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This Month in Alabama History: March 31, 1825

The Marquis de la Lafayette, the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War, arrived for his visit to Alabama at Fort Mitchell. On a grand tour of all 24 states in honor of the United States’ 50th anniversary, the French general attended lavish festivities in Montgomery, Cahaba and Mobile. Lafayette met with French settlers of the Vine and Olive Colony and enjoyed a variety of traditional events, including a Creek game of stickball, receptions and balls, and a public barbeque dinner. While Alabamians treated Lafayette with great fanfare, his visit put a financial strain on the state, costing more money than existed in the treasury.

Where were you when man first walked on the moon?

Do you remember where you were on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon’s surface? Did you get to stay up late to watch on TV? Did you or your parents have a special watch party? We want to hear about it! The 50th anniversary of that historic event is coming up this year, and we want to do our part to recognize the crowning achievement of the U.S. space program, which all began in Huntsville, Alabama. (The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is sponsoring a number of special events in July, in cooperation with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, to mark the event.)

Send your memories, no more than 100 words, with your name, address, phone number and email address, and a photo of yourself from 1969, by April 26 to or mail to Moon Landing Memories, Alabama Living, 340 Technacenter Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117. We will publish a selection of those submissions in the July 2019 magazine.

WTD: No better place to toast St. Patty’s Day than Callaghan’s

Last year’s St. Patrick’s Day crowd at Callaghan’s. Photo courtesy of Callaghan’s

By Emmett Burnett

With oak lined streets embedded with happy folks on friendly front porches, Mobile’s Oakleigh Garden District is the essence of South Alabama charm. In the heart of such a storybook setting, one would expect a beloved eatery of Irish descent, right? Hold my Guinness.

The hub of Oakleigh, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, is more than a restaurant. It is a gathering place, entertainment center, and neighborhood jewel. But the common denominator is food.

“Best tuna dip ever,” says a Mobile regular customer, Dawn Allen Manning. “They also have this burger that blends ground beef and ground Conecuh sausage. It’s amazing.”

 The above referenced sandwich and house favorite is the L.A. (Lower Alabama) Burger. Served typically on Wednesdays and Thursdays, many customers call in advance, assuring the bountiful burger is on the day’s menu.

Other hand-crafted specialties sculpted upon order are cheeseburgers (with or without bacon), shrimp po’boys, Philly cheese steak, and chicken clubs. Garden salads can be topped with grilled chicken or shrimp. Or live a little – go for smoked tuna.

Sandwiches are served with choice of potato salad, slaw, pasta salad, chips or tomato cucumbers. And do not depart without dessert: Callaghan’s bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce. Faith and begorrah, it’s good.

Callaghan’s owner, John Thompson. Photo by Emmett Burnett

Accolades from all over

Dawn lives nearby but the fan base is also state and nationwide. Honors include those from USA Today and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, both proclaiming Callaghan’s with the best burger in Alabama. Locally, Mobile Bay Magazine and the Lagniappe newspaper voted the pub as having Mobile’s best music venue.

As for good food, the restaurant’s secret recipes are easily explained. “There are no secret recipes,” says owner John Thompson, bringing out superb Irish pub-like burgers that could make Dublin our state capital. “Nothing is cooked until you order. We do not make cookie -cutter burgers under a heat lamp. Everything is fresh cut, fresh served.”

John also credits his staff.  “We have good people; many have been here over 10 years. Our employees take pride in what they do.”

Predicting crowd size is tricky. On a weekend, the Irish eatery sees upwards of a 100-plus a night. On St. Patrick’s Day it sees upwards of – this is not a typo – 6,000.

“As far as I know, we are the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Alabama,” says John. “On that day we sell more Guinness and Harp than anywhere in Alabama and Mississippi. In Mobile, our St. Patrick’s Day outdoor crowd size is second only to Mardi Gras.”

“Callaghan’s appeal is its sense of community,” adds Dawn, seated at the restaurant’s outdoor dining area, with chips and tuna dip. “People walk from the neighborhood, bicycle from nearby, and drive in from everywhere.”

Bartender-manager Cheryl Shifflet laughs, “Some people refer to us as Oakleigh’s town hall.” She continues, “Many come in every day. There is a neighborhood vibe.” But she adds, with chalk in hand, scribing today’s special on a blackboard, “It doesn’t matter where you live, after a first visit, you are part of our neighborhood.”

Callaghan’s neighborhood includes Led Zeppelin. John remembers the night of the rock band’s unannounced arrival. “Robert Plant (lead singer) examined everything on the walls,” he recalled. That could take a while.

Walls are adorned with Mobile memorabilia, a digital St. Patrick’s Day countdown clock, and autographed photos of visiting celebrities, actors, and political leaders too many to mention. Let’s just say green beer was hoisted by the mighty and the meek.

Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, at the corner of Marine and Charleston streets in Mobile. Photo by Emmett Burnett

Food and music, too

In addition to food, patrons enjoy some of the region’s best performers when Callaghan’s transforms into a family-friendly nightclub featuring music of all genres.

The corner lot pub turned diner on Marine and Charleston Streets opened in 1946 in what was then the family home of Woodrow Callaghan. The restaurant room additions built around and attached to the family home.  Many of the original restaurant tables still grace the dining room.

“I grew up about a mile from here,” says John, who runs the operation with business partner, Richie Sherer. It was purchased from Woodrow Callaghan’s daughter in 2003. John recalls, “I felt it would be a neat little place for a restaurant.” It is still neat but did not stay little for long.

The music venue took off after Hurricane Katrina when New Orleans entertainers came east looking for venues to play. Today music is a daily staple, and so are about 200-plus burger plates, salads and more served daily.

Drinks are poured from what Esquire Magazine says is best bar in America. Callaghan’s prides itself on a great selection of beverages. Imports and domestics flow like the River Shannon.

Summarizing Callaghan’s success can be gleaned in part from the name: “Irish Social Club.” “We are all things to all people,” says John. “Everyone is welcomed – families, business people, young and old. In fact, we recently held two separate birthday parties the same week – for a one-year-old baby and a 100-year-old man.”

Young or old, all are welcomed to a neighborhood restaurant, corner pub, nationally acclaimed bar, local entertainment venue and Ground Zero for Saint Patrick’s Day – all under one roof.

Irish eyes are smilin’.

Medicare: Rules for those with higher income

If you have higher income, the law requires an upward adjustment to your monthly Medicare Part B (medical insurance) and Medicare prescription drug coverage premiums. But, if your income has gone down, you may use form SSA-44 to request a reduction in your Medicare income-related monthly adjustment amount.

Medicare Part B helps pay for your doctors’ services and outpatient care. It also covers other medical services, such as physical and occupational therapy, and some home health care. For most beneficiaries, the government pays a substantial portion — about 75 percent — of the Part B premium, and the beneficiary pays the remaining 25 percent.

If you’re a higher-income beneficiary, you’ll pay a larger percentage of the total cost of Medicare Part B, based on the income you report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You’ll pay monthly Part B premiums equal to 35, 50, 65, 80, or 85 percent of the total cost, depending on the income you report to the IRS.

Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage helps pay for your prescription drugs. For most beneficiaries, the government pays a major portion of the total costs for this coverage, and the beneficiary pays the rest. Prescription drug plan costs vary depending on the plan, and whether you get Extra Help with your portion of the Medicare prescription drug coverage costs.

If you’re a higher-income beneficiary with Medicare prescription drug coverage, you’ll pay monthly premiums plus an additional amount, which is also based on the income you report to the IRS. Because individual plan premiums vary, the law specifies that the amount is determined using a base premium. Social Security ties the additional amount you pay to the base beneficiary premium, not your own premium amount. If you’re a higher-income beneficiary, we deduct this amount from your monthly Social Security payments regardless of how you usually pay your monthly prescription plan premiums. If the amount is greater than your monthly payment from Social Security, or you don’t get monthly payments, you’ll get a separate bill from another federal agency, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Railroad Retirement Board.

