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Alabama Snapshots: Halloween Costumes

Cooper, dressed as a mummy, is a 2-year old British Labrador. SUBMITTED BY Alison Collins, Hollywood.
Beau Barnes said he wanted to be a cheeseburger because it would be funny. SUBMITTED BY Ashley Barnes, Sulligent.
My grandson, 2-year-old Cooper Hayes, dressed as a sock monkey last year for Halloween. SUBMITTED BY Debby Boyd, Addison.
Ave Henley as Frankenstein and Wes Henley as Spiderman (bottom left). SUBMITTED BY Jackie Henley, Prattville.
Mother and daughter having an “udderly” great time at their church’s fall festival. SUBMITTED BY Laura Tucker, Decatur.
Erin Alford and Celia Blanchard, best friends dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse.SUBMITTED BY Leah Blanchard, Rockford.
Angelina Cowart dressed as Dorothy. SUBMITTED BY Mary Ann Stockman, Mt. Vernon.

Hardy Jackson’s Alabama

Why we will defeat breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I became particularly aware of this when I lost an old and dear friend to the disease.

On a more positive note, several other friends who are breast cancer survivors continue to thrive.

Losses are hard to take. But the survivors show us that the fight continues and there are victories to celebrate.

And when I think of the victorious, I think of Aunt Roscoe.

Aunt Roscoe was a breast cancer survivor.

It was a long time ago – late 1940s or early 1950s, dates get fuzzy – before radiation or chemo and all that. Back then, when you had breast cancer you either died or got it cut off. Roscoe went the cut-off route. Radical mastectomy. Which left her breastless on one side.

So she made herself a replacement, a “falsie,” padded in the shape of the real thing.

You see, Aunt Roscoe was a seamstress. A good one.

When she resumed sewing, Aunt Roscoe found that her “falsie” was an excellent place to stick pins when there were too many for her to hold in her mouth, which is where seamstresses hold extra pins, in case you didn’t know.

Always with her, always within easy reach, her falsie was a novel and convenient pin cushion.

However, the true value of this innovation did not come clear until a year or so later, well after its use became second nature to the user.

One day Aunt Roscoe was hard at work pinning a pattern when there came a knock on the door. Pins in her mouth, she answered it and found a salesman, sample case in hand, ready to show her something that he knew she could not live without.

He began making his pitch.

She could not tell him “no” because of the pins in her mouth.

So while he talked, she absentmindedly began taking the pins, one by one, from between her lips and sticking them in the pin cushion.

Yep, that pin cushion.

Which the salesman thought was real.

(Work on it. Visuals are important here.)

With each pin moving from mouth to cushion, mouth to cushion, the salesman’s concentration slipped and he kept losing his place in the spiel. He began stammering. And sweating.

Meanwhile Aunt Roscoe, unaware of what she was doing and the effect it was having on the salesman, continued to take pins from her mouth and poke them firmly into “it.”

Finally, after the fourth or fifth pin, the salesman gave up.

“Please lady,” he said. “You can stop. I’m leaving. If you are tough enough to do that, there is no way I can sell you anything.”

And he left.

And apparently he told other folks in his profession.

For according to family lore, that salesman was the last salesman ever to darken her door.

Aunt Roscoe lived to a ripe old age and died – not from the cancer, but from one of the other things that gets us all in the end.

But were she alive today, I’m sure that she would have celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the survivors, wearing her pink T-shirt and doing her part so that one day in the not too distant future, innovations like her personal pin cushion would be a thing of the past.

With women like her leading the way, breast cancer’s days are surely numbered.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

Social Security

In this issue, I would like to continue sharing with you some common Social Security questions I receive on a variety of topics and my answers.

Question: Is it illegal to laminate your Social Security card?

Answer: No, it is not illegal, but we discourage it. It’s best not to laminate your card. Laminated cards make it difficult — sometimes even impossible — to detect important security features and an employer may refuse to accept them. The Social Security Act requires the Commissioner of Social Security to issue cards that cannot be counterfeited. We incorporate many features that protect the card’s integrity. They include highly specialized paper and printing techniques, some of which are invisible to the naked eye. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: My spouse died recently and my neighbor said my children and I might be eligible for survivors benefits. Don’t I have to be retirement age to receive benefits?

Answer: No. As a survivor, you can receive benefits at any age if you are caring for a child who is receiving Social Security benefits and who is under age 16. Your children are eligible for survivors benefits through Social Security up to age 19 if they are unmarried and attending elementary or secondary school full time. Keep in mind that you are still subject to the annual earnings limit if you are working. If you are not caring for minor children, you would need to wait until age 60 (age 50 if disabled) to collect survivors benefits. For more information about survivors benefits, read our publication Survivors Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at kylle.mckinney@ssa.gov.

Alabama’s Health

Alabama: heart of the ‘Stroke Belt’

Stroke (or cerebrovascular diseases) is Alabama’s fourth leading cause of death, exceeded only by heart diseases, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Alabama is a prominent member of “The Stroke Belt,” an 11-state region where the risk of experiencing a stroke is 34 percent higher than it is in other areas.

Stroke is required to be reported in Alabama; however, analyzing stroke mortality data reveals many interesting facts about this disease. In 2000, Alabama lost nearly 3,200 residents to strokes and was tied for having the 7th highest age-adjusted stroke mortality (or death) rate among all 50 states, at 71.5 deaths per 100,000 standard population. In 2015, this rate had decreased by nearly 27 percent to 52.2. Alabama lost more than 2,900 residents to strokes in 2015.

Significant progress in stroke survival has been seen nationally and in Alabama. Unfortunately, in spite of this progress, Alabama had the 2nd highest stroke mortality rate in 2015 and the highest rate among all states in 2013.

Stroke mortality varies significantly by race and gender. African Alabamian males had the highest rate in 2015 at 72.2 followed by African Alabamian females at 58.0, white males at 49.0, and white females at 47.9. While all four of these components of Alabama’s population had healthy and significant decreases in stroke mortality since 2000, all four remained significantly higher when compared to the same population components nationally.

Alabama’s rural counties had a higher stroke mortality rate than the urban counties. While these rates did not vary greatly, (53.6 in rural counties and 51.0 in urban counties) the 20 counties with the highest rates were all rural.

Risk factor modifications, such as increased use of cholesterol reducing medications, improved and faster stroke diagnosis, and improved stroke treatment are credited with most of the healthy decrease that has been seen in stroke mortality. Alabama continues to rank among the leading states in stroke mortality because of the greater presence of major risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use.

The expansion of stroke diagnosis and treatment through the use of telemedicine provides considerable promise for improvement in stroke mortality and quality of life. The Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) in Dothan was an Alabama pioneer in providing this service through its Stroke Care Network.

Through this network, neurologists affiliated with the SAMC conduct real-time video examinations of patients presenting in emergency departments at the Medical Center Barbour in Eufaula, Mizell Memorial Hospital in Opp, Dale Medical Center in Ozark, and Troy Regional Medical Center who may have experienced a stroke. Through this timely evaluation, drugs may be prescribed quickly, resulting in less permanent damage or even the saving of life.

Remembering the stroke acronym “FAST” is another way that we can all possibly prevent death and decrease permanent damage.

F Does one side of the face tend to droop?

A Ask the victim to raise both arms. Does one arm tend to drift downward?

S Is speech being slurred?

T Time! If any of these symptoms are present, seek emergency attention.

Dale Quinney is executive director of the Alabama Rural Health Association, 1414 Elba Highway, Troy, 36081.

Magazine wins 3 awards

Magazine wins three awards

Alabama Living magazine recently received three Awards of Merit in the 2017 National Electric Cooperative Statewide Editors Association Willies Awards.

The awards were given for:

Best Illustration for “Cotton Pickin’ Time” by Dennis Auth (October 2016)


Best Cover for “Raising the Steaks” by Michael Cornelison (August 2016)

This cover, featuring an Alabama Wagyu beef cow, had previously won an award in the Cooperative Communicators Association contest.


Best Entertaining Feature for “Alabama in the Movies” by Emmett Burnett (June 2016)


There were nearly 300 entries from 23 magazines in the contest, named for Willie Wiredhand, mascot of the rural electric cooperative program.

OWA is open for business

The Twister, one of 21 park rides

OWA entertainment complex offers another option for Baldwin County visitors

OWA, the 520-acre entertainment complex in Foley, minutes from Gulf Shores, is appropriately named. Pronounced “oh-wah,” the word inspired from the Muscogee Creek language means “big water.” But OWA could also also mean oh-wow, as today’s visitors are about to find out.

It is a late summer’s day in the 14-acre amusement ride midway, known as The Park of OWA. Giddy thrill seekers scurry for seating in a roller coaster with more twists and turns than a water moccasin on a pancake griddle. Riders are about to discover the winding-weaving tracks of what OWA employees call “The Big One.” Like the park, Rollin’ Thunder is also well named.

Alabama’s newest tourist mecca is coming in phases. Phase 1 premiered with much fanfare and a packed park on July 21. Early features include the amusement park, 150-room Marriott TownePlace Suites, a 14-acre man-made lake complete with a 1.5-acre man-made island, and a 44,000-square-foot shopping district set to start a few weeks later.

Nine months earlier, OWA was little more than a good idea on paper.

But the park’s history dates back many years before a spade of dirt was turned and ice cream scooped. Originally, OWA was “Oh No.”

The 10113 Foley Beach Express address was to have been the Blue Collar Country Entertainment Complex, which never took off.  After numerous setbacks – including the pullout of investor Jeff Foxworthy – Blue Collar met Blue Monday.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians acquired total control of the property in April 2015. OWA’s construction began in November 2016, at the speed of Rollin’ Thunder.

“It was something to see,” says Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of marketing and public relations, describing the early days. During the fast-track construction, up to 1,000 workers were on site, daily, almost around the clock. And Baldwin EMC, the electrical utility serving the site, started its planning as well (see related story on Page 14).

Six contractors and dozens of subcontractors turned fields into a tourist attraction, building everything from the ground up. The Foley site received 21 amusement park rides – some assembly required.

“Prior to purchasing decisions, we got to try the rides out in different parks across the U.S.,” Hellmich says, acknowledging just how cool product research can be. “Specialists and designers built the rides onsite.”

Larsen Lien knows the midway’s features well. “I’ve ridden every one of them,” OWA’s digital marketing specialist says while giving an impromptu tour. “I think it is cool how we can stand under Rollin’ Thunder as it zips over us,” she says, pointing at the roller coaster racing through gravity defying loops. It sounds like rolling thunder, hence the name.

Larsen critiques other attractions: “My favorite – and I love them all – is the Wave Runner,” the ocean-like ride simulating wave motion. “It is so dynamic, personal. There is nothing like it.”

Park rides are not just for thrill seekers. Family-friendly features abound. Employees say a favorite for youngsters is the Southern Express, a roller coaster but smaller, for little people. It’s also a saving grace for fraidy-cat parents, who may be too chicken to ride Rollin’ Thunder.

Other adventures include the Flying Carousel, like a typical carousel, except not necessarily confined to earth. There is AeroZoom, a simulated hang gliding experience; Rockin’ Raft, a whitewater gauntlet without getting wet; and Sky Balloons, adrift over the park for a pelican’s-eye view.

‘Think of OWA as many parks’

OWA on opening day.

More rides await and more are planned. By design, the amusement park is surrounded by additional land for expansion. It has space to double in size. OWA is already researching new ride possibilities.

“Think of OWA as many parks,” Hellmich says. “It has components, the park has rides from kiddie to thriller. But in addition, there are the Downtown and Warehouse Districts, with shopping, restaurants and other venues.” At press time, most Downtown District restaurants and shops were set to open in late September. Additional phases will follow, in a 5-year plan budgeted at $500 million.

Future phases call for a luxury RV resort, four hotels, a resort level condominium and outdoor waterpark. OWA is in active negotiations for leasing agreements and estimates 50 businesses will populate the Downtown and Warehouse Districts of the complex. About 60 percent will be restaurants.

Announced tenants include Wahlburgers (a restaurant featuring customized crafted hamburgers), Sunglass World, Fairhope Soap Company, Hershey’s Ice Cream Shop, and the Groovy Goat, a sports bar with 80 TV monitors set to open Sept. 30. Eatery cuisine will range from fine dining to “did I hear that right?” There are rumors of fried chicken donuts.

“We strive to appeal to all ages and interests,” Hellmich says. Older guests may not want to ride a white-knuckle thriller with their children or grandchildren. But they can opt for a good meal and time with family and friends in the Downtown District.

Only the amusement park ride section requires an admission fee. You can shop till you drop in Downtown OWA or eat in its restaurant row with no ticket required. The amusement park has same day re-entry too. Go and come back as you please. And parking is free for everything. Try that at Disney World.

OWA works in conjunction with the City of Foley’s $45 million Sports Tourism Complex, which offers 16 state-of-the-art sports fields and an indoor event center. “We coordinate to extend hospitality here at OWA,” Hellmich says. “We want Foley – OWA to be a complete destination experience. Visiting sports teams can conduct their games, stay in our hotel, and play in OWA in the evenings and nights.”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians has holdings across the U.S., including hotels, gaming, and entertainment venues. OWA does not have gambling or gaming facilities. Park officials say they have no plans for gaming at OWA.

‘No destination like it in the U.S.’

OWA entrance.

The Baldwin County entertainment complex is one of the latest of the Poarch Creek tribal holdings. “There is no destination quite like it in the U.S.,” Hellmich says. “We have all of the amenities in one property – sports fields, hotels, shopping, dining, and amusement park, all in one place.” And OWA just won a big accolade – it was named the Alabama Attraction of the Year at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism in August.

As of press time, ticket prices are $34.99 for adults and $27.99 for juniors (under 42 inches tall), seniors over age 60, and military members. Children under age of 3 are free. An annual pass may be purchased for $89.99. The park also works with groups for special packages and group discounts.

OWA is open year-round but hours may vary. Check its website, http://visitowa.com/, for current information.

Before OWA, visiting Gulf Shores meant driving to the beach, driving for something to eat, driving to shopping, and driving back to the hotel. Not now.

Though OWA doesn’t have Gulf beaches, it is 30 minutes away. A saltwater plunge is within a half-hour. Then use your re-entry pass for that OWA ride you missed. Rollin’ Thunder is waiting.


Baldwin EMC added a new substation to meet OWA’s power needs.

Meeting OWA’s power needs started early for co-op

Although the OWA amusement park officially opened to the public in July 2017, planning for the attraction’s electricity needs began as far back as 2013.

Four years ago, Baldwin EMC knew an entertainment venue of some type was possibly coming to Foley, Ala., and it would likely be larger than any other attraction the cooperative had ever served.

In order to meet the needs of the up-and-coming site, which covers 500 acres on the Foley Beach Express, Baldwin EMC began evaluating the existing demand for electricity in the south Foley area and how it might increase with the new development.

After an initial analysis, Baldwin EMC determined that adding a new substation to the area was the best plan. The co-op developed a presentation for PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Baldwin EMC’s power supplier, explaining the need.

“Our justification for the new substation was based on reliability in south Foley along with the needs of the potential amusement park and any other future developments in the area,” says Brian Seals, Baldwin EMC’s manager of engineering.

PowerSouth’s board of trustees approved the new substation in the fall of 2014. As PowerSouth finished its construction toward the end of 2016, Baldwin EMC began the process of raising poles and running lines to tie the new substation into the co-op’s existing infrastructure.

In the meantime, the city of Foley and the state of Alabama began a project that would improve County Road 20, now called Pride Drive, in order to accommodate traffic flow to the new attraction site. “That project affected our system as well,” says Seals. “We worked with the city of Foley to enhance the area by shifting our power lines to accommodate the widening of the road.”

In February 2016, Baldwin EMC’s engineering department had its first meeting with project managers for OWA. “As they gave us the layouts of their roads, buildings and amusement park rides, we started putting together a design for an electrical infrastructure that would best serve their needs,” Seals says.

Baldwin EMC’s crews worked simultaneously with OWA’s construction crews, installing lines and electrical equipment as the site’s development moved forward.

OWA officially opened its doors on July 21, 2017. However, additions to the attraction are still in progress, and meeting their electricity needs is an ongoing process for Baldwin EMC.

“It’s a new type of load for us,” Seals says. “We’ve never served an amusement park of this size. So as OWA was testing rides, we put equipment in place to monitor the electrical load and we changed out equipment when necessary.”

Seals says Baldwin EMC will continue to maintain contact with OWA’s developers and monitor their power use. “We all know the impact of this project on our area and we all want it to be successful.” – Michelle Geans

Gone, but not forgotten

Ashleigh Staples of Birmingham looks over a grave at Auburn’s Pine Hill Cemetery.

Jordan Mahaffey doesn’t see dead people.

Instead, her vision when visiting a cemetery has more to do with survivors than deceased. That’s because Mahaffey, a history graduate from the University of West Alabama, is more apt to pay attention to what is on top of the grave than what’s in it.

“I see artifacts,” Mahaffey says, referring to headstones and grave markers. “They provide you with a history of the community and how individuals felt about that person.”

On this day, however, Mahaffey, along with a dozen or more volunteers and an archeological team from the University of Alabama, are helping reclaim an almost forgotten, overgrown and unmarked cemetery situated just outside the fenced-in Morning Star cemetery in rural Sumter County.

The overgrown field and woodlands are being cleared and the UA team plans to scan the area with ground-penetrating radar to locate graves. An earlier scan revealed up to 10 unmarked graves.

“I want to find my baby brother. He died when he was one year old. I remember coming here as a little girl with my mother to visit his grave,” says Ella Edwards. Her family moved to Michigan when she was a child; others in the community did basically the same, leaving the cemetery unattended for decades.

