth to the edges to make a layer. Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture, then add the remaining 2 cups toasted coconut and mini chocolate chips. Drizzle with remaining caramel and melted chocolate and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Serve.

Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookie ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons carob powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • (melted)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 11/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Ice cream ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions for cookies:

Mix together flour, carob powder and baking power. In separate bowl, mix together butter, egg white, vanilla, honey and milk. Add dry ingredients and mix. Grease or oil a 9×13-inch pan. Pour batter into pan in an even layer. Bake at 320 degrees for about 20 min. Allow to cool, then cut into cookies. I used a spice container lid about 2 1/8-inches. Put cookies on plates, and place in freezer. Once firm, you can create the sandwiches.

Directions for ice cream:

Place all ingredients in one bowl. Use a hand mixer for 5 minutes, then place in freezer. Before it’s ready to serve, it’s usually a good idea to mix again so the fat doesn’t collect on top. When ice cream is frozen, remove from freezer to create sandwiches. The ice cream may need to be mashed with a spoon and stirred to make it softer and easy to spread.

Spread on one cookie and top with another. Repeat. Place back in freezer to firm up, if needed.

Jessica Pittman

Joe Wheeler EMC

Piña Colada Wedges

  • 18 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon rum extract
  • 3½ cups (8 ounces) whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 18 ounce can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 2/3 cups coconut

Beat cream cheese, sugar and rum extract until smooth. Fold in 2 cups whipped topping, pineapple with juice and 2 cups coconut. Spread mixture in an 8-inch square pan. Spread remaining whipped topping on top. Freeze 2 hours. Garnish with coconut, cherries and pineapple.

Peggy Key

North Alabama EC

Baked Alaska

  • 2 pints ice cream (brick-style)
  • 1 pound, sponge or layer cake (1-inch thick)
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Lay ice cream bricks side by side, measure length and width. Trim cake 1-inch larger on all sides than ice cream measurements. Place cake on a piece of foil. Center ice cream on cake. Cover; freeze until firm. At serving time, beat together egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add in sugar beating after each tablespoon is added. Transfer cake with ice cream to a baking sheet. Spread with egg white mixture, sealing to edges of cake and baking sheet all around. Swirl to make peaks. Place oven rack in lowest position. Bake in a 500-degree oven about 3 minutes or until golden. Slice; serve immediately.

Jamie Petterson

Tallapoosa River EC

Fresh Fruit Yogurt Pops

  • 1 6-8 ounce container of vanilla Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup of berries, your choice, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped nuts, your choice

Pour yogurt into a small mixing bowl. Add berries and gently stir. Add chopped nuts and combine. Pour mixture into a push-up pop container or other pop mold. Freeze until solid. Yield: 2 pops.

Cindy Jean

North Alabama EC

Frozen Fruit Salad

  • 1 can peach pie filling
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup Cool Whip
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Mix all and freeze in an 8-inch square pan. Leave out a few minutes before serving.

Karen Faye Fitzgerald

Joe Wheeler EMC

Coming up in August… Corn!

It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!

Themes and Deadlines

September: BBQ | July 8

October: Pumpkin | Aug. 8

November: Nuts | Sept. 8

Submit your recipe here.

Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.

Hardy Jackson’s Alabama: Bicentennial Beer, a capital idea

In case you haven’t noticed, Alabama is in the midst of its Bicentennial Celebration.

And to mark this historic event, the Alabama Brewers Guild, in cooperation with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, has enlisted breweries from across Alabama to collaborate in concocting a series of beers, each honoring one of the state’s five capitals.

The first beer in the State Capital Series was St. Stephens Stout which pays homage to Alabama’s territorial capital. Had the beer been available back then it would have sold well in a  town whose citizens were described as an “illiterate, wild and savage” bunch, a people “of depraved morals, unworthy of public confidence or private esteems.”

Fortunately, the town also attracted men like Harry Toulmin, an educated (at least literate) Scottish freethinker, who said he came to St. Stephens because it was “so far from civilization that he would be safe from Presbyterians.”  Toulmin strikes me as the sort of fellow who would enjoy sitting with friends and discussing predestination and infant damnation over a nice Chardonnay instead of the “wild and savage” beer drinkers who roamed the streets.

But St. Stephens did not have a brewery, so the thirsty had to content themselves with the rot-gut whiskey they called, with a fine feeling for words, “busthead,” or go to Huntsville.

