Remembering Tuskegee Airmen on Veteran’s Day

Tuskegee is famous for many things including the African American airmen who were trained as pilots and served in WWII. Tuskegee is about a 40-minute drive east of Montgomery and worth the effort. Our first stop was the Tuskegee University campus. We were trying to find the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and Google Maps was not able to provide directions beyond the University entrance. Twice we slowed to ask a college student for directions and twice she turned out to be a freshman from California and unable to help us. We finally parked by the chapel and started our own Tuskegee education at the monument honoring the Institute’s founder, a fierce statue of Booker T. Washington helping a former slave out of ignorance.

Many of the venues have similar names and it can be confusing. We were able to visit the Carver Museum, a short walk away from the Booker T. Washington monument. The Carver Museum’s exhibits, operated by the National Park Service, are a bit fusty. It is still worth watching the film about Carver’s brilliant science career. George W. Carver sought an education at great sacrifice and ultimately trained as a scientist specializing in developing agricultural crops. He published his research in easily understandable bulletins (a precursor to the USDA bulletins). We enjoy hundreds of foods and products because of his work, including popularizing the sweet potato. I dare you to be less than bowled over by his creativity, productivity and selflessness.

Afterward we drove to the outskirts of town to Moton Field where the Tuskegee Airmen trained. It is a beautiful airfield and still operates for private planes. The National Park Service has a few markers to help orientate you and to tell about the Tuskegee airmen. While we were there a group of US Airforce service people were wrapping up their visit. I was glad that we already knew that their brave and capable service helped to pave the way for desegregation of the armed forces. I was struck by how small the airfield was compared to the decommissioned Airforce bases in Sacramento (McClellan and Mather). Small but mighty.

Life Lesson You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way

I used the Alabama Civil Rights Trail brochure as my guide and did not go to the National Park’s website until after we returned home. And even then it wasn’t until I dug deeper that I discovered that we missed the Hangar #1 & Hangar #2 museums at Moton Field. They are currently open Monday- Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Sundays.

 

 

Getting out of the Smoke to Apple Hill

The smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County is so thick there is no way we could enjoy a morning out of doors with my grandson anywhere in the Sacramento Valley. So we drove east to Placerville and to Apple Hill just beyond.

Apple Hill is an established trail of family farms and orchards. Long ago when I was a child, Apple Hill was only open in the fall and closed once everyone had come to get their Christmas tree. The main locations to stop and buy pie or apples were straightforward. These days Apple Hill is open June-December and the pie and apple stops are jammed with tents of vendors selling everything from wax hand art to signs warning your neighbors about your “crazy dog.”

Our first stop was at the El Dorado Orchard for the train ride. They have had a short train ride around 2 ponds for several decades. The ponds need some rain and the ducks and geese are gone, but the train ride still was a pretty ride past vineyard and orchard. The cost of a ticket has gone up to $3.50 a person but still better than $5 a person for a hay ride at the next stop.

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Traditional apple pie, heated. Yum!

We drove about another 5 minutes to High Hill Ranch co-located with the Fudge Shop Farm. We parked among the apple trees and walked up to the main pie shop. It is built like an old fashioned ski lodge and the view from the deck is really splendid. It was lovely to see some blue sky. The apple pie was delicious. I prefer my apples more tart but the crust was as good as mine.

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It is a quick trip down the hill and back into the smoke. My thoughts and prayers go to the many families impacted by the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA. As of this writing nearly 6,500 families are homeless and the fire is threatening the town of Oroville. Please join me in donating to aid these communities through your preferred charity. Mine is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Disaster Relief.

Rosa Parks Still Inspires

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Phyllis and me at the site where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. It is adjacent to Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum.

The historical marker on the spot where police boarded the city bus to arrest Rosa Parks for not giving up her seat for white passengers is also the site of the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University. We bought our tickets and strolled the hallways looking at the Gees Bend quilts and other art until the tour started.

IMG_5410Our group was ushered in to the first room where we watched a video giving us more information about Rosa Parks. Many know her story in the most simplistic terms: woman is tired of the segregated city bus policies and one day refuses to give up her seat. The reaction from her community sparks the civil rights movement. This is true is in its essentials and glosses over a lot of important details. The video begins to redress the gaps. Our esteem of this diminutive hero increased.

The second room has an actual old city bus and a nifty multi-media reenactment. It is clever in relating the atmosphere and the details of the event. The doors then open to further exhibits that give more context of Rosa Parks’ brave action. It also tells the story of the year-long bus boycott and other details of Rosa’s life.

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While we were there, the museum curators were organizing a new exhibit that included artwork inspired by Parks and artifacts from her arrest. We would have lingered longer except we wanted to visit the Dexter Street Church Parsonage before it closed.

Rosa Parks Museum

252 Montgomery Street, Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 241-8615

https://www.troy.edu/rosaparks/

Hours: Monday-Friday 9a.m.-5p.m.; Saturday 9a.m.-3p.m.; Closed Sundays and holidays

Ticket prices: 12 and under $5.50 per person; Over 12 $7.50 per person; various discounts available.

Lynching Memorial Focus of Civil Rights Crawl

This was the main purpose for our trip to Alabama.

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Slavery sculpture by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo 

History, despite its

wrenching pain, cannot

be unlived, but if faced

with courage, need not

be lived again.

–Maya Angelou

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

–Ida B. Wells

Thousands of African Americans are unknown victims of racial terror lynchings whose deaths cannot be documents, many whose names will never be known.

They are all honored here.

IMG_5383The only way to end the legacy of domestic terrorism is to remember, confront our part, and learn. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice remembers the 4,000 documented lynchings in the United States from the end of Reconstruction to the 1950s. Also called the Lynching Memorial, it is a sacred space with sculptures and a courtyard that evoke emotions of sadness, anger and thirst for justice.

Every county with one or more lynchings has a permanent memorial placed in by state  and county in alphabetical order. There are docents who can help you find a particular county, or in our case, to research if there was a lynching in California. There was one county for California represented: Kern County (Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley).

Hundreds of black men, women, and children were lynched in the Elaine Massacre in Phillips County, Arkansas, in 1919.

Bird Cooper was lynched in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, in 1908 after he was acquitted for murder.

Dozens of men, women, and children were lynched in a massacre in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917.

IMG_5375The Legacy Museum gives more detail and a timeline of the lynchings. Through a multi-media presentation of historical accounts of lynchings, the Legacy Museum carries the story through to the new method of terror, mass incarceration.

The tickets to the Memorial are $5 per all persons (children under 6 free); $8 for EJI’s Legacy Museum and a combined ticket of $10 per person. There is plenty of parking near the Memorial and a shuttle between the Legacy Museum and the lynching memorial. We thought there might be crowds on the Thursday in October and bought our tickets in advance. This probably is no longer necessary as it has been open for over 6 months. There is a security check at both locations. EJI hosts a gift shop next door to the Legacy Museum.

 

 

 

 

Eating Southern in Alabama

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Chantay in front of the menu at our favorite MGM breakfast place.

We were excited to learn all we could about civil rights history and our ongoing struggle for justice. At the same time we were looking forward to eating some good southern food. When I stepped off the plane in Birmingham I’d been traveling all day on Southwest Airlines. I didn’t say yes to all the high carb, high salt snacks they offer so I was hungry. It was already 8 p.m. when I left the Payless Rental Car counter. And the first car reeked of cigarette smoke and I had to ask for a different vehicle. This took some time. Now I was almost past hungry, so I reminded myself that in California it was only 6:30 p.m. and I headed for the only place I could find near the airport–Hardee’s. Not exactly hitting the southern spot yet a good charbroiled burger. Interesting to note a different fast food chain. (Or is it? It looks remarkably similar to Carl’s Jr.)

 

The food at Central was delicious and service was solid.

Chantay, Phyllis and I were all together by the next morning and ready to leave early for Montgomery. The plan was to stop along the way but Chantay doesn’t like fast food, so all of the wayside places were nixed and she got busy looking up options in Montgomery on Yelp. She found Cahawba House and directed us there. It is in the heart of downtown and just up the street from the Central Square Fountain. Within minutes we were enjoying good coffee and just what we wanted to eat. Chantay got her grits with cheese. Phyllis got some pimento concoction. (They do love pimento in ‘bama.) I got an amazing biscuit with bacon.

The rest of our trip was not food-obsessed, but we ate very well. For the best experience, wave off your diet till you get home.

Pie Lab in Greensboro, Alabama

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Hands off Lemon dessert

In Montgomery we split a giant plate of barbeque at Dreamland BBQ with four meat and 3 sides. Our waiter was terrific but the food was just okay. Central, a restaurant on same side of block as the Legacy Museum was wonderful. I had a pork chop with sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts that was yummy. Chantay had some lemon pie that she only reluctantly offered to share a bite. We returned to Cahawba House for more of those biscuits. When we searched for a restaurant in Tuskegee, both Yelp and Trip Advisor ranked Subway number 1, so we decided to drive back to Montgomery and eat at Sweet Creek Country Store. The smoked chicken was wonderful. The peach cobbler was also delicious but I would have enjoyed it more without the soft serve ice cream on top. Phyllis was yet to be really impressed by the food. She found Chantay and my fascination with searching for places to eat and enthusiasm to try different dishes amusing.

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Coffee at the Stable can be enjoyed in the outdoor courtyard or the comfy indoor spaces.

My friend John’s adopted home of Greensboro had a number of delicious places. We enjoyed breakfast at The Stable coffeehouse and lunch and pie at the Pie Lab. Both of these establishments are relatively new and we hope they will prosper.

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Chicken and Waffles at Roots and Revelry

Birmingham is a foodie’s delight. There are so many places to try that it was daunting to decide where to eat. We started with a recommendation for brunch after worship at 16th Street Baptist Church. We walked about 5 blocks to the site of Mrs. B’s only to read it is closed. The sign on their door redirected us to Mr. Z’s. We trooped off to eat there and then saw the sign for Roots and Revelry. I couldn’t get enough fried chicken. Chantay couldn’t get enough of po’boys–either oyster or shrimp. And everywhere we wanted to try the pie.

IMG_5718P.S. I also was looking for a bookstore and a coffee shop. I found the perfect blend in Church Street Coffee and Books. I browsed the carefully curated books on sale and noticed I have read about half, which means I’ll love the other half! I bought a few… Coffee is good too.

 

 

 

 

Visiting Alabama for the First Time

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Birmingham Airport: First time seeing an Ebony magazine newsstand–I’ve seen CNN, NBC and Hudson News, among others. 

Alabama looked different than I expected. I’ve been to all of the other Southern states save Kentucky, and I thought Alabama would be flatter and dominated by farm crops. Blame digital map apps. If you are looking up where you are going on a paper map you can’t help but see that the Talladega National Forest is like a green smoothie spilled across the state. With Google Maps I zoom in on where I am going and if I don’t take the time to zoom out or use the other features, I make a mental map that is mostly flat.

I also expected more water. A small part of Alabama touches the gulf shore at Mobile, but for the most part Alabama receives its water from the sky. Far from the Mississippi River, the state and its largest communities are not dominated by rivers in the way so many other places are in the US.

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Alabama woods from Vulcan Park in Birmingham: The Appalachian Trail southern terminus is in Georgia, and the Talladega National Forest is the southern end of the Appalachians extending into Alabama.

There are more hills than I expected and the forests are the same mix of pine and hardwood that cover the Appalachians. We came for the civil rights history but these woods made me wonder about the indigenous people who were here even earlier. The Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, and Chickasaws, as well as the Alabama-Coushattas and the Yuchis hunted, danced and walked in these woods.

Our adventure is a civil rights crawl. Our plan is to drive our rental car to Montgomery-Tuskegee-Selma-Marion-Greensboro and Birmingham. Phyllis, Chantay and I have done internet research and we are also using the “Alabama Civil Rights Museum Trail” as a guide. We also look forward to eating good food and meeting friendly folks from ‘Bama all along the way.

Corn Maze Season: It’s A-Maizing!

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Harriet, Brian, Grace, Thea and Nora enjoying the Cool Patch Pumpkin entertainment.

My friends were dropping off their daughter at UC Davis and decided to make the Cool Patch Pumpkin corn maze a family adventure on opening day. The Watloves group managed to navigate the maze in just 1 hour 15 minutes. This left them time to play in the corn “bath”: a giant mass of dried corn kernels.

I asked Thea, the Rotary exchange student from Sweden, what she thought of it all. “It was fun,” Thea said. She said there was nothing like it in Sweden. She’s from a small town near the Arctic circle and is learning a lot about Northern California from her host family.

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Grace, Brian and Thea celebrate finding their way out of the maze.

While participants are provided a map and the occasional raised bridge to get their bearings in the tall stalks, the corn maze does provide an additional challenge as the furrows make for uneven walking. Maybe this is less of a problem as the season progresses and many feet have tramped the maze. There is an escape route for people who find themselves panicking. The website warns maze navigators not to call 9-1-1. I wanted to know if they handed out wands that send up sparks–alas only in Harry Potter novels. The Watloves benefited from a full moon and started while it was still light enough to read the map. Everyone must be out of the maze (and off the grounds) by 10 p.m. sharp, so the last entrants are allowed at 8 p.m.

All of the “fun” is affordable at $15 per person. Dixon (maze located at 6150 Dixon Avenue West) is close to the Bay Area and just 10 minutes from UC Davis.