You can find Form SSA-44 online at You can also read more in the publication “Medicare Premiums: Rules For Higher-Income Beneficiaries” at:

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

Outdoors: Winds sometimes whip up good fishing conditions

Phillip Criss admires a largemouth bass he caught while fishing at Lake Guntersville near Scottsboro, Ala. Photo by John N. Felsher

March winds can whip up the waters in a large lake like Guntersville, making boating dangerous. Many anglers try to avoid the wind by seeking refuge in coves. Nobody likes to fish in a howling gale, but a good breeze can actually help anglers put more fish in the boat.

“I love fishing in the wind,” says Kevin VanDam, a four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. “I love rough conditions because often those conditions activate the fish, but I’m smart enough to know that when the wind blows a spot out or muddies the water, I’m just wasting my time.”

As the champ explained, strong winds can temporarily ruin a fishing hole and make conditions physically unpleasant or even dangerous for an angler, particularly on a cold spring day. Brutal breezes blow lures in crazy directions, greatly reducing casting accuracy. Strong winds also make holding a boat in position tough.

“Wind affects fishermen much more than it affects fish,” says Peter Thliveros, a professional bass angler. “Extreme wind makes traveling difficult and limits where people can fish. It also limits the time that people can fish because it’s more difficult to get to places. Wind also makes boat control critical. If anglers can position their boats into the wind and fish against the wind, they can make more precise casts and cover structure properly.”

On the plus side, winds can create or change currents, positioning fish. Along the Alabama coast, stiff winds might even overcome tides. In windy conditions, pay particular attention to points, fallen trees, rocks or other objects that create small eddies where bass can ambush baitfish. Bass frequently hide in such slack water behind obstructions, but face into the flow looking for the currents to deliver breakfast to them. Since fish look into the wind to find food, always run any bait downwind.

“Frequently, the wind shows how fish position themselves on a point,” says James Niggemeyer, a professional bass angler. “Sometimes, the wind runs up against the riprap or a stretch of bank with baitfish on it. The wind stirs things up and moves the water column.”

While bass regularly face upstream looking for food, they do not necessarily face into the wind blowing across the surface. Water crashing against a shoreline “mushrooms” like a bullet. Along a windy shoreline, the current may actually move in the opposite direction for a short distance. Bass hang just over drop-off edges facing toward the shoreline, waiting to ambush whatever ventures too close.

“I always want to cast into the wind unless the wind is blowing so hard that I can’t cast,” says Alton Jones, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “When fishing riprap banks, I put the boat about a foot from the rocks and make long casts parallel to the bank.”

Breezes also push plankton against shorelines. Small fish eat plankton. Bass eat smaller fish. In addition, waves help oxygenate the water, giving fish an energy boost. Where bass find abundant food and oxygen, anglers can find bass.

“Often, fish bite better with a little wind blowing, especially when the water temperature gets up there,” says Mark Davis, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “Wind can move bait around and create activity. Wind can stir up crawfish and get them moving. I like to fish along rocky shorelines on a windy day when fish are not as spooky.”

On a calm, sunny day, almost any noise might spook a bass, but waves can help hide anglers from fish. The natural roar of waves crashing against a shoreline masks people sounds. Bass act more aggressively when they don’t sense danger.

Also, fish can easily see shadows or outlines in calm conditions, but with a good breeze churning the surface, fish only see distorted images, if anything.

When wind makes a lake surface too rough to fish, head for shelter, but a good breeze could mean a great day on the water.

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

Fighting to keep the lights on

Electric co-ops are winning the reliability battles against squirrels, storms and hackers

By Paul Wesslund

Did you know squirrels, lightning and trees have something in common? They can knock out your electricity.