Huntsville had one.

A far more populous and progressive place than St. Stephens, Huntsville was where the convention met in 1819 to draw up a constitution for what was by then the “state” of Alabama and where the first session of the state legislature was called to order. Huntsville was also the location of Alabama’s first brewery, which James and William Badlun opened that same year.

Although I can’t prove it, I am sure that holding the convention in a town where beer was brewed was not coincidental.  Nor can I prove, but I do believe, that ready access to beer influenced the writing of what has been judged to have been one of the most “liberal” state constitutions of the time.

So it is right and proper that the second beer brewed by Guild members is Badlun Brothers Imperial Porter, which is described as “a modern take on a traditional porter recipe.”

However, Huntsville was not meant to be the “permanent” state capital.  A committee of the territorial legislature recommended Tuscaloosa, but William Wyatt Bibb, the state’s first governor, would have none of it.  Bibb and a powerful coalition of planter interests favored a spot at the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama Rivers, where they felt they could make their fortunes in Black Belt real estate and Black Belt cotton. So Cahawba became the capital.

For six years Cahawba was the place to be, at least if government was your business.  Unfortunately for the city, if you had other business to conduct, it was more profitable to conduct it upriver, at Selma, which would eventually replace Cahawba as “The Queen City of the Black Belt,” though not as the capital.  If Selma had become the seat of government the Guild might be brewing Samuel Bogle’s Beer.  Bogle was a hotel proprietor whose “assembly room” was the social center of the town.  It was there that the city council, after doing the city’s business, reportedly “adjourned to take a drink.”

But until Selma came into its own, Cahawba flourished.  So, what would be the beer for that capital?

Birmingham’s Cahaba Brewing Company is one of the breweries collaborating on the Bicentennial project.  Taking inspiration from the mulberry trees that lined Cahawba’s streets, Cahaba brewed “Mulberry Road.”  A portion of the proceeds from its sale will go to preserving the Old Cahawba historical site.

The next beer will honor Tuscaloosa, which launched a “fake news” campaign and snatched the capital from Cahawba.  A Montgomery beer will follow and finish the series.

Now I have friends who feel that it is inappropriate to brew beer to celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial.

I also have friends who feel that brewing beer is the perfect way to celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial.

And as for me, I stand firmly with my friends.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University and a regular contributor to Alabama Living. He can be reached at

Snapshots: Family Reunions

Moranda, LaKrisa, LaTonya, Setasha, Kiera and Aishia. SUBMITTED BY LaTona Peoples, Jackson.

Lester Reunion held in 2016 in Addison, the hometown of Hosie & Lois Lester. Alene Lester Johnson (center) is the last child of the Lesters. SUBMITTED BY Debby Boyd, Addison.

Bledsoe family reunion – Thanksgiving Day 2017. SUBMITTED BY Mike and Becky Bledsoe, Evergreen.

Some of the descendants of Charlie and Edna Burch Jernigan in Foley in 2011. SUBMITTED BY Cherry Peek, Foley.

First cousins Marjorie Elmore, Doris Henderson and Gwin Prestwood at the McGlaun family reunion in Andalusia, April 14, 2018. SUBMITTED BY Rhonda Mosley, Silverhill.

PWRC (Pauline, Wallace, Roberts, Carder) Family reunion. SUBMITTED BY Panda Carder, Harvest.

Submit Your Images! September Theme: “County Fairs” Deadline for September: July 31. Submit photos or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124. Rules: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos.

Learn to prevent, recognize heat-related illnesses

Alabama’s summer climate with its extreme temperatures and high humidity can lead to heat-related illnesses and deaths if not treated. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. You can learn the warnings and signal help when needed.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
  • Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency, so have another person call 911 for medical assistance and take immediate steps to begin cooling the victim in any of the following ways:

Get the person to a shady area, cool rapidly in a tub of cool water, place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, splash with cool water, or, if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.

Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call a hospital emergency room for further instructions.

A person with heat stroke is likely to be unconscious or unresponsive, so he or she cannot safely consume any liquids. Under no circumstances should you give any alcohol to a person with heat stroke or any heat illness.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly, persons with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting or fainting. The skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. Untreated heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke, so seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.

Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place, drink clear juice or a sports beverage, wait a few hours until the cramps subside and seek medical attention if cramps do not stop in one hour.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms – usually in the abdomen, arms or legs – that may occur in association with strenuous activity. People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are prone to heat cramps. To relieve them, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage them. Give sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour.

Follow these preventive measures to avoid heat illnesses:

  • Drink more fluids, and avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine
  • When temperatures are extreme, stay indoors, ideally in an air-conditioned place
  • Take a cool shower or bath, and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest time of the day
  • Protect yourself from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher
  • Never leave pets or people in a parked vehicle.

For more information, visit

Three common ways your Social Security payment can grow after retirement

You made the choice and now you are happily retired. You filed online for your Social Security benefits. They arrive each month in the correct amount exactly as expected. But, did you ever wonder if your Social Security check could increase?

Once you begin receiving benefits, there are three common ways benefit checks can increase: a cost of living adjustment (COLA); additional work; or an adjustment at full retirement age if you received reduced benefits and exceeded the earnings limit.

The COLA is the most commonly known increase for Social Security payments. We annually announce a COLA, and there’s usually an increase in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount people receive each month. By law, federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). More than 66 million Americans saw a 2.0 percent increase in their Social Security and SSI benefits in 2018. For more information on the 2018 COLA, visit     

Social Security uses your highest 35 years of earnings to figure your benefit amount when you sign up for benefits. If you work after you begin receiving benefits, your additional earnings may increase your payment. If you had fewer than 35 years of earnings when we figured your benefit, you will replace a zero earnings year with new earnings. If you had 35 years or more, we will check to see if your new year of earnings is higher than the lowest of the 35 years (after considering indexing). We check additional earnings each year you work while receiving Social Security. If an increase is due, we send a notice and pay a one-time check for the increase and your continuing payment will be higher.

Maybe you chose to receive reduced Social Security retirement benefits while continuing to work. You made the choice to take benefits early, but at a reduced rate. If you exceeded the allowable earnings limit and had some of your benefits withheld, we will adjust your benefit once you reach full retirement age. We will refigure your payment to credit you for any months you did not receive payments.  Your monthly benefit will increase based on the crediting months you receive. You can find additional information about working and your benefit at

Retirement just got more interesting since you learned about potential increases to monthly payments. Social Security has been securing your today and tomorrow for more than 80 years with information and tools to help you achieve a successful retirement.

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at

Spay/neuter, microchips help reduce unwanted pets

“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

Mother Teresa

One year ago on a hot July afternoon, we were fertilizing the trees by the fence and the neighbors stopped by the gate to chat. We visited for over an hour. Then the sky started to get dark. We went back to pick up the sprayer by the corner of the property and heard the dreaded sound: a desperate and hungry “meeeoow.”

There was nothing else to do other than to look for the source. We went around to the road. This minuscule grey fur ball was sitting in a thorny thicket and the sky was getting nastier by the minute. And to top it all, she was Miss Shy Extraordinaire.

My wife tried to go behind her by tromping through the brushes (hard to be stealthy through briers). Pelting rain and lightning forced us to retreat back home. We came back out about an hour later, afraid we wouldn’t hear her again. Good news – she was there!

This time I crouched down on the ditch and inched forward on my belly. It took me another 30 minutes to approach her. She had the courage to remain still and I managed to catch her. Now, months later, she is the holy terror of the house and we are delighted to have her.

For weeks after rescuing her, we pondered on what would’ve happened if we could not catch her. She probably would have died a slow death by starvation and thirst or if she was lucky, quickly by a coyote. Sadly, this story is not an exception but norm.

Dogs and cats are dropped off in wanton abundance. Almost every fourth person in the clinic says their pet was just found on the road or someone dropped them off at their farm.

Obviously there are just too many pets.

Let’s make sure that we spay and neuter our pets on time. Let’s make sure they remain in a confined space and have a means of identification to find their way back home in case they get lost! Microchipping is the best option, but a simple thing like collar and a stainless steel tag with your phone number is a good, inexpensive choice.

Together, we can make a difference! Maybe in the next 10 years we can make sure that there are not a single unwanted, un-adored pet in our neighborhood.

The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association supports spay/neuter for Medicaid recipients. Check to see if your local veterinarian participates in this program.

In the last eight years, 17,616 surgeries have been performed with grant money from the spay/neuter license plate program. Please buy “spay neuter” license plates.

There may be a low cost spay/neuter clinic near you. Visit the ASPCA online for more information:

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works part time at Grant Animal Clinic and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative.