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Living history

Aroine Irby addresses students at the Alabama State Capitol.

Capitol tour guide lived through pivotal time

By Jennifer Kornegay

The Alabama state Capitol building’s magnificent white dome has looked down
upon some of our country’s most important events. On its white marble
steps, in 1861, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the first and only president
of the Confederate States of America; a bronze star marks the spot. More than
100 years later, at the edge of the same steps, another event unfolded, one that
would change the world.

On March 25, 1965, 25,000 marchers arrived in downtown Montgomery after
traveling on foot from Selma for four days. They made their way to the Capitol
steps in the final leg of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, a peaceful
protest led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the defining moments
of the civil rights movement. As a direct result of the March, the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law.

Today, you can tour the Capitol to learn more about its rich and turbulent past,
and there’s no better person to have as your guide than Aroine Irby. After
retiring from the Air Force, the Gees Bend native became a docent for the
Alabama Historical Commission and has been leading 12 tours a week for 10
years, walking folks through the Capitol’s storied halls, entertaining
and educating them with his big personality and even bigger grin.

He begins by telling visitors that the Capitol is a “working museum.” He
explains the origins of our state flag. He points out the two grand circular
staircases designed by a former slave, renowned bridge builder and one of
Alabama’s first black legislators, Horace King. But he also adds a personal
perspective, and it’s one worth hearing. Irby was an active participant in the
civil rights movement and lived through some of its most pivotal and dramatic
moments. Near the middle of the tour, he leads visitors out the massive front
doors to the marble steps and speaks with pride as he shares his experiences.
He was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma when the first march to Montgomery
was stopped by law enforcement in a violent spectacle now known as Bloody

He praises King for his insistence that the marchers remain passive in the face
of brutality. “That was a tough pill for me and many of the protesters to
swallow, but he was right. It was the key to the movement’s success.” And he
smiles as he recounts the day all the suffering finally paid off. “When we
made it to the steps in the final march, that day was unlike any other. It was an
amazing achievement, and it turned the attention of the world to our plight.
I’ll never forget Dr. King’s words, and what we all earned in that struggle, the
right to cast our vote like every other American.”

Irby went on to work for Gov. George Wallace for a short time, the man who
only a few years earlier stood on the Capitol steps and vowed that nothing
would change. Irby says that later, Wallace had a true change of heart. “It
was an act of God, and to this day I maintain that he was one of the best
governors our state ever had, even in the bad times,” he says. “His speeches
and stubbornness pushed us to do what we did.”

And Irby maintains that in his last years in office, Wallace did more for
minorities in Alabama than any other governor. “And not just blacks, but
women and Latinos too,” he says.

This spring, find the time to take a Capitol tour with Irby; his enthusiasm
for keeping the history of the Capitol alive is obvious and contagious. “If I
was a rich man, I’d pay the commission to let me continue to do this,” he says.

A bridge between past and present

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to a large crowd in Selma in March 1965 as they prepare to begin a march to Montgomery.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks to a large crowd in Selma in March 1965 as they prepare to begin a march to Montgomery.

Full slate of activities to mark 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”

By Miriam Davis

The year 2015 marks the anniversary of two momentous events in Alabama’s – and the nation’s – history. It marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, two crucial events of the civil rights movement. While plans for remembering the Montgomery bus boycott are still in the early stages, plans for the Selma march are well under way.

In fact, there were actually three Selma marches. On March 7, 1965, the first, inspired by the death of an African-American civil rights worker, ended in “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers and sheriffs’ deputies beat and gassed marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Not until the third attempt was the 54-mile journey to Montgomery completed. Leaving Selma on March 21, civil rights activists arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and marched on the state Capitol the following day.

The historic Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in Selma will again be in the national eye during the upcoming Selma-to-Montgomery march commemoration. Photo by Art Meripol
The historic Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in Selma will again be in the national eye during the upcoming Selma-to-Montgomery march commemoration. Photo by Art Meripol

Selma began its commemorations with the start of talent auditions in December. Thirty acts will be eventually selected to compete in the Selma Starz Talent Show on Feb. 27. The following night, the winners will open a concert for what organizers hope will be a big name main act. “This is a way to get young people involved and to showcase local talent,” said Ashly Mason, tourism director for Selma and Dallas County.

