Page 1


Out of the ruins After a tornado destroyed their home, Rita and Jerry King rebuilt it by hand


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SprING 2013

Q&A: Michael Gagliardo: youth orchestra by day, rock band by night. 7

peTALS INTo MeTAL: Artist Sarah Cavender crafts jewelry from nature. 8

SHop DoGS: Greeting local customers with a bark and a tail wag. 14

CroWNING GLorY: You’re never fully dressed without a hat. 26

CHANGING GeArS: Host families display hospitality to pro cyclists. 34

pINeCroFT: Betty McGinnis shares photos of garden she’s tended for 45 years. 40

IN prAISe oF THe peoNY: one of spring’s most spectacular blooms. 44

FroM THe rUINS: After 2011 tornado, family rebuilds house by hand. 50

DerBY DAZe: Botanical gardens fundraiser brings back memories of Kentucky. 58

SoUTHerNISMS: The airwaves buzz with sounds of swap meets and string bands. 72

ALSo IN THIS ISSUe pArTY pIX: photos from the revelers Krewe Ball, the Chamber Chairman’s Diamond Gala, a reception for the russian National Ballet, the Sacred Heart Mardi Gras Gala, the China National Symphony orchestra, a performance by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra and the Noble Gallery opening. 62


LIVING Spring 2013



ith this issue of Northeast Alabama Living magazine, it feels like I have come full circle. When I first went into journalism, lo those many years ago, I focused on magazines. I didn’t want to work in newspapers; they get your hands so dirty. During my last year of college, I landed an internship through the Magazine Publishers Association of America. We interns got to live in New York City for the summer and work for real, live magazines. I was assigned to work at Metropolitan Home, even though I had never before cracked the cover of a design magazine. I got to sit in on meetings with the editors and look at slides of beautiful homes from all over the country. I got to tag along on photo shoots with designers in roomfuls of beautiful things. (I also delivered the mail and took a lot of phone messages.) That internship led to a job at Dallas-Fort Worth Home & Garden magazine (where I wrote about designer toothbrushes and learned to work a newfangled piece of equipment known as a “facsimile machine.”) From there, I bounced to a magazine called Texas Homes. Then the bottom fell out of the economy, all the local magazines went out of business and the only job I could find was at a (shudder) newspaper. Turns out it wasn’t so bad, and I spent the next 25 years working for newspapers, most recently at the Anniston Star. But a part of me always missed magazines. There’s just something special about their slick heft. Let’s face it: People can’t stand to throw out magazines. But they’ll happily line a birdcage with a newspaper. When, last fall, the Anniston Star offered me a chance to edit a new magazine, I jumped at it. Northeast Alabama Living will cover beautiful homes and gardens, fine dining and the people who make this community special — the best of where we live.

Lisa Davis, Editor Northeast Alabama Living P.O. Box 189 Anniston AL 36202


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Northeast Alabama Living magazine covers the best of where we live – beautiful homes and gardens, fine dining and the people who make this community special. NORTHEAST ALABAMA spriNg 2013

Out of the ruins After a tornado destroyed their home, Rita and Jerry King rebuilt it by hand

Northeast Alabama Living will publish four times a year. To subscribe, see page 29.


spriNg 2013

Out of the ruins

After a torn ado destroyed their Rita and Jerry home, King rebuilt it by hand


LIVING Spring 2013



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EDITOR Lisa Davis WRITERS Erin Williams Sherry Blanton Laura Johnson Paige Rentz Brooke Carbo Pat Kettles Eddie Burkhalter Harvey H. Jackson PHOTOGRAPHERS Trent Penny Bill Wilson Jerrod Brown Shannon Tucker ILLUSTRATOR Margaret Poplin DESIGN Angela Williams PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Patrick Stokesberry ADVERTISING MANAGER Dollie Robinson 256-235-9236

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LIVING Spring 2013

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Youth orchestra by day, rock band by night Michael Gagliardo on conducting the Etowah Youth Symphony Orchestra


by Erin Williams

s music director and conductor of the Etowah Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Michael R. Gagliardo has been enriching the lives of young musicians for 18 years. He can thank the Grateful Dead for helping him get there. When Gagliardo interviewed with the now-director of the Gadsden Cultural Arts Foundation, Bobby Welch, they found a mutual connection. “We had both been to the same Grateful Dead concert up in Indiana about a week before I came down to interview,” Gagliardo remembered. He took the job after completing his master’s in orchestral conducting at Ball State University, and has spent the past 18 years teaching young musicians. Combined, the youth orchestras have 95 members — 40 of whom are from Calhoun County. The ensembles debuted 23 years ago, and have performed from Washington to Stratford-uponAvon, the hometown of one William Shakespeare. Gagliardo is also an adjunct professor at Jacksonville State University and music director of the JSU/Community Orchestra.

who would bring in videos of performances. And there was one particular performance of the New York Philharmonic. It was Leonard Bernstein conducting, and they were playing music by Aaron Copland. And I sat there for that 15 minutes and was just absolutely mesmerized by it, and when the video was over I said, “That’s what I’m going to do.” And I remember I went home that night and was sitting at the dinner table with my parents and said, “Look, I’ve decided what it is I’m going to do.” The youth orchestra has traveled both internationally and nationally — twice to Carnegie Hall in New York. What was that like? You walk out onto that stage, and it’s just really overwhelming. You think about the history, and as a musician you think about what has happened in that building, in that room, on that stage. The first time you hear the sound of the orchestra coming off of that stage, it really is overpowering. You walk through the halls, and you look at the photographs that are on the walls of the musicians who have played there — and the kids in the Submitted photo ensembles, they get it too. They know where they are and what the significance is.

You played in your high school band and grew up listening to jazz, Elvis and Top 40 hits at home. What was it about classical music that intrigued you? I really didn’t get exposed to classical music until I got into the school of music program. But sitting back in the trumpet section in an orchestra, there was just something that was completely different from any other music that I was listening to. There’s a certain energy to it, and all the creative components with it as well.

When you’re not conducting, where can you be found? If the weather is good and I have the opportunity, I do like to get out on the golf course. I’m not very good at it, but it is a good opportunity to kind of decompress and get away. I do play in a rock band on the side. The band is called Leftover Ego. I’m a keyboard player, going back to that piano training I started in third grade. I’m not exactly sure that that’s what my parents had in mind for my piano training, but we play every six to eight weeks or so.

How did you evolve into being a conductor? I thought I was going to be a band director . . . but I remember I had an orchestra conductor in high school

The Etowah Youth Orchestra will perform April 21 at Music at McClellan, and April 28 at Gadsden State Community College.

LIVING Spring 2013


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LIVING Spring 2013

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Local artist Sarah Cavender crafts jewelry from nature

Sarah Cavender’s new line of jewelry for spring includes cherry blossoms (above and previous page) and tropical plumeria blooms (right), all sculpted from metal mesh and painted in cheery colors.


or Oxford-based jewelry artist Sarah Cavender, all things are inspiration. Last year, the dogwood blooms in the median along Quintard Avenue in Anniston caught her attention, and she incorporated the blooms into her 2012 line of metal jewelry. This season, the dogwoods, with their signature white and pink petals, are back — along with two new flowers: cheery cherry blossoms and delicate plumeria blooms. Cavender, the daughter of a former military man, encountered the plumeria when her father was stationed in the Philippines. “Everything was so completely different,” she remembered. Plumeria are tropical blooms most famously used to make Hawaiian leis. “They grow about a dogwood’s size,

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and they’re big enough to climb if you’re a little kid,” Cavender said. The plumeria’s delicate petals form a sort of floral spiral, a design that translated well into Cavender’s preferred medium of sculpted and painted metal mesh. “I just like the geometric nature of them,” she said. Cavender also crafted cherry blossoms for her spring line, because she thought they were at once beautiful and marketable. Cavender likes the idea of replicating flowering trees in her designs. She uses the blooms as pendants, pins and delicate dangle earrings. Her spring line is not limited to flowering tree blossoms. She is also crafting nautical designs —earrings and pendants that look like small anchors. Cavender has been creating mesh metal designs for

almost three decades. The front of the Flowers have been building is a shop. an element from Almost every availthe start. She began able nook and cranny metalwork by craftis adorned with belts, ing Victorian-erarosebud earrings and inspired pieces, which cuff bracelets. incorporated simplisThrough a door tic rose blossoms. in the back of the A little less than boutique, Cavender’s a decade ago, she employees craft jewbegan incorporating elry to order in a rustic delicate, true-to-life workshop. In one blooms into her work, corner, more than half when she made an a dozen varieties of orchid. She said it was braided metal chain a turning point for her — used for necklaces, work. bracelets and handShe has also incorbags — hang on spools porated crosses, from racks. Next to filigree and abstract them hang industrial forms into her mesh metals, like bolts designs. of fabric in copper She developed her hues. A wood-stump unique technique stool is positioned while in Philadelphia. TOP: Sarah Cavender has been creating metal designs for almost 30 years. near a grommet setter. She majored in sculp- ABOVE: Freda Wood works on a project at Sarah Cavender Metalworks. Not far away are three ture at the Philadelsoldering stations. phia College of Art. Upstairs are four Her work has been featured in popular fashion magazines rooms, each used for a particular part of production. In the such as Vogue, and is sold in museum gift shops around the painting room, a trained artist uses small spray bottles loaded world, including the Smithsonian. Her jewelry has been worn with metallic paint to give life to the floral designs. by celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Tori Spelling. The metal can take as many forms as Cavender’s imaginaHer company, Sarah Cavender Metalworks, is based out of tion can bend it. “It’s like paper to me,” she said. “You can make a two-story brick building on Main Street in downtown Oxford. anything.” There, Cavender and a handful of artisans make jewelry, purses Sarah Cavender Metalworks, 500 Main St., Oxford, 256and belts. 831-6241,

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Greeting customers with a bark and a tail wag

SHop DoGS by BrookE CarBo photographs by Bill Wilson

perched on hay bales, looking out from storefront windows or darting excitedly from backrooms, they wait for the ring of the shop doorbell. Some howl, some leap, some sniff, some lick. All wag. But no matter the manner of greeting, it’s safe to say no patron has ever been welcomed with more enthusiasm or sincerity than when welcomed by one of the shop dogs of Anniston. Shop dogs are a varied breed — small and dainty, large and regal, immaculately groomed or a little rough around the edges. Some can trace their lineage for generations; others just wandered in off the street. But they all have the same message for those who stop by their homesaway-from-home: “I’m so glad you’re here.”

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Greta, who reigns over Downing’s General Store, may be the most famous shop dog in Calhoun County. She spends her days like any shop dog, greeting customers and keeping watch over the Gurnee Street shop. “She sits out on those hay bales and watches the traffic go by,” said Downing’s employee Xochitl Norton. “She howls at the courthouse clock, passing sirens.” But unlike most shop dogs, once closing DOWning’S gEnErAl STOrE: 1030 Gurnee Ave., time rolls around fans Anniston, 256-236-8972. can still find her. They just have to go online. The Facebook page for Greta Downing currently boasts more than 800 friends and counting. Greta’s social network includes politicians, restaurateurs, even famous college mascots. Despite her Facebook fame, Greta is still just a pup at heart. “She gets so excited when she sees kids coming in,” Norton said. “She follows them all over the store.”

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With her painted nails, shiny accessories and perfectly coiffed do, it would be easy to mistake Gisele for just another customer at Couch’s Jewelers. But one look at her collar and you know on which side of the counter she belongs. “Don’t you think she deserves another diamond?” the tag reads. COuCh’S JEWElErS: While she 15 E. 10th St., Anniston, may be a born 256-237-4628. salesperson, the 4-year-old white standard poodle is just a girly-girl at heart. Store owner Bill Couch says Gisele is content to spend her days playing dress-up and flirting with customers. Gisele’s wardrobe includes a pair of diamond barrettes, several Christmas frocks and a toddler-size Alabama cheerleading uniform she wore for the last National Championship game. “She used to wear a beautiful antique pearl collar from the 1920s that we had on display in the store,” Couch said. That is, until she accidentally wore it home one day and her brother Hershey, a chocolate poodle, chewed it off. Gisele wasn’t too upset. What she really loves are her customers. “She’s so affectionate,” Couch said. “Ask her to greet the customers, she puts her paws up on the counter. And if you touch her feet she’ll start kissing you.” If the sales pitch on her dog tag doesn’t win you over, that surely will.

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BeLLA AND RoXY The Rabbit Hutch’s resident shop dogs, 2-year-old Bella and 9-yearold Roxy, have such a devoted following that owner Jennie Preston posts a sign out front letting fans know when the dogs are in. “That way people know the girls are here,” Preston said, although Bella is hard to miss — at least for those ThE RABBiT huTCh: who know where to look. 1026 Noble St., Anniston, The Weimaraner with the baby blues can usually be found gazing out on Noble 256-236-5541. Street from the front window, just another whimsical touch in the gift shop’s famously charming window displays. “People stop to look,” said Preston. “They don’t even think she’s real.” Bella shares her downtown kingdom with miniature pinscher mix Roxy. Together, they’re quickly turning the Rabbit Hutch into the Puppy Hutch. The two are even featured in the shop’s new advertising spots. Their “precious head shots,” as Roxy’s proud mama Christian O’Dell described them, can now be seen on billboards, print ads and social media sites across Calhoun County.

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“There’s not another one like her,” sales manager Scott Mathis said of Lighting Showroom’s resident pup, Daisy. “She’s the perfect work dog.” The pug and Pomeranian mix — the lighTing ShOWrOOM: result of two purebreds’ accidental liai- 1700 S. Quintard Ave., son — has settled in nicely to her life as Anniston, 256-831-7680. a shop dog. Daisy has a daily routine. Arriving early with mom Betty Wingard, Daisy does a few laps around the store, greets everyone and then finds an out-of-the-way spot to settle in for the day. She brings in more than her fair share of business, and employees brag about her intelligence and on-the-job training. “She can see you coming from 10 feet away,” Mathis said. “And if she sees your hands are full, she knows to get out of the way.” Not bad for the last pup of an “oops!” litter.

Betty Wingard and Daisy.



Remington — or “Remy” to his friends — is right at home with the pint-sized patrons of Think Toys. The black standard poodle loves children, said owner Karen Fountain — particularly her granddaugh- think toyS: 909 Noble St., Anniston, 256-238-8989. ter Payton. “That’s why he gets to come,” Fountain said, adding that the only thing Remy might be faulted for is being a little too affectionate. Well, there is one other thing Fountain has to watch out for — “he likes to do a little shopping.” More than once, Remy has helped himself to merchandise on the shelf when something strikes his fancy. Stuffed animals are now kept far above dog-eye level and, Fountain pointed out, “You’ll notice there are not a lot of balls in sight.”

Payton Bennett, 3, with ‘remy.’

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The guys at Tyson’s Model City Glass weren’t looking for another shop dog. But about five years ago, a stray red bird dog with other plans wondered in and made herself at home. TySOn’S MODEl CiTy “Lady Bird just walked in the back door glASS: 101 W. 10th St., one day, and we can’t get rid of her,” joked Anniston, 256-237-4444. owner Jim Tyson. Ginger, the laid-back Brittany spanielin-residence, was already a common sight to neighbors of the 10th Street business. “Ginger just kind of comes and goes as she pleases,” Jim’s son Andrew explained. “She lays out on the sidewalk all day, roams around, visits the neighbors.” Twelve-year-old Ginger doesn’t mind the added canine companionship around the shop, but she still makes her neighborhood strolls solo. Turns out that “Birdie,” as she has come to be called, “is bad about chasing vehicles, so we keep her tethered” Jim said. “She just lays out in the sun all day. She loves it.”

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“I should get Harvey a vest that says ‘greeter,’ ” said Tammy Katz of her 2-year-old rescue dog. “He always runs to the door to see if there’s someone to say hi to.” Harvey is just the STill MiDTOWn beginning of CErAMiCS: 1230 Noble St., the animal Anniston, 256-236-3136. welcome wagon at Still Midtown Ceramics. On warm days, the shop turtle — an African tortoise by the name of E.T. — roams the airy studio with Harvey, while Jackie, a 9-year-old black rescue, hangs back till she gets the all clear. “Jackie is shy around kids,” Katz explained. “She waits in the back to see if there’s a grownup here.” Abused then abandoned as a puppy, Jackie takes time to warm up to strangers — with the sole exception of shop employee Ada Lincoln. “She never runs to the door to see anyone, but she ran to see Ada,” Katz recalled. “They’ve been best friends since the beginning.” Nine years later, you’ll usually find Jackie hanging out in the back with Ada.

Tammy Katz, left. Ada lincoln, right.

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Hats may not be as fashionable as they once were, but that doesn’t stop these six women, each of whom owns between 35 and 150 hats. They wear them to church and other special occasions — just like their mothers and their grandmothers before them.

Crowning glory

you’re never fully dressed without a hat

by Lisa Davis photographs by BiLL WiLson anD TrenT Penny Betty Merriweather

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Janet Booth Janet Booth is known for her hats. Her friends have been known to buy hats for her at yard sales and auctions. Booth, who worked almost 30 years at Fort McClellan before retiring as an executive secretary, owns at least 50 hats. She has hats for every season, including a mink pillbox hat that matches a mink coat, although she doesn’t get many chances to wear either of them during mild Alabama winters. “My mother always wore hats. A Southern lady never went out without a hat,” Booth said. Today, Booth wears hats mainly to church on Sundays, although not many other women at her church do so anymore. She also wears hats to daytime funerals and weddings. “Any occasion that I feel calls for it, I wear a hat — without feeling self-conscious.”

Betty Merriweather Ask Betty Merriweather how many hats she owns, and she has to stop and think. “Ooooooo,” she says. “About 100.” There is the jazzy red hat that her grandson calls her “conductor’s hat.” There is the wide-brimmed blue hat that her husband gave her as an anniversary gift, the last anniversary before he passed away. “Depending on my mood, I wear different colors,” Merriweather said. “In pink, I feel very

feminine. Red always takes me back to Jesus and the cross — the blood of Jesus.” Merriweather is the principal at Golden Springs Elementary School in Anniston. Her late husband, the Rev. J.E. Merriweather, served as pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Anniston. “You’ll see a lot of hats in our church,” Merriweather said. “Black women have always worn hats. Slaves would leave their masters’ houses, and then dress in their best for the Lord. They would take off their maid’s caps and put on hats.” It was Merriweather’s mother, now 91 years old, who taught her to wear hats. “Especially on Easter. Head-to-toe — hat, dress, gloves, stockings, shoes — you had to have that to be fully dressed.” While older women are still wearing hats, Merriweather noted that younger women are now adorning their heads with hairstyles that take the place of hats. “I’m OK with that,” she said. “But on Sundays, I want my hat.”

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lark Howell Lark Howell of Anniston has become an expert at customizing hats. “I don’t have any fancy, expensive hats. I’ll buy plain hats I like and add to them,” she said. She will decorate hats with ribbons and silk flowers — or pin on fresh flowers for special occasions such as Easter or weddings. “I’ve stuck on real gardenias, or different roses,” she said. “You can take any kind of a hat and decorate.” She paired a white hat with a royal blue dress by adding a royal blue ribbon and a silk flower. For winter, she has adorned wool hats with feathered hat clips from Germany. Howell has at least 35 hats in her collection. One of her favorites is a petite straw hat crowned with lots of ribbons and dried flowers. It was a birthday gift from her husband 30 years ago. It still has the original ribbons, but she has refreshed the dried flowers over the years. She has hats for church, hats for parties, hats for gardening and hats for the beach, and she never travels without a foldable straw hat. “When you wear hats, you have a more lighthearted attitude. It’s like a party,” she said. “It makes you feel special to wear one.”

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NorthEast alabama

Northeast Alabama Living magazine covers the best of where we live – beautiful homes and gardens, fine dining and the people who make this community special. NORTHEAST ALABAMA spriNg 2013

Out of the ruins After a tornado destroyed their home, Rita and Jerry King rebuilt it by hand


of the Kentucky Derby

shop Dogs The faMilies

greet customers with style

who host the pro cyclists

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Betty Hawkins Betty Hawkins has loved hats all her life. “And I love to dress up,” she said. Hawkins, who retired after working in the Anniston City Schools’ central office, owns close to 20 hats. In her church, she said, the biggest days for hats are Mother’s Day and Easter. For her portrait, Hawkins beautifully illustrated the rule that the hat must match the outfit. She has dress suits that match her hats and pant suits that match, even hats and dresses in matching fabric.

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Sygrid y. Beard Sygrid Y. Beard is a third-generation hat wearer. “I always admired my grandmother, the way she used hats to grace her head. My mom, too,” Beard said. “Hats grace the face. They make you feel dressed completely.” Her grandmother wore mainly pillbox hats, but Beard and her mother preferred brims. After her mother passed away, Beard inherited her hats. Her collection now numbers close to 150 hats. Beard taught fourth grade classes in Anniston schools for 29 years, before serving as a parent specialist at Anniston High School for 10 years. She is now retired. Her favorite hat is a white one with a tall crown. It was a birthday present from an aunt. Her collection also includes vintage hats. She collects antiques, and always keeps an eye out for hats when she’s shopping in antique stores. She also has a collection of vintage purses — several made of tin or Lucite, one shaped like a swan. Beard appreciates the cultural and religious heritage of hats. “Our ancestors started off wearing bonnets made from feed sacks,” she said. She also pointed to the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians that women wear headcoverings. Even though we’ve gotten away from wearing hats, there is still something special about them, Beard said. “Sometimes when I travel, I carry a hatbox on the plane, and people are fascinated,” she said. “Is that a hatbox?” they’ll ask.

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georgia Calhoun Georgia Calhoun says that ladies who wear hats have a little something special. “Hattitude!” she says. “You can’t wear a hat unless you have hattitude.” Calhoun does her part to celebrate hattitude every year in September, when the Pandora Arts and Social Club puts on a hat show at the Carver Community Center in Anniston. The annual fashion show is a fundraiser for the children who use the center. Calhoun, who also organizes Anniston’s annual Black Heritage Festival, owns about 45 hats. “My mother was a hat-wearer,” she said. “Always to church. Even if it was just a bandana on Sunday, she knew how to stick a flower in it and dress it up.”

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changing gears u

When the race brings pro cyclists to town, host families teach them about Southern hospitality — and grits by EddiE BurkhaltEr photographs by Bill Wilson and trEnt PEnny

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ny proper Southerner knows that, when hosting guests from afar, grits should be on the breakfast menu. So in 2008, when Brenda and Tom Roberts hosted a team of professional women cyclists — in Anniston to compete in the Sunny King Criterium and the Foothills Classic Road Race — the athletes got a dose of the real thing. Garlic cheese grits. Bacon. Biscuits and fruit. “Those girls, they were just hysterical about the grits,” Brenda Roberts remembered, holding a photograph of the team, looking ready for war in full race gear. Out in the driveway, a van full of bicycles, with cyclists milling around, tools in hand, may have looked out of place at the Roberts’ beautiful red-brick home, with its view of the greens at Anniston Country Club. But Roberts said the teams are always courteous, and the experience always a pleasant one. She has stayed in contact with some of the riders since the couple began hosting cyclists in 2008. Cyclists from all over the world will be returning to Calhoun County in droves the weekend of April 20. That’s when the Sunny King Criterium, the Foothills Classic and the Cheaha

Challenge will take place over two days in Anniston and Piedmont. Roberts described the racers as fit, healthy eaters who are very well educated — many were business majors, and more than a few had graduate degrees. They come prepared, and leave things as clean as they were when they came. Allison Rosenthal from Palo Alto, Calif., stayed with the Roberts with her 2008 Tibco team. Rosenthal was an early employee at Facebook, and a former Division I varsity lacrosse player at Brown University. When Roberts asked Rosenthal how she managed to find the time to race professionally while working at Facebook, Rosenthal told her, “You see this watch I have on? Most people have 24 hours, but I have 48.” “They’ve all been the nicest and the most fun people to get to know,” Roberts said. “You’re like a TOP: Brenda and Tom Roberts say being a host family makes them feel more connected to the bike races. RIGHT: Millie Harris says she enjoys cheering for the cyclists staying at her home.

