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Alabama Outdoors: Quail hunting preserves

Preserves bring back the glory days of quail hunting

By John N. Felsher

Nose to the ground and tail wagging, the setter bounded off into the tawny grass and stopped abruptly. Facing into thick weeds, it raised one front leg and locked up like a statue.

With the dog doing his work, my hunting companion moved off to the left as I watched for anything that might fly to the right. Bill Mooty, a guide for Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve, commanded the dog in the center. For safety reasons, we took turns with two people moving into shooting positions for each covey rise while others hung back a bit, but we all enjoyed many opportunities at birds.

Mooty gave the dog a command and suddenly, about a dozen feathered rockets exploded from the thicket to scatter in all directions. We each downed one quail and missed more birds. Some quail zipped to a nearby thicket while others glided to new hiding spots not far away.

With pressure from expanding predator populations and diminishing habitat, wild bobwhite quail nearly disappeared from many areas across its range in the past few decades. However, shooting preserves like Taylor Creek duplicate the excitement that quail hunters enjoyed a century ago by releasing birds into well-managed habitat.

“We have some wild quail, but good pen-raised birds are actually harder to shoot than wild birds,” says Keith Walker, owner of Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve. “Wild birds live in those fields and already know where they want to go before anyone flushes them. When they get up, they all go in the same direction. Pen-raised birds that haven’t been out in the wild too long don’t know where to go. They’re unpredictable when flushed and might go in all directions.”

Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve includes about 2,300 acres managed for quail in two sections near Theodore, Ala. We hunted one 300-acre section adjacent to Bellingrath Gardens. We followed the dogs through fields with high and cut grass separated by rows of pine trees. Another plot about two miles away includes about 2,000 acres of pine savannah, scattered tall pines surrounded by high grass reminiscent of the fabled quail country of southwest Georgia. Each section provides its own hunting challenges.

“Shooting in the trees gives sportsmen a different kind of competitive environment,” says Gene Duke, a Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve guide. “It’s very challenging because of the way birds fly through the trees. The shots are faster and the birds a little quicker. For anyone who ever hunted like this, almost invariably, the conservation turns to how much fun it is to watch the dogs work. When that dog goes on a staunch point and doesn’t even bat an eyelash, sportsmen come to an understanding that the shooting part is almost incidental.”

Unlike some hunts, where guides put the birds out minutes before the shooters arrive, Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve manages the habitat to enhance bird populations and periodically supplements the wild quail population with pen-raised birds. Released early, pen-raised birds link up with wild ones and learn to fly fast for cover.

“We burn the fields and mow periodically to attract birds to our property,” Walker says. “We also plant food plots and do supplemental feeding to keep birds on the property. The birds we release are slightly bigger than native quail, but they fly very well and have good wild characteristics. Some pen-raised birds of this particular cross do become wild and survive long enough to breed in the spring.”

Wild or pen-raised, these birds presented exceptionally challenging shooting. Most rapidly disappeared into thickets, embarrassing us on more occasions than I’d care to admit. Sometimes, we didn’t even get off any shots at covey rises.

“They are big, hard flying birds,” Duke says. “They are some of the fastest flying birds I’ve ever seen. The trick to handling birds so that they fly well is to not handle them. We don’t want to domesticate them so when a hunter and dog approaches, they flush like wild birds.”

A typical hunt on Taylor Creek usually lasts about three hours. Each shooter can harvest up to 12 quail, but they can pay for more birds if they wish. Sportsmen can book morning, afternoon or all-day hunts. Most hunts on Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve either begin or end with a lunch at the lodge. After the hunt, the guides quickly clean the birds on special devices set up at a processing station.

“We can’t guarantee that anyone will shoot birds, but we’ll do everything we possibly can to make that happen,” Duke says. “In a typical season, we shoot about 6,000 to 7,000 birds.”

The Alabama wild quail season lasts from Nov. 9 through Feb. 28 with a limit of 12 quail per day. However, sportsmen may hunt pen-raised birds on licensed shooting preserves from Oct. 1 through March 31.

For more information on Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve, call 251-583-4793. Online, see taylorcreekshooting.com.

USS Alabama draws thousands of visitors

By Shannon Clinton

The USS Alabama opened to the public in January 1965.
The USS Alabama opened to the public in January 1965.

Footsteps echo on metal floors as tinny Big Band-era music filters through a PA system on the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay, a massive floating time capsule paying tribute to the ship’s crew and wartime achievements.

Serving mainly in the South Pacific, the Navy battleship carried 2,500 crew members when it was commissioned in 1942, and saw 37 months of active duty in World War II, park Marketing Director Karen Conner says. Though there was no loss of life from enemy fire and no significant damage sustained, the ship earned nine battle stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, as its crew shot down 22 planes.

The battleship was decommissioned and “mothballed” in 1947 in Washington State for many years, but with $100,000 raised from change collected by Alabama school children and another $1 million in corporate funds, the ship was saved from the scrapyard and was opened to the public in January 1965. The park is overseen by an independent government agency with a board of commissioners and is owned by the state of Alabama.

Offering seven upper and four lower levels of the 680-foot-long battleship to explore along with its original main deck, the park also includes the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion that opened in the 1990s, and the oldest submarine on public display in the country, the USS Drum, which arrived on site in 1969.

Former crew member Bob Miller says the cramped living quarters created camaraderie.
Former crew member Bob Miller says the cramped living quarters created camaraderie.

The goal of the aircraft museum is to showcase aircraft spanning many decades in all branches of the nation’s military, Conner adds, and Korean and Vietnam War memorials are also on site in the park. A memorial to Operation Enduring Freedom is in the works to honor those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There’s also a theater on board the USS Alabama showing a 15-minute film that details former crew members’ accounts of daily life.  Crew members assemble each year for reunions, and the ship is also made available to scouting groups for overnight stays, as well as for dinners, conventions and other special events.

In different tour routes, the park’s daily visitors learn what life was like for those serving on the USS Alabama, how it operated and about its weaponry, Conner says. All tours are self-guided and take about 2 1/2 hours total to complete.

