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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News February 2017



Alabama’s train history

Have you ever met a president? Readers share their memories



Manager Stan Wilson Co-Op Editor Rick Norris ALABAMA LIVING is delivered to some 420,000 Alabama families and businesses, which are members of 22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned, locally directed and taxpaying electric cooperatives. AREA cooperative member subscriptions are $3 a year; non-member subscriptions, $6. Alabama Living (USPS 029920) is published monthly by the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and at additional mailing office.

Meeting a president

Have you ever met a president? In recognition of Presidents Day, we’re sharing the memories of our readers who’ve been lucky enough to meet our nation’s top executive.


VOL. 70 NO. 2  February 2017


POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to: Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014. ALABAMA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION

AREA President Fred Braswell Editor Lenore Vickrey Managing Editor Allison Griffin Creative Director Mark Stephenson Advertising Director Jacob Johnson Graphic Designer/Advertising Coordinator Brooke Echols Communications Coordinator Laura Stewart Graphic Designer Tori McClanahan



National Country Market 611 South Congress Ave., Suite 504 Austin, Texas 78704 1-800-626-1181 USPS 029-920 • ISSN 1047-0311

Printed in America from American materials Alabama Living

Employees reaching milestone anniversaries are honored.


Legislative outlook


Worth the Drive

New Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon gives us a look at what to expect in the 2017 legislative session.

Pintoli’s in Satsuma brings an authentic taste of Italy to Alabama.



340 TechnaCenter Drive Montgomery, Alabama 36117-6031 1-800-410-2737 E-mail:

Service Awards


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9 Spotlight 29 Around Alabama 26 Gardens 40 Outdoors 41 Fish & Game Forecast 34 Cook of the Month 46 Hardy Jackson’s Alabama ONLINE:

ON THE COVER: Jim Garnett welcomes visitors aboard for fun at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera. Read more about Alabama’s train history on Page 16. PHOTO: Mark Stephenson


Employees receive service awards OFFICE LOCATIONS Jackson Office 1307 College Avenue P.O. Box 398 Jackson, AL 36545 251-246-9081 Chatom Office P.O. Box 143 Chatom, AL 36518 251-847-2302 Toll Free Number 1-800-323-9081 Office Hours 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday (Drive-thru Hours) Pay your bill online at Payment Methods Payments can be made at our Chatom and Jackson offices with cash, checks, debit or credit cards

Clarke-Washington EMC truly has great employees! CWEMC’s employees are our greatest asset and we rely on them every day to carry out our mission: to provide affordable, reliable and safe electricity at the lowest possible cost. In December, we celebrated several of our employees who have reached milestone service anniversaries. Pictured left to right are: Leroy Mitchell, 15 years; Dale Newton, 5 years; Blake Dunagan, 5 years; Kathy Brown, 5 years; Austin Roberts, 10 years; Grady Jackson, 5 years; and CWEMC General Manager Stan Wilson. Not pictured are David Atchison (40 years) and Wayne Faile (40 years). The longevity of our employees is of the utmost importance. They provide knowledge, experience and stability to make our workplace enjoyable and productive. We are in our 81st year here at CWEMC and the loyalty of our employees has certainly been a key factor for our success. The unique thing about electric cooperatives is that we are locally owned and operated. Our employees are local folks that are working to keep the lights on for their own communities, friends and families. 2017 is going to be a great and exciting year for our cooperative! Thank you.

Stan Wilson Manager of Clarke-Washington EMC

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| Clarke Washington EMC |

Scholarship deadline approaching It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating Christmas and the close of 2016, and here it is Groundhog month. Now, it seems that as soon as we get through eating our black eyed peas and hog jowl, it’s time for the old groundhog to tell us what the rest of the winter will be like. Yes, it’s February of 2017, and time is marching on. By now, if you are like me, most of us have crashed and burned with our New Year’s resolutions, and we are back to our old ways. As an insurance company commercial on television says, “Life comes at us fast,” and we find ourselves back in the middle of the old rat race. One thing that I hope those of you with graduating seniors will not let fall off the radar screen is the fast approaching deadline to apply for one of the six $1000.00 scholarships awarded annually by CWEMC and the Electric Cooperative Foundation. These scholarships are offered to graduating seniors whose parents or guardians are members of CWEMC, and they can be used toward any post secondary education opportunity at an accredited institution. They may be used at colleges, both two and four year, as well as technical and voca-

tional schools. The application must be received no later than February 24. The applications are available on our website, You can also ask your school counselor for an application. There is no essay to write or other complicated process to complete, so I would urge those of you who are interested to get busy and make sure your application is in by the deadline. These scholarships are one small way that the cooperative can give back to the members and offer assistance to those deserving students who choose to extend their education. Don’t let this important deadline slip by!

1.800.323.9081 to report an outage

Remember: If you do not call from a phone number that is listed on your account, the outage management system will not recognize you. Make sure all the phones that you would use to call in an outage are listed on your account before the storm comes.

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  5

2016 Christmas Drive

Our 2016 Christmas Drive was a great success. Thank you to all who donated at either the Jackson or Chatom offices. Many local people had a much merrier Christmas because of your generosity. Top: Donations made at the Jackson office. Center right: Chatom Superintendent Polly Odom (left) and CWEMC Member Services Director Rick Norris (right) with the proceeds from the drive in Chatom. Bottom Left: Pictured left to right with the Washington County donations are Ebony Johnson and Salta Smith of the Washington County DHR, Rick Norris and Elaine Philon, Washington County DHR Service Supervisor. Bottom right: Sierra Bettis from the Clarke County DHR is shown with the toys and food collected in Jackson for Clarke County. Again, thanks to all of you who participated!

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Benefits of right of way program

become energized, injuring anyone that happens to come into contact with the tree. Wood is not a particularly good conductor, but it is a conductor nonetheless. The entire tree or some of the branches may become energized. It is important to remember that children should never climb or play in trees near power lines. In addition to the electrocution danger, fires are sometimes caused when trees contact and damage power lines, endangering lives and property. As stated earlier, the goals of CWEMC are to provide the most reliable and safest electrical service possible. In order to achieve these goals we must manage trees near our power lines. Trees can cause an interruption in service when limbs rub against the lines and short out that section of line, or worse, the entire circuit. Outages can also be caused when broken branches or entire trees are blown over during a storm, cutting the lines or pulling them down. To maintain the best possible service we must sometimes trim or remove problem trees. In the picture to the left, Grady Jackson (CWEMC Tree Trimmer) is shown removing one of these problem trees.


By Rick Norris

n my opinion, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Southwest Alabama offers so many diverse landscapes and scenes that something new can be seen each time you round a corner or top a hill. One thing that adds to the beauty of our area is the abundance of trees. Trees serve many important functions in all areas of SW Alabama. Trees provide industry for paper and wood products, oxygen, shade, habitat for wildlife, help to conserve the soil and water and act as wind, noise and visual buffers. They also help to cool the air and provide psychological benefits as well. Trees in a community are an asset and must be managed to maintain their health and prevent problems.

Here at CWEMC, we have tree-trimming crews that work exclusively trying to stay ahead of the tree growth. This is a never ending process because we have over 4,000 miles of line to maintain. It is important to know that these crews are professionals who are trained to work around high voltage power lines. You should NEVER try to prune trees that are too close to power lines. If there is a problem tree on your property please call us for assistance. Although we try to stay ahead of the growth, sometimes trees and power lines connect. Please be aware of where power lines are in relation to the trees and help us by reporting any tree you think may be a problem. For your safety and the safety of your family, stay clear of trees that are making contact with power lines.

Reliable electrical service has also become an integral part of our lives and the daily activities of a community. Clarke-Washington EMC strives to provide safe and reliable electric service to our members. Unfortunately, in some instances, trees and power lines combine to cause major interruptions in service and sometimes injury to humans. Most high voltage distribution lines are not insulated and direct contact usually results in fatal electrocution. A tree coming into contact with a power line can also Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  7

Scholarship Opportunity for Graduating Seniors Are you a high school senior who is graduating this spring? Are you a dependent of a CWEMC member?

If so, you are eligible to apply for a

scholarship from the Electric Cooperative Foundation. Clarke-Washington EMC has joined other cooperatives throughout the state of Alabama to create this Electric Cooperative Foundation. This spring the foundation will be awarding scholarships across Alabama for students to continue their education at post-secondary and vocational schools.

For more details about this scholarship,

school guidance counselor, or print one from our website at under Educational Programs or call:

CWEMC 1-800-323-9081 Deadline to apply is February 24, 2017

obtain a copy of an Electric Cooperative scholarship application from your high


February | Spotlight Cities, towns plan Mardi Gras activities

Tell us about your tickets!

Mardi Gras, the celebration that precedes Fat Tuesday, is usually associated with New Orleans, but the first such festival was held in Mobile in 1703, 15 years before it started in Louisiana. For weeks, the streets of Mobile are filled with marching bands, over-the-top floats and revelers of all ages. A complete list of parades, which begin Feb. 10 and last through Feb. 28, are listed on the city of Mobile’s website; visit mardigras.php If you’re headed to Mobile, check out the Mobile Carnival Museum, 355 Government St., which highlights the history of Mardi Gras in the Port City. Visit or call 251-432-3324. Two towns in central Alabama hold Mardi Gras-themed events: • Prattville Mardi Gras Parade: Feb. 11. Celebration begins at 11 a.m., and parade begins at 1 p.m. in downtown and ends at Stanley–Jensen Stadium. • Millbrook Revelers Mardi Gras Festival and Parade: Feb. 18. Festival grounds (at Village Green) open at 9 a.m., with parade on Main Street at noon.

Do you keep your ticket stubs? You know – those little strips of printed, fading card stock that chronicle decades’ worth of memories. They may not be noteworthy from a historical perspective, but they are little personal reminders of fun times gone by. But perhaps you have a particularly interesting ticket stub (or a whole ticket, if it’s from the more recent era, where tickets are scanned and not torn). A music legend’s final performance. The last game in a now-demolished venue. The first game in a brand-new, iconic venue. A particularly historic game or race. A super cheap ticket to see a musician before he or she got famous. We’d like to hear your story! Email a note to Allison Griffin at, along with a photo of the ticket stub.

Services available to help smokers quit

The Alabama Department of Public Health offers free assistance to stop tobacco use through the Quitline – 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Callers will get help with an individualized quit plan, coaching and up to eight weeks of nicotine replacement therapy, if the user is medically eligible and enrolled in the coaching program. Services are available every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Alabama Living

Whereville, AL Identify and place this Alabama landmark and you could win $25! Winner is chosen at random from all correct entries. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. Send your answer by Feb. 10 with your name, address and the name of your rural electric cooperative. The winner and answer will be announced in the March issue. Contribute your own photo for an upcoming issue! Send a photo of an interesting or unusual landmark in Alabama, which must be accessible to the public. A reader whose photo is used will also win $25. Submit: By email: By mail: Whereville P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124

Guess where this is and you might win $25!


The American Village in Montevallo, a re-created Colonial village on 113 rural acres, features costumed historical interpreters and several buildings and gardens. This photo is of Washington Hall, which is patterned after Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. The Village opened in 1999. This photo was submitted by Mike Glass of Baldwin EMC and shows his grandchildren on the steps. Congratulations to Sandra Smith of Coosa Valley EC, the correct guess winner.



| Power Pack |

Easily get Federal grants replacement will preserve Social Security civil rights sites our historic sites and projects in Alatax forms Fpreserve bama will receive federal funding to help and highlight the sites, which are online associated with the civil rights movement


ax time is fast approaching. Preparing your documents can seem overwhelming. Some forms and paperwork might be difficult to track down. Social Security has made it easy to track down your annual Benefit Statement. An SSA-1099, or your annual Benefit Statement, is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits received from Social Security in the previous year so people know how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on their tax return. You should receive your SSA-1099 by January 31, 2017. For noncitizens who live outside of the United States and received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we’ll send form SSA-1042S in instead. The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you currently live in the United States and need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a way for you to get an instant replacement quickly and easily. Go online and request an instant replacement form with a my Social Security account at The online replacement form is available beginning February 1, 2017. Every working person in the U.S. should create a my Social Security account. The secure and personalized features of my Social Security are invaluable in securing a comfortable retirement — for today and tomorrow.

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

10 FEBRUARY 2017

and the African-American experience. Congress approved funding for the new National Park Service (NPS) African-American Civil Rights Grant Program in 2016 through the Historic Preservation Fund. That fund uses revenue from federal oil leases to provide assistance for a broad range of preservation projects, without expending tax dollars. The competitive grant program is funding 39 projects worth $7,750,000, including surveys, documentation, interpretation, education, oral histories, planning, and bricks and mortar preservation.

Letters to the editor

E-mail us at: or write us at: Letters to the editor P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Cookbook fan

Thank you and all the wonderful people at Alabama Living for my complimentary copy of the “Best of Alabama Living” cookbook. I have a huge collection of cookbooks compiled over my 76 years and this one will be one of my favorites. The choices of recipes are excellent, the photography outstanding and it’s easy to read and use. I love it! P.S. I’ll be ordering more for friends! Mary (Cathie) Donaldson, Enterprise

Big cats not seen

Just wanted to comment on the article by John Felsher about the big cats in Alabama Living (January 2017). This is a topic that I hear hunters and outdoorsmen discuss quite often. Many of them claim to have seen them or heard them. We are always seeing game camera photos on Facebook or passes to other hunter’s phones and e-mails. While I cannot say for a fact what others may have seen or think they have seen, I tend to go along with the author and believe they are mostly mistaken. I think the author presented a case based on the scientific knowledge of the game

The sites and projects chosen in Alabama: • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham: $500,000 for preservation, repair and restoration • Historic Brown Chapel AME Preservation Society Inc.: $500,000 for preserving Brown Chapel AME Church (electrical, roofing and structural needs) • City of Anniston: $496,375 for the Anniston Freedom Riders Monument • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute: $47,003 for preservation leadership training at the Gaston Motel in Birmingham and fish biologists and others who have researched this at length. Many of us wish this was true, with the possible exception of livestock farmers. I will say this: I am 60 years old and have been all over the swamps and hills of the south from the time I was a small child. I have spent as much of my life in the woods as anyone and I have never once seen a large cat. Nor have I thought I may have seen one. I never have I seen large cat tracks. I tend to believe the author on this as well as the game and fish personnel. I truly believe you would see cases of the cats being struck by automobiles and found dead on the roads, such is the case with the occasional bear in Alabama. Thank you Mr. Felsher for a fine, responsibly written article. Even if it clashes with some folk’s beliefs. Remember, some even think they have seen Bigfoot. Doug Max, Uriah

Chicken Shack gets vote

I enjoyed reading your “Best of Alabama 2017.” If you get a chance, stop in Luverne, Alabama, at the Chicken Shack. Their chicken is the best I have ever eaten! They have been there for around 50 years. And if you stop at lunch time, they have their home cooked vegetables, also. Thank you for all your interesting publications. Susan Welch Krysak, Columbus, GA

| Alabama Snapshots |

Unlikely Pet Friends

Biscuit and Totoro have been best friends since they first met. SUBMITTED BY Allison Lumbatis, Dothan.

After Buck-Buck’s mother died, he and Billy became best friends. They ate together, played and slept together in the barn. SUBMITTED BY Judi Mallory, Pike Road.

Looking for “Hardy Jackson’s Alabama” column? It’s new home is on Page 46!

Opie found his happy place with Louie. SUBMITTED BY Kathy Ledford-Gledhill, Fort Payne.

Booger (cat) with her babies and some friends. SUBMITTED BY Melissa Benton, Skipperville.

Scrunchy (kitten) and Macca-n-e (racoon) are two rescues that first became friends at a wildlife rehabilitation center. SUBMITTED BY Laurel Fleming, Daphne.

Submit Your Images! April Theme: “Going to the Chapel” Deadline for April: February 28 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.

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017 11

Have you met a president? By Allison Griffin


egardless of your political bent, meeting a presi-

varied: There are federal employees who encountered

dent is a memorable occurrence. For most of us,

presidents as part of their jobs; a college student who

it’s a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

by a stroke of incredible luck had lunch at McDonald’s

For this month that includes the federal and state hol-

with a sitting president; and two readers who met the

iday known as Presidents Day, Alabama Living asked

current U.S. leader long before he entered politics. Sev-

readers who have encountered a president – whether

eral wrote in to talk about meeting the peanut farmer

before he was in office, during his term or after – to

who returned to his rural Georgia church after he left the Oval Office.

share their stories.

Below are some of the stories sub-

The responses were wonderfully

mitted, some of which were edited for clarity or length. You can read all the stories at

Shirley Rossano, Hollywood, Ala.: As a federal government employee, I had the opportunity to see, meet, and interact with several presidents. My first encounter was on Jan. 20, 1961, standing on the curb in deep snow watching President John and Jackie Kennedy pass by in a convertible in his inauguration parade. I also attended the inauguration parades for Presidents Nixon and Reagan. Another time I had the privilege of being in the Oval Room of the White House with President Jimmy Carter to see my immediate supervisor receive an award. When I worked for the CIA, my supervisor and I escorted George H.W. Bush, then Director of Central Intelligence, on a tour of one of our facilities. He was visiting one of the labs that processed photos from spy satellites, and he was looking at some photos in real time. This was during the Cold War. Mr. Bush is peering into the microscope in the above photo. I was also in attendance at a ceremony when President Clinton visited our facility in the 1990s. 12 FEBRUARY 2017

David Batt, Orange Beach: In 1965, I was working in Washington for Congressman Joe Waggonner of Louisiana when we received a call from the White House that President Lyndon Johnson would be signing a piece of legislation I had helped draft. The signing would occur later that day and Rep. Waggonner, myself and another staff member were invited to attend. The legislation was a “private relief ” bill to relieve several military personnel of having to repay money the government had erroneously paid them. We expected others there because several other members of Congress had co-authored the measure, but when we entered the oval office, it was just the three of us. The president signed the bill and handed each of us a pen. The photo shows President Johnson handing a pen to me. Not too surprising, the signing of the bill was not the real reason we were there. Rep. Waggonner, a strong states rights advocate and a leader of conservative Democrats, was blocking the highway beautification bill being pushed by Lady Bird Johnson because he believed it usurped a state’s rights regarding the placement of highway billboards. To watch President Johnson and Rep. Waggonner, standing next to me, “debate” the issue was an experience I will never forget.

Cecilia Sprinkle Sanaie, Fort Payne: When I was very young and had my first “history” lesson, which was about Presidents of the United States, I decided that one day I would meet the president and shake hands with him. Growing up and then in my adulthood, each time I saw a president on the news I would remind myself that one day I was going to meet and shake hands with the president. I went to the White House seven out of the eight years that George W. Bush was president, and had tea with first lady Laura Bush through the National Federation of Republican Women, but never had a chance to shake hands with President Bush. As it happened, he was coming to Kansas where I lived for a fundraiser for Sen. Pat Roberts and I was fortunately privileged to attend! I have to be honest and say that I NEVER got to shake his hand, but the hug and kiss on the cheek was worth all the years I had waited to meet the president!

‘Alabama Living’ readers share their stories Bonnie and Milton Taylor, Remlap: My husband and I were fortunate to be able to meet President George W. Bush on Thursday, June 21, 2001, when he visited Birmingham. (He was greeted by Alabama Air National Guard workers and their families.) Our son was in charge of this visit. I would say there were at least 500 or more people as well as lots of children. President Bush tried to shake hands with each one. David Hitchcock, Elberta: I previously worked for the Navy at NAS Pensacola Fire Department. I was B-shift Assistant Fire Chief. When Hurricane Ivan hit on Sept. 16, 2004, we were preparing to receive President George W. Bush so he could look at the damage along the Gulf Coast. We had received his advance team of Secret Service and we were housing his vehicles in our fire station. The fire station withstood the storm very well and only received minor damage. I worked the 24-hour shift from 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 18 to 7:30 a.m. Sept. 19. It was a day of surveying damage at the Navy base and working to make sure we helped the Secret Service and make sure the president didn’t have any problems. The shift ended and I was on my way home when I got a call from my boss, Fire Chief Carl Thomann. He asked me to return to station and he couldn’t tell me why but I would not regret it. I was still on the base so I turned around and returned to the station. When I got there he told me to get in his staff car and at that time he advised me we were on our way to meet President George W. Bush. The picture shows all the different heads of the different agencies involved in dealing with Ivan, and Bush shook all of our hands and thanked us for doing what we do. I was the second to last in line and prior to starting the greeting I got clearance to present President Bush a challenge coin (of our fire department). He asked for the coin and looked it over, gave it back to me, and gave me permission to do so. The picture shows us shaking hands and I had just given him the coin and he thanked me and put it in his pocket. It was an honor to meet him and I am very happy that I had enough sense to turn around and not go home. Alabama Living

Linda Morgan, Crane Hill: I met future President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in 2006 when I was there to attend an airshow at Andrews AFB and to meet a young girl, Baylie Owen, who had had the same brain surgery I did. My surgery for Arnold Chiari Malformation was in 2002 at age 57. Chiari is a condition where the brain herniates down into the spinal cord. If not repaired it will cut off the flow of spinal fluid between the brain and the spinal cord and can lead to death. I read about Baylie Owen in People magazine. This adorable 5-year-old cutie had Chiari surgery at the University of Chicago. Baylie decided to raise money for Chiari research by making beaded bracelets and selling them for $5 each. In one year she made $100,000 and donated all of it to the University of Chicago for research. I talked with Baylie and her mom by phone, and learned that we were both going to be in Washington, D.C. at the same time. We arranged to meet and attend a coffee sponsored by then-Illinois Senators Obama and Dick Durbin at the Senate Office Building. I invited Baylie to attend an air show at Andrews AFB with me. During the senators’ coffee for their Illinois constituents, Baylie and others were

invited to the podium to tell the senators what they needed help with. After telling her story, she turned, faced the two senators, placed her hands on her hips and said “Gentlemen, I cannot continue to raise money for Chiari research by myself - I NEED your help.” Sen. Obama pointed at Bailey and said, “Young lady, I want YOU on my staff.” After the coffee we sold Bailey’s bracelets to the attendees and made $500 in about 15 minutes. We were photographed with the two senators, who sent the photos to us. Then we were off to the airshow. The Andrews AFB newspaper wrote a terrific story about Baylie. We sat under the wing of the B-17 Memphis Belle used in the Hollywood movie of the same name and sold a lot of bracelets. All in all a grand weekend for two brain surgery survivors who got to meet a future president.

Ralph Crow, Smiths Station: In the spring of 1994, my son Matt and I traveled to Plains, Ga., to hear President Carter teach Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church. It was so awesome for Matt and I to worship with our former president and first lady. Matt and I were able to shake hands with them and have our picture made after the service. Mrs. Carter, I remember her squeezing my arm real tight. They were both so friendly. FEBRUARY 2017 13

Shirley Cunard, Rockford: My husband, Sam, and I visited Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., around 2010. We arrived early and were able to sit with others near the front. Former President Carter would be teaching Sunday school and we were briefed on not making an effort to shake hands with him. After Sunday school was over, as President and Mrs. Carter re-entered the sanctuary for the morning service, President Carter reached out to shake hands with Sam, no one else, just Sam! Sam said, “Well, he offered and I was not going to refuse him.” Following the morning service, we took a picture with President and Mrs. Carter. While getting ready to take the picture, President Carter chuckled when I said, “Ain’t nobody in Coosa County, Alabama gonna believe this!” Steven Neleson, Guntersville: This photo was taken in Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower in New York City in August of 1989. Our family was attending the wedding of my cousin, whose future father-in-law just happened to be one of Trump’s personal lawyers and friend. The lawyer was giving us, his new extended family, a tour of the city and, unexpectedly, took the opportunity to introduce our family to Mr.

Trump in his office. Mr. Trump was very personal and pleasant and took the time to meet each one of us and asked where we lived and what we did for a living. After the introduction, the lawyer had a short one-onone meeting with Mr. Trump and must have told him about my situation with cancer, which I battled in 1988 and 1989. After the wedding I made one last final trip to the hospital for chemotherapy. When I got home this letter was in my mailbox. I was not expecting the letter when I got home, and it was a nice surprise and keepsake. Unfortunately, the signature has faded over time.

Debbie Deese, proprietor of Red’s Little School House restaurant in Montgomery County: It was raining when I drove our school bus onto Mr. Ray Scott’s property in 1990w. Kinda cute using an old school bus for Red’s Little School House to cater out of, huh? We were instructed to set up the buffet line in a garage. There was a side door that led to a tent filled with tables and chairs for the guests. I didn’t get to see President George H.W. Bush come through the line because I was running back and forth to the bus for refills. In the process, I dropped a ladle and it rolled under a work table. There is a rubber mat that runs down the center of the bus, and it was wet. As I was crawling around to get my ladle, I got two big black stains on my knees. As we were cleaning up, Mr. Scott came to tell us he was bringing President Bush to meet us. Oh my, I looked so dirty! What would I say? I told myself to be polite and calm. (Very hard for me.) Another thought: there were issues with Israel at that time; dare I talk politics with him? The scriptures clearly say, woe to any nation against Israel. No matter what, I did not want to sound like the country bumpkin that I truly am. When they walked up, I had something like an out-of-body experience and I heard myself say, “me and my boy picked them collard greens yesterday.” Can’t take the country out of me!

John Barnett, Brewton and Monroeville: I have had the pleasure of meeting both Bushes, and Jimmy Carter when he was governor of Georgia and beginning his run for the presidency. I met President Carter at his son Chip’s wedding in Hawkinsville, Georgia, in the early 1970s. I was invited to come over by a girl I had dated. He was cordial and we did not speak very long but he told me to “take care of those pretty girls you are with.” I laughed and told him I would try. The circumstance of meeting the elder Bush was somewhat unusual. I was attending business a meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., and George H.W. Bush was the keynote speaker. It was during the 2000 campaign for George W. Bush. After the dinner, the attendees could line up for a photo op with the former president, and we all got an autographed copy of his book. When it was my turn for the photo, he was sitting down and appeared white as a sheet. I commented that it was a pleasure to meet him and that he did not look like he felt very well. He

14 FEBRUARY 2017

smiled and said, “Oh, I’ll be fine,” and I filed on out and went to my room. When I woke up the next morning the news reported that “former President Bush is resting comfortably at a local hospital,” which shocked me. It turns out he had been campaigning and was just exhausted from it all. I was invited to sit at the Bedsole Foundation table when former President George W. Bush spoke at a University of Mobile function in 2010, and we had an opportunity for a photo with the president. I had seen Nelle Harper Lee that day, and I told him that she sent her regards. He asked, “Is she a friend of yours?” I said yes, she was. My grandfather and her father were law partners, and I was law partners with Miss Alice Lee, her sister, for many years. He also told me that “Laura told me that if I was giving the Medal of Freedom to anyone it was going to be Harper Lee.” (Bush presented the award to Lee in 2007.)

Charles Patterson, Elkmont: As soon as we sat down, camera flashes started going off and The morning of Oct. 15, 1984, was an exciting one for me. reporters started asking a barrage of questions. There were news President Reagan was coming to Tuscaloosa to speak to the stucameras pointed at us and microphones hanging over our heads. dent body at the University of Alabama, so not only was I going to I tried to be calm, but this was quite unnerving for a 23-yearbe able to see the president of the United States, but I didn’t have old kid. I noticed at one point that when I dipped my fry into my to go to classes that day. ketchup, it was shaking as I put it into my mouth. When his speech at Memorial Coliseum (now Coleman ColisePresident Reagan was super nice. He wanted to know where um) ended, I decided to drive out to the airport to watch Air Force I was from, how old I was, what I was majoring in at school. He One take off. State troopers had the entrance to the airport blocked talked some about Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Alabama footand wouldn’t let anyone in, so I turned around and headed to get ball. He was a genuinely nice man. I have told people that it was some lunch before reporting to work at Battle’s Auto Parts. almost like talking to your grandfather. He was easy to talk to. I chose to eat at the McDonald’s in Northport so I could at least While we were eating, one of his aides came up and said, “Mr. see the motorcade drive by on its way to the airport. President, we need to leave.” The president told him to let him I went in and ordered my meal and sat down by a window. In finish his hamburger. The aide left but came back just a few mina few minutes, I saw the utes later. He again said, “Mr. motorcade making a left President, we have to be in turn onto McFarland BouGeorgia so we need to leave.” levard off Bridge Avenue. As President Reagan told him it started up the incline, it rather sternly, “I’m going to turned onto the access road finish this hamburger.” The alongside McFarland and aide walked away. then turned into the WenThe president then leaned dy’s next door. over to me and said, “You see The motorcade circled what I have to put up with?” Wendy’s and waved at evHe then smiled. He seemed eryone inside the Wendy’s to be enjoying his hamburgand then came up the access er. He told me that that was road and turned into the the first time he had eaten a McDonald’s. hamburger in a McDonald’s I thought to myself that since before he was governor the motorcade was going of California. to do the same thing and As soon as he put the last circle and wave at everyone bite of his hamburger into his then head to the airport. I Charles Patterson was a 23-year-old student at Alabama when he got the thrill mouth, the aide once again stepped out on the sidewalk of a lifetime: A chance lunch at McDonald’s with President Reagan in 1984. came up to him. “Mr. Presiand waved to the president dent ...” was all he got out of as his limousine went by. Just as I got seated at my tray, I noticed his mouth. President Reagan said, “Here, take my fries and my tea the motorcade had stopped. and put them in the car.” About that time, one of President Reagan’s aides came into the We stood up and shook hands again, and he spoke to others McDonald’s and announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the presiin the McDonald’s and headed to the limousine. I walked Sen. dent of the United States.” Jeremiah Denton to his car and he told me, “Son, you have made President Reagan then walked in. He stopped at the door with history today. You are the first person in history to eat lunch inthe aide and they kind of huddled together and pointed at me. side a fast food restaurant with a sitting president.” President Reagan walked on up to the counter to place his order, That night I was on all three major network news shows. I and the aide came over to me. When he got to me he told me that taped them all. They are burned on CDs now. The next day, I was the president had sent him over to ask me if I would have lunch in newspapers from Maine to San Francisco. I got copies of all I with him. I said, “Sure. Just show me where to go.” could, and they are in a scrapbook in my home. He asked me to bring my tray over to a table that they had choThe next week, I was in Newsweek and U.S. News and World sen. I took my tray over and waited on the president. He came to Report magazines. the table a couple of minutes later. I flew to Washington a few weeks later for a job interview. I stood up, stuck out my hand and introduced myself to the While in Washington, I left an 8-by-10 photo with a White House president, and he said, “Charles, let’s eat.’’ staff member. I had a Big Mac and a fish sandwich, a large fry and a Dr. Pepper. President Reagan signed it and mailed it back to me. He also He had a Big Mac, a large fry and an unsweet tea. sent me an invitation to his inauguration. I have both the photo What was cool about the unsweet tea was that when he got to and the invitation hanging on a wall in my home. the table he reached into his pocket and he pulled out what looked Over the years, my lunch with President Reagan aired on like was an ink pen. He held it out over the tea and started clicking HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News’’ and was also included in two it, like you would click a fountain pen. documentaries, one on A&E and one on the History Channel. A white powder fell out into the tea. It was a sweetener. SomeThe day President Reagan died, on June 5, 2004, I had four one said, “Oh, oh. It looks like our president is using a controlled news crews at my home and I relived that lunch again. substance.’’ And everyone got a big kick out of that. I had never What a day I had back on Oct. 15, 1984, at the McDonald’s in seen one of those pens before and I haven’t seen one since. Northport. Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017 15

All aboard for Alabama’s railroad history Jim Garnett, in full costume, beckons passengers onto one of the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum cars decorated for Christmas. PHOTO BY MARK STEPHENSON


he sheer power of a locomotive, the role trains played in developing industry, and the romance of train travel are all reasons people love trains and everything connected with them. In 19th-century Alabama, railroads not only connected regions of the state together, but also connected Alabama to the rest of the nation.

By Marilyn Jones After 1830, when the General Assembly of Alabama approved the Tuscumbia Railroad in Franklin County, railroads steadily became more important to the young state as an efficient transportation option for people and goods. Many towns and cities can trace their beginnings directly back to the railroads and the business it brought to otherwise remote areas of the state, including Birmingham, which was developed at the intersection of two rail lines – making transportation of raw materials for the fledgling steel industry possible.

Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

The rumble of a locomotive welcomes me when I arrive at Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum; I feel a subtle vibration in the air. For any train and railroad buff, these are the things railway dreams are made of.

16 FEBRUARY 2017

The museum, the official railroad museum of the state of Alabama, is located just south of Birmingham in Calera. Straddling a stretch of what was The Alabama Mineral Railroad that once served much of central Alabama and Birmingham, the museum includes a large collection of railroad cars, locomotives and cabooses, and a train designed for regular rail excursions into the Alabama countryside. The mineral railroad was a mixture of freight and passenger cars, and traveled as far east as Anniston before circling back to Birmingham and then down to Calera before heading east again. “The train stopped at all the little towns along the way,” says Jim Garnett, museum president. “At the same time limestone, iron ore and coke were collected and then dropped off in Birmingham for the steel industry before making the journey again.” There are also two restored train depots at the museum.


One now serves as a showplace It is now home to dozens of interfor smaller items, including hisesting artifacts and informational toric uniforms, signal lights and displays. Several trunks are stacked lanterns; linen, china and cutlery along one wall just below a schedfrom early train travel; and lots of ule board, and benches stretch historic photos. down the center of the room. “We have an extensive collec- Dozens of old rail cars sit in the yard at the Heart of Dixie Railroad “There is a lot of Civil War histion,” says Garnett as we walk Museum in Calera. PHOTO BY MARK STEPHENSON tory associated with the depot as around the gallery. well,” says Forest. “Union Forces “Our organization dates back to the 1960s,” he says as we walk occupying Huntsville during the Civil War used the depot as a outside for a closer look at some of the railcars. “We started out in prison for soldiers in the Confederate Army in 1862. Birmingham, but in the ’70s we realized we needed a bigger area “Come on upstairs,” he says. “The graffiti the soldiers wrote is to store our collection. still on the walls.” Protected by Plexiglas, the pencil-written sig“A lot of our collection has been donated by railroad companatures, messages, drawings and dates can still be seen. nies, or the cars are surplus and we bid on them to add to our Another display helps explain the importance of cotton in the collection,” he says. “We have tank cars, box cars, railroad post South and how it was grown, harvested and prepared for transoffice cars, flat cars, passenger cars, baggage cars; we even have a port to mills. Several photographs show the depot in its heyday, camp car that was used by employees working on rails in remote and a large model railroad illustrates the local rail history. Alabama has a wonderful and rich train heritage spanning nearareas. It is equipped with beds and a small kitchen.” ly two centuries. A visit to one of these museums, or another reOne car Garnett is especially proud of is a planetarium dome stored depot or rail museum, is a worthy history lesson. Volunteers car. “We have extensively restored it,” he says. “We’re lucky to have and train enthusiasts are always available to answer questions. it in our collection.” Garnett says the non-profit museum’s train rides are their main source of income. Throughout the year regularly scheduled exRailroad museums and attractions in Alabama cursions as well as special events provide more than 40,000 guests Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, 1919 Ninth St., Calera. (205) 757the opportunity to ride the rails. 8383;

Huntsville Depot and Museum

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Huntsville Depot dates to 1860 and is the oldest train depot in the state, and one of the oldest in the nation. “The Depot served passengers and was the corporate office for the eastern division of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad,” says museum tour guide Winter Forest. “It was used until 1968.” We start the tour in a life-size diorama complete with moving animatronic ticket agent, telegraph operator and mechanic catching 40 winks. The figures are surrounded by antique furniture and equipment showing what it was like to work for the Southern Railway at the turn of the last century. The next room once served as the waiting area for passengers.

Huntsville Depot and Museum, 320 Church St., Huntsville. (256) 564-8100; North Alabama Railroad Museum: 694 Chase Road, Huntsville. (256) 851-7276; Bessemer Hall of History: 1905 Alabama Ave., Bessemer. (205) 426-1633; Foley Railroad Museum: 125 E. Laurel Ave., Foley. (271) 932-1818; Fort Payne Depot Museum: 105 Fifth St. NE, Fort Payne. (256) 845-5714; Wales West Light Railway: 13670 Smiley St., Silverhill. (251) 9431818;

1. Winter Forest explains the cotton industry and its importance to the South and the railroad; 2. A recently restored planetarium dome car is featured at Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum; 3. Protected by Plexiglas, the Confederate soldier pencil-written signatures, messages, drawings and dates can still be seen at Huntsville Depot and Museum; 4. A telegraph operator is one of the life-size characters welcoming visitors to Huntsville Depot and Museum PHOTOS BY MARILYN JONES


1 Alabama Living


4 FEBRUARY 2017 17

New speaker aims for cohesion among House members

By Allison Griffin


State Rep. John Knight, second from left, talks with new House Speaker Mac McCutcheon on the House floor in 2016.

s the 2017 Legislative session nears, one of the biggest concerns for new Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon is healing some of the divisions among his House members, and changing their focus to work for a common good. “They’re working well together,” the speaker said of the House members just before Christmas. “They’re focused on working together to accomplish something. That was one of my big goals, to try to bring the group back together so we could all work together, and they’re doing that.” McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, was elected speaker in August, replacing former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. The Auburn legislator was convicted of 12 ethics charges in 2016, which triggered his removal from office. Legislators chose McCutcheon to fill the speaker’s chair with 68 votes over the Democratic candidate, Rep. John Knight of Montgomery. By all accounts, McCutcheon is universally liked and respected by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Other than creating a more unified body, McCutcheon’s top priority is the budgets, especially the continually troubled General Fund budget. McCutcheon says he’s been traveling around the state, talking to voters about their concerns, and “looking at facts and information rather than rumors.” To that end, McCutcheon sponsored a resolution in September that created a 14-member task force, which includes seven senators and seven House members, to meet and discuss budget reforms and tax credits. It is to report its findings to the Legislature during the upcoming session. “This commission is not about a piece of legislation,” he says. It’s about gathering facts and information, he says, “and we’ve never approached it that way before.” McCutcheon says he’s weary of people who say, “we’re wasting too much money,” with little evidence to back up the assertion. “My response is, where are we wasting it? So far, I haven’t had anybody who’s been able to give me facts and figures about which agency is wasting money.” He also wants to find a solution to the revenue streams, which fund state government. “We keep chipping away at a revenue stream, and the cost of running business continues to go up.” He says a fresh look at property tax and a fair tax (moving away from income tax and moving toward a consumption-based system) is a “discussion that needs to happen to get us thinking about new ideas and being creative.” 18  FEBRUARY 2017

The new speaker discussed several issues he foresees in the upcoming session in a recent interview. Infrastructure. “We haven’t addressed any type of funding for statewide, and I emphasize statewide, infrastructure,” he says. But there is no clear-cut solution. “Is gas tax the answer? Energy-efficient vehicles? Tags? Buying registration permits?” McCutcheon says that for many of the rural counties that have high unemployment, the lack of a good transit system is holding them back from prosperity. “The workforce is there,” he says. “But you can’t get companies into the state, into some of these areas, because we don’t have the infrastructure to move their stuff in and out. That’s a huge thing.” Medicaid. President Trump has advocated turning Medicaid funding into block grants, which McCutcheon thinks could be beneficial for the state, so long as the feds don’t over-regulate the money. Advocates for the poor fear the block grant idea will actually mean less funding for Medicaid, which is a state-federal partnership. Medicaid covers one in five people in Alabama and is crucial to the health care for nearly half of the state’s children. Medicaid’s funding hasn’t kept pace with its growth; the legislature voted to use part of Alabama’s share of BP settlement funds over the 2010 Gulf oil spill to provide $105 million for Medicaid in 2018. But that in itself is an issue, McCutcheon says. One-time monies have plugged holes in the budgets, but “we are not in a position where we can sustain Medicaid growth,” he says. “We have to find a way to fix the problem.” Prisons. In 2016, Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, with Gov. Robert Bentley’s backing, proposed an $800 million plan to construct new prisons to close and relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons. The plan didn’t make it out of the Legislature, and among the concerns are the impacts the closures would have on rural communities, where the prison is often the largest employer. “I know it’s a hotbed subject, but I think it needs to be on the table,” McCutcheon says. It will be a No. 1 priority from the governor’s office, and he thinks the legislators can find a solution. “We sure don’t want the federal government to dictate to us what to do.” Agriculture – specifically incentivizing irrigation of farmland. “The studies have shown that if we can provide water to (more) land, we can increase our economic agriculture situation tremendously.” Even without the lingering drought in Alabama, McCutcheon says the state needs to help farmers be more productive.

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  19

New state S schools leader says he’s focused on the future

By Allison Griffin

By Allison Griffin Photo by Michael Cornelison

tate school superintendent Michael Sentance, appointed by the Alabama Board of Education in August, has had a busy first few months on the job. He’s traveled all over the state to meet educators and students and to visit first-hand the schools under his administration. There have been some very public challenges so far: Gov. Robert Bentley told a group in early November that the state’s education system “sucks,” which angered educators, and in December, Sentance told the state school board that Alabama had artificially inflated its graduation rates and that the state is under federal investigation. Federal education dollars could be at risk. And some have called into question his lack of experience in a school; Sentance has not worked as a teacher or school administrator. (His background is largely in public policy.) And some have wondered if a Massachusetts native and longtime New Englander can understand the challenges to education in the deep South. But Sentance told Alabama Living in December that he’s focused on the horizon. “I don’t see it as being that difficult for me,” he says. “I’m pretty focused on making sure that what we’re doing is rigorous, that it’s in the best interest of the students, in making sure that their lives are going to be ready for the demands of this century.” Sentance offered his thoughts on other issues in the following interview, which has been edited for length. Tell me about what your reception’s been like here. There’s been a little bit of curiosity and a fair amount of interest on the part of educators and public officials. I think that there’s interest in having a new perspective on raising achievement in the state, and I think I bring that to this office. But overall, it’s been pretty positive. It’s not always been a universal welcoming conversation, but I think once educators hear me talk and understand the depth of my knowledge of issues and also the passion to improve, they find a willingness to give me an opportunity to succeed here.

I know you’ve spent much of your time so far going to schools. Maybe you can talk about the smaller, rural schools you’ve been to? I’ve probably been more to smaller school districts than to the larger ones. I’ve been to schools in the Black Belt, I’ve been to schools in the northeast part of

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  21

the state, I’ve been to some in the southern part of the state, the southeastern corner. You see the challenges that people have in terms of resources, and you see the challenges in terms of attracting talent to these schools. But you also see a pretty profound commitment to children on the part of these educators. So there are reasons for hope.

(Editor’s note: The Common Core initiative is a set of math and English language arts standards that was initially created with the hope that all states would adopt them, allowing for cross-state comparisons of student performance. Alabama’s version is called College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS), which was approved in November 2010.)

It can be difficult to recruit and also retain teachers in some of these smaller, sometimes geographically isolated areas. Do you have a plan to address that? I think that once people have decided to come teach, they’re oftentimes committed to living in that area. While it’s not universally true, I think that’s often the case. The serious question is, the first one, is whether “I’m going to go teach.” That’s an issue. We’ve had a decline in the number of people coming into teaching in the state. We’re going to try to reverse that. We’re going to try to make sure that people understand that this is a state that is very welcoming to talented young people, and that we want bright, creative people to be part of the education program in this state. So hopefully we’ll come up with some ideas about that in the near future.

You’ve been critical of Common Core in other states. Alabama has put a lot of money in training and time into CCRS. Do you anticipate making big changes? What is your take on that? We’re engaged in a series of initiatives to develop strategic plans to raise achievement. We have a math initiative that’s going forward. We just had our first meeting of the leaders of that group this morning. I thought it was a pretty positive meeting. We’re doing the same with science, and we’re going to be doing the same with reading achievement. With each of those domains, we’re going to be talking about content. We had a pretty good experience with a local school here (in Montgomery) that is teaching students mathematics at a level which is 2-3 years ahead of where our students are today. We need to understand that level of expectation for students, and start to figure out how do we get our students from where we are to where they are, so that Alabama is positioned for the next quarter century. And that’s going to require a really deep conversation about content and the expectations for students. I think it needs to be improved.

Another issue a lot of our schools seem to face is broadband access. Not just for the kids who don’t have (internet) access at home, but the schools themselves. Is that an issue you’ve been presented with? There are opportunities there. We have to be sure that people are maximizing their use of the E-rate, the federal funding source for technology. It has been brought to my attention that not all school When you were hired, you took districts are doing that. So heat from some educators who we’re going to try to help them State Superintendent Michael Sentance, right, looks over students’ work noted that you didn’t come understand the possibilities during an “innovation celebration” for Lanett City Schools. from the classroom or have there. experience running a school We do want to make sure that, particularly for schools in more system. (Sentance holds a law degree as well as a master of laws remote parts of the state, that they are at least getting access to degree. He has worked in education policy for the commonwealth resources on the internet that can be critically important for their of Massachusetts, for the U.S. Department of Education under success. So we are going to be talking about that in the future. George W. Bush and most recently as a consultant on education reform for a U.K.-based company.) How do you counter that? You spent most if not all of your life in the Northeast. What called My parents were both public school educators. The conversayou to come to Alabama? Why Alabama? tion about what goes on in the classroom was first started over the I did apply for the position in 2010, so it wasn’t as though this kitchen table when I was very young. I listened quite a bit. was the first time I had expressed any interest in the state. I served as the chairman of the local school board for half a It’s my belief that I have something to offer to the state. I was decade. I worked closely with the educators in that district, and part of an initiative in Massachusetts which resulted in extremely it was a relatively small district, under-resourced, below the state high performance in achievement in that state. While that state average in spending, so I’ve had these conversations about what it has been engaged in public education for centuries now, the simtakes to improve for a long period of time. ple fact of the matter was that in the early 1990s, we weren’t at the I spent the next probably 25, 30 years just working on local and top in the country. We were in fact not the top performing state state issues, about how to raise achievement, what’s involved with in New England. We engaged in a number of different activities that, how do we get quality teachers in classrooms, all these imto raise that achievement, and I saw things that worked and I saw portant public policy issues. That’s an area I have deep experience things that didn’t work. with. This is an office which is an administrative office, and it’s I hope to bring the best parts of that to my experience here, also a public policy office. I think that I have the skill set to meet because I think I have something to give back. the demands of this office. 22  FEBRUARY 2017

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  23

| Alabama People |

Information, please

Ernestine Crowell If you visit the House of Representatives in the Alabama State House in Montgomery, you can’t get very far without encountering a petite bundle of energy named Ernestine Crowell. Below her name on her business cards is a simple title: “Information Desk,” and no one who does business at the statehouse would dispute that. At 68, she is the go-to person for new and old legislators, their staffs and anyone else who steps off the fifth-floor elevator, dispensing advice and the quick retort, usually with a smile. A native of Russell County, she and her husband Gen. Ed Crowell, a retired Air Force general and top executive with VT Miltope, live in Montgomery. “Ernestine is the sprocket that makes the legislative machine continue to run,” says Sean Strickler, vice president of public affairs at the Alabama Rural Electric Association. “She is the first person you see when you come to the House. She knows who the players are and who can answer questions and solve problems. Without her, countless would have left the House with unanswered questions instead of solutions.” Alabama Living caught up with her last month, before the Alabama Legislature’s 2017 session convenes on Feb. 7. – Lenore Vickrey


ow long have you worked at the State House? Too long (laughs). Twenty-five years, through the tenures of seven governors. I started in 1985 part-time only when the Legislature was in session. I was in bills and duplicating when we were in the Capitol. Those were the days! Eventually I went fulltime and we moved to the State House, and they needed someone to handle mail and answer the phones at the I nformat ion Desk. What’s the most enjoyable part of your job? W h e n a stranger walks onto the 5th floor, I say, “Excuse me,

stranger, what are doing and why are you loitering in my hallways?” They look at me like, “What?” And then they relax. My favorite thing to do is harass people. And I don’t discriminate. Once when (current Attorney General) Luther Strange came up here, I showed him my hammer (a hand-carved wooden mallet given to her by former Rep. DuWayne Bridges of Valley). I said, “You know Troy King?” He said, “Yes ma’am.” I told him, “When Troy King started he was your height.” When the Republicans swept the legislative elections in 2010, (then House Speaker) Mike Hubbard told the incoming legislators, “Don’t leave here until you see Miss Ernestine.” And I told them all, ‘I need your cell number and your spouse’s name and cell number. So if you get out of line, I will beat your b--- and I will call your spouses. I’d call the legislator up and say, “What were you thinking?” They become like your family members, and I’m like their grandmother. Sometimes I have to take care of legislators who are sick. I adore every one of them. What are some of your favorite memories? I’ve been here when we had the big crowds for famous folks like (former New York mayor) Rudy Giuliani, (former Alabama coach) Dennis Franchione and (country singer) George Jones. When George died, I told Gov. Bentley I needed the state plane to go to Possum’s funeral. I didn’t get it. You don’t have a problem giving advice to legislators and state officials, do you? No, I have nothing to lose. They’re really a good group of people, but like I told (former Governor) Bob Riley when he started out, ‘You need to get out of your ivory tower and don’t have all those ‘yes’ people surrounding you.’ He listened to me because he came back and started going up and down the halls talking to people. He works for you and me. He puts his pants on like everybody else. You are the first person people reach when they call their representative. Yes, and I get calls from people, many times senior citizens who are having a hard time. Many are veterans. When I talk to a person and they need help with their power bill or need some help, I call on two people I rely on and they help. That’s why I’m here. I work for the citizens of Alabama.

Photo by Brooke Echols

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  25

| Gardens |


The Month to Love Our Water


ate last year, roadside signs began appearing near my home in Lee County stating “Drought Alert: Conserve Water.” Those signs were in response to a statewide drought declaration that put all 67 Alabama counties under an official drought “emergency” or “warning” status. As 2017 arrived, and despite intermittent rains in December and several days of steady rain in early January, the signs stayed up — a reminder that even heavy winter rains may not be enough to fully replenish our water supplies for the coming year. The signs were also a reminder that we gardeners can do our part in conserving this most valuable of natural resources in our own yards. In light of last year’s drought, the possibility of future droughts and the fact that saving water usually translates into saving money, I propose making water our official Valentine of 2017 and showing it a little love! Lots of information on making our yards and gardens more drought tolerant can be found through local and state water and conservation agencies and through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Many of these resources tout the idea of a water-friendly landscape management approach called xeriscaping. Xeriscaping (also known as xero-scaping and smart-scaping) helps us rethink our yards and gardens with water conservation in mind. Applying its principles to our landscapes can help reduce water use by one-third and make our yards and gardens easier to maintain. It’s a relatively easy approach to adopt that starts with an evaluation of the existing landscape, a process that can begin this month while most of us are in a gardening lull. On those wet, cold February days when you’re stuck indoors, take some time to list

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

26 FEBRUARY 2017

which parts of the yard and which plants needed the most irrigation in the past. This can help target areas that need the most immediate attention. During those pretty February days, walk around the yard and garden and make notes about which areas are typically dry or wet, sunny or shady and hilly, flat or low-lying. These areas represent microclimates that may have different water needs as you plan for the future. Also, identify areas where the soil is poor and take soil test samples, the results of which can help you decide what nutrients and amendments to add that will improve soil fertility and moisture-holding capacity. While you’re at it, assess the way you’ve been irrigating in the past. Does your irrigation system need updating or adjusting so it irrigates plants, not the sidewalk or the street? Are you using hoses and sprinklers that need to be replaced with more water-efficient equipment? Make a shopping list and use it to stock up on new equipment before prices start to rise in the spring. Also, think about what plants you hope to add to your yard and garden in the coming year and pick ones that require less water, such as native plants and drought-tolerant varieties. If you’re not sure which plants are best, consult plant lists for the South. If you’re ordering vegetable seeds CORRECTION In last month’s column, I wrote about the Harvest for Health Program, which pairs gardeners with cancer survivors to help the survivors improve their quality of life. The phone number listed for Harvest for Health was incorrect. The correct number is 1-844-GROW-GR8.

and transplants, pick ones that are more drought-tolerant or better adapted to Alabama’s climate. Now is also a good time to think about reducing the size of your lawn, the thirstiest part of almost any yard. And on those February nights, curl up with reading material on drought-tolerant gardening strategies. Visit your local library and browse through magazines and books or get your hands on some step-by-step publications. Two great ones are available through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Xeriscaping: Landscape Design for Water Conservation and Drought Tolerant Landscapes for Alabama, which contains an extensive list of water-thrifty trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and herbs. Both publications are available on By matching a landscape’s water needs with your gardening dreams, you can rethink your yard and garden for this year and for years to come. And take heart: You don’t have to completely re-do the landscape all at once. Just concentrate on the thirstiest parts of the yard first and make small changes where you can. Your yard and your water supplies will feel the love.

February Tips       

 

Give plants, seeds and gardening supplies to your Valentine. Plant roses, trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. Order seeds for the spring and summer garden. Start seeds for spring vegetables and bedding plants. Get gardening tools ready for the coming season. Begin planting summer-blooming bulbs. Prune summer-flowering shrubs now, but delay pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom. Clean out moldy or sprouting seeds before refilling bird feeders. Attend gardening workshops and classes or get involved with local gardening clubs and organizations.

Alabama Living

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February | Around Alabama

Photo courtesy of USS Alabama Memorial Park.

of the 1948 International style Bartlett House, 836 Park Ave. The 1948 Bartlett House was a glamourous structure and one of three residential buildings designed by Atlanta architect James R. Wilkinson. Tickets are $20 and are available at or 334-240-4500.

The Living History Crew will be aboard the USS Alabama Feb. 4-5.

Jan. 28Feb. 12

Hoover, The Lego Americana Roadshow, a highly visual and educational traveling installation of larger than life Lego replicas of some of our nation’s beloved landmarks, the Riverchase Galleria. 10 one-of-a-kind, large scale models of American landmarks, including the U.S. Capitol, White House, Jefferson Memorial and more. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Free.


Mobile, Living History Crew Drill at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Step back into WWII and experience life aboard the USS Alabama with the Living History Crew. See call to battle stations, YAK attacks by “enemy” aircraft, interact with the crew and observe live radio broadcasts.


Huntsville, Huntsville Comic Convention spotlights the comic book culture, featuring artist talks, gaming demos and more at Lowe Mill A&E, 2211 Seminole Drive. Explore the Mill’s 138 working studios and more than 200 artists. $10, one day pass, $15 two-day pass.


Millbrook, Get outdoors and run wild at the Seventh Annual Alabama Nature Center Critter Crawl. The Critter Crawl will feature a 5K and 1 mile run along the beautiful trails at Lanark. The Critter Crawl 5K begins at 9 a.m. and takes runners through a portion of the Alabama Nature Center’s 5-mile trail system. There will also be a 1-mile race beginning at 10 a.m. Pre-registration cost is $25 (5K) or $20 (1 Mile). Day-of registration

is an additional $5. Participants may pick up race packets at the ANC Pavilion Friday, February 10, from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. In addition, there will be a costume contest, so be creative and run as an Alabama critter! Music and food will be provided, plus door prizes and lots of room for kids to play. All races start and finish at the

ANC NaturePlex. Please visit or call Matt Vines at 334-285-4550 for more information. Register online at


Montgomery, Mid-Century Modern preview tour

Union Springs, “Tokens of Affection” at Red Door Theatre, located at Prairie Street and US 82. “Tokens of Affection” explores the empty nest syndrome, complications of longterm romance, and general family dysfunction when a wife of 37 years announces that she’s leaving her husband. Each partner seeks solace at the homes of their grown children and hilarity ensues. The Garret family learns that the little things, the tokens of affection, matter the most. For tickets and information, visit or call 334-738-8687.


Auburn, Project Linus: Make a Blanket Day, The local Project Linus chapter will host a Make a Blanket Day at Cornerstone Church, 2123 Hamilton Road. Blankets are donated to children in a crisis situation through hospitals, shelters and other agencies. For more information about Project Linus, visit

22 Mardi Gras Around Alabama Feb. 18 Butler, Mardi Gras Parade and Block Party, butleralabama. org, 205-459-3795 Fairhope, Knights of Ecor Rouge Mardi Gras Parade, Rogersville, Joe Wheeler State Park’s Mardi Gras Masquerade,, 256-247-5461 Feb. 22 Gulf Shores, Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball, lulubuffett. com, 251-967-5858 Feb. 24 Fairhope, Maids of Mardi Gras Parade,, 251-928-6387 Feb. 25 Chatom, Mardi Gras Parade,, 251-847-2580 Wetumpka, Order of Cimarron Mardi Gras Celebration, 334-424-2867

To place an event, e-mail or visit You can also mail to Events Calendar, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124; Each submission must include a contact name and phone number. Deadline is two months prior to issue date. We regret that we cannot publish every event due to space limitations.

Alabama Living


Theodore, Horticulture by the Numbers. Mystified by all of the numbers on a fertilizer bag and how you measure pH? Bellingrath Garden’s Horticulturist Chuck Owens will share his extensive knowledge of the basics and how to use this information to get your garden in perfect balance. 10:30-11:30 a.m. Free for members, $13 non-members. Reservations requested. 251-973-2217


Dothan, Quilt Retreat at Landmark Park. Snowball blocks use straight lines to make things appear round. Learn how to make several kinds of snowball blocks and use them in many ways to make quilts. Several choices will be available. Accuquilt cutter will also be available to make your cutting a breeze. Call 334-794-3452 with your name and phone number to register for the retreat. Cost TBA. 5 p.m.-9 p.m. and 9 a.m.-5 p.m.


Arley, Wild Game Feast, Meek Baptist Church, 360 Helicon Road. Come taste a variety of wild game and enjoy guest speaker, international safari hunter Dr. Paige Patterson and live music by Greg McDougal and family. There also will be vendors offering products, services and educational seminars. Free.

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FEBRUARY 2017 29


| Consumer Wise |

Smartphone energy apps Can they really save you money? By Patrick Keegan and Amy Wheeless


I’m interested in smartphone apps that will help track my energy use and provide tips for how to reduce it. Do you have any suggestions?

information that you provide. One example is Touchstone Energy’s “Together We Save” app, which provides energy savings tips for the home, as well as energy use calculators. Additional apps that can help you track and understand your enThere are several smartphone apps that can help you deterergy use are becoming available each day. Read reviews from other mine how energy is used in your home. Energy use apps can users to learn which apps have been most beneficial. Keep in mind also provide information that helps you that while these apps can give you an choose efficiency upgrades that make idea of how much energy you are using, the most sense for your home. which areas of your home are using the Here are a few types of smartphone most energy and tips for reducing your apps you could consider downloading: use—it’s up to you to evaluate the information the app provides. One thing to Your electric co-op’s app: Many electric co-ops offer smartphone apps that remember is that apps often only look allow you to view recent bills and set at a single fuel use, so if you have an high use alerts. Many of these apps will all-electric home, the app could be quite also let you pay your bill through the conclusive—but if you have appliances app, read about any co-op efficiency profueled by natural gas or propane, the information will be less thorough. grams or incentives, compare your enerWith trend data from an energy app, gy use to similar homes and learn how you should be able to pinpoint large enthe weather may have impacted your energy bill. Visit your co-op’s website to ergy uses in your home. For example, find out if they offer a smartphone app. if heating and cooling are significant draws on your energy bills, investing Smart thermostat apps: There are in weatherization measures or upgrada number of smart thermostats on the ing your system to a more efficient one market from companies like Alarm. could have a big impact on your bill. com, ecobee, Honeywell and Nest. Smart Apps that give you access to real-time thermostats can optimize your home’s information can be a powerful diagnosheating and cooling based on your family’s habits and the weather. If you have tic tool to help you evaluate the impact one of these smart thermostats, take of an energy efficiency measure. advantage of the corresponding smartA good practice is to sit down regphone app that can give you detailed ularly to look at trends and changes to information about your home’s heating your energy bills. Has your energy use and cooling use. increased in the last month? Was the Energy disaggregation device apps: weather significantly colder or warmer? There are some devices and correspondWas your family at home more often ing smartphone apps from companies Touchstone Energy’s Together We Save app provides because of a holiday? Does your co-op such as Bidgely and PlotWatt that ana- energy tips and energy use calculators. have time-of-use rates, and if so, do you PHOTO COURTESY TOUCHSTONE ENERGY COOPERATIVES lyze electric signals to determine how make any adjustments to your energy much electricity appliances are using in use to account for those different rates— your home. With these devices and apps, you can see the energy for example, running your clothes dryer overnight instead of when use of a particular appliance over time. An unexplained jump in you get home from work? energy use could pinpoint a problem. If your bill is increasing and you are not sure why, or you want Apps with energy savings tips: Some apps provide personalized more ideas for how to reduce your energy bills, your electric coenergy tips based on your location, home characteristics and other op is a great resource. Your co-op’s energy advisor may be able to sit down with you and analyze your bill, talk about your home’s characteristics and your family’s habits, and provide tips for how to reduce your energy use. Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative


affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-forprofit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@ for more information.

30  FEBRUARY 2017

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Amy Wheeless of Collaborative Efficiency. For more ideas on efficiency apps and how to save energy, please visit:

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| Worth the drive |

Buona mangiata! (good eating)

Pintoli’s brings a touch of Italy to south Alabama

By Emmett Burnett


LEFT TO RIGHT: Pintoli’s waitress Wendi Ramer carries a tray of tiramisu, house spaghetti, and breadsticks with marinara sauce; Muffaletta with fries; pasta and meatballs. PHOTOS COURTESY OF PINTOLI’S

e it ever so humble, there’s no place falettas, and lasagna kissed by angels. Floor On a wing, a prayer, and pepperoni, like Rome – except maybe Pintoli’s space and seating capacity doubled, a new Stephanie and former husband, Jose PinItalian Cafe, the best Italian restaurant wing was added, and the staff grew from to, launched their venture as a tiny pizza in Satsuma, Ala. 10 to today’s 30-something. Bring on the pick-up with limited seating. Rewards were OK, Pintoli’s is the only Italian restaurant Stromboli. few and work was great. Her chef hat was Pintoli’s rebranded itself as the best of in Satsuma, Ala. But ask anyone in this town multi-purposed: waitress, cook, cashier, both worlds. As executive chef Marcus of 6,000 residents, north of Mobile. Pintoli’s menu designer, dishwasher, and more. Beekman notes, “We are a pizza parlor, Italia, mamma mia - that’s for me-ah, cuiStephanie was a 22-year-old restaurant and offer free in-town delivery to the comsine is like fine cheese: It’s Gouda. owner and business was terrible. munity and area hotels. But we’re also The Highway 43 eatery, about two an Italian restaurant, popular for wedmiles off I-65, Exit 19, has been a local ding rehearsals, parties, and family fixture since 1999. The outside is an undining.” pretentious strip mall tenant. But once The customer base is a mix: locals, inside the pasta paradise, Satsuma beneighboring towns, and Interstate 65 comes Venice, minus flooded streets. “I visited Italy to research their ca– where one can drive in from Chifes,” said Pintoli’s owner, Stephanie cago without a traffic light. “A lot of Nicholson. “Over there, restaurant expeople from all over the country write teriors are often plain but the inside is us through our website after stopping much fancier.” Pintoli’s is like that. here while traveling,” says Stephanie. Stucco pastel walls, warm lighting, “It is very rewarding receiving compliand arched dining parlor entrances ments from people passing through.” surround linen-laid tabletops. “People Pintoli’s day starts the night before. are surprised, walking in for a first visFresh breads are made from scratch. it,” Stephanie says. “Seeing the outside, Sauces are produced in caldron-sized is not what you expect on the inside.” Owner Stephanie Nicholson and Executive Chef Marcus kettles. Daily specials are planned. Pintoli’s is not what Stephanie expect- Beekman. Chef Marcus oversees the operation. PHOTO BY EMMETT BURNETT ed either. “We make sure everything runs She comes from a family of restaurasmoothly,” he adds. “I do a lot of be“We had little money, and virtually no teurs. Her relatives are owners-operators of hind the scenes operations the customer equipment,” she recalls. “We couldn’t even dozens of establishments, from pizzerias to never sees.” Customers may not see it but afford a sign. I spread a canvas banner fine dining. “I am all of those in one,” she Pintoli’s Italian Café across the building with our name on it.” says. But it was not always like that. Pintoli’s Their food was great but so was the compewas not her original career choice. 5573 Highway 43 tition, including one nearby with a red roof. In 1999, Stephanie’s intent was to comSatsuma, Ala. 36572 In 2006 Pintoli’s took a major plunge – plete college as an English Literature major 251-675-0607 expansion in both building and menu. Inand teach school. But the young lady from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. corporating her father’s recipes and mothneighboring Baldwin County agreed to help Sunday-Thursday er’s help, new dishes were added. Satsuma family members open the fledging Satsuma and Saturday; Satsuma welcomed fettuccini Alfredo, crawfish pasrestaurant on a temporary basis. Temporary 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday ta, chicken parmigiana, mountainous mufbasis is now 18 years and counting. 32 FEBRUARY 2017

Pintoli's entrance with outside dining area. PHOTO BY EMMETT BURNETT

they smell, and most important, taste it. That’s when you hear “Momma mia!” – with a Southern accent. Pintoli’s cooks about a thousand lasagna plates a month. Rounding out the most popular menu entrees are crawfish pasta and shrimp and bacon Alfredo. Custom-built toasted sandwiches are available, including the Italian (smoked ham, salami, pepperoni laced with mozzarella cheese.) Five types of pizzas are available, and assembled, based on and named for celebrity favorites: Frank Sinatra (supreme), Rocky Marciano (combination), Al Pacino (all meat), Sophia Loren (veggie), and Joe Pesci (gourmet). All entrees include a basket of garlic bread sticks and homemade marinara sauce –good for munching while studying the menu. For the indecisive among us, there is the Pintoli’s Sampler – portions of the most popular dishes on one platter, including chicken parmigiana, pasta Alfredo, and of course, lasagna. Steaks are available on Valentine’s Day and other occasions. Also, and somewhat surprisingly, Pintoli’s has good collection of wine, by glass or bottle. And desserts? Delizioso! Tiramisu – alternating layers of imported mascarpone and ladyfingers soaked in expresso and a touch of liqueur. Turtle cheesecake, covered – you heard me – covered, with caramel, chocolate, and pecans. A slab of chocolate cake and New Yorkstyle cheesecake. Pintoli’s special of the day changes daily, forcing diners to return often for updates. That is a good problem to have for a taste of Italy in one of the most unexpected places. Alabama Living

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| Alabama Recipes |

Two-Terrific Cooking for two made easy and delicious


Chicken Bundles for Two

34  FEBRUARY 2017


ost recipes are written to serve four (or more) people, forcing young married couples, empty nesters and other families that are only composed of two people to do math just to make dinner. (That is, of course, if they don’t want leftovers, and lots of people don’t, and lots of foods don’t freeze that well.) I usually try to avoid math, so when my husband and I were first married, I just followed the recipes I had, as written. Most of them came from my mama and grandmother. I still treasure the index cards with my grandmother’s tiny, scrawling, halfcursive, half-print ingredient lists and instructions and those with my mother’s elegant, textbook-perfect penmanship.

Many of these dishes were rich, hearty, comfort-food classics (read: packed with fat and calories), and as mentioned above, most were meant to feed four folks. Despite having no problem

with eating leftovers and owning a working fridge, a big freezer and a brand new collection of tupperware I’d gotten as a wedding gift, for some reason, my hubby and I felt obligated to eat nearly every bit of whatever it was I’d cooked, every single night. Within three months of our taking our vows, our pants no longer fit. We’d quickly and easily gained 10 pounds apiece. We signed up for Weight Watchers, and two weeks later, he’d lost about 12 pounds. It took me months to get rid of eight pounds, and I swear the final two are still sitting on my hips, some 18 years later. To prevent others from choosing between math (yuck!) or eating more than they really should, we asked our readers to send us their best recipes for two. Here are our favorites from the ones we got. Find those that look appetizing to you and enjoy the appropriate portions!

Cook of the Month Peggy Key, North Alabama EC

Desserts can be some of the hardest dishes to make for two, but Peggy Key’s just-right-sized recipe for Blueberry Cake Cups makes satisfying your sweet tooth with appropriate portions simple. “These are really easy to whip up, and when you are done, you don’t have the rest of a whole cake or pie sitting around,” she said. “That’s why I keep making this recipe over and over. We love it.” She and her husband also love its ingredients, namely blueberries. “Who doesn’t love blueberries? I think we all do,” she said. She also pointed out that the recipe works just fine if you want to substitute Splenda for sugar. And she even enjoys making her cake cups for breakfast. “They’re great in the morning,” she said.

Blueberry Cake Cups ¼ cup plain flour ¼ cup sugar ½ teaspoon baking powder Dash of salt ¼ cup milk 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, divided 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), divided In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and butter just until moistened. Divide half of the berries between two greased 10-ounce custard cups. Top with batter and remaining berries. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017 35

Chicken Bundles for Two 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves 2 medium red potatoes, quartered and cut into ½-inch slices ¼ cup chopped onion 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced 1 rib celery, finely chopped (optional) ½ teaspoon rubbed sage Salt and pepper to taste Fresh dill sprigs Pull off two 18-inch square layers aluminum foil. Sprinkle chicken with sage, salt and pepper; top with dill sprigs. Place each chicken breast and half the vegetables on each foil square. Fold foil around the mixture and seal tightly. Place on cookie sheet and bake about 45 to 50 minutes on 350 degrees or until the chicken juices run clear and the vegetables are tender. Peggy Key North Alabama EC

Meat Loaf for Two ½ 1 ¼ 1 1

pound ground beef egg cup oatmeal tablespoon ketchup tablespoon each bell pepper and onion, minced Salt and pepper to taste 1 tablespoon oil

Beat egg and other ingredients; add meat last, mixing lightly. Form into two portions. Fry in oil for 15 minutes or until done. Turn once. Pat St. John Cherokee EC

90-Second Microwave Brownies 3 ¼ 3 2 1 ¼

tablespoons each flour, sugar, cocoa teaspoon baking powder (optional) tablespoons butter tablespoons of any liquid (I like milk) tablespoon lemon juice teaspoon vanilla Pecans (optional)

Stir and microwave for 75-90 seconds. (I put the liquids in first to melt the butter.) Patricia Reed Cullman EC

Creamed Chicken and Eggs ¾ to 1 cup cooked, diced chicken 1-2 boiled, peeled and sliced eggs 1½ tablespoons butter 1 cup milk, whole or low-fat ½ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon cornstarch Other seasonings, such as leftover cooked vegetables, minced parsley or celery leaves, onion or garlic powder, etc. Make a sauce by melting the butter and slowly stirring in the cornstarch, salt and other dry seasonings. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook for at least one minute, stirring until it is a thick as you want. Fold in the chicken, eggs and cooked vegetables if you have them and heat thoroughly. Serve over toast, biscuits or cornbread with a tall glass of iced tea.

Submit your recipes for a chance to win Cook of the Month and $50!

36 FEBRUARY 2017

½ 3 1 1

cup milk eggs, beaten tablespoon sugar teaspoon vanilla extract Dash of nutmeg 6 slices of bread 3 tablespoons butter or margarine Syrup Chopped pecans

In a shallow 4-quart casserole dish, stir together milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg. Lay bread slices in milk mixture. Turn the bread over to coat both sides; allow to soak 2-3 minutes to absorb the milk mixture. While the bread is soaking, melt the butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Fry the bread on both sides until golden brown. Place 2-3 slices of French toast on each plate; drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with pecans. Rena’ Smith Tallapoosa River EC

CORRECTION In the January 2017 story about the winners of the “Crockin’ It” competition at the Alabama National Fair, the Crock-Pot Spinach Sausage and Ricotta Shells recipe (Page 26) should have included the cooking time. The suggested cooking time is one hour on low.

Helena Harris Baldwin EMC

Send us your recipes! Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

French Toast

Online: Email: Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 Please include a phone number and co-op name with submissions!

Coming up in March...Lemons! Recipe Themes and Deadlines: Apr. May June

Easter Meals Shellfish/Shrimp Berries

Feb. 8 Mar. 8 Apr. 8

Alabama Living reserves the right to reprint recipes in our other publications.

The perfect gift for Valentine's Day favorite re from Alabacimpes a’s largest lif magazineestyle

Our first cookbook in 8 years! More than 200 recipes from Alabama cooks, with color photos and features on some of our top contributors! Order your copy today for $19.95 at, or send a check for $19.95 for each book ordered to: Alabama Living Cookbook P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124 Please provide the information below and mail along with your payment Name: _____________________________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________________________ State: ___________ Zip: ___________ Phone: _______________________ Copies Requested: ________ Amount Enclosed: __________________

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017 37

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Who offers an average monthly subscription base of over 415,000 and a readership of more than a MILLION? You guessed it, Alabama Living magazine. 38  FEBRUARY 2017

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  39

| Outdoors |

Sportsmen still have more to do in late season


Jeff Ferguson waits for a bird to flush during a hunt on the Northeast Alabama Hunting Preserve near Section, Ala.

or most Alabama sportsmen, hunting season begins and ends with deer season. Deer season goes through Feb. 10, but hunters can still find things to do after that season closes. This year, the state gave small game hunters additional opportunities to pursue squirrels and rabbits. Both seasons opened on Sept. 15 and run through March 5 with a limit of eight each per day. After deer season ends, small game hunters will largely have the forests, fields and wetlands to themselves until turkey season begins in March. “The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division recommended that the small game hunting seasons begin earlier and end later than in the past and the Conservation Advisory Board agreed,” explained N. Gunter Guy Jr., commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Alabama sportsmen can find many places to bag squirrels and rabbits all across the state. Just about any wildlife management area with abundant hardwood trees can offer good squirrel hunting. Some better WMAs for bagging bushytails include Black Warrior near Moulton, Cahaba River near West Blocton, Oakmulgee in Bibb, Hale, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties, Skyline near Scottsboro and Upper Delta near Stockton. “The squirrel population is so dense in some areas of the state that they are a nuiJohn N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who writes from Semmes, Ala. Contact him through his website at www.

40 FEBRUARY 2017

sance,” says Steve Bryant, a state wildlife biologist. “The habitat requirements for squirrels are minimal. A few nut or seed producing trees can sustain a squirrel. The more mast producing trees present, the greater the number of squirrels the area can support.” Cottontail rabbits thrive throughout the state. Besides cottontails, Alabama sportsmen might also bag swamp or marsh rabbits. Large swamp rabbits occur statewide. Swampers can live in woodlands and grasslands like cottontails, but typically stay close to water. Swamp and marsh rabbits prefer floodplains, river shorelines, bottomlands, swamps, marshes and other wetlands in the southern half of the state. Squirrel and rabbit hunting usually go together since the seasons run concurrently, but people traditionally hunt these two animals differently. Occasionally, a squirrel hunter kicks up a big swamp rabbit in a hardwood thicket or jumps a cottontail while walking along the wooded edge of a field, but for rabbits, look for thick cover, the thicker the better, since almost every predator wants to eat them. Some better WMAs to hunt rabbits include Choccolocco near Heflin, the Jackson County WMAs, Lowndes near White Hall, Skyline and Swan Creek near Decatur. For the best chances at bagging a swamp or marsh rabbit, visit the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Mobile and Baldwin counties. “Swan Creek WMA has historically provided good rabbit hunting,” Bryant says. “Any area that contains the appropriate habitat should be good. Cane cutter, or swamp rabbits, occur in low lying areas along streams and lakes where the high moisture content of the soil inhibits some species of trees.”


Late season hunters can also test their wing-shooting skills on bobwhite quail and snipe. Quail season runs through Feb. 28 with a daily limit of eight per day. Snipe season continues through Feb. 26, also with a limit of eight per day. Quail like upland fields and piney woods. Not many places in the state hold good concentrations of wild quail any longer, but sportsmen might find some bobs on Barbour WMA near Clayton, Freedom Hills WMA near Cherokee, Geneva State Forest WMA near Florala and Blue Springs WMA near Andalusia. With wild quail populations low, many people turn to hunting pen-raised birds at commercial preserves. After a quick internet search, sportsmen can find many such preserves all over Alabama. Besides quail, some preserves also offer opportunities to hunt pen-raised ducks, pheasants, chukar and other birds. The season on pen-raised birds runs through March 31. Like ducks, snipe migrate to Alabama each winter. The swift, erratic fliers can humiliate even the best wing shots. The military term “sniper” for an expert marksman originally described hunters skilled enough to hit these birds in flight. The long-billed birds like moist soils, such as old crop fields, meadows and lake shorelines, but the best snipe hunting in Alabama probably occurs in the marshy lower part of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta near Mobile. Besides those traditional game birds and animals, Alabama sportsmen can hunt bobcats, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs, raccoons, crows, blackbirds, starlings and Eurasian collared doves all year long with no bag limits on private lands. Before hunting anything, check the current regulations to stay out of trouble.

Tables indicate peak fish and game feeding and migration times. Major periods can bracket the peak by an hour before and an hour after. Minor peaks, half-hour before and after. Adjusted for daylight savings time.

a.m. p.m. Minor Major Minor Major

FEB. 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 MAR. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

08:01 08:31 08:46 02:46 03:16 01:16 -08:31 09:31 10:16 10:46 11:16 11:46 06:46 07:01 07:31 08:01 02:16 03:01 03:46 01:46 08:16 09:31 10:16 10:46 11:16 11:46 06:31 06:46 07:01 01:31 01:46 02:16 02:31 12:16 03:31 11:31 09:31 10:01 10:31 11:01 11:31 -06:16 12:46 01:31 02:16

Alabama Living

01:31 02:01 02:31 09:16 09:46 10:16 11:16 04:31 04:46 05:16 05:31 06:01 06:16 12:01 12:31 01:16 01:46 08:31 09:01 09:31 10:31 03:31 04:16 04:46 05:16 05:46 06:01 12:01 12:31 01:01 07:31 07:46 08:01 08:31 08:46 09:16 03:46 04:01 04:16 04:46 05:01 05:31 05:46 12:16 06:46 07:16 07:46

02:01 08:16 09:16 10:31 ---12:46 02:01 03:01 03:46 04:31 -12:31 01:01 07:31 08:31 09:46 11:16 --12:31 02:01 03:16 04:16 05:01 -12:16 06:46 07:31 08:16 09:01 10:01 ----01:31 02:46 03:46 04:31 05:16 06:16 07:01 07:46 08:46 09:46

07:31 02:31 03:16 04:16 05:31 07:01 08:16 09:01 09:46 10:16 11:01 11:31 05:16 06:01 06:46 01:31 02:16 03:16 04:16 05:31 07:01 08:16 09:31 10:16 11:01 11:31 05:31 06:16 12:46 01:16 01:46 02:31 03:16 04:01 05:16 06:46 08:01 09:01 09:46 10:31 11:01 11:46 12:01 12:31 01:16 02:01 02:46


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FEBRUARY 2017 41

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42 FEBRUARY 2017

Energy Efficiency Tip of the Month Try running your ceiling fans on the reverse position this winter. Put it on low to gently circulate the warm air that has risen to the ceiling. This can help you feel more comfortable without turning up the setting on your thermostat.

Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017  43

| Our Sources Say |

Who cares if you’re safe?


afety is PowerSouth’s number-one corporate value, and rightly so. When talking to the employees, I always tell them that, without safety, nothing else matters. Keeping the lights on isn’t worth anybody’s life – on either end of the line. Public safety is equally as important as employee safety, and we take every possible measure to protect your health and property, too. On December 31, 2016, PowerSouth’s 584 full-time employees achieved a full calendar year without a lost-time accident – a milestone of which I am very proud. Not because of insurance rates or OSHA regulations, but because it means that every day last year all of our people returned home to their families healthy and whole. The safety record means I didn’t have to tell a wife that her husband had been hurt or killed. I didn’t have to explain to a child that his mother wouldn’t be coming home again. I didn’t have to visit a hospital and stand beside the bed of a coworker who had lost a limb. Instead, I have the honor and privilege of rewarding the hardworking men and women of PowerSouth for a job well done. The business of generating and transmitting electricity is dangerous. The inherent risks of the job – high voltages, height, heavy equipment, high pressures and extreme temperatures – mean that PowerSouth’s employees are constantly ex-

posed to life-threatening situations. In a very real sense, many people put their lives at risk to produce and deliver a product that everyone relies on. But safety risks are not limited to those who work in the field and power plants. Driving is possibly one of the most dangerous things we do, and PowerSouth employees log more than 2 million miles on the roads each year. Many employees lift heavy objects, climb ladders and stairs, or use hazardous chemicals in their daily duties. Maintaining a safety mindset is equally important for everyone. We attempt to prepare employees for dangers of their jobs through a comprehensive safety training program. We provide our people with the tools they need to safely accomplish their daily tasks, and we continuously stress the importance of safety first. Working safely goes beyond wearing hard hats and protective goggles, and it isn’t just something we think about on the job. It is a mindset. A way of life. It must become part of you. Complacency is the enemy. After years at work, it is easy to become comfortable with the dangers of the job and engage auto-pilot. We train employees to remain vigilant and aware and to always take time to prepare for the job ahead. Now that we

have accomplished a year-long safety milestone, the job is not done. I challenge the employees to maintain this momentum and achieve a second year accident-free. The goal is certainly attainable. Even if you don’t work in the utility industry, ask yourself, “Who cares if I work safe?” Is it an aging parent who depends on you for their well-being? Is it a loving spouse who would be heartbroken and devastated if you were gone? Is it a child that needs your love and direction? Is it a team of young baseball players who admire and respect your guidance? A church family? Coworkers? The safety program and its successes are not mine nor PowerSouth’s. It belongs to our employees. They must keep it and drive it. It is their responsibility and their success. Everybody has somebody who needs and loves them. If nothing else, think of them on the job, on your drive home, when working in your yard, when you are hunting – in every aspect of your life, please put safety first. For them. For you. Every day. Always. I hope you have a good month.

Gary Smith is President and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative

44 FEBRUARY 2017

| Market Place |


30x50x10 with sliding door and man door.



Additional delivery may apply pending location.

270.776.7869 Alabama Living

FEBRUARY 2017 45

| Hardy Jackson's Alabama |

Illustration by Dennis Auth

Of long-johns and asphidity


his is the time of year that teachers and parents dread. This is the time of year that a classroom turns into an incubator for just about every disease known to mankind. In they come, snot-nosed and germ laden. Should have stayed home but instead they show up and spread what they’ve got. This is that sickly season. Smells remind me of it. Mentholatum. When I was young, Mamas spread it on kids like it was some sort of magic ointment, and the whole classroom smelled like a eucalyptus forest. But I guess that is an improvement. Back when my Grandma Minnie was teaching, kids smelling of Mentholatum would have been a blessing. She had to deal with long-johns and asphidity. Asphidity. “Pungent herbs,” is about the best definition I could find. Parents would put the stuff in a bag and hang it around a kid’s neck. Stink, stank, stunk. It was around 1910. Grandma, unmarried and possessing what passed for a high school education, took a job teaching in a oneroom school at Pine Flat, Alabama -- north Elmore County. Now back then country folks felt sickness was brought on by winter chills so parents made sure that their children went into the winter weather dressed warmly. First sign of frost, Mama brought out the wool underwear – long-johns -- that covered kids from ankle to everywhere. Most children had a couple of pair but unless there was an “accident” they would only change on Saturday, after the weekly bath. The rest of the time – night and day – long-johns were worn. But many country folks did not have the luxury of a back-up pair, nor did they follow the custom of weekly baths (just another way to get that chill). So the long-johns that went on around firstfrost were still on come warming in March. And if that were not bad enough, there was the asphidity bag. Just as they believed that chills caused sickness, country folks believed that asphidity could ward off whatever evil humors or miasmas might be floating about on the chilly air. And, more often than not those were the same country folks who kept kids in the same long-johns during the winter.

46  FEBRUARY 2017

In Grandma’s class was a little boy I will call Johnny, son of a sharecropping family whose world view was more of the 19th than the 20th century. By November, Johnny was long-johned and asphiditied. By Christmas, there was a certain air about him. By February, you could tell which way the wind was blowing by which side of Johnny his classmates were standing on. Finally, Grandma Minnie had had enough. After one particularly pungent day, she carefully composed a letter to Johnny’s mother. Dear Mrs. ------, The odor of Johnny’s asphidity bag is beginning to bother the other students. And with the weather warming, this would also be a good time to change Johnny’s underwear and give him a bath. Sincerely, Miss Minnie Edwards The next day Johnny returned, rank as ever, and handed Grandma Minnie a note from his mother. Dear Miss Edwards, I sent Johnny to school to be learnt. Not to be smelt. He ain’t no rose. Sincerely, Mrs. - - That was the end of that. And Johnny, warm and self-quarantined, stayed well. No germ-laden student would approach him. Asphidity worked.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at

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