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parent that weekend. You’ve got some new children. You go down there and root for them like you’ve known them your whole life. You really feel a part of it by doing this.” Anniston City Councilwoman Millie Harris’ home has also been a brief respite for tired cyclists over the years. “I didn’t realize at the time that many of them were vegetarians,” Harris remembered. “I might have had sausage casserole for breakfast.” Harris recalled one Thursday evening before the 2009 race weekend when a heavily tattooed young man came to her door around 10 p.m., giant wooden hoops hanging in each earlobe. “It took me back just a little bit,” Harris admitted. “He turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” Hosting the cyclists makes attending the races much more exciting, Harris said. “You’re watching for your favorite people. It means a lot more to you whenever you get to know them as individuals.” For the cyclists, staying with host families means they won’t have to break the bank each weekend as they travel thousands of miles across the country to compete. Christina Gokey-Smith is in her fifth season as a professional cyclist. She has stayed with the Roberts in the past, and they’ve stayed in touch ever since. “In Anniston, Ala., the southern hospitality is just awesome,” Gokey-Smith said. “I walk away from the race there and that sticks with me, that relationship that you build. It’s just an experience that you can’t pay for. “If somebody were to come into this sport and had enough money to stay at hotels, they would never meet all these people. They’d miss out,” Gokey-Smith said. Gokey-Smith plans to be in Anniston again this year, riding in both the Sunny King Criterium and the Foothills Classic. Terry Phillis and his wife, Cindy, have hosted both men and women cyclists for the past eight years. The Anniston urologist and avid cyclist now organizes host housing for the race weekend. He gets asked from time to time what it takes to be a host family.

F c

Usually, he says, all that’s needed is a bed, a washer and dryer, and a coffee maker or espresso machine — and it doesn’t hurt to have Internet access. “It’s hard to explain why it’s a good time to invite someone you don’t know at all into your home, but it’s a great group of athletes,” Phillis said. The cyclists are pros, Phillis said — but unlike the kinds of athletes who often get plenty of coverage on television and in magazines. “They’re humble,” Phillis said. “And appreciative of the chance to compete at the professional level, and they understand their sport survives on their ability to get along with communities and crowds, and be able to put on races.” Phillis described the bonds made by cyclists Christina Gokey-Smith and their host families as strong and lasting, with returning riders often asking to stay with the same family. Families can get a little territorial over their cyclists, as well. Not even the Phillis family is immune. For the past six race weekends, pro cyclist Laura Van Gilder has stayed with them, and will be doing so again this year. “She’s on our Christmas card list. She knows where my kids go to school, and she comes and watches soccer games,” Phillis said. “We consider her a part of the family.”

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other binding agents and fired the blocks in rented machinery in the ditch in their front yard. All told, they crafted 16,000 blocks. Only two walls in the house are not built with them. “Making our own block appealed to us because we had worked on our other home, built it too,” Rita said. The block they fired in their own front yard will not burn, mold or mildew. With the help of their son, the Kings managed to salvage a few pieces of furniture from the wreckage of their home. They reclaimed old doors from tornado homes, churches and other buildings. But some of the items lost can’t be replaced: the table in the living room that displayed a photograph of Rita’s parents and her father’s World War II memorabilia, the bowl her mother-inlaw gave her that she always used for potato salad. “When I was making potato salad this Christmas, I didn’t have that bowl,” Rita said. But the Kings were able to salvage some of their special belongings. When the tornadoes began their second sweep across the state that April evening, Rita saw the speed with which the tornado made it across to Birmingham. “There’s no way that’s not coming here,” she said then. At the time, her 88-year-old mother lived with the couple, and Rita began to collect her medicines, identification and other essentials, as well as a jewelry box with her wedding ring. They readied a closet in the basement with pillows and blankets to protect their family, including their son, his wife and their children. It was there they rode out the storm. “It was just awful,” Rita said. “You could feel your ears popping. You could feel it sucking on you, and you didn’t know if it was going to take you or not.” And then it was gone. “When you opened the basement door, there you were, you

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were outside,” Rita remembered. The Kings spent the rest of the night in her mother’s room, the only surviving part of the basement. Afterward, Rita and Jerry stayed in hotels and with family for a week before they were able to move into a camper their son hauled to their property. They lived in the camper for months while their basement was converted into an apartment of sorts, where they lived until their house was ready for move-in. Although the Kings don’t know how much severe weather their new home can withstand, they know it’s a solid structure. Each of the 16,000 blocks measures 14 inches across and weighs about 40 pounds. Atop the block walls runs a concrete beam reinforced with two strips of rebar, said Jerry King. On top of the concrete beam, the home is fitted with a double roof, one sitting about four feet above the other. There are two hurricane brackets attached to each rafter, he said, which should make it able to withstand a lot more wind. The experience has changed the way the Kings look at their home. “When you go through something like that and you see the home you’ve lived in for 25 years just in 30 seconds taken away from you, it does give you a whole different idea of your security,” Rita said. “Sometimes your security is wrapped up in your home, in your shelter. When something like this happens, you realize that it’s a house — and your home is actually the people you love.”