Electric cooperatives work hard to keep your lights on all the time, but “you’re going to have power outages, and that’s just the way it is,” says Tony Thomas, senior principal engineer with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

An electric utility’s basic job of keeping the power flowing 24/7 calls for maintaining a complex network of power plants, poles and wires. But it also means battling the unpredictable. Thomas cites the top three troublemakers to electric reliability as trees falling on power lines and other interferences from vegetation, lightning strikes, and animals going about their daily routines, especially squirrels chewing on electrical equipment.

“Utilities do an awfully good job,” says Thomas. “But Mother Nature gets in the way sometimes.”

Humans contribute to power outages as well, with vandals deliberately damaging electrical equipment and drivers accidentally crashing into utility poles.

Statistics say the lights are almost always on.

Numbers collected from electric utilities show that power in the United States is incredibly reliable. According to these figures, the percentage of time that the average American has electricity at the flip of a switch is 99.97… oh forget it, you get the idea. Thomas says what’s most important to know about those numbers is that they don’t change much.

“I don’t see big swings from year to year,” says Thomas. “If things are fairly consistent, that means the utility is operating about as efficiently as it can.”

But utilities still try to improve on that reliability. Among the techniques being used to foil critter catastrophes are snake barriers around substations, buzzard shields on transmission towers and mesh coverings on wood poles to protect them from woodpeckers.

For some of the other causes of outages like trees and lightning, there’s now an app for that.

Utilities operate extensive right-of-way programs to keep vegetation away from power lines, from clearing underbrush to publicity campaigns asking people not to plant trees where they can fall on power lines.

Fighting storms and squirrels are two ways to keep the power on, but by far the biggest part of reliability comes from the decades of building, maintaining and updating the massive machinery of the nation’s electric grid. More than 8,500 power plants generate electricity that is shipped through 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. Banks of substations and transformers step-down that voltage to send it to homes and businesses through 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines.

Keeping that network up and running calls for a lot of planning among utilities to anticipate how electricity will be used in the future. Part of that reliability planning has focused on protecting the electricity system from computer-based digital attacks.

When it comes to electric reliability, the biggest challenge is maintaining and updating the massive machinery of the nation’s electric grid. Photo by Paul Wesslund

The never-ending job of cybersecurity

Bridgette Bourge is among those overseeing how digital technology affects reliability for electric co-ops and their consumer-members. As director of government affairs for NRECA, she sees both the positives and the negatives to the latest internet-based, or cyber, technology.

“Cyber helps a lot on reliability because it gives us the ability to monitor and know everything right away,” she says. “But whenever you increase reliability through a technology, you do potentially open up vulnerabilities as well from the security angle.”

For any organization, including electric utilities, the benefits of the internet come infested with mischief makers. Bourge says it’s routine for a company to receive tens of thousands of attempts each day to break into its computer network. Those “knocks” at the cyber door can come from individuals, countries and organizations, or from the army of automated “bots” roaming the internet worldwide, testing for weaknesses where a hacker could enter.

For a utility, a troublemaker inside the computer network could affect electric service, and that’s why NRECA has organized a variety of cyber reliability programs.

Bourge says those cyber reliability programs aim to help protect against a range of threats, from broad attempts to shut down parts of the electric grid, to more focused efforts to corrupt pieces of software used by electric cooperatives.

NRECA’s cyber protection efforts include a national program of working closely with the nation’s electric co-ops to share the techniques for protecting utility systems from internet invaders.

NRECA is also part of a national program to create a cyber mutual assistance agreement. Much like how groups of lineworkers from an electric co-op travel to help restore power after a hurricane, these cyber agreements would be able to utilize teams of information technology experts in the case of a cyber incident.

“You can’t solve cybersecurity,” says Bourge. “No matter what you do today, the bad guys are going to figure out a way around it tomorrow. You have to keep thinking about the next step.”n

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

Edible landscaping: Turning sod into sustenance

Consider the lawn. It’s an integral part of most Alabama landscapes, providing classic beauty and function to yards, parks and other open spaces. However, it can be a hungry element of the landscape, one that needs a steady diet of attention, water and nutrients.

Now consider this: What if that lawn area fed you instead? No, I’m not suggesting you take up grazing; I’m just suggesting you explore using the tenets of edible landscaping — the science (and art) of choosing plants that are as appetizing as they are attractive — to areas previously reserved only for turfgrass.

The idea may seem odd, but it’s certainly not new. Out of necessity and for eons, humankind has grown food crops on any available patch of land. During World Wars I and II, turning lawns into Victory Gardens wasn’t unusual, it was patriotic — even Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden installed on the White House lawn in 1943.

And I’m not bashing lawns, which have also served us well for eons. Throughout human history, grassy areas have been sources of protection (open vistas better allowed humans to spot enemies as they approached), food for livestock and sites for recreation. Grass also helps control soil erosion and it just plain looks nice, so it’s difficult to think about giving up the lawn, especially the front lawn.

Back in 2005, however, an American artist named Fritz Haeg began to challenge the need for, and prevalence of, lawns through an eco-art project he called “Edible Estates.” Linking his art and design prowess with a passion for sustainability and nod to the tradition of Victory Gardens, Haeg advocated for replacing lawns — especially front lawns — with kitchen gardens.

His premise was that kitchen gardens would provide food while also being more sustainable than lawns because they require less water and fossil fuels. Over the next eight years, he turned 15 lawns, some on private and some on public land, into food-producing spaces that were as beautiful as they were tasty.

Is it a good idea for your landscape? Possibly, especially if an open lawn area is the only suitable space in the yard to grow sun-loving food crops. Keep in mind, though, that while kitchen gardens do reduce the need for mowing and watering, they may actually require as much, if not more, labor to maintain an attractive year-round landscape. Still, if you like the idea of repurposing the time and energy spent mowing and caring for a lawn into something that produces food for the table, it may be the perfect option.

Before you rip out the lawn, however, take time to research the concept. Start by asking local garden experts about the pros and cons of replacing lawns with kitchen gardens, and read up on the details. Lots of resources are available online and in libraries. The book Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy is considered a primary go-to source on the subject and you can also check out Haeg’s projects online at or in his 2008 book Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.

The next step before you proceed is to run the idea past your local municipalities, utilities and neighborhood associations. There may be rules — even ordinances — limiting or prohibiting kitchen gardens, especially in front yards or more visible areas, and you don’t want to damage in-ground gas, power or communication lines when you dig.

Intrigued but still not sure if you’re ready to rip out the lawn? Test the concept by using edible plants in existing flower beds or in containers. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, herbs, culinary flowers and the like can be as ornamental as they are tasty and may be a great first step, or the only step you decided to take, toward an edible landscape.

And be open to sharing the process — and some produce — with your neighbors. It can be a teachable moment and who knows, you may soon have everyone eating off their lawns!

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

Snapshots: Safari Park Adventures


Ethan Paul at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, GA. SUBMITTED BY Amy Paul, Glenwood.

Brianna Brunson in Australia at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. SUBMITTED BY Brianna Brunson, Jackson.

African Grey Parrot. SUBMITTED BY Jeanette Brown, Vernon.

Gavin Arnold at the Alabama Safari Park in Hope Hull. SUBMITTED BY Amanda Arnold, Billingsley.

Safari park van tour for adults, children and grandchildren. SUBMITTED BY Jeff Hosterman, Fairhope.

Bennett Ryals loved this “double trouble!” SUBMITTED BY Melanie Ryals, Monroeville.

Jax Riley at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, GA. SUBMITTED BY Tamyla Riley, Brewton.

One of the beautiful giraffes in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris. SUBMITTED BY Tonya Daugherty, Holly Pond.

Submit Your Images! May Theme: “Flower Garden” Deadline for May: Mar. 31

Submit photos online: or send color photos with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Photos, Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Rules: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos.