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Alabama man uses Trail of Tears Ride to educate about Native American history

From our co-ops: North Alabama Electric Cooperative

After discovering his great-grandmother was a Cherokee, Jerry Davis made it his mission to educate others about the history of Native Americans.
After discovering his great-grandmother was a Cherokee, Jerry Davis made it his mission to educate others about the history of Native Americans.

The discovery of some of his family’s ancestral records inspired Jerry Davis of Jackson County’s Aspel community to bring national attention to the plight of the Cherokee Indian nation during the 1830s.

The result was the annual Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride — a 230-mile trip across North Alabama commemorating the expulsion of thousands of Native Americans from their homes in the Southeast to a reservation west of the Mississippi River.

Davis says shortly after his mother died in 1992, he found some of her family records and learned that his great-grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee, had been given by her parents to a white family to be raised in their home in the Paint Rock Valley. Nancy “Nano” Owens was eight years old when her parents decided to leave her behind with friends who had promised to care for her.

Discovering his great-grandmother’s “hidden heritage” inspired Davis to make the public more aware of the Native Americans’ plight. But it was during a discussion of the subject with his friend, Bill Cason of Whitwell, Tennessee, a fellow motorcyclist, that the idea of holding an annual Trail of Tears motorcycle ride came about.

Just before their first ride, Davis conducted a survey of the public’s familiarity with the Trail of Tears in North Alabama and found that only three out of 10 people knew anything about it. “I would venture to say that nine of 10 people know about it today,” he says.

Ike Moore, vice president of the Alabama-Tennessee Trail of Tears Corridor Association, says that although there has been a significant decline in riders over the last several years, “We expect about 30,000 participants to ride this year.”

The large number of participants in the annual event is representative of those Native Americans who, in 1838 and 1839, were forced at gunpoint by federal troops from their homes in and around the Tennessee Valley to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma.

Records show that about 5,000 of the 16,000 Native Americans died en route. Several others escaped and hid in the densely wooded mountains and hollows of Jackson County and other parts around the area.

According to the Tennessee Valley Regional Growth Coordination Plan, the Trail of Tears event is considered the largest motorcycle ride in the world. Davis says the event has attracted as many as 200,000 riders. Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell called it “the largest spectator event in the state.”

This year’s ride will be on Sept. 20. Riders will line up at 7 a.m. in downtown Bridgeport and start their journey across North Alabama at 8 a.m. They will stop for lunch in Huntsville at the Rocket Harley-Davidson dealership before continuing to their final destination at Waterloo.

Davis says he remains as excited about the Trail of Tears ride as he was when it was started 20 years ago and has no plans of stopping the annual event. “I’m hoping it will keep bringing people here to honor our ancestors,” he says. “We need to continue the education process and keep tourism alive and well in our state.”



Vicious monsters lurk in Alabama rivers

By John N. Felsher

Although the Gulf of Mexico holds many huge fish, Alabama anglers don’t need to head miles offshore to battle monsters. Throughout the state, anglers can challenge tackle-busting river monsters almost anywhere in the Heart of Dixie, often with little competition.

“Flathead catfish are abundant in almost all rivers and lakes in Alabama, but they are just not targeted as much as other fish,” explained Michael Holley, an Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fisheries biologist. “It’s not uncommon to catch 40- to 50-pound flatheads in Alabama. We see some in the 60- to 80-pound range.”

Rick Conner set the official state record for flathead catfish at 80 pounds in June 1986. He caught the leviathan while fishing in the Alabama River near Selma. However, flatheads can top 123 pounds.

Most rivers in Alabama hold good flathead populations. The Tennessee and Alabama rivers both produce catfish in the 30- to 50-pound range quite regularly and many bigger ones. The Mobile, Tensaw and Escatawpa rivers also hold good fish, but some of the best flathead action in Alabama comes from the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

More popularly known as the Tenn-Tom, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway runs 234 miles through Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama to link the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers for commercial traffic. Several water control structures created 10 lakes along the Tenn-Tom system with a total surface area of 44,000 acres. When the waterway flooded, it linked myriad creeks, oxbow lakes and sloughs to the main channel. Rising water inundated swamps, flooded timber and created backwaters filled with lily pads, cypress stumps, weeds and other structure that flathead catfish love.

Anglers can catch big flatheads throughout the entire Tenn-Tom system, but some of the best fishing in Alabama occurs in Aliceville Lake. The Tom Bevill Lock and Dam near Pickensville creates the 8,300-acre impoundment on the Alabama-Mississippi line. Farther downstream near Demopolis, Ala., the Heflin Lock and Dam creates the 6,400-acre Gainesville Lake.

“Aliceville Lake is a really good lake for flatheads,” says Nick Dimino, a professional catfish angler. “I like to fish closer toward the dam because it creates some current that stirs up the fish. I fish on the upstream side of holes right where the bottom starts to drop off. Catfish like to get just over the drop-off edge out of the current, but they look upstream into the current for any bait to wash over them.”

Ambush predators, big flatheads often hunker down in woody or rocky cover waiting to devour anything they can swallow. Their mottled, splotchy brownish coloration helps conceal them from prey. Eating almost exclusively fish, these voracious predators relish shad, sunfish, small drum, other catfish and bullheads. Bass anglers occasionally catch flatheads on lures that resemble baitfish, but live bait works best.

“When targeting flatheads, fresh bait is the key,” says Joey Pounders, a professional catfish angler who caught flatheads up to 77 pounds on the Tenn-Tom. “We normally use live shad about six to eight inches long. When catching bait, we might catch a thousand shad, but only use 20. A big flathead can eat a huge bait.”

When looking for places to drop bait, use a depth finder to scan for holes or drops near secondary cover such as logs, stumps and rocks. Flatheads also enter holes in washed out banks or hide under submerged treetops along eroded shorelines. Currents can scour holes on the outside of river bends, making excellent places to look for mottled marauders.

Although many people consider catfish summer fish, late winter and early spring can produce excellent flathead action at a time when most anglers find themselves alone on the best honey holes. Cold water can make fish lethargic, but as water warms, flatheads become much more active.

“Catfish have to eat all year long,” Pounders says. “Not as many people want to get on the water when it’s cold, so we get our pick of the best spots. The colder the water gets, the more flatheads hunker down in structure and the less they move. If I’m not getting bites, I’ll move the bait a few feet to get a fish’s attention.”

While the Tenn-Tom offers great flathead fishing, it also holds big blue and channel cats. Some blues exceed 60 pounds. Although most channel cats weigh less than five pounds, a few hit double digits. Not nearly as finicky as flatheads, which prefer live bait, blues and channels eat almost anything. Big blues prefer oily fish and often prey upon shad, sunfish and skipjack. They also take night crawlers, crawfish, mussels, mullets, cheese, shrimp, livers and almost anything else they can gulp down.

A big catfish can provide outstanding sport for anglers wanting big game action close to home without spending a fortune. When a big flathead takes a bait, hang on for one of the toughest fights in fresh water.

Rural Electric Youth Tour: Shaping our youth for 50 years

The Rural Electric Youth Tour is turning 50! And oh, what a tour it’s been.

“I’ve loved this trip. Every year is a new adventure,” says Mary Tyler Spivey, who directs the Youth Tours for Alabama’s electric cooperatives.

Anyone who’s looked after a group of 16- and 17-year-olds in Washington, D.C., for Youth Tour knows how challenging and physically exhausting it is, not to mention how hot and humid the nation’s capital can be in the middle of June.

But there’s a reason the program has not just endured but thrived for half a century—and why people like Spivey stick with it year after year: the students.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with new groups of students each year,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to see each student grow and discover how they can significantly impact their community through this program. This program truly is changing lives.”

Youth Tour brings together some 1,600 teens from 43 states for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity culminating in Washington, D.C. Students dance on a boat cruise down the Potomac and see the roots of American history. They learn about electric co-ops and grassroots political advocacy. They live in awfully close quarters for up to a week and are given a small taste of freedom and independence. They sleep a little and talk a lot.

These students become college roommates, professional colleagues, lifelong friends and sometimes even spouses. For some, it’s a fun trip that later brings fond memories. To others, Youth Tour inspires kids to discover the adults they’re going to be. “Rewarding” is a common refrain from those involved in the program, from administrators and coordinators to parents and participants—even the bus drivers who stick with a state year after year.

“I’ve had parents come up to me after the program and say, ‘I don’t know what you did, but you brought back a different kid than you took.’ And for parents to say that is gratifying and humbling,” Spivey says.


Rooted in politics

Youth Tour was born from a speech at the 1957 NRECA Annual Meeting by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. He was a longtime advocate of electric co-ops, having lobbied for the creation of Pedernales Electric Cooperative in 1937 as a young politician in Texas. “If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents,” the future president said.

With that encouragement, Texas electric co-ops began sending summer interns to work in the senator’s Washington, D.C., office. In 1958, an electric co-op in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a weeklong study tour of the nation’s capital. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. The idea grew, and other states sent busloads of students throughout the summer. By 1959, the Youth Tour had grown to 130 participants.

In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among the state delegations and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C., during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated tour included about 400 teens from 12 states.

As word spread, the program grew—and grew and grew—until no hotel was large enough to house all of its participants.

Karen Bailey, NRECA’s longtime Youth Tour coordinator, said it was a relief when the Hyatt in Crystal City, Va., was built in the late 1990s. Most states’ participants stay there, and some bunk down the street at the Hilton.

“Now, we have 500 rooms at the Hyatt, 200 at the Hilton, and it works out perfectly,” she says.

The prospect of contracting 700 hotel rooms years in advance doesn’t seem to faze Bailey, who has worked on the Youth Tour program for 25 years and has been the main coordinator for the past 15. Since 1999, she’s seen the number of participating states rise from 32 to 43 and the number of students from around a thousand to surpassing 1,600 last year.

“Even through economic changes in the past few years, Youth Tour numbers never went down,” Bailey says. “Many states bring at least two or three more kids each year. Our numbers have always gone up.”

In fact, the Hyatt’s ballroom, where Youth Day is held each year, is bursting at the seams. Already, chaperones are left to stand or watch the presentation in an overflow room—only students get a place to sit.

But it’s a good challenge to have. Youth Day, generally on the Monday of Youth Tour, is when all the state contingents converge to learn about grassroots politics and hear from inspirational speakers. The students share their state pins, often vying to get the most pins or those that are rare, like those from Hawaii’s small group.

“Youth Day is sort of our general session,” Bailey says. “And all the energy that comes with everything is amazing to see. It’s like I’m seeing it for the first time every year.”

“We’re excited to see what our future leaders accomplish,” said Spivey. “And knowing that we played a small part of that is truly something special.”

To find out more about the Rural Electric Youth Tour, visit or visit AREA Youth Tours on Facebook and Twitter.




Alabama recipes

Homemade pizza

Preparing a homemade pizza is infinitely flexible, inexpensive and fun to make, especially with little cooks. Making your own pizza dough is super easy as well and only adds a couple more minutes to your prep time. One of the recipes featured on the next page is from our online recipe archive. Did you know you can search for many of our old recipes at Use the drop down menu on the homepage and click “recipe archives” to find many dishes printed in the magazine in the past. Happy Father’s Day to all dads, especially my husband and my dad, who has been lovingly renamed “Pop” by his grandkids.

Mary Tyler Spivey


Cook of the Month

Green tomato pizza


Sandy Adams, Marshall-DeKalb EC

1 purchased pizza crust
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium green tomatoes, sliced very thinly (about 1/8”)
dash of ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1⁄2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (more, if desired)
Optional: Add a little bacon or ham for a heartier pizza. Or add a sprinkle of smoked paprika for bacon-y flavor without the meat.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (or temperature given on pizza crust package). In small saucepan over low heat, gently heat olive oil and garlic until the oil is hot and aromatic. The garlic should not brown, just flavor the oil. Set aside. Prepare the pizza crust according to package directions. Brush the prepared crust generously with the garlic/oil mixture. Arrange the green tomato slices in a slightly overlapping pattern over the crust. Sprinkle lightly with the pepper and salt. If using bacon, ham or paprika, add
now. Top with cheese. Bake for amount of time recommended on crust package, or until crust is golden brown, tomatoes are heated through, and cheese is melted.



Hilltop pan pizza

1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
1 pound Italian sausage
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1 small onion chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3⁄4 teaspoon oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9×13-inch baking pan. Pre-bake dough for 15 minutes. Brown crumbled sausage evenly over medium-high heat. Drain grease from sausage and sprinkle over dough crust. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly. Heat oil in skillet. Add mushrooms and onions, and cook until onions are tender. Stir in tomatoes, garlic powder, fennel seeds, salt and oregano. Spoon mozzarella over everything. Sprinkle Parmesan over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven, or until crust is golden brown.

Turia Myers, Pea River EC




Strawberry pizza

1 cup chopped pecans
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup flour
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
frozen whipped topping
1 package strawberry glaze
1 pint sliced strawberries

Combine pecans, butter and fl our until stiff . Press into a 5×9-inch baking pan (glass works best). Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool crust thoroughly. Combine cream cheese, sugar and 1 cup of whipped topping. Spread over crust. Mix strawberries and glaze and spread over cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with additional strawberries.

Rebecca Cochran, Marshall-DeKalb EC (from the recipe archive)



Cold pizza

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 small jar picante sauce
1 8-ounce container sour cream (use half container)
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
Toppings of choice – olives, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeño slices, banana pepper slices

Let cream cheese come to room temperature or put in microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds to soften. Mix cream cheese and half the container of sour cream (4 ounces) together and blend well. Spread mixture on a large round flat platter or plate. Top with picante sauce and then cheese. It is delicious as is, but any other toppings can be added to suit your taste. Serve with round Tostitos chips.

Cheryl Lassiter, Black Warrior EMC


Single-serve cauliflower crust pizza

1 cup cooked cauliflower, diced
1 egg
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil

Beat egg, add the caulifl ower and shredded cheese. Mix well. Grease a small pizza pan with olive oil and press onto pan. Sprinkle with the spices. Bake at 450 for 12 to 15 minutes. Add desired pizza toppings such as red sauce, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, fresh oregano, basil or spinach, etc. Bake until crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.

Robbie Sue Vantrease, Cullman EC


Alabama to celebrate Lineman Appreciation Day June 2

Those of us who live in areas of Alabama served by electric cooperatives know how vitally important our linemen are. Many of us have family members who have been linemen, or have husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins who are currently linemen.

“When the lights go out, our linemen are the first responders,” said Michael Kelley, senior manager of safety and loss control for the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives.  “They work with thousands of volts of electricity on power lines, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, often under dangerous conditions far from their families.”

Realizing the importance our linemen have in Alabama, AREA worked with state legislators to pass a formal resolution designating the first Monday in June as Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day. The joint resolution, HJR 244, was sponsored by Rep. April Weaver of Alabaster, who took a special interest in the legislation because her grandfather was a lineman.  Rep. Weaver presented a framed copy of the resolution to AREA President and CEO Fred Braswell at the 2014 Annual Meeting.

Previously, Congress had designated April 18 as National Lineman Appreciation Day, but no designation was formally made this year. “By having the Alabama Legislature se aside the first Monday in June as a special day to honor our linemen, we can be sure that they are formally recognized every year,” said Sean Strickler, AREA vice president for public affairs.

A ceremony will be held to officially recognize the state’s linemen June 2 on the State Capitol steps.


Lakepoint Resort: The place for fishing, history and family fun

By John N. Felsher

From small local clubs to major professional tournaments, some event launches out of Lakepoint State Park Resort nearly every weekend to fish Lake Eufaula near the picturesque town that bears its name.

“We usually host more than 90 fishing tournaments a year,” says Sone Kornegay, Lakepoint State Park Resort sales director. “We have some of the best marina facilities in the state. That’s a major attraction for many tournaments to come here. It’s not uncommon for bass anglers to catch more than 20 pounds a day in a five-bass tournament.”

One of the best fishing lakes in the nation, Lake Eufaula ranks Number 41 onthe Bassmaster magazine list of the top bass waters in the United States. The lake also provides excellent panfish, crappie and catfish action. In fact, named it the top catfish lake in the country.

With some of the best inland facilities in the state, Lakepoint Marina rents both covered and uncovered boats slips and can also provides excellent launching facilities. Anglers who forget something can usually buy it in the marina store. Guests without their own boats can rent a small fishing boat or pontoon boat. Open during weekends, the marina restaurants serves lunch to sportsmen who wish to take a break from fishing.

“The lake is our best asset and the park is right on it,” explains Jack Tibbs, Eufaula mayor and owner of Strikezone Lures ( “Lakepoint State Park Resort is a world class facility for hosting fishing tournaments. In the past, the park marina hosted tournaments with more than 300 boats. If we didn’t have a facility like that, we couldn’t hold such big events. Without that park, it would be very difficult to get the number of visitors that we get every year to our city.”

Even a small local tournament might impact the town economically, but a major event could inject thousands of dollars into the town overnight. Some professional events span several days, but anglers also arrive days earlier to practice. In addition, competitors planning to fish a big tournament might visit the lake periodically in the weeks leading up to the event to scout for the best spots.

“When a big tournament comes to town, people spend a lot of money,” says Tibbs, who sometimes fishes tournaments himself. “They might stay a week or longer at the park. Some anglers bring their families. While staying at the park, they’ll buy food and fuel. They’ll eat in the park restaurant and in restaurants in town. While the anglers are fishing, their families might visit some of our historic sites and other area attractions. A big tournament could bring in more than $1 million in economic impact.”

While visiting the area, people may choose several lodging options. Renovated and reopened in 2009, Lakepoint State Park Resort Lodge offers guests more than 100 hotel-style rooms or executive suites, a first-class restaurant, a convention center, meeting rooms and banquet halls that overlook the lake. Many large groups overflow to the Lakeside Terrace, which overlooks the water and offers excellent accommodations for weddings and receptions. Each room comes equipped with all necessary modern conveniences. Each suite comes with a king-size bed, bath, kitchenette, dining area and separate sitting area.

“Fishermen want to maximize their time on the water so many of them stay on the park,” Kornegay says. “They eat a seafood buffet at the restaurant Friday night and get up ready to go Saturday morning. Many people dock their boat and come to eat in the restaurant or at the marina grill.”

In addition, guests may stay in 29 cabins or 10 lakeside cottages near the marina. Cabins and cottages come equipped with everything people need to stay a few days including linens, dishes, utensils, satellite television, wireless connectivity, kitchen appliances, irons and ironing boards, charcoal grills, picnic tables and other amenities.

For those who like to rough it, the park campground provides 192 improved campsites for recreational vehicles. These sites include water, electricity and sewage. People can also erect tents in primitive camping areas and utilize nearby bathhouses.

“The park started with just the golf course and the campground in the 1960s,” says Sharon Matherne, Lakepoint State Park Resort general manager. “We’re now one of the biggest super parks in Alabama. We’re also one of the busiest parks in the state. In 2013, we had more than 118,000 guests. That doesn’t include people just coming through the gate for the day to fish off the bank or do other activities.”

The 18-hole public golf course stays open seven days a week. The Club House offers shower and bathroom facilities. The Pro Shop sells golfing supplies. Golfers may also practice on a nearby putting green. To hone their skills, golfers may sign up for lessons from the club pro.

While staying at the lodge or any park facilities, many guests enjoy meals at the Water’s Edge Restaurant overlooking Lake Eufaula. The restaurant can seat up to 225 people and another 450 in the banquet facilities. Guests may also use the picnic areas, tennis courts or swimming pool.

“We do a variety of meals, but it’s casual dining,” Matherne explains. “Fishermen can come here with their families, but it’s still a nice meal. We offer an excellent grilled tilapia dinner. We’re also known for our catfish and chicken meals.”

Nature lovers may hike seven park trails or visit the adjacent Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1964, the 11,184-acre refuge spreads across parts of Barbour and Russell counties in Alabama plus Stewart and Quitman counties across the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. The refuge offers hunting for whitetail deer, waterfowl, doves, squirrels and rabbits in the fall. Many people enjoy watching and photographing wildlife and birds, such as bald eagles, herons and various shorebirds. Sportsmen also hunt the nearby 27,358-acre Barbour Wildlife Management Area.

“For people into photography, the Eufaula NWR right next to Lakepoint is a great place to take photos,” Tibbs says. “It has a lot of wildlife and birds. They have some observation decks where people can go to observe wildlife and take photos.”

You found WHAT?

Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro attracts customers from around the world


The Luv Luggage event allows students to paint old luggage which is then donated to foster children.
The Luv Luggage event allows students to paint old luggage which is then donated to foster children.

By Lori Quiller

“You found WHAT?” is not an uncommon phrase to hear if you’re walking around the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro. In fact, you’ll probably hear it over and over again as you meander through the 40,000-square-foot facility, browsing from menswear to jewelry to shoes to formalwear to electronics to ladies wear to sports equipment to you-name-it…because they probably have it.

Nestled in the heart of Jackson County, the Unclaimed Baggage Center isn’t your average department store. To most shoppers that travel worldwide to visit the store, however, that’s exactly what it appears to be – a high-end department store. But, when you check out the price tags of the goods sold inside, you know instantly that something is a little different about this store.

The idea for the store began when Doyle Owens borrowed $300, a pick-up truck and hit the road to Washington, DC, where he purchased his first batch of unclaimed bags from Trailways bus lines. He quickly sold the packages and their contents, and within a month, Owens was well on his way to a new business venture.

And, today a little business venture that began with a small loan and a borrowed truck has grown into a thriving business that’s the only facility like it in the country. With contracts to purchase lost luggage from all the major airlines, Unclaimed Baggage Center is not likely to run short of stock anytime soon.

But don’t feel sorry for the owners of those lost items. According to Brenda Cantrell, brand ambassador for Unclaimed Baggage Center, because the airlines are so meticulous in attempting to reunite passengers with their lost luggage, about one half of 1 percent of all luggage fails to make it to the assigned destinations. Then, about five days later, about 95 percent of that half percent find their way home. Another three months is spent trying to reunite passengers with their belongings before claims are paid. The rest of the luggage makes its way to Scottsboro.

‘We never know what’s inside those bags’

This tribal mask is among the more unusual finds inside luggage.
This tribal mask is among the more unusual finds inside luggage.

“By the time that luggage gets to us, you can’t imagine the state we find them. Damaged bags, always dirty, and we have to take great protection ourselves when unpacking them. We never know what’s inside those bags,” she laughed. That’s when the fun begins.

The center operates the largest dry cleaning facility in the state, which comes in handy considering more than 50,000 pieces are sorted and cleaned every month.

Many “found treasures,” as Cantrell and the staff at Unclaimed Baggage Center have discovered while picking through parcels, have included a stuffed armadillo, a ruby and diamond belt buckle valued at $10,000, an antique “flirting” fan, bronze plaques from ancient Nigeria, 50 vacuum-packed frogs, an 8 ft. remote-controlled airplane, and a 40 carat natural emerald. The list continues to grow as new shipments arrive, but the staff can’t say they’ve seen it all…yet.

“We’ve always said if these bags could talk what a story they could tell,” Cantrell said.

As much fun as the staff and shoppers have with the goods unearthed and set out for sale on the showroom floor, Cantrell makes sure that the store continues to be a community leader in Jackson County through the many service projects she and the staff participate in each year.

The success of the store has allowed the owners and staff to give back to their community by partnering with local organizations such as the Lions Club, Salvation Army, Tornado Disaster Relief, Joni & Friends, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child and Couture for a Cure. But there’s one partnership with the Department of Human Resources that has a special place in Cantrell’s heart.

“Children moving to new foster homes have a difficult time,” Cantrell explained. “These children go from one home to another carrying their belongings with them in plastic bags because they really don’t have much else. It’s already a tragic situation, so we wanted to help make their situation a little better.”

Cantrell first participated in a Luv LuggageTM event with an after school program in Scottsboro and became enchanted with the idea of how easy it was to turn old luggage into gifts for children on the move.

“We looked at it as ‘art from the heart,’ and we fell in love with the concept. We take the luggage to art programs or other children’s after-school programs, along with supplies to paint the luggage. The goal is to try to make things a little better for someone else. The surprising part is how quickly the students take to the program. They really seem to understand what these foster children are going through and want to help make things just a little bit better for them. Of course we had to continue it as a community campaign!”

In the spirit of sharing the “Luv,” Cantrell posted a community started guide and email address for more information to the Unclaimed Baggage Center website at

“Everyone has an old suitcase lying around in a closet or under a bed somewhere,” Cantrell said. “Why not give it a new life? That’s a lot of what we do here every day.”


Unclaimed Baggage Center
509 West Willow Street
Scottsboro, Alabama 35768
Monday – Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CT
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CT
Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CT
Closed Sundays




June: No better time to celebrate gardening


By Katie Jackson 

Summer officially arrives on June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the day that myriad cultures have, for thousands of years, celebrated as the Summer Solstice. However, that’s only one of many days in June that are cause for celebration, especially for those who love to garden or love the bounty of summer gardening.

Actually, the whole month of June is chock full of garden-related celebrations. June is not only designated as National Rose Month, it’s also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. In addition, there are numerous June days set aside for special celebrations such as National Gardening Exercise Day (June 6), Red Rose Day (June 12), Fresh Veggies Day (June 16), Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17), Butterfly Day (June 19), National Fried Okra Day (June 25) and The Great American Backyard Campout day (June 28). Oh, and let’s not forget June 15, which lends itself to another garden-related celebration opportunity—Dad—or Father’s Day, that is.

Whether the dad in your life likes to garden or not, you can incorporate a little garden in your Father’s Day plans. Take him on a special outing, maybe even with lunch included, to a nearby public garden or park or on a shopping trip to a local home and garden center where he can choose his own gift, be it for the garden or for any other manly pursuit.

If you have a garden-loving dad, give him a handsome watering can—or wheelbarrow if you want to make a big statement—filled with hand tools, gloves, a hat, seeds, plants, a bag or two of compost or potting soil and other items that can keep him safe and protected from the elements (sunscreen, poison ivy lotion and insect repellent come to mind). Or go all out and buy him that giant composter, super-powered hedge trimmer, quirky garden sculpture, luxurious birdbath or other extravagance that he has been admiring from afar.  If you’re short on funds, offer to do some yard work for him.

Dads and granddads can also organize their own celebrations by making lasting memories: Take the children and grandchildren for a day in the woods or at a public garden with a picnic, or spend a day helping members of the family’s next generation plant a garden of their very own.

By the way, don’t assume that plants and flowers are only for moms. Many men appreciate getting botanical gifts ranging from things they can plant in their yards and gardens to house plants to, yes, even cut flowers. Though white and red roses are considered the official flowers of Father’s Day (white roses are worn in honor of deceased fathers, red roses for living fathers), there are many other beautiful flowers that are still masculine enough for even the most stoic father figure.

And they can also convey special meaning. For example, daffodils signify chivalry, gladioli symbolize preparedness, strength and stability and delphiniums represent boldness.

Speaking of meaningful ways to bring gardening into celebrations, tap into those amazing summer blooms to decorate or adorn any June wedding event or for use in bridal bouquets and other floral adornments of the wedding party. Many summer-blooming flowers convey special meanings of their own: Daisies say “share your feelings;” gardenias stand for love, purity and joy; hydrangeas represent friendship, devotion and understanding; roses symbolize love, joy and beauty; and ivy represents wedded love, fidelity, friendship and affection.