FAR LEFT: The Kings made use of reclaimed doors throughout the house. The closet door in the background came from Jerry King’s childhood home. LEFT: The buffet was crafted from a bookshelf that was damaged in the tornado. Rita King wanted the kitchen to feel like a mix of the American Southwest and Tuscany.

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always dreamed of attending the Kentucky Derby. I never missed a telecast from the time I was a child. In 1988, an invitation to the Derby came through the auspices of my husband’s employer, a British company with corporate headquarters based in Louisville, Ky. I was ecstatic. As a loyal Derby watcher, I knew the drill — at least I thought I did: big hat, fashionable dress, expensive shoes and mint juleps. The day before the Derby, while waiting in the bar of our hotel for the driver who was to whisk us away to a pre-Derby party, a local befriended us and shared some Derby advice. He instructed us to get to Churchill Downs early to assure a good vantage point in the infield. He further volunteered that those bringing flatbed trucks often invite attendees like ourselves to

58 LIVING Spring 2013

KentucKy Derby Day at LongLeaf botanicaL garDens • May 4, 3:30-7:30 p.m., at the crest of Museum Drive in Lagarde Park. • Watch the race, bet (legally) at the track window, best hat contest for ladies and gentlemen. • Heavy hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine, mint juleps and Derby pie. • Tickets are $100 ($75 for museum members); 256-237-6766.

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join them. Utter panic trickled through every part of my being. It never occurred to me Churchill Downs had infield fans. Throughout the ensuing party, I worried about flatbed truck attire when not worrying about the copious amounts of Maker’s Mark that significant other was consuming in an attempt to keep up with the Kentuckians who had bourbon drinking down to a fine art. Leaving the party, our host presented tickets and instructions for Derby Day. Anxiety turned to relief upon learning that our tickets were in the stands. I rejoiced; my Ferragamo pumps were saved. Derby Day dawned bright and warm. Significant other dawned ghost-white and remorseful, having not heeded my advice about keeping up with the good ole boys. Breakfast and non-alcoholic liquids did little to improve his situation, nor did the diesel fumes coming through the open limousine windows, which had to be lowered after the air conditioning was turned off because of engine overheating. We arrived at Churchill Downs looking like Richard and Hyacinth Bucket, “Bouquet,” from the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances. My hat was askew and significant other’s facial color matched that of his suit: blue. Just before the crowds sang “My Old Kentucky Home,” thanks to a hot dog and the restorative power of a Churchill Downs signature mint julep, Casper’s color returned, and we watched the 114th running of the Derby, and saw history made when Winning Colors crossed the finish line to become one of only three fillies ever to win the race.

MINT JULEP This is the recipe that will be used at the Botanical Gardens’ Derby Day party on May 4. At home, you can boost the mint flavor by adding a cup of mint leaves to the simple syrup after removing it from heat. Let steep until cool, then strain. 1 tablespoon simple syrup (see note) 2 ounces Early Times bourbon (the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby) Sprigs of mint (grown at the Botanical Gardens) Note: To make simple syrup, mix 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water, bring to a boil and stir until sugar melts. Let cool in fridge overnight. Fill mint julep glass with crushed ice. Pour in tablespoon of simple syrup and bourbon, stir until julep glass frosts on outside. Garnish with mint sprigs. Mint juleps should be made one at a time!

60 LIVING Spring 2013

DERBY PIE This dessert blends the flavors of chocolate, pecans and — of course — bourbon. Unbaked 9-inch pie crust 3 eggs 1 cup dark corn syrup 2 tablespoons butter, melted ½ cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup chopped pecans 6 ounces dark chocolate chips Splash of bourbon Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, beat eggs. Add corn syrup, butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir until blended. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips and blend. Stir in bourbon. Pour batter into unbaked pie crust and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes. May be served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

MINT JULEP PANNA COTTA Pat Kettles likes to make this Derby-flavored panna cotta, a silky Italian custard. Make additional bourbon sauce to pour over the unmolded dessert by cooking down 1 cup of bourbon with ½ cup sugar until syrupy. Serves 6. 1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder 3 tablespoons room-temperature water ½ teaspoon lightly flavored oil, such as canola 1 cup whole milk 2 cups heavy cream ¼ cup granulated sugar 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish ¼ cup Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey Stir the gelatin into the water in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps, and set the concoction aside to soften. Drizzle a paper towel with the oil and coat 6 ramekins or dishes, being careful to really get into where the sides meet the bottom so the panna cotta will release easily. Pour the milk, cream and sugar into a small saucepan, drop in the mint leaves and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture boils, after about 30 minutes (really, it will take nearly half an hour), remove the pan from the heat. Fish out the mint leaves and toss. Set the pan aside. Bring the bourbon to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and let roil for 30 seconds. Pour in the mint-infused cream mixture and warm just until the mixture reaches 175 F. Remove the pan from the heat, scoop in the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Pour the panna cotta mixture into a large measuring cup, pour it into the oiled dishes, and refrigerate until set, about 1 ½ hours. (If not serving the panna cotta the same day, press small squares of plastic wrap against the surface of the desserts, and refrigerate for up to two days.) To serve, carefully run a thin knife around each dish to loosen the panna cotta and then invert each onto a serving plate with a quick rap. Serve immediately with a flourish of mint leaves on the side. — The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

