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Birmingham

December 26, 2012

Alabama – Thursday, December 20

It was still rainy in the morning, but I got packed up and headed for the city of Birmingham. I had no idea what to expect in a city with such a turbulent civil rights history. What I found was a big, vibrant, clean, wonderfully walkable city. It was laid out in a grid pattern with avenues running one direction and streets running the other direction. I kept a rain jacket with me, and Tula and I ended up walking up and down nearly all the avenues and streets. There were civil rights markers throughout the city, and I could stand on the exact spots where some of the incidents and protests occurred. Sooo much history. I also passed a corner which had been proclaimed “the heaviest corner on earth” back in the early 1900s – Birmingham had been going through an industrial boom at the time, and built some early skyscrapers on all 4 corners of an intersection, and the combined mass and weight of those 4 buildings made it a heavy corner. We walked nearly 6 miles and only got rained on a little – a good couple of hours!

Then I headed for Pell City and the Robert L. Howard State Veteran’s Home. I had talked with Kristin, their activities director, yesterday and told her I’d be happy to make a donation. This veteran’s home only opened about a month ago, and they are moving veterans in on a daily basis, and will be full in less than 10 months. I asked her if they had any sort of wish list, and she told me the activities fund could always use a donation, especially since they were so new. She specifically mentioned a DVD player for the residents – the facility was so new they hadn’t been able to get one yet. Electronics are not my thing, so we thought a $56 check would be the best thing so they could get exactly what they need. The Veterans Home was really nice – not institutional looking at all. It sort of looked like a nice hotel. I imagine they’ll end up with wait lists to get in! I didn’t meet Kristin – she was running a Christmas activity, although she came out to find me while I was outside writing a note to her!

Then I headed a little farther east to Fort McClellan, which is near Anniston. I wanted to see what, if anything, was left of the army base where my dad did his basic training 66 years ago. He had told me about this a while ago, but I had forgotten exactly where it was, and to find out it was close to the place I made a veteran’s donation was kind of a fun coincidence! Dad didn’t think anything would be left since it was so long ago, but there is still evidence it was a big training base. The officer’s homes still stand in a neat circle around a huge oval green, and are rented or owned by “regular” people. The old PX turned into medical offices and an old gym is now an aquatic center. There’s some really old warehouses from back then that are kind of crumbling down, and signs of an old railroad. Some of the land is residential, but the whole area is still called Fort McClellan. It was pretty and quiet walking around the big circle of old officer’s homes – most were identical, but decorated differently for Christmas. It was apparent it was a huge base in its day, and fun to see a place like that from so long ago in my dad’s past.

By now it was dark, and time for a little more driving to the Alabama/Georgia border. I’ll be spending Christmas in Savannah with my daughter Toni and my mom, so I needed to start heading that way, and will finish up with Alabama after Christmas.
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