On the Red Tour, for example, visitors will see a lathe and tool shop, sleeping areas with metal bunks and thin mattresses suspended from the ceiling, a small store, a soda fountain, and the ship’s kitchen, where about 7,500 meals a day were prepared. The average age of crew members was only 21 at the time, Conner says, and for the unruliest of the bunch, long hours of confinement in the temporary brig awaited.

“They literally slept where they worked,” Conner says. “It’s literally a floating city – they could even perform minor surgeries on the ship. It’s just amazing!”

The temporary brig was used to confine men caught fighting until they cooled off.
The temporary brig was used to confine men caught fighting until they cooled off.

One crew member was Bob Miller, a Selma native who now lives in Summerdale, Ala., and was on board the USS Alabama from Jan. 1944 to Oct. 1945 as an 18-year-old private first class in the U.S. Marine Corps. Miller, now 89, explained that Marine detachments were assigned “sea duty” on battleships, large cruisers and aircraft carriers for added security and to operate anti-aircraft weapons.

The USS Alabama’s role was to move quickly throughout the South Pacific attacking enemy strongholds and joining with other battleships, cruisers and destroyers to bombard targeted islands in the South Pacific, while providing cover to invading forces, he says.

Miller said the cramped conditions created camaraderie.

“On that ship, 600 Navy feet long and 180 feet wide, there were 2,500 men stationed and if you couldn’t get along you were in dire straits,” he says. “You absolutely learned how to get along with your fellow man in those close quarters. You can’t tell from the arrangements today how close those quarters were.”

And with steamy tropical temperatures to contend with and no air conditioning, “It was some pretty tough living,” Miller says. “The food was pretty good. We had dehydrated eggs, dehydrated potatoes and we had Australian mutton, but then at times when they could get some supply ships to us, the food was pretty good.”

Miller attends annual reunions of USS Alabama crew members, and has made it to all but the most recent one.

Conner said the ship’s curators have done their best to recreate true-to-life experiences for the more than 13 million visitors who have come on board since its opening.

“It definitely is a touch, feel, smell, really to ‘take you back’ facility,” she says. “…They really do come off the ship with a great experience of that World War II generation.”

Battleship Memorial Park and the USS Alabama are located at 2703 Battleship Parkway in Mobile, off I-10 exits 27 and 30. Admission is $15 ages 12 and up, $6 ages 6-11, under 6 free, $13 for seniors 55 and up, $13 for AAA members, free to active duty military and retired military with ID verification, $13 for active duty dependents 12 and up and $5 for active duty dependents ages 6-11.  Parking is $2 per vehicle.

The park is open every day except Christmas Day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. April through September and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through March. For more information call 251-433-2703 or visit the park’s website at www.ussalabama.com.

 

 

Honoring veterans

On Monday, Nov. 11, the Mobile Area Veterans Day Commission will host the following events:

10 a.m. – Veterans Day Parade – Downtown Mobile

11:30 a.m. – Veteran & Patriot of the Year Luncheon – Ft. Whiting – Ticket Event

3 p.m. – Veterans Day Observance Ceremony featuring area fourth graders leading the event with a Parade of Flags at the Aircraft Pavilion at USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park. Free.

7 p.m. – Patriotic Concert by the Mobile Area Symphonic Pops Band at the Aircraft Pavilion at USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park. Free.

Battle of the Bulge veteran would still fight for his country

By Ben Norman

Walter Folmar is still proud of his old unit, the 99th Infantry Division.
Walter Folmar is still proud of his old unit, the 99th Infantry Division.

Walter Folmar slept in everything from a pup tent to an abandoned German castle as his army unit chased the Germans across Europe.

Walter Folmar said he realized he was a long way from the Goshen, Ala., farm where he was raised when the first artillery shell landed close to him and shrapnel was fl ying everywhere.

“I was sent in as a replacement in the Battle of the Bulge,” Folmar recalls. “The 99th and 106th infantry division had suffered heavy losses when the Germans drove a wedge in between them. We were winning and had the Germans on the run when I got there, but I still saw more combat than I wanted to.”

Folmar graduated from Goshen High School in 1942 and went to work with a construction company near Oak Ridge, Tenn., where development of the atomic bomb was being done under top-secret conditions.

“I got drafted and went to Camp Blanding, Florida, for my basic training. The main thing I remember about Blanding was how isolated and hot it was there. I spent 17 weeks there. They were really running men through training because they were needed on the front as fast as possible,” says Folmar.

According to Folmar, the 99th Infantry Division had the Germans on the run and finally surrounded them in the Ruhr Valley. “ It was cold, freezing weather and the Germans were running out of food and supplies. We were capturing Germans right and left. They had a lot of big tanks and artillery but they were out of fuel. When we would approach they would raise their hands and shout in German they were out of fuel and surrendering.

“The Germans were losing the war but many of their units were still offering a lot of resistance. I was primarily a machine gunner but also helped out with the 81 mortar squad,” he says.

“We had that old heavy water-cooled .30 caliber machine gun mounted on a jeep, but we could take it off and set up on a tripod in short order. When we would take a village, we all had to pitch in and help in the house-to-house fighting. It was dangerous clearing all the abandoned houses as most had cellars and that’s where you would find the German soldiers hiding.”

The 99th was also responsible for liberating many German slave labor camps and prisoner of war camps where captured American and Russian solders were being held. “They were sure glad to see us. The American prisoners were not in the best of shape but the Russian soldiers were treated much worse than the Americans,” he says.

Like other WWII veterans, Folmar returned home and tried to take up where he left off before the war. He went to work with the Pike County Road Department, married the love of his life, Enid Carmichael, and had two children, Walter Jr. and Laurianne Johnson. He later went to work with a company buying crossties and opened his own crosstie loading company.

Walter Folmar celebrated his 90th birthday on September 19, 2013. When asked at his birthday party if he would still fight for his country, he sat up in his chair with a serious glint in his eye and said, “I’d fight for my country and family as fast today as back then. I couldn’t shoot as good now, but I could still operate one of them old water-cooled .30 calibers. I could still throw enough lead down range to scare ’em to death or at least run them off ,” he says, laughing.

We are losing our WWII veterans at a rapid rate. We need to let them, and the veterans of all wars, know how much we appreciate them.  e next time you encounter a veteran stop them, shake his hand and tell them how much you appreciate him keeping us free.

Ben Norman is a writer from Highland Home, Ala.

50 years later, the memories of that day haunt us still

Alabama Living readers recall where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated

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For those of us of a certain age (read Baby Boomers and earlier), Friday, November 22, 1963 is forever etched in our memory files. Many of us were in school, some were serving in the armed services, others were at their office, while others were simply at home. Like many of our readers, I was in school that day. We were finishing up a lesson in the sixth grade at Shades Cahaba Elementary School in Birmingham when our teacher, Mrs. Agnes Mason, was told to turn on the classroom TV. As we watched the events unfold in Dallas, she began to turn the horrific news reports into a teaching lesson, writing with precision the words “assassination,” “assassin,” and “President Kennedy,” on the chalkboard as she wiped away tears. The bell rang for recess, but I was too upset to go and instead remained inside to watch the TV with her. Maybe that was the beginning of my fascination with breaking news, as I would later become a newspaper reporter and editor. Like all of our readers who took the time to write, I will never forget that day. Thank you to all those who shared their memories with us. A selection of those submissions appears on the next four pages. Read more at alabamaliving.coop – Lenore Vickrey

 

It was lunchtime on campus at Judson College in Marion, Ala. We walked toward town and all the while, the entire town was at a standstill as if in a time warp. No cars were moving, no one spoke, no noise could be heard, expect for the mournful wailing of church bells. It was, as if, for those moments, time was suspended and we were in a space between reality and a dream. November 22, 1963 was the day before my 19th birthday.

Patricia Noel Foster
Boaz

 

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I was there in downtown Dallas as a single career girl walking along Elm Street from my studio to the parking garage to go to the hairdresser. There was to be a huge Crystal Charity Ball that weekend and I was going to get a fancy up-do for it. My date was flying in from California.

As the presidential motorcade approached, I hopped up on the bumper of a car so I could see above the crowd. Mrs. Kennedy waved back at me as the open car passed by. I continued on to my appointment in Highland Park Village.

When I walked in, the reception area was empty. I yoohooed. A frantic hairdresser rushed out of the rear and said, “Kennedy’s been shot.” I said, “You’re kidding.” “No ma’am, I’m not.” We scurried back where everyone was huddled around a radio. I had my hair done in silence with the radio blaring for all the customers to hear. I hurried home.

When my date called, we decided not to go to the ball and went to a married couple’s house to watch TV with friends.

En route to Dallas, my date had been seated next to Sandor Vanocur, a prominent television news commentator at the time, and my date’s brother was on the president’s staff at the White House, so all weekend my date was on the phone relaying first-hand information to the White House via local TV and Sandor Vanocur and vice versa – the death of our president at Parkland Hospital, the condition of our wounded Texas governor, John Connolly, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and his murder by Jack Ruby, the swearing-in of Vice President Lyndon Johnson as president aboard Air Force One at Love Field with Mrs. Kennedy standing by her in blood-stained hot pink suit.

The ball went on as planned. We did not attend. My date for the weekend went home. I, and the rest of the nation, was numbed, horrified and exhausted. How could something like this happen in America?

My mother had died recently, so I moved back to Montgomery to take care of her parents who were 81 and 83, but the Kennedy assassination would reverberate in my life nearly a year later.

Knee-deep in wrapping paper and registering my wedding presents, I received a telephone call from a man from the Offi ce of Naval Intelligence who wanted to talk with me. Completely perplexed, I received the two dark-suited gentlemen in my living room. They wanted to know why and how my name was at the White House? I was even more perplexed. I told them about my date’s brother on the White House staff and about the weekend of Kennedy’s assassination. Also, I told them that I had been to the White House the summer of 1962 when I was the guest of the curator, Lorraine Pierce, who gave a friend and me a personal extensive tour of the White House while the Kennedys were at Hyannis Port. She was helping Mrs. Kennedy redecorate the White House. It was a memorable experience.

The two men left, but I was still perplexed. I could only presume that the interview with me was part of the Kennedy assassination investigation and that my name is somewhere in the Warren Commission report. I’ll never know.

Cameron Freeman Napier
Ramer

 

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I was a senior in high school, visiting with my friend Lonnie James at a neighboring farm when he heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

Not realizing what a tragic event this was, our main question was: Would school be out for a day or two?

Once I graduated from high school, I volunteered for the U.S. Army. In the spring of 1965 I was selected to serve in the Ceremonial Old Guard (Honor Guard) at Fort Meyers, Va. This army base joins Arlington Cemetery. I was a member of the Casket Team and was trained by offi cers and NCOs that had been part of President Kennedy’s funeral. Our duties included military funerals and other ceremonial events, not only at Arlington but throughout the U.S.

At that time, the monument for President Kennedy was being constructed. One of the duties I had was to stand in the area next to the Kennedy gravesite in my dress blues with highly polished shoes and serve as a historian about President Kennedy and the Kennedy family to the tourists.

I am sure many of the visitors were more knowledgeable of the events than the 19-year-old sergeant, a son of a farmer from Cullman, Ala.

Johnny R. Persall
Eva

 

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Mr. Wallace, Handley High’s principal, seldom made announcements over the intercom; therefore, when he cleared his throat before making an announcement that would forever change my opinion of history as a school subject, we all instantly felt a sense of aggravation that he was interrupting our busy chatter. Not two seconds after Mr. Wallace’s announcement that President Kennedy had been shot in Texas, we all fell silent. President? Shot? Might not live?

I honestly do not recall but assume we finished our school day without much knowledge of subject matter being relayed, but over the course of the weekend, my family and I became glued to our TV. We watched the funeral procession make its way to Arlington National Cemetery as millions lined the streets. Jacqueline Kennedy was so stoic yet tragically beautiful with Caroline and John John, a tender name given by the media, by her side. Although I was a mere 13 years old, I wept as John John saluted the deceased Commander in Chief. To this day, 50 years later, I am still haunted by his salute.

Linda Raughton
Adjunct English instructor, Northeast Alabama Community College

 

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On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, I took a bus to downtown Dallas to my job as insurance underwriter at Reserve Life. At lunch, a friend and I walked several blocks to Main Street where the president’s motorcade would pass.

We were standing on the curb expecting to get a good view, but as the limousine drew near, the crowded sidewalk emptied out into the street. Like a wave, people ran out to get near him and our view was blocked.

Disappointed, we started back to our office, but were stopped by a stranger who said the president has just been shot. Not knowing whether to believe her or not, we hurried on to our offi ce and learned he had died from gunshot wounds. This happened about three blocks from where he passed us.

Patsy Whitehead
Somerville

 

As I left school that day, I was picked up by my employer, friend and mentor, Ammie “Lulu” Morris, who was in the newspaper-selling business. He employed some two dozen boys like myself to sell the Ledger-Enquirer at Ft. Benning, Ga. As I got in the van that day he told me the paper was printing an early evening edition about the president being shot. We took those special editions to Fort Benning and in only a few minutes we sold out. I had never sold papers so fast or had so many soldiers in line to buy a paper at the mess halls. The young, eager and anxious faces of those troops still seem so real as I remember that day. This excited state would go on for days and we, the “paper truck boys,” would participate in a small way in the making of one sad historical day.

Jim “Sam” Tomblin
Opelika

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I was a sergeant assigned to a military police company on an Army post in Arlington, Va. I heard the news on the radio while riding across the post of President John F. Kennedy being shot.

On the day of the funeral, I was in charge of a military police detail that was sent to Arlington cemetery to assist with crowd and traffic c control.

Master Sergeant Wyman Roten
Army Retired
Troy

 

In 1963 I was in my junior year at Auburn and a midshipman in the Naval ROTC. On that fateful day I was in a Naval ROTC class when the door opened and the senior chief petty officer of the detachment burst in. Before he said anything, we all knew something terrible had happened. This salty old chief had tears streaming down his face. He blurted out that President Kennedy had just been killed in Dallas. As we sat there in shock, he then reminded us that this week it was the Naval ROTC’s turn to raise and lower the US flag by Samford Hall. He asked for volunteers to go with him to put the flag at half-mast in mourning. As one, the entire class stood to their feet. He picked two other midshipmen and they left. The officer then dismissed all the rest of us. Some of my friends and I ran to the Student Union building to get to a TV where we stayed glued to the set while the news ran thru the events over and over. I learned that day and over the course the next few, that no one is indispensible as I watched LBJ being sworn in at the front of Air Force One while JFK’s casket was being loaded in the rear of the plane. Coincidentally my son was born on November 22, 1970, so I always have two memories of that day.

Steve  Marcereau
Silas

 

I was sure that the world as we knew it was never going to be the same after that. Folks who before kept their front doors unlocked were now making sure that they were locked. Everyone was scared. It’s hard to believe that 50 years have passed since this tragedy.

Tom Davis
Dozier

 

On Friday the 22nd, I was sitting in class at the Washington School for Secretaries on F Street in the National Press Building. At 1:30 p.m. EST one of the teachers came to our class with the announcement that the president had been shot. This came over the ticker-tape machines in an Associated Press office on the upper level of our building. Within a few minutes another person came to the class to tell us he had died. Of course, we were all sent home for the day.

I was only about two blocks from the White House but did not have the presence of mind to walk over there. All I could think of was walking to the bus stop and getting home. It was a very warm day in DC for the end of November. The shopkeepers in the smaller shops along F Street had opened the doors to their shops and had placed small black and white TVs or small radios in their display windows. Some people were gathering around to listen to the latest news. In the streets not many were talking. It was an eerie sight.

When I finally got onto a bus to take me to the suburbs, people were either not talking or speaking in hushed tones. At home I did not want anything to eat. I remember tears in my eyes and being glued to our black and white TV. Saturday, Sunday and then the funeral on Monday – all my memories were of black and white images on the television. It was so strange to watch such a sad event and know that it was happening about 25 miles from where I lived.

The next day was Tuesday, Nov. 26. When I got in my first class, I noticed that the daily wall calendar still had the date of the 22nd. I pulled it off and saved it, took it home and started making a scrapbook of the events. The cover was black and glued to the front was the square piece of black and white calendar that had the number 22 on it. It was almost as if our world had changed in those five days and not any of us were the same again.

Sue Newell
Arab

 

My mother’s excitement of watching the motorcade in Dallas was the one thing I remember the most about that dreadful day. She passed that excitement to a five-year-old little girl who was more fascinated with the black and white TV screen in front of her than what was to take place. Although I could not fathom the impact of the scene that played out before me, I knew by my mother’s gasp and her hand clamped over her mouth that something terrible had happened. When my questions started pouring out of my my mouth, her response, “Hush child, something awful just happened,” wasn’t just a warning to me, but it sent a cold chill through me. She turned the volume on the TV up louder and adjusted the rabbit ear antenna on top to get a clearer picture, but nothing she did could undo what had just happened.

My family and I watched with sadness as the little boy named John and the little girl named Caroline said goodbye to their father. That year on Nov. 27 my mother bought two birthday cards, one for me and one for Caroline. Although a year younger, I was born on Caroline’s birthday. Each year I think of her and wonder if she ever received the card I sent with the innocent message my mother wrote, “I’m sorry your Daddy died and I know you miss him. We all loved him. Happy birthday.”

Sonya Walls Knowles
Dothan

 

We had just moved to Texas from Alabama where Dad had started a new job. We lived in the outskirts of Garland, on the edge of city limits between Garland and Dallas. On that November day, I was riding my bicycle to the country store. The sky filled with helicopters and airplanes were everywhere. I thought a war had started. I rode home as fast as I could and when I got home Mom had the old black and white TV on. President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. Mom was crying so I started to cry, so I ran to my room. We had all felt like we had lost a very good friend.

Frank Armstrong
Section

 

It was a typical November day at my high school in Glencoe, Ala. Students were laughing, changing classes, lockers were slamming, lovebirds were standing too close and whispering. The bell rang, signaling everyone to go to their next class. Mine was Glee Club. We were a few songs into our session and the next song to sing was “Now is the Hour.” The lyrics are, “Now is the hour when we must say goodbye. Soon you’ll be sailing far across the sea.” We were no more than a few more words into that song when a student threw open the double doors and shouted, “The president has been killed.” The music teacher left us to confirm the horrible news. Sadness filled the big lunchroom. Some cried, some still doubted, others were angry. I myself felt empty. The hour had come for the greatest and most powerful man in our country. I don’t think I ever sang that song again.

Priscilla Carroll
Albertville

 

I was a high school junior in Bethesda, Md. Living so close to our nation’s capital, I had friends and classmates whose parents worked in the Kennedy administration. The father of one of my classmates was a Secret Service agent who was riding in the president’s limousine that day.

Three hours after the news broke, I recorded my thoughts in pencil on notebook paper. Years later, I transcribed those thoughts so they could be published in The Jefferson Davis High School newspaper for my students to read:

…I fought to blink back tears and prayed with all my strength, over and over, every prayer I knew. The substitute teacher began to counsel us and remind the class that “even though hard times may be ahead we must have courage.” After five minutes of listening to her gab and desperately scribbling down my French to get it finished while I could still see the paper, the PA came on again. This time it was the deep voice of Dr. Patten: “I hate to be the one to tell you this,” he said. “The President has been assassinated.” I began to cry… the young college student teacher forgot to be brave and joined the girls in tears. The boys couldn’t cry, they just sat, pale and shaken.

The bell finally rang and we filed into the hall. The corridors were strangely silent. Hundreds of people walked past me as dazed as I was. I saw several of my friends. We passed without speaking. At gym class, the hockey game was the most eerie sight I’ve ever seen. They fought extra hard over that seemingly inconsequential ball, all without making any noise.

At 3, all I remembered while going down the hall were words like “assassinate,” “Lincoln,” “vice president” and most commonly, “Oh, God.” Lockers slammed extra hard. No one dallied in the halls. I just wanted to go home, listen to the news and find out the time of church services.

Thanksgiving is a week away.

Carol Hoff Alford
Montgomery 

 

I was a brash, 18-year-old freshman enrolled at Hinds Community College. The stoplight was red. I was in my ’55 Chevy at the intersection of Springridge Road and Highway 80 across from Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss. The song on the AM radio was “Runaway” by Del Shannon.

Suddenly, the radio blared President Kennedy has been shot! My fi rst thought was “Great, they finally got him.” I have no idea who “they” may have been. The day changed my generation forever. My immediate reaction was elation, the same as that of my friends. Feelings toward President Kennedy, for the most part among southern whites were negative. Forced integration was not wanted, nor understood by many young white American youths living in the Deep South. In retrospect integration was the correct move, at the right time, for the future health and welfare of our nation.

As I write today at age 68, refl ecting on this moment, only feelings of deep sadness and shame come forth. Life is a vapor. Who am I to celebrate the president’s impending death by assassination? It does no good to hate or detest anyone. Ezekiel 18:32 says, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Gary Stone, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus, University of West Alabama

 

Without being told to or asked to, I walked past my classroom door, down the corridor and out to the front of the school. I untied the American flag from the lanyard cleat and lowered it to half-staff as I had learned as a Boy Scout. I took a step back, looked up and saluted. I can’t be sure, but I suppose some people driving along Ventura Boulevard (in Los Angeles) first knew that JFK was killed by seeing that flag at half-staff.

Bruce Murphy
Montgomery

 

I was working in the construction office of the Guntersville Lock and Dam and hydroelectric site on the north side of the Tennessee River across from Guntersville and Arab… Sometime that afternoon someone in the accounting or payroll office who had a radio called us and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. A little later, they called back and said the president was dead. That was a sad day. We had not lived through anything like that. After several years of a bad economy and hard times, President Kennedy had brought new hope and prosperity to the country but it had ended too soon.

Robert Elliott
Winfield

 

I was in gym in P.E. class when over the intercom the shaky voice of our high school principal announced the death of our beloved president. At first silence, but then crying could be heard. My heart was pounding in fear of maybe a war starting against us and no one to protect our nation. These were the thoughts of a 14-year old. I loved the president and was in shock.

I guess it really hit me hard because my mom had just died of cancer 25 days before the loss of my president, two people who were close to my heart. I still buy anything written on John F. Kennedy that I can.

Carolyn Tucker Sparkman
Hartselle

 

I was 36 and had just settled back in after lunch as a civilian at Patrick AFB in Florida.  I was anxious to hear from my husband, James “Shorty” Brackin who was stationed at the base with the US Navy. He was to pick up the film he had made with our home movie camera just six days earlier; live film of our beloved President John F. Kennedy aboard the USS Observation Island. The commanding officer had invited my husband to board the surface missile-firing ship the previous Saturday morning to witness the president’s visit. He was so excited and had brought his 8mm movie camera aboard in hopes he could sneak a little footage.

My office phone rang and my husband told me he had picked up the film but heard some shocking news at the PX; President Kennedy had been killed. About that time, people started buzzing through both our offices, horrified by the news. The base was closed as were all schools. We picked up our three children and headed home, saddened and in disbelief. For the next few days we didn’t go anywhere and kept the television on, trying to make sense of it all.

The film proved to be a great comfort as we watched it over and over that day and the next few days. Our commander in chief dearly loved the space program and we did, too. The film shows the USS Observation Island anchored a few miles out to sea. Then President Kennedy flies in via helicopter and lands on board. He exits the helicopter and is presented with a Navy jacket and binoculars. A submarine fires a missile and the missile can be seen coming up out of the water into the air. The president is returned to the helicopter and after all the salutes, the helicopter takes off. This visit was not publicized, so I doubt there is much of any other footage of this particular visit. I am now 86 and I still get chills when I watch this home film. It brings back the emotions my husband and I felt on Nov. 22, 1963 as we watched it for the first time… the shock, horror and sadness for the loss of our president and the fear we felt for our beloved country, military and space program.

Dorothy “Dot” Brackin
Webb

 

Our office (in San Antonio, Texas) closed early…it was as if a close family member had been murdered and we all had to grieve and scream, cry, be angry. I recall crying as I watched TV that evening…not wanting to miss one second of what would be “history”…I cried myself to sleep all curled up on the sofa.

Linda Williams
Gulf Shores

 

I was living in Dallas, Texas and was downtown with my lawyer on business. Whe he left, I decided to stay and see the President and Mrs. Kennedy and Gov. and Mrs. Connolly. I stood close to the corner of Houston and Elm streets in front of the city jail. It was here where the presidential motorcade would turn to go past the school book depository building and on to lunch at one of the hotels.

Moments later, there were gunshots and everyone started running and screaming as if there were a bomb scare. A group of us stood across the street from the depository building. There were about five policemen standing around the building with their rifles pointed up toward the 5th floor. Soon, two plainclothes men came out of the building with a man between the two of them. He was wearing a trench coat and horn-rimmed glasses. Thinking he was the one who fired the shots, the crowd became belligerent, screaming, cursing, throwing things. Needless to say he was not Lee Harvey Oswald, but I never learned who he was.

Although this was a tragedy that should not have happened in our lifetime, I feel fortunate to have been there. It was a day I will never forget.

JoAnn Clark
Clanton 

 

 

Sports stars of Alabama: Where are they now?

By Emmett Burnett

Where were you when Hank Aaron knocked it out of the park? Remember Auburn’s almost unstoppable Sullivan to Beasley football passes, an Alabama football player nicknamed “The Italian Stallion,” or Charles Barkley’s basketball wizardry? These and other athletes made the state proud “back in the day.”

Here are some of them: all from Alabama, achieving athletic greatness, and still going strong.

Bob Baumhower

Raised in Tuscaloosa, Bob Baumhower played for the University of Alabama football team from 1974 to 1976. “Coach Bryant helped change my life,” the former nose tackle recalls. And what a life change it was, from Crimson Tide to chicken with pride.

“Coach Bryant, and my parents, taught me to believe in myself, have a plan, and make it a reality.” Baumhower says. He later played for the Miami Dolphins. In 1980 the professional football player became a restaurateur.

“A friend invited me to a place that served chicken wings, and I thought, ‘Who eats wings for lunch?  Are you crazy?’ There were no chicken wings in Alabama until Bob opened Tuscaloosa’s Wings and Things. Not anymore.”

Today Baumhower lives in Fairhope, running 14 restaurants throughout Alabama, serving poultry to seafood. “Starting up in the chicken wing business was a trial and error effort,” Baumhower laughs. “It still is.”

Tom Neville

Tom Neville may have the most diverse football resume in Alabama. His work history includes offensive tackle for the Boston Patriots, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants, and being a professional gemologist in Montgomery.

The stand out Mississippi State University player’s pro ball days were tackled in 1979. “My football career ended with a concussion,” Neville says from his Montgomery jewelry/appraisal business. “It was time to give it up anyway. Concussions teach you that,” he smiles.

During Boston football days, the Montgomery native discovered an old wrist watch in an antique store. He bought the fine old jeweled timepiece. And then another, and another. It was love at first bling.

After retiring from football, he moved to California, earning a gemology degree.  In 1983, he returned to his hometown of Montgomery, opening Tom Neville, The Source Inc., Jewelry Store.

Today, with a 15,000-plus customer base, Neville is one of the country’s leading experts on precious stones, jewelry and appraisals.  “Before 9/11, I traveled to Israel to buy diamonds,” he says. “Now the Israelis come here. It’s just easier.”

Charles Barkley

One of the most popular basketball players ever, Charles Barkley was named in pro-basketball’s “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” In addition, he won two Olympic Gold Medals, was named Sports Illustrated’s 2002 Personality of the Year, and in 2008 considered a run for Governor of Alabama. In 2010 he changed his mind, must to the relief of Governor Bentley.

As of 2012, the former Auburn University athlete (1981-1984) lives in Arizona. He is a frequent television basketball analysis and commentator and to date, the only person from Leeds, Ala., to host Saturday Night Live.

Pat Sullivan

Auburn’s storied quarterback, Pat Sullivan, won the Heisman Trophy in 1971. “It’s on his kitchen counter,” Sullivan notes, about the trophy. “Actually, we’ve had it displayed all over the house.”

Sullivan has been Samford University’s head football coach since 2007. “I love it and cannot imagine doing anything else,” the Birmingham native says. “I’m very excited about our upcoming season. If our guys stay healthy, this may be one of our best years.”

When not coaching, Auburn’s former quarterback enjoys life with grandkids in a second home on a lake. “I also try keeping up with former Auburn teammates as best I can and regret not being able to visit the campus more often,” he says. “But I’m a coach, and have my own team to be concerned over. It’s a seven day, all day job.”

Dr. E. Gaylon McCollough

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After playing Alabama football [1961-65], Dr. Gaylon McCollough had a difficult decision. “Should I accept an offer with the Dallas Cowboys or pursue Medical School?” he recalls, pondering the decision made almost 50 years ago. He talked with family, and extended family, Coach Paul Bryant. “All recommended attending med school.” He did.

In 1975 the football player-turned physician founded the McCollough Plastic Surgery Clinic in Birmingham. More than 25 years later he moved his practice to Gulf Shores. Today he is recognized in The National Registry of Who’s Who and Woodward and White’s list of “Best Doctors in America.” Dr. McCollough has also written medical textbooks, novels, and a biography, The Long Shadow of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“I don’t regret my decision to go into medicine and not play for the Dallas Cowboys,” Dr. McCollough says. “But I admit,” he chuckles, “There are days I wonder, What if.”

Quentin Riggins

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An All-SCC Auburn Tiger linebacker and 1989 team captain, Quentin Riggins went from playing to the field to reporting on it. After graduation, he entered broadcasting in 1991 as a football radio sideline reporter for the Auburn ISP Sports Network. “I was playing Canadian ball with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,” recalled Riggins. “Auburn asked if I would consider broadcasting one of their games. I did, they liked it, and signed me up.” He is an Auburn football radio commentator to this day.

Riggins also has 17 years of experience in Alabama government, having worked under three governors. “Gov. Fob James also played football for Auburn,” noted Riggins. “We had a great time reliving game day memories.” But Gov. Bob Riley was, and is, a devout Alabama fan, which was possibly more fun.

“I think it was in 2004, after we beat Tennessee, [Auburn] Coach Tommy Tuberville autographed a football for me,” the former Auburn player remembered.  “I took the ball back to the state capital and presented it to Gov. Riley as a “gift.”

In 2011, Auburn’s star athlete became a vice president of government relations with Alabama Power Company. He is the company’s representative when dealing with the state legislature and executive branch. He is also the office’s go-to guy for sports insight. “But not as much Auburn insight as you might think,” laughs Riggins. “My daughter plays high school softball, so I talk about her softball program a lot.”

Cornelius Griffin  

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“Cornelius Griffin is one of my favorites,” says Steve Millburg, author of Gone Pro Alabama. ”This man co-captained Alabama’s Southeastern Conference Championship team, played professionally for two pro teams, started in Super Bowl XXV, but never forgot his Alabama roots.”  Leaving the Tide in 1999, Griffin served four years with the New York Giants, and six with the Washington Redskins. But he left his heart in Troy, Al.

Upon retiring, Griffin returned to his hometown, Troy, where he opened an insurance business. Every November, the former NFL star hosts a community Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of Troy’s elderly and ill residents.  “He does this with his own money,” notes Millburg. “And he serves the food – quite a sight seeing this 6 ft. 3, 300-pound good man plate up turkey and dressing for senior citizens.”

Joe Beckwith

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Joe Beckwith played baseball in a town known for football. “I’m one of the few Auburn athletes who were born, raised, and returned here,” he says.  But the Opelika County resident’s former job required a lot of travel, like in 1985 when he pitched a World Series two inning no-hitter. “That was probably the most exciting event of my career with the Kansas City Royals,” Beckwith recalls.

From 1974 to 1977, he played for Auburn and then the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1979-83, and Kansas City Royals, 1984 – 1985.  Today Beckwith has a duel career in sales and broadcasting. He is district representative for Ready Mix USA and radio baseball analysis for the CSS Sports Network. According to the former pitcher, only one sport rivals his passion for baseball: “Golf; I love it.”

Johnny Musso

During 1969 through 1971, “The Italian Stallion” scored 38 Alabama touchdowns in three seasons, placing him in the College Football Hall of Fame.  After graduation, the Birmingham native turned pro with the Canadian and World Football leagues, and the Chicago Bears. “Musso was a kamikaze blocker,” says Millburg. “It takes a toll on the body. As a result of constant injuries, I don’t think he ever lived up to his potential in pro ball.”

The running back left the Chicago Bears for Chicago bucks, as a commodity futures trader, where he reportedly did very well. Today he is retired and lives near Chicago.

Bo Jackson

Photo by Brian Lacy
Photo by Brian Lacy

An Auburn Heisman Trophy winner, Vincent “Bo” Jackson is the only pro athlete ever named an All-American in two major American sports: football and baseball. Post-Auburn (1982-1985), he played football for the Los Angeles Raiders and baseball for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and Anaheim Angels. A 1991 hip injury ended the Bessemer, Ala. natives’ pro career and impaired his baseball one.

In a 2009 Auburn University commencement speech, Jackson addressed the graduates about “Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone,” a creed he lives by. During his stay at Auburn, Jackson held a temporary job as a bank teller. Today near Chicago, he is part owner of a bank.

 Hank Aaron

The man from Mobile, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron not only played baseball, he made history. On April 8, 1974, the Atlanta Braves power hitter broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record. Today Aaron breaks records selling cars. He owns Hank Aaron BMW, an auto dealership near Atlanta.  Each buyer receives a Hank Aaron autographed baseball with the purchase of a new car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gardening: Experts battle invasive plants at Plant Wars event

Local groups evict thorny olive plants at Opelika Municipal Park.
Local groups evict thorny olive plants at Opelika Municipal Park.

By Katie Jackson

I recently got into a scrap with some plants in my yard and I have the scars to prove it, but they are scars I wear proudly.

Those plants, Chinese privet and Elaeagnus (also known as thorny olive and other names I can’t repeat here but ones I’ve probably used in the heat of my hands-on tussle with them) are all over my yard. Trying to evict them is quite a fight but I am dedicated to the effort, especially now that I am more aware of the dangers they pose.

Actually I’ve been aware of their bad reputations for a number of years but I have been a bit of a coward. Sure, I’ve executed surgical strikes against them in the past, ambushing seedlings and randomly attacking some of the bigger bullies with pruners. But I’ve felt so outnumbered by them that I’ve been afraid to launch a full-fledged assault…until, that is, my courage was bolstered by an Opelika Plant Wars boot camp.

Opelika’s Plant Wars was held in September when several local groups rallied their forces to take on invasive plants. Lee County Master Gardener Billie Oliver and the Auburn University Donald E. Davis Arboretum curator and native plant advocate Dee Smith led the charge with the help of municipal and civic groups, the Alabama Invasive Plant Council (ALPIC) and invasive plant experts from Auburn University.

While that effort only made a small dent in the invasive plants at the park, it was a beginning. And it provided me with enough knowledge and ammunition to go home and do some hand-to-limb combat with my own intruders.

Invasive plants, defined by the U.S. Forest Service as non-native (exotic) plant species capable of causing environmental, economic or human harm, often displacing native species, reducing native wildlife habitat, disrupting important ecosystem processes and degrading recreation areas.

According to Loewenstein, executive director of ALIPC and a research fellow and invasive plant Extension specialist in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, millions of dollars are spent each year controlling these plants across the nation. But invasive plants also impose a “cost” on nature as, over time, they replace native plant species, impact wildlife and fish habitat and affect the functioning of local ecosystems.

Certainly not all non-native, exotic plants are invasive and many are safe and valuable agricultural and horticultural staples. But aggressive non-natives become a problem when they escape cultivation and spread to home landscapes, pastures and croplands, forests, wetlands, waterways and rights-of-way.

Many are readily available from plant retail outlets and are so common and accepted in our landscapes that homeowners may not realize the threat they pose. They also provide food for wildlife and pollinators, so they may seem to be benefiting the environment, but birds and other wildlife actually help spread the seeds and there are other, better native plants that can be used to support bird and bee populations.

Among the worst offenders that are common on probably all of our properties are the thorny olive and Chinese privet as well as other ligustrums that I’ve been battling at home; some cultivars of nandinas (heavenly bamboo), honeysuckle and wisteria; multiflora, Cherokee and Maccartney roses; and mimosa, kudzu, Callery pear tree hybrids and tallow (popcorn), chinaberry and Chinese elm trees to name a few. Forest and agricultural landowners also battle these and other invasives, such as cogongrass and Japanese climbing fern, and milfoil, hydrilla and alligator weed are major problems in lakes and other Alabama waterways.

Though many of these plants have beautiful foliage, berries and flowers, and may have a sentimental attachment for those of us who have grown up with them, their bad traits far outweigh their positive attributes and it’s truly important to remove them from our yards. The good news is that, with lots of hard work and a well-organized plan of attack, they can be controlled (sadly, probably never eradicated) and there are lots of native plants that can be used in their place.

To learn more about invasive plants, how to battle them and what plants can be used to replace them, visit the ALIPC website at www.se-eppc.org/alabama/ or check with your county Cooperative Extension or Alabama Forestry Commission offices. They, along with local Master Gardener groups, have lots of information and strategies to share so that you can wage war against invasive plants and make your yard a safe haven for native plants and all the creatures that rely upon them.

If you want to learn more about or buy native plants, a workshop and plant sale will be held by the Davis Arboretum on Monday, Nov. 4, at 5:30 in room 112 of the Rouse Life Sciences building on the Auburn campus. To learn more about that contact 334-844-5770 or arbinfo@auburn.edu.

November Tips

Fertilize shade trees.

Plant woody shrubs, vines, trees and roses.

Store unused pesticides in sealed containers and place them in freeze-protected locations.

Prepare lawn mowers and other power tools for winter storage by cleaning them and flushing out remaining gasoline.

Turn the compost pile.

Test your soil and begin adding needed amendments once the results are in.

Mulch tender perennials that might be damaged by frost later in the winter.

Bring tender potted plants into the house or place in some protected area before the first hard freeze.

Plant leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula and spinach, as well as garlic and shallots.

Plant spring-blooming bulbs.

Plant beets, carrots, radishes and asparagus.

Plant annual flowers such as sweet peas, poppies, snapdragons, larkspurs and delphiniums.

Keep bird feeders cleaned and filled.

 

 

 

Worth the Drive: Josephine Art Center

Stop by the Josephine Art Center for food and new friends

By Jennifer Kornegay

If you visited Union Springs, Ala., about 130 years ago, you might have checked in for a stay at The Josephine Hotel. Built by Dr. Robert Fleming in 1880, the 17,000-square-foot, threestory building downtown was named for his wife Josephine and has been operating in some form or

An assortment of treats awaits at the Josephine Art Center.
An assortment of treats awaits at the Josephine Art Center.

another ever since, passing the decades after its hotel days ended as a saloon, an oyster bar, a hair salon and even a tire store. Today, as the Josephine Art Center, it’s hosting guests again, many of them “out-of-towners,” and its Ice Cream Parlor and Sandwich Shoppe is a great choice for a leisurely lunch.

Enjoy a ham and swiss sandwich with a side of heritage or a chef salad with a dollop of culture. Making use of the old hotel’s bottom floor, the Josephine Art Center houses a gallery showcasing paintings, wood carvings and crafts created by area artists. Old photos and other vintage items lining the walls in the adjacent cafe space tell stories of the city’s past like a mini history museum, and remnants of a soda fountain from days gone by sit behind the counter where hungry diners place their orders.

The menu they choose from includes Southern lunch counter favorites done simply and done well: BLTs, smoked turkey sandwiches and fabulous pimento cheese. The Autumn Berry Chicken Salad is packed with tart cranberries and crunchy pecans. The German potato salad is a nice departure from the standard mustard variety, but if that’s what you like, it’s also on the menu. Th e daily special lets you sample several items and comes with a drink for a modest $8.50. Meals here almost always end on a sweet note; it’s near impossible to resist the list of “ice cream delicacies” offered, things like floats, shakes, sundaes and BIG banana splits, all made with Blue Bell ice cream.

There’s little doubt you’ll have a good lunch at The Josephine, but you’ll probably have a pretty good time too. Owners Joyce and Al Perrin are friendly and outgoing. So are many of their patrons. And they’re all happy to welcome newcomers and visitors, encouraging everyone who stops by to sign the guest book. (If you go in the next few months, look back a few pages to find our governor’s looping signature.)

Since the cafe opened in 2012 (the ice cream parlor portion opened in 2011), the spot has become a gathering place where folks come to sit and chat, and then eat, and then sit and chat some more. And you never know who you might find. Maybe a couple visiting all the way from Denmark or local painter Larry Stewart, whose rural landscape works you’ll find in the gallery.

He may be sharing a table with Randolph Hall (a regular at the cafe and a Dixie Electric employee), but he won’t be sharing his banana split; the men usually each get their own order of this heft y treat that’s nestled in a cut-glass dish and sitting on a silver tray. There’s even a resident ghost named Jefferson who has attracted the attention of ghost hunters and paranormal investigators, but he mostly stays upstairs, occasionally striking a note on an antique piano to remind folks he’s around.

What you definitely will find is pride of place. Even though she’s not a Union Springs native, Joyce is a wellspring of information on all aspects of the area’s history, and she’s passionate about spreading good news, especially news concerning the preservation of the city’s many historic structures. (She also works in real estate.) Union Springs boasts 140 historic buildings and houses, many of which are architecturally significant, and the whole length of Main Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. She’s thrilled to report that currently, 22 of the houses and five old buildings are being renovated to their former glory.

A day trip to Union Springs will nicely fill any lazy Saturday, and a visit to the Josephine Art Center should be the top item on the itinerary. Joyce oft en helps her guests map out what to see and do in the area, handing out brochures for self-guided driving tours of the homes and more. Pop in for the food; stay a while for the art and history; ask Joyce to make you a root-beer float for the road; and start your exploration.