The main activities, of course, will be in March. Since 1993, Selma has remembered the march every year with the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. This year will be no different. Beginning March 5, more than 40 events, many of them free, will be held over a four-day period. They include a unity breakfast, a hip-hop, gospel and blues festival, civil and human rights workshops, and a film festival featuring short films about human rights or social justice. A children’s sojourn will use songs, dances, and skits to tell the story of the civil rights movement to elementary school-age children. Events will culminate in a re-creation of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, March 8.

These events and others – including the release of the major motion picture “Selma,” which was filmed in Montgomery and Selma – will bring a welcome attention to the state.

“An important historical event like this is a unique opportunity to commemorate the leaders and foot soldiers of an important milestone in the nation’s history,” said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department. “It’s also a great opportunity to measure how far our country has come in that time.”

The commemorations continue throughout the month. From March 21-25, participants can re-enact the entire march from Selma to Montgomery. The National Park Service will sponsor a “Walking Classroom” for 150 selected college students from around the country who will walk the entire route.

When marchers finally arrived in Montgomery on March 24, 1965, the only accessible shelter they found was the City of St. Jude, a Catholic social service organization. St. Jude is planning its own commemoration of the events of 50 years ago. On the night before the march on the Capitol in 1965, such entertainers as Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter, Paul, and Mary performed a “Stars for Freedom Rally” on the grounds. On March 24, St. Jude will stage a re-enactment of the concert, but instead of Hollywood stars, it will feature young local talent.


Several events in Montgomery will mark the date of Bloody Sunday. On March 6, the Imani Winds quartet and baritone soloist Sidney Outlaw will perform the world premier of composer Mohammed Fairouz’s “Deep Rivers,” a set of songs specially commissioned for the occasion. On March 7, Patti Labelle will appear in concert at Alabama State University.

St. Jude and the city of Montgomery are partnering to re-enact the last leg of the march, the one made by some 25,000 people on the state Capitol on March 25. A ceremony on the steps of the Capitol will feature an address by Bernice King, youngest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. That morning the city of Montgomery will sponsor a heroes’ breakfast for some of the original marchers.

Because the Montgomery public schools will be out for spring break March 23-27, educational tours will take eighth through 12th-graders to historical sites in Tuskegee, Selma and Montgomery.

The commemorations are important to the city of Montgomery, said Anita Archie, chief of staff for Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. “We want to show the world that the city of Montgomery has changed a great deal,” Archie says. “But the city of Montgomery also remembers. We remember, we honor, and we want to continue working for change. There’s still work to be done.”

Events are accurate as of press time, but are subject to change. For a complete list of commemoration events and the latest information, visit and

Daddy’s specialty: Camp stew

My recent commentary on the return of fatty flavoring to the table (“Lard: It’s in again,” December 2014) drew a heartwarming response from a host of lard lovers. For these folks, food invoked pleasant memories not only of the dishes and delicacies, but also of the people who prepared them, the people who ate them, and the places where all this took place.

Their stories and comments had the same effect on me.

I recalled my Mother’s yeast rolls, which other families requested for their reunions, and which she happily supplied.

I recalled my Grandma Jessie, after whom I would have named a child if “Jessie Jackson” were not already taken.

Grandma Jessie was a cook of great renown, except when it came to her biscuits, which were thin and hard as hockey pucks.


Then there was Aunt Hazel, an ill-tempered presence at family gatherings who Daddy said “was born in the objective case.” Aunt Hazel collected cookbooks, yet never cooked. Her brothers took delight in claiming that she collected to cover her lack of culinary competence. This so angered her that finally, after taking all she could take, Aunt Hazel announced that she and she alone would fix a Christmas feast that we would long remember, and she did.

Complete with roast suckling pig with an apple in its mouth.

I thought of that when I discovered, among my father’s papers, a recipe for camp stew.

Now camp stew was a big deal in my family, a winter staple that could be both a side dish and the main course. It was sorta like what Georgians call Brunswick stew, but not quite.

This discovery coincided with the arrival of Garden and Gun’s “Southern Food Issue.” G&G, as we insiders call it, is the magazine that aspires to replace Southern Living in the book baskets and on the coffee tables or in the bathrooms of upscale Southerners who want guests to know that they have “arrived,” but made the journey without losing the common touch. Despite down-to-earth contributions by Roy Blount, Jr. and Rick Bragg, it was an issue for Southern “foodies.”

I did not come from a family of “foodies.” We were a family of “eaters.” I am not sure when cooks became chefs, but I don’t think we got the memo.

All this foodie-fuss about using “fresh” ingredients would have baffled my folks. We used fresh ingredients because that was what was available – we had a garden, chickens were out back, beef came from our steers, pork came from friends who raised hogs. There was also wild game – venison mostly, but sometimes turkey and squirrel.

What we couldn’t use when it was “fresh” we put in the “deep freeze.” At the height of Daddy’s fresh food production he had two freezers full. I don’t recall anyone complaining that frozen wasn’t fresh unless there was “freezer burn,” but that could be washed off or boiled away or covered with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

Despite all of nature’s bounty, my Mama considered Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup an essential part of our diet. It was one of the many modern conveniences she embraced. She stopped making homemade pie crust as soon as frozen ones were available. Canned (“whop”) biscuits suited her just fine. Mama held down a full-time job, so the crockpot became her friend – and ours. She did not become a legendary cook until after she retired, and even then she was not reluctant to use a can opener.

So she didn’t make camp stew.

Daddy did that.

When Daddy built his Poutin’ House he put in a stove so he could cook out there. It was out there that he made camp stew.

The recipe I found was actually a list of ingredients. I added the directions from my memory of watching the master at work.

First the meat:

4 hens, 8 lbs of beef.

Boil the hens and take the meat off the bone. Chop the beef small and boil it as well.

In another pot, a BIG pot, boil the hogs’ heads.

Four of them.

That might be a deal buster for lesser folks, but since camp stew making and hog killing usually coincided, Daddy knew where to get ‘em. Once cooked, what you cut and scrape off the hogs’ heads goes in with the rest of the meat – being careful to keep out stray hairs.

Then add, according to the recipe, “6 cans corn (2 gal.), 15 lbs of Irish potatoes (chopped), 12 lbs of onions (also chopped), 2 bottles of Worcestershire sauce, 6 lemons (sliced), ½ cup of vinegar, 2½ gal tomato juice (6 tall cans), 2 bottles of ketchup, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.”

It made a lot, but we had those freezers, so it lasted through winter.

How about that, foodies?

Know where you can get a nice fresh hog’s head?

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is retired professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville State University whose most recent book is The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera,  featured in the January 2013 Alabama Living. His work appears in the Anniston Star and Northeast Alabama Living. He can be reached at

A day dedicated to the new you

Proudly displaying your new last name on a marriage certificate is only the first step in legally changing your name. Now that the wedding and honeymoon are over, you need to tell Social Security so you can get a corrected Social Security card.

If you have changed your name, whether due to marriage, divorce, or for another reason, the way to change your name with Social Security is to apply for a corrected Social Security card. This ensures that your legal name matches our records, thus avoiding possible problems in the future, such as a delay in obtaining any federal tax refund owed or not getting full Social Security credit for all your earnings.

There are a number of other reasons you may want to get a Social Security card: starting a new job, verifying eligibility for government services, opening a bank account, obtaining medical coverage, filing taxes, and legally changing your name. In most cases, unless an employer or other entity specifically requests to see your card, all they really need is your number. But be cautious when sharing your Social Security number. People who commit fraud or want to steal your identity will often ask for your Social Security number. Always verify the identity of anyone who is asking, whether you’re online, on the phone, or face-to-face.

If you just had a baby, he or she will need a Social Security number. The main reason is to show your child’s dependent status on your tax return. In most cases, you apply for your newborn’s Social Security card and number, as well as the baby’s birth certificate, in the hospital.

If you need a new, replacement, or corrected Social Security card, you can find all the details at, including the “Learn What Documents You Need” page, which lists the specific documents we accept as proof of age, identity, and citizenship. Each situation is unique, but in most cases, you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).

After you receive your Social Security card, don’t carry it with you. To reduce your risk of identity theft, keep your card in a safe place with your other important papers.

Learn more about your Social Security card and number at

Kylle’ McKinney, Alabama Social Security Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached in Montgomery at 866-593-0914, ext. 26265, or at

Alabama Outdoors: A trip to the boat show

Wives, don’t let your husbands grow up to own boats

By John N. Felsher

The coming of spring in Alabama means boat shows. Many people go to see the new models of boats on display and try to get some great “show only” deals. Others just go to fantasize about what they would like to own, but can’t afford.

“Wouldn’t this look good pulled behind my truck?” Photo by John Felsher
“Wouldn’t this look good pulled behind my truck?” Photo by John Felsher

For some, it’s an opportunity to get out with the loved ones. A trip to the boat show with a wife might go something like this:

“You promised to take me out and treat me to an expensive dinner,” said my wife, Sweetums. “You promised to take me to a show. Instead, we are in this auditorium with all these boats.”

“Well, honey. We are out,” I explained. “This is a show. It’s a boat show. As for dinner, just walk over there and order anything you like. You want mustard or ketchup with that dog? Heck, I’ll even spring for nachos with extra cheese. There’s a seat between that whiny kid and the old wheezing guy smoking the cigar. At least it IS an expensive dinner!”

“Yeah, right, we could have ordered steak for that price.”

“Wives just don’t appreciate the fine culture of enjoying a boat show. They cannot appreciate the shine of new chrome, the glint of metalflake paint, the exhibits of new devices to attach to an old boat. Oh, the smells!”

“Honey, that’s the guy with the cigar you’re smelling and I think that kid’s whining because he did something in his diaper. Why do people need so many boats anyway? You can only ride one at a time.”

“People like different sports. Some people like fishing boats. Some people like ski boats. Some people just like to cruise around.”

“How about that one? I like that one,” she pointed. “If we are going to get a boat, let’s at least get one that comes equipped with a satellite TV dish so I can watch my shows as we cruise along.”

“Well, Sweetums, that would be nice, but that’s not a boat. That’s a diesel-powered mansion. I took a trip on one almost like that once, but the captain kept launching jet fighters off it. That one would cost more that my annual salary just to fill the fuel tank. Besides, if you want quality, you already have me.”

“Oh, pa-leeeese! I rest my case. Is that a rainbow over there? I see every color imaginable. Maybe it’s just a reaction from that ‘gourmet’ dinner.”

“Sweetums, that’s a rainbow of aquatic delight waiting to be explored. They have every type of fishing boat on the planet in just about every color. The dealer said he’s ready to move this one. They won’t make this model again until next year so it’s kind of like a collector’s item! Sure, it’s 199 monthly payments, but the dealer said they are easy payments with only 10 percent down. How much is in your purse?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “How much was in your wallet last night? That’s how much I have in my purse now, minus the money for dinner. Why do boats come in such gaudy, bright sparkly colors? I would think you would want to hide from the fish – or at least from the bill collectors!”

“When fish see something like this, they line up to get caught. They all want to ride in the livewell on such a pretty boat. Wouldn’t this look good pulled behind my new truck?”

“Is that why you never bring home any fish? You fish in a drab, ugly boat? Hey, what new truck?” she asked incredulously.

“Well, it’s almost a new truck,” I replied. “I have a new starter, new alternator, new radiator, new fan belts, new hoses, new tires, new transmission. See, it’s practically new except for the same old body falling apart.”

“Yours or the truck?”

“Funny! In this boat, I could get fresh air, sunshine and more exercise. It’s an investment in my health. I’m only thinking of you and how much I love you and want to be around longer to stay with you.”

“I cannot begin to describe how deeply that moved me, or maybe it was just the chili on the hot dog. Anyway, if you bought this boat, I would never see you. Wait, that’s an idea! I’m almost convinced. No, not quite, but it was a good thought while it lasted. It’s much more fun to have you around obeying my every whim. If you really want to exercise, why don’t you buy that rowboat over there?”

“I already own a rowboat, Sweetums. Don’t you remember? Every time I take our old boat out, the motor runs great until I reach the farthest point on the lake away from the landing. Then it conks out. I have to row it back to the landing.”

“Speaking of going back, looks like they’re shutting the doors, FINALLY! Next week we go where I want to go. You’re in luck. There’s an all-day sale of frilly lace kitchen decorations at a mall just two hours from home. If we start early, we can study every item.”

John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer and photographer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He’s written more than 1,700 articles for more than 117 magazines. He co-hosts a weekly outdoors radio show. Contact him through his website at

Worth the Drive: Ariccia

Ariccia: Serving romance with every dish

By Jennifer Kornegay

More to love

If you’re nowhere near Auburn, don’t fret. Our state is blessed with plenty of spots that’ll satisfy your appetite for love. Here are a few of my favorites.

Fisher’s Upstairs, Orange Beach

Awash in the soft colors of the sea, this fine dining restaurant is always a winner. You can’t choose wrong when ordering here. Every one of Chef Bill Briand’s delicious dishes is created using the freshest local ingredients, including seafood straight from Alabama’s Gulf waters. Go for the Oysters Earle.

Odette, Florence

In downtown Florence, Odette’s slim, sleek dining room (built into a 100-year-old building) is the place to sample Chef Josh Quick’s innovative twists on familiar flavors. Try the red curry deviled farm eggs. (You’ll never truly enjoy a regular deviled egg again.)

Central, Montgomery

This downtown eatery boasts soaring ceilings lit by oversized gas lanterns, brick walls and exposed wood beams overhead. But the dining room with atmosphere to spare is only the beginning. Chef Leonardo Maurelli is in the kitchen, turning out some of the best plates in the state. Order the Hickory Crisped Duck Quarters.

Our Place, Wetumpka

Rustic, homey, warm and even elegant are the words that spring to mind when you walk into Our Place. Offering fine dining without any fussy attitude, it welcomes you to make it your place too. Don’t miss the bread pudding here.

Nick’s in the Sticks, Tuscaloosa

What it lacks in ambiance, this casual joint makes up for in plain ole good eats. What says “I love you” more than a reasonably priced filet mignon and a sugary, yet deceptively stiff drink in a plastic foam cup?



What’s the most romantic movie scene you can think of? The dinner scene from “Lady and the Tramp” ranks right up at the top of my list. The depiction of budding love blossoming over a plate of spaghetti and meatballs is simple and sweet.

This Valentine’s Day, follow the furry couple’s lead, and take your significant other out to dinner. You, too, can canoodle over noodles and other Italian favorites (minus the alley and accordion serenade) at Ariccia, housed in The Hotel at Auburn University in Auburn. Named for a town in Central Italy, this restaurant serves a side of amore with every delicious dish.

Flickering sconces and a single votive candle on every table cast a warm glow over the large dining area, but ask for one of the cozy, curved booths for a more intimate atmosphere. Start with a glass of wine from the nice-sized “by-the-glass” list, and munch on herbed focaccia bread (with olive oil and balsamic for dipping) while you look over the menu. Take note of the cedar-plank salmon; it made the “100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die” list.

If you want to keep things light, peruse the antipasti selections. Soothing tomato bisque with salty parmesan crisps, a cheese board featuring Alabama’s own Belle Chevre goat cheese and calamari with a spicy sauce: You could make a meal out of items on this section alone.

But then you’d miss the entrees. On certain nights, Ariccia offers a pasta bar, a steal of deal at $15.95 that lets you create your own idea of perfect. Choose your sauce, a meat (chicken, meatballs or shrimp) and veggies from a vast array, and if you can’t pick just one combination, that’s okay. You can go back as many times as your stomach will allow.

On the menu, options including Chicken Saltimbocca, classic Osso Buco, rigatoni swimming in hearty bolognese sauce and the complex collaboration of sweet, savory, bitter and tart found in the fig and pear pizza will transport your taste buds straight to Italy.

I opted for the Bisteca, a hefty 12-ounce rosemary- and sea salt-seasoned sirloin accompanied by thick wedges of skin-on Tuscan fries covered in parmesan lace and served with a flavorful herb sauce. The steak was seared to a just-right char on the outside yet tender enough for a butter knife’s cut to reveal a juicy pink center. But the potatoes were the best things on the plate. Slather them with the sauce and combine with a bite of the beef, and your only complaint will be that there just weren’t enough of them.

Maybe it’s a good thing, though. If you ate your weight in potatoes, you’d be too full to indulge in dessert, and what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate? Skip the heart-shaped box from the drugstore, and instead, overload on the obligatory V-Day treat by ordering Ariccia’s Chocolate Trio, a decadent selection of varied textures and tastes with cocoa shining in the starring role. The fluffy chocolate spice cake, dense flourless chocolate torte and a creamy, dreamy chocolate-citrus semi fredo will require attending a few chocoholics anonymous meetings later in the month, but every bite is worth it.

There may not a be a mustached Italian chef singing to you as you dine, but the experience at Ariccia has all the makings of a beautiful evening and should have you humming “Bella Noche” to yourself as you leave.