Across Alabama, numerous cemeteries – in many cases the only remainders of once thriving communities – are imperiled by abandonment, isolation, occasional vandalism and sometimes even good intentions, says Ted Urquhart, president of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance.

The alliance, a non-profit, volunteer group, was organized to locate and register all cemeteries and encourage their preservation and maintenance. Similarly, the Alabama Historical Commission maintains a record of the state’s historical cemeteries.   

The goal is twofold: Honor the dead, and help maintain historic structures like headstones, tombstones and statuary, which, much like outdoor museums, tell the stories of communities and the people who inhabited them. 

“People do not think twice about the value of preserving historic structures, and it is time we need to begin to think about structures in historic cemeteries in the same light,” says Margo Stringfield, a University of West Florida archaeologist and anthropologist. “Markers and monuments, in addition to names and dates, reflect individual choice, changing fashions, access to and choice of materials, trade patterns and changing communities.”

Despite good intentions, sometimes the efforts of well-meaning volunteers and descendants result in damage to headstones and tombstones from machinery and chemicals and soaps intended to clean the stones, says Stringfield.

Stringfield suggests that anyone considering extensive work at a cemetery enlist help from the community and groups that might seem far removed from preservation, like bird watchers or garden clubs.  Such groups can offer help with beautification efforts, but also with publicity; if people understand that cemeteries can be things other than places to bury the dead, they’re more likely to help with their preservation.

Eric Sipes, senior archaeologist with AHC’s historic preservation division, says planning is essential before doing any preservation efforts in a cemetery. AHC offers sample plans.

“An overall plan should be developed that establishes goals, prioritizes activities, and develops an annual maintenance schedule,” Sipes says.

When it comes to intensive work, call in professionals, Sipes says. The Alliance tries to have representatives from each of Alabama’s 67 counties to assist, and the AHC is also a useful source for preservation efforts.

Cemetery preservationist Jordan Mahaffey and resident Ella Edwards try to size up overgrown acreage that may contain graves adjacent to Morning Star Cemetery in Sumter County.

Stories to tell

Alliance member Greg Jeane, a retired geography professor at Auburn and Samford universities, said cemeteries and graves have evolved over the years to reflect how societies view death and other cultural aspects. From simple stone-covered graves – a practice some believe was carried over from Ireland – to elaborate stone workmanship, cemeteries and graves have stories to tell about individuals and communities.

In recent decades, graves have come to directly reflect the individual’s life, whether it be removable symbols or airbrushed headstone.

“Whether it is marbles or a cowboy boot or a toy car, it is definitely linked to some passion of the deceased,” Jeane says. “That sentiment has evolved into modern grave marker art, so a tombstone might have an 18-wheeler carved into the stone, or an air-brushed picture of the deceased holding their cat.”

Ashleigh Staples, like Mahaffey, is among several in the younger generations that are drawn to the older cemeteries because of their historical value. The Birmingham resident attended an Alliance meeting in May to learn more about preservation.   

“As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and we often visited cemeteries where family members rested,” says Staples, 23. “My job requires that I travel throughout Alabama, so I’ve made a habit of stopping to appreciate the cemeteries and history along the way. Visiting cemeteries has become one of my favorite hobbies because every grave tells a story.”

Despite a degree in history and a background in archaeology, Mahaffey’s work at UWA is unrelated to her efforts involving primarily African-American cemeteries in Alabama’s Black Belt region, and specifically stamped lettered tombstones.   

“Because of the work I did as a student, I have become a cemetery person,” says Mahaffey, 26. “People will just call me because they have heard that I work to preserve and document cemeteries.”

Edwards says Mahaffey has been a tremendous help in aiding her efforts to at least locate and provide a marker of some type to each grave, even though they may not know who is buried there.

Her brother’s grave, however, may have already been found.

There beneath the tall grasses is a clump of irises rising out of the ground.

“We couldn’t afford to buy flowers for his grave, so we dug up flowers from the yard and planted them up here in this very area,” she says.


Do’s and don’ts of grave marker cleaning

• Do examine the stone before any cleaning. If there are cracks or decay, leave it alone because pressure could damage the stone.

• Do use soft brushes and tap water to clean stones. Some biological products are available that will not harm the stone.

• Do not use any acids, bleaches, household detergents or pressure washers to clean a stone.

• Do consult with a professional when considering any repairs to stones or statuary.

Sources: Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance.

For additional information contact the AHC at  http://www.preserveala.org/cemeteryprogram.aspx and the

ACPA – http://www.alabama-cemetery-preservation.com/register_why.php