And don’t forget the garden as you buy gifts for the newlyweds. They may well need lots of gardening tools and equipment as they setup housekeeping together, plus plants as gifts symbolize the couple’s ever-growing love.

As you pick plants for any gift-giving event, though, take care to choose ones that are easy-care and that don’t convey any negative cultural meanings.  A quick Internet search or trip to the library can help determine the best options and the various cultural meanings of each plant or flower, or ask your local florist or nursery operator for help.

Certainly these special days and occasions are great ways to get summer off to a festive start, but really, do we need an excuse? We can simply revel in the bounty of the summer garden season, which even non-gardeners can celebrate by visiting the roadside stands, u-pick operations and community farmers markets that have opened across the state.

Whether you’re longing for the first fresh local tomato of the season or a carton of plump blueberries, honey from your neighborhood bees, fresh herbs and cut flowers or even locally made breads, jams and cheeses (June is also National Dairy Month, after all), they’re likely to be showing up this month at one of the state’s many farmers market outlets. According to the Alabama Farmers Market Authority in Montgomery, there are now more than 150 farmers markets in the state to choose among, so finding one where you live or as you vacation is easy.  Visit for a complete listing.

With so many ways to celebrate it may be difficult to narrow down the options, but whatever you do just make sure to relish these long days of summer, even if it’s just sitting on the front porch with a cool drink and watching the birds fly by or the grass grow.


June Tips

*Pinch back leggy annuals or tender perennials and deadhead flowers (gently pinch off spent flowers) to prolong blooming.

*Check roses for signs of disease or insect damage and immediately treat any problems.

*Trim back dried and dead foliage from spring flowering bulbs. Divide and thin daffodil bulbs.

*Fertilize rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and other flowering shrubs as soon as they have finished blooming.

*Thin the number of fruits on apple, pear, peach and other fruit trees.

*Keep an eye out for weeds, insects and disease in all your garden areas and also on houseplants.

*Make sure potted plants are kept sufficiently watered. They dry out more rapidly than in-ground plants.

*Mow lawns weekly, or often enough so you don’t clip more than an inch off the height at each mowing.

*Fertilize the lawn and treat for dandelions and other lawn weeds.

*Plant seeds for beans, field peas, melons, pumpkins, squash and corn. Set out transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

*Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems on all your plants—vegetables, flowers, shrubs and lawns. Treat outbreaks immediately before infestations or infections get out of control.

*Water landscape, garden and lawn plants with long, less frequent soaking.

Take a journey through time on a visit to Anniston museums

Visitors to the Anniston Museum of Natural History will find exhibits of dinosaurs, African wildlife and more.
Visitors to the Anniston Museum of Natural History will find exhibits of dinosaurs, African wildlife and more.

By Marilyn Jones

Anniston, a city of 23,000, is home to two outstanding museums: the Anniston Museum of Natural History and Berman Museum of World History. Standing side by side on Museum Drive, visitors will find incredible collections and exhibits bringing everything from dinosaurs and African wildlife to Asian treasures and espionage to life.

Interestingly, both museums began as private collections and grew to become showpiece destinations for the city and Calhoun County.


From Atlantic City to Alabama

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, William H. Werner established Wonderland Museum in 1882 to showcase his collection of more than 1,800 bird specimens including mounted birds, eggs and nests; many species now extinct or endangered.

When the museum closed, the collection became the property of H. Severn Regar who began exhibiting it with his own collection of historic objects and biological specimens in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

In 1929, when Regar moved his textile business and family to Anniston, he offered his collection to the city. The city accepted and displayed it at the local library from 1930 to 1965 and then the Calhoun County War Memorial Building until 1976.

When John B. Lagarde offered to donate his collection of mounted African animals to the museum, a much larger facility was needed to house the growing natural history museum.

Local citizens got behind the idea and the building now housing the museum was built. Master plans called for seven exhibit areas, and although its beginnings consisted of the bird and African displays, today the museum is complete, changing only as exhibits are retooled and artifacts added.

In 1991, the museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 2002, the Museum was awarded status as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the first in Alabama to receive this designation.


Touring the museum

Entering the first exhibition area, Dynamic Earth, a life-sized stegosaurus skeleton model, a diorama featuring life-size Pteranodon and Albertosaurus models, and displays of fossils and minerals envelop guests in a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

From pre-historic times, the meandering walkway guides guests through a cave and into the Alabama: Sand to Cedars area of the museum. From the mountains to the seashore, exhibits showcase the natural wonders of the state which is the fourth most biologically diverse in the nation.

Walking into the Attack and Defense area, make sure to look up as well as all around at the animals playing out the life and death relationship of predator and prey.

At the center of the museum are the original Birds of the Americas with case after case of ornately staged birds followed by Environments of Africa with its elephant, lion and other animals. All the birds and animals in the museum, with the exception of the dinosaur models and hippo are real, mounted specimens.

The last exhibit is Ancient Egypt featuring two 2,300-year-old Ptolemaic Period mummies. In 2010, a CT scan of the museum’s smaller mummy, Tasherytpamenekh, was performed. A short documentary follows the process and includes some of the 3-D imagery from beneath the wrappings.

Many natural history museums are dedicated only to dinosaurs, fossils and minerals. Here, natural history is followed from pre-history to present day. The museum is expertly designed and will captivate the smallest child as well as inquisitive adults.


The Berman Legacy

The Berman Museum features a collection of rare weapons, paintings by European and American artists and Asian art.
The Berman Museum features a collection of rare weapons, paintings by European and American artists and Asian art.

Next door is the Berman Museum of World History. Farley Berman was born in Anniston in 1910. After attending the University of Alabama, he graduated with a law degree from Emory University in 1934. Berman also joined the Army Reserve in 1937 and enlisted in 1941 after Pearl Harbor.

He spent much of his time in the service in military intelligence. He met his wife Germaine, a member of the French Intelligence, while he was stationed in North Africa.

They were married in 1945 and returned to Anniston to make their home and live for the remainder of their lives.

Museum exhibits are from the Berman’s personal collections. Berman is quoted as saying that at the age of six, “I started with a little .22 caliber rifle, one thing led to another and I ended up with the collection I have today.” As visitors will find, weapons were a fascination for Berman, although he collected anything that interested him.

His wife also shared his passion for collecting. They spent four decades traveling the world; he collected rare weapons and she collected works of fine art. Included in the collection are hundreds of bronzes, paintings by European and American artists and Asian art.

In 1992 Farley and Germaine bequeathed their collection to Anniston, with the wish that others could learn the significance of the objects from a historic perspective. The museum opened in 1996.


The Collections

The first collection is the Deadly Beauty Gallery.

One of the most popular attractions at the Anniston Museum of Natural History is a pair of Egyptian mummies.
One of the most popular attractions at the Anniston Museum of Natural History is a pair of Egyptian mummies.

Perhaps pointing back to the Berman’s time in military intelligence, one display is of cleverly disguised guns: a flute, pipe, tire gauge, ink pen and screw driver. The collection also houses personal items belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte, medieval suits of armor and British cavalry and presentation swords.

Of special interest is the Persian sword — called a scimitar — encrusted with 1295 diamonds, 50 carats of rubies, a 10 carat emerald in the hilt and 3 pounds of gold. Another beautiful display is of the coronation set of Czech Kings. The bejeweled crown was made in 1346, and the scepter and golden orb that were made during the 16th century.

The American West Gallery not only offers a visual history of western expansion, but is a repository for beautiful artwork including several Remington bronzes.

Firearms and weapons from the Revolutionary War through the Spanish American War are also on display.

The Arts of Asia Gallery is on the second floor and features many examples of Chinese ceramics and furniture, household gods and intricately carved jade sculptures including those from the Qing Dynasty and Sung Dynasty.

Also on display are artifacts from India, Nepal, Southeast and Southwest Asia, Japan and Korea.

The WWI and WWII Gallery is the last permanent exhibit in the museum and includes weapon, uniforms and such interesting items as Adolf Hitler’s personal silver tea service, parachute dummies and a recreation of a WWI trench with a dugout.

A West Gun, a unique trench weapon used in WWI, is in the collection. There are only two in existence today. This hall also includes a collection of machine guns from the Spanish American War through WWII, as well as Axis and Ally mortars, mines and rocket launchers.

The Berman Museum is a reflection of the Berman’s passion for collecting and a mirror into the art, military conflicts and lives of those who have gone on before us. Take your time; the galleries are filled with priceless treasures, many you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

For more information:

Anniston Museum of Natural History, 800 Museum Drive; (256) 237-6766;

Berman Museumof World History, 840 Museum Drive; (256) 237-6261;

Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, 1330 Quintard Avenue; (256) 237-3536;

Worth the drive: Cool off summer’s heat with icy treats


Alabama has a tempting array of soda fountains, popsicle shops and ice cream parlors to keep you coming back for more yummy slurps

By Jennifer Kornegay

Summer is almost here, and soon, it will be so hot, we’ll all be loudly and frequently complaining, despite promises made during last winter’s deep freeze to appreciate this season’s warmth. So when the temps climb up to 95 degrees (in the shade), I suggest a sweeter way to handle the heat. Instead of grumbling about it, try gobbling up the cool and tasty treats that some of our state’s oldest and newest establishments are scooping out.


Trowbridge’s, Florence

Lunch followed by a dreamy dessert at Trowbridge’s is a tradition for many in the Shoals area. This ice-cream parlor has been dishing out its deliciousness since 1918 from the same spot in downtown Florence, making it the city’s oldest business still operating in its original location. And, it’s still owned by the third generation of its founding family, the Trowbridges. The egg and olive sandwiches and hot dogs are favorite savory bites, but do your best to not fill up on either. Classic sodas, sundaes and other ice cream concoctions worth screaming for are the main reasons to visit this special spot.

Jenn’s Pick: Orange Pineapple ice cream, made using Trowbridge’s signature recipe
316 N Court St.



Steel City Pops, Birmingham & Tuscaloosa

Thanks to Steel City Pops, which opened its first Birmingham location in 2012, you can have your pop and eat it too since these treats turn a cold shoulder to high-fructose corn syrup, dyes and artificial flavorings and are instead, all natural, made from whole fruit and other ingredients (many from nearby farms and producers). The result is a simple menu, featuring simple products in simple stores. And the pops are simply wonderful. You can stick to the basics and order a bursting-with-berries strawberry or blueberry pop. Or branch out and try more “sophisticated” varieties like avocado, buttermilk or orange mint green tea.

Jenn’s Pick: Blood Orange pop
2821 Central Ave; Suite 109,
329 Summit Blvd., Birmingham
2128 University Blvd.,



Frios, Gadsden

You’ll discover a multitude of refreshing popsicle options at Frios in downtown Gadsden. Its name is a play on the Spanish word “frio” that means cold or frozen since Frios gourmet pops were inspired by fruit popsicles found in Mexico and other Latin-American countries. This family-owned and operated business opened in 2013 and hand-makes its pops using the best fruits and dairy products from local farms. That means the menu changes often, reflecting what produce is currently at its peak. And Frios captures it at the height of ripeness; the locally grown fruit used is usually picked and turned into pops within 24-hours. The Tiramisu pop (Spoiler alert: There is a cinnamon lady finger in the middle!), is made with coffee brewed at Gadsden’s popular coffee shop, The Coffee Well, from beans roasted in Birmingham. You can definitely taste the difference, and soon, folks several hundred miles away will have the chance to experience a Frios pop too. The shop just announced its partnership with LuLu’s restaurant in Gulf Shores, which will be serving its pops starting this summer.

Jenn’s Pick: Lemon Ice Box pop
414 Broad St.


The Pop Factory (inside The Overall Company), Opelika

Frozen goodness on a stick is made fresh daily at The Pop Factory in downtown Opelika. Tucked into the Overall Company, which is occupying a corner building that was once home to an actual overall-producing business, The Pop Factory is one facet of what the Overall Company’s owners are calling a “community that highlights and celebrates Southern music, food and culture.” Filled with funky found-object art; vintage posters; a massive American flag; and comfy and random couches, stools and chairs, The Overall Company also serves homemade baked goods, artisanal coffees and sells Alabama-made beers and other items as well. There’s an art gallery on the second floor, and live music is often floating on the air. But during summer’s swelter, the pops are tops here, and the creative ingredient combos yield mouth-watering results: the basil lemonade pop is tart with only a hint of the herb’s clean, green bite. The sweet cream pop is lightly sugared velvet. You can get creative too. Dip any of the pops in white, dark or milk chocolate and then roll them in sprinkles or candy-bar crumbles. And while your add-ons can make any of the Pop Factory’s popsicles pretty indulgent, you can still enjoy them relatively guilt-free since they are made with natural, Alabama-farm-fresh products.

Jenn’s Pick: Chocolate-Hazelnut pop dipped in white chocolate
1001 Ave. B



Byrd Drug Company, Troy

The soda fountain at Byrd Drug Company on Troy’s Court Square has been dispensing frosty fun in the form of ice cream for decades. Lunch counter fare like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs keep locals and visitors coming back, and the old-fashioned ice cream treats, including creamy milkshakes and malts, are the preferred way to chill out in Pike County. Warning: The milkshakes are so yum, yet so thick, you’re likely to burst a blood vessel trying to rush the luscious liquid into your mouth.

Jenn’s Pick: Strawberry milkshake
81 N Court Square


Carlisle Drug & Gifts, Alexander City

Next time you’re near Lake Martin, set aside a little time to take a taste of Alabama history. Anchoring a corner leading into downtown, Carlisle Drug & Gifts boasts the oldest continually operating full-service soda fountain in our state; it first opened in 1914 and has been delighting its many repeat customers and visitors with milkshakes, malts, floats and ice-cream sundaes ever since. You can enjoy Southern staples like chicken salad, pimento cheese and sandwiches as well. Or go for the ooey-gooey mac ‘n cheese, a local favorite. Wash it all down with a tangy limeade.

Jenn’s Pick: Hot Fudge Brownie sundae
12 Main St.


Stacey’s Drugs & Old Tyme Soda Fountain, Foley

Miss the good ole days, when friends met up at the neighborhood drugstore for conversation and comfort foods, and piping hot coffee was only 10 cents? Well, stop in Stacey’s Drugs & Old Tyme Soda Fountain and relive your yesterdays. A self-serve cup of joe will still only cost you a dime, and the friendly folks working the soda fountain will whip up an ice cream float, a banana split or an old-school phosphate in a jiffy and with a smile. In business since 1927, Stacey’s also makes some mean chicken salad.

Jenn’s Pick: a Key Lime Shake, one of the Alabama Department of Tourism’s “100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die”
121 W Laurel Ave.


Toomer’s Drugs, Auburn

The area around Toomer’s Drugs is hallowed ground for Auburn fans; directly across from its doors sits the beloved Toomer’s Corner. The drugstore was started in 1896 by Sheldon Toomer, known as “Shel” by most, a halfback on the school’s very first football team. Pop in and grab a roast-beef melt, a sugar-cone-full of Blue Bell ice cream and a few War Eagle souvenirs before walking across the street to bask in the glow of Tiger tradition.

Jenn’s Pick: Toomer’s famous fresh-squeezed lemonade
100 N. College St.


So Nice, We’re Mentioning Them Twice

If you’re a regular “Worth the Drive” reader, you’ll remember that I’ve visited and written about these two places before. I just wanted to remind you about their cool treat offerings.


Huggin’ Molly’s, Abbeville

This restaurant, named after a legendary and very friendly ghost, is fronted with a perfectly preserved soda fountain taken from an early-20th century drug store in Pennsylvania. Hop up on a swivel stool and order a retro Brown or Black Cow (root beer or Coke float), milkshake, malt, sundae or a flavored Coke. Pretty much anything you get here is scary good.

Jenn’s Pick: Vanilla Coke
129 Kirkland St.


Ugwee’s Ice Cream Shop, Georgiana

You won’t be sad you went out of your way to satisfy an ice-cream craving after a few bites of the soft-serve varieties at this tiny, neon-green ice-cream counter located in a convenience store.

Jenn’s Pick: Banana Split 
10801 Mckenzie Grade Road


Coming Soon!

Shirey’s Ice Cream, based in Florence, has been wowing crowds and winning fans at festivals and happenings across the state in recent months with its scratch-made, all-natural ice cream made with all-local ingredients. The first brick-and-mortar store is opening this summer in downtown Florence. Check to find out more.


I want to hear from you! Due to space constraints, I know I’ve left out some great places serving equally great cool treats. Let me know your favorites, and I’ll try to work them into the “Worth the Drive” schedule. Email me with your ideas at