Ariccia Italian Trattoria
241 S. College St., Auburn

Jennifer Kornegay travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at Check out more of Jennifer’s food writing, recipes and recommendations on her blog, Chew on This at

Alabama Gardens: Roses to love

An ideal time to find roses to love


February Gardening Tips

  • Order seeds for the spring and summer garden.
  • Plant roses and other shrubs and hardy perennials.
  • Plant dormant fruit, nut and ornamental trees.
  • Plant seeds for warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers and summer bedding plants, in cold frames or indoor settings.
  • Begin planting summer-blooming bulbs.
  • Prune summer-flowering shrubs now. Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom!
  • Clean out moldy or sprouting seeds before refilling bird feeders.
  • Attend gardening workshops and classes or get involved with your local gardening groups.
  • Shop for off-season garden supplies that may be on sale this time of year.
  • Repair and spruce up window boxes, lawn furniture, birdhouses and feeders, garden tools and other outdoor equipment and items.

F ebruary is not only the month to give roses to the one you love, but it’s also a fine time to plant roses in Alabama. It’s also the perfect time to find a rose that can become your botanical soulmate.

There are more than 100 rose varieties in the world and thousands of rose cultivars, with new ones coming out each year. This huge family of roses includes a plethora of botanical characteristics – roses with personalities that range from high-maintenance to practically no-maintenance; heirloom roses that have been around for centuries, as well as new-fangled roses that are the latest and hippest of the day; roses with blooms in all sorts of colors, shapes and fragrances; and roses with growth habits ranging from small, compact little wonders to larger shrub, trailing and climbing beauties.

So how does one choose among all these options? The first step is to decide where a rose fits in your garden’s design needs. You may simply want a single rose to serve as a focal point in the landscape or to fill a pretty pot. Or you may want to plant shrub or groundcover roses en-masse to cover a bare hillside or bed. Maybe you want them to serve as a hedge or screen along a property line, or maybe you’d like to drape them on a trellis or fence line. Whatever your needs, you can find a rose to fill them.


Once you have an idea of where roses fit in your life and landscape, the key to establishing a good relationship with them is to give them a home where they can thrive. Roses typically need a sunny spot where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. And they need a soil that will keep them thriving once they are in the ground. Roses prefer clayey, slightly acidic soils amended with organic matter, though they can do well in other soil types as long as the soil is well-drained and properly fertilized.

With all these endless possibilities of roses to love, perhaps the best way to start a relationship with your roses is to do a little research before you pick one, and there are many sources of knowledge to use in finding your perfect rose mate. Among these is the American Rose Society, which is the parent organization to Alabama’s five active Society chapters, which exist in Birmingham, Huntsville, Dothan, Gadsden and Ramer and contacts for which can be found at

If heirloom roses are more to your liking, check out the Heritage Rose Foundation at Or, as always, check with your local nurseries, Master Gardeners or an Alabama Cooperative Extension office for ideas and advice. They are all great sources of help in understanding what roses will do best in your neck of the woods, advice for planting and caring for your roses and in helping you make a match that will last for years to come.

In addition to these and other organizations, there are also many great books, magazines and websites that focus on roses, a number of which concentrate specifically on growing roses in the South. Just do a web search to explore the options or visit your local library to check out a book or two that can keep you company during the cold weeks of February and maybe even kindle a new botanical romance.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at

Alabama Bookshelf: Feb. 2015

Selma to Montgomery marcher pens book for young people

By Miriam Davis

Lynda Blackmon Lowery wanted to document her experiences as a participant in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.  2014 copyright Robin Cooper
Lynda Blackmon Lowery wanted to document her experiences as a participant in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.
2014 copyright Robin Cooper
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom
by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

By the time she was 15 years old, Lynda Blackmon Lowery had been jailed, locked in a sweatbox, beaten, gassed, and helped make history.

Lowery tells her story in Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom (Dial Books, $19.99, January 2015), a memoir written for young people, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

Lowery was born in Selma in 1950. The oldest of four children, her mother died when she was 7 because, she believes, a white hospital refused to admit her. The young Lynda, her sisters and her brother were raised by their father and grandmother. Her grandmother taught her, “There is nothing more precious walking on this earth than you are. You are a child of God. So hold up your head and believe in yourself.”

And her grandmother first took her to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1963. He told them that they could win the right to vote with what he called “steady, loving confrontation.”

“I remember leaning forward,” says Lowery, “and thinking, ‘I’m going to do that.’”

She began participating in marches and getting routinely rounded up by police, who used cattle prods to take marchers to jail and pack them into overcrowded cells. They sang to keep up their spirits. Lowery admits that when they sang “We Shall Overcome,” and “sang the line ‘We are not afraid,’ I lied a little.” She insists that it wasn’t courage that kept her going.

“It was more determination,” she says. “And when we marched and went to jail, I had everybody with me and everybody else was as scared as I was.”

Although she was beaten unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday,” Lowery persevered. She turned 15 on March 22, 1965, in the middle of the march; she was the youngest of the 300 who took four days to walk the entire distance.

Lowery says that the march to Montgomery changed her. Before, she says, “I didn’t like white folk, and they didn’t like me.” But after Bloody Sunday she was amazed when white people from all over the country come to join the marchers. For her, it was a transformative experience: “They came to our houses and slept on our floors, and ate what we ate, and called my father, ‘Mr. Blackmon.’”

Lowery, who later moved to New York, earned a college degree, and worked for a state mental hospital before returning to Selma, says that she doesn’t regret what happened to her. “That was part of life’s journey,” she says. “I wouldn’t be who I am now without it.”

Alabama Recipes: Bread


There is a special woman in my church who gives the children’s choir directors homemade bread loaves for teacher gifts. That bread always sets a new record for how fast it disappears in our house. Baking homemade bread is a very worthwhile thing to try. It’s inexpensive, healthy and teaches you a lot about how to cook at home. Best of all (for me, anyway), it makes mindblowingly good toast. There are few things better than spreading a bit of butter on homemade toast. I hope you try some of these bread recipes and let me know how you like them.

Submit your recipes here and check us out on Facebook for updates throughout the month.


Mary Tyler Spivey is a graduate of Huntingdon College
where she studied history and French but she also has a
passion for great food.

Contact her at

Cook of the month:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bread

  • 4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup warm whole milk
  • 2 eggs, room temp.
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips Streusel:
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Freeze chocolate chips for 30 minutes. Mix the yeast and warm liquids in bread mixer until yeast dissolves.  Mix in eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. Add chocolate chips and mix. Add flour, salt and sugar.  If the dough is not pulling away from the sides, add more flour until it does. Knead until soft, springy and no longer sticky. Coat a bowl with oil.  Put the dough in the bowl and roll to evenly coat with oil.  Lightly cover with plastic wrap and a damp tea towel.  Let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 35 minutes.  Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray as well as a couple smaller 5×3-inch pans. Gently deflate dough and transfer to a floured surface. Cut the dough, then place in pans. Let rise again in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Mix the flour and sugar in a small bowl.  Cut in butter until crumbly. When loaves have risen, sprinkle with topping and bake at 350 degrees.  The larger loaf takes about 25 minutes; the smaller ones about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pans.

Calli Pittman, Joe Wheeler EMC

Easy Whole Wheat Bread
  • 6 to 61/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt

Combine water, yeast and 2 cups of flour in a mixing bowl. Set aside to rise for 15 minutes. Add honey, oil, salt and 4 cups of flour. Mix until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Change to dough hook (or turn out to knead by hand), and knead 6 to 7 minutes (10 by hand). Add only tablespoons of flour if dough sticks to sides, being careful not to add too much. Form into two loaves and place in greased 9×5-inch pans. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes (1-2 inches above pans). Preheat oven to 350 degrees ten minutes before rising time is done. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, if needed. Immediately remove from pans to cool on a rack. Makes 2 loaves.

Lianne Robinson, Tombigbee EC

Beer Bread
  • 1 beer, room temperature
  • Self-rising flour (see recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Cooking-spray
  • Melted butter

Pour can or bottle of beer into a mixing bowl. Add and stir in enough self-rising flour, along with a teaspoon of baking powder to form a sticky ball. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet (sprayed non-stick). Spread out to approximately one-inch thick, but not critical. Bake in oven at 350 degrees. When it begins to brown, remove and baste with melted butter.  I like to put in some garlic powder in my butter. Bake until golden brown.

John Mercer, Southern Pine EC

Penny Rolls
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 to 4 cups flour

Beat all ingredients except flour. Slowly add flour until a soft dough has formed. The softer the dough, the lighter the roll. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise 1 hour in a warm place. Punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Keeps about two weeks in the refrigerator. To use, grease as many openings in a cupcake or muffin pan as the amount of rolls you wish to bake, and pinch off 2-4 small balls for each greased opening for segmented rolls, or 1 larger ball for a non-segmented roll. Cover and let rise one hour in a warm place. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 10-20 minutes.

Angel Lucke, Cullman EC

Apple Cider Sourdough Bread
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1-1/2 cups good quality fresh apple cider
  • Cinnamon and sugar mixture, reserved for later
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diced in small pieces

Mix and knead dough as usual, excluding last two ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 8-12 hours. Knead dough and separate into 5 equal portions. Flatten dough, sprinkle entire surface with cinnamon and sugar mix and then apple chunks. Roll up/braid loaf and allow to rise in baking pans for anther 8-12 hours. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Serve toasted with jam and butter or makes wonderful French toast.

Jaymi Ray, Joe Wheeler EMC

Banana Bread
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas in pieces
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs. Beat well and then add bananas and mix. Add 1 cup flour, baking soda, salt and mix well. Add 1 cup flour and nuts and mix just until the flour disappears. Don’t over mix at the last mix, as this is key to a light a fluffy loaf. Pour into a greased/floured loaf pan; put into the oven and set timer for 45 minutes. Let cool and remove from pan. Enjoy with a little butter melted on top and a side of pear or apple.

Memory Bush, South AL EC


Cheery Cherry Bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 6-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained (reserve liquid for use)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Cooking spray

Beat eggs in sugar. Add nuts to batter. Alternate dry ingredients with reserved cherry juice, beating after each entry. Pour into baking loaf pan (spray with Pam). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 12.

Becky Chappelle
Cullman EC

Cheese Biscuits
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Apply cooking spray to cookie sheet. In a bowl, combine cheese and flour. Add milk and stir well. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown. While biscuits bake, melt 1/2 stick butter (add two teaspoons garlic powder if desired). When biscuits are done and still hot, use a spoon to drizzle the melted butter over top of each biscuit. Makes about 18-20 biscuits.

Delores Childree, Baldwin EMC

Quiet Courage


Documentary tells story of groundbreaking Auburn athlete James Owens

By Lenore Vickrey

Watching your life story play out on the big screen might be intimidating for most folks, but for James Owens, the first black scholarship football player at Auburn University, seeing a movie about his life was both exciting and humbling at the same time.

“It brought back a lot of memories and it made me more humble,” says the former fullback whose story is chronicled in “Quiet Courage,” a documentary written and directed by actor and author Thom Gossom, Owens’ friend, teammate and roommate at Auburn. The film was produced jointly with Auburn, where it was shown last November to an appreciative audience of invited guests. It was later shown on Alabama Public Television, and Gossom is optimistic for even wider distribution in 2015.

Gossom, who was the first black athlete in the Southeastern Conference to walk on, earn a full scholarship and graduate from Auburn, wrote his own memoir in 2008, Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University. He’d wanted to tell Owens’ story as well, and Auburn administrators, who were putting together a 50-year commemoration of integration at the university, put their support behind it and granted him access to historic photos and film footage. The process took about two years to complete.

“It all just came together,” Gossom says. “I knew it was a love story from the start. I’ve known it for a while.”

The movie includes interviews with Owens’ teammates and coaches, beginning with his recruitment out of Fairfield High School and enrollment in 1969, his success on the field as a member of the 1972 team known as “The Amazin’s,” his shortcomings in the classroom and finally his acceptance as member of the football program.

James Owens, left, and Thom Gossom celebrate the debut of the movie, “Quiet Courage,” about Owens’ years at Auburn. “He was Bo Jackson before there was a Bo Jackson,” Gossom says. Photos by Tanisha Stephens
James Owens, left, and Thom Gossom celebrate the debut of the movie, “Quiet Courage,” about Owens’ years at Auburn. “He was Bo Jackson before there was a Bo Jackson,” Gossom says. Photos by Tanisha Stephens

While the film brought back sometimes painful memories, Owens, who is now a minister, said he believes he was sent to Auburn for a reason. “If you never quit and never give up, good things can happen in your life,” he says. Many people had no idea what he was going through at the time, he says, but have since been apologetic and understanding of his struggles.

He’s especially grateful that young people in his family have seen the film and been touched by his story. “It’s been a blessing to see them understand that they are standing on somebody else’s shoulders, that lots of people went through things and suffered through things so they could have what they have now.” It saddens him to see racial conflict still an issue in some cities. “Whatever our differences, we all ought to be able to live together as Jesus’ people,” he says. “We all belong to him.”

Though he’s been sidelined with health problems in recent years, Owens is happy his legacy will live on through the film. Gossom says the Auburn Athletic Department is considering using it to show to incoming players and transfer students. “It will reside in the history of Auburn long after I’ve gone,” he says.

“Courage can be expressed in so many ways,” he adds. “Sometimes it can be expressed quietly.”

For a copy of the DVD, visit Gossom’s website,