PARTY PIX Revelers Krewe Ball

The Revelers Krewe held its 70th annual Mardi Gras ball at the Anniston Country Club. The Revelers Krewe was started in 1943 as a secret society of women in Calhoun County, to celebrate Mardi Gras. The evening’s skits were based on the theme “Dancing Through the Decades.” – Photos by Jacqueline Suzanne Photography

Russ and Karen Connell

62 LIVING Spring 2013

PARTY PIX Chamber Chairman’s Diamond Gala

John E. Blue II, Chamber chair for 2012, passes the ceremonial gavel to Julia Segars, Chamber chair for 2013.

Debby Noll is presented with the Ambassador of the Year Award at the Diamond Gala

The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Chairman’s Diamond Gala celebrated 12 chambers and their members coming together to promote “Connecting Our Greater Communities,” with around 600 in attendance at the Talladega Superspeedway.

LIVING Spring 2013


PARTY PIX Sacred Heart Mardi Gras Gala

Tracie and Jim Kerper & Judy and Dan Myers.

The Sacred Heart Mardi Gras Gala celebrated its 23rd year with dinner, dancing, games and a silent auction at the Anniston City Meeting Center. The fundraiser benefits Sacred Heart School. — Photos by Shannon Tucker

Staff Medical #313220

64 LIVING Spring 2013

Dr. Gene Rhodes and Brooke Herdon share a hug after the performance of the Sacred Heart Show Choir.

PARTY PIX Sacred Heart Mardi Gras Gala

LEFT: Partygoers dance to music at the annual Sacred Heart Mardi Gras Gala. ABOVE: Jennifer Davis enjoys the chocolate fountain.

HOW TO SUBMIT PHOTOS Email high-resolution photos and a description of your event to Lisa Davis,

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PARTY PIX China National Symphony Orchestra

The China National Symphony Orchestra kicked off its American tour at the Knox Concert Series. A movement from composer Xia Guan’s work “Requiem for the Earth” had its Southern United States premiere. — Photos by David Cummings HOW TO SUBMIT PHOTOS Email high-resolution photos and a description of your event to Lisa Davis,

Steve and Gena Vinyard, conductor En Shao and pianist Wu Muye.

Rita Springer, Mandy King, Dr. William Wall and pianist Wu Muye.

66 LIVING Spring 2013

Pianist Wu Muye, Rita Springer, conductor En Shao and composer Xia Guan of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

PARTY PIX Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Andy and Karen Stinson along with Butch Haynes.

The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performed at the Oxford Civic Center, sponsored by the Oxford Arts Council. — Photos by Shannon Tucker

Conductor and band leader Terry Myers.

Gordon Kelley, Carol Kelley, Linda Rainwater and Clyde Wesson.

Roy and Becky Thompson show off their dancing skills while listening to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

LIVING Spring 2013


PARTY PIX Noble Gallery Opening

Noble Gallery, inside Nunnally’s Framing in downtown Anniston, held an openingnight reception for a new show of works by the East Alabama Artists association. — Photos by Shannon Tucker Dianna Michaels and David Schneider.

Candee Bradford and J. A. Ritter.


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68 LIVING Spring 2013

PARTY PIX Noble Gallery Opening

Seth Vorce and his mom Melody.

Ann Welch, left, and Dauphine Sowell.

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PARTY PIX Russian National Ballet

Ballet dancers with Rodney and Kim Gibson and their children, representing underwriter Warren Averett LLC.

A reception was held following a performance by the Russian National Ballet, sponsored by the Knox Concert Series. HOW TO SUBMIT PHOTOS Email high-resolution photos and a description of your event to Lisa Davis,

Kathy Bowen and Cindy Snider.

Jerry Leake and George Carruth.

70 LIVING Spring 2013

Russian National Ballet dancers at reception.

SOUTHERNISMS Up on the mountain, the airwaves still buzz with the sounds of swap meets and string bands

‘You’re listening to WSMT on your AM dial’



ike many of you, dear readers, I grew up listening to AM radio. It was the transmission used by local stations scattered about in small towns around the region. Their range was limited. If you were listening in your car, the signal would fade as you left one broadcast zone; as you traveled you were constantly going up and down the dial to find another. If there was a storm, AM seemed to pick it up and the static would drown out the program. But it was all we had. FM, which had clearer signals that traveled farther, was in the future. Although home radios did not move from zone to zone, they still faced many of the same problems, especially when the listener wanted to pick up a faraway AM station at night. Small, local stations often shut down at sunset, leaving listeners in rural areas with weak signals that were often lost in static. Unless you were on a high spot — like Sand Mountain, here in Northeast Alabama. Sand Mountain was and is an AM listener’s delight. Because folks up there could pick up signals near and far, local stations worked hard to provide local programming to keep their listeners tuned in and their advertisers buying ads. The result was that for much of the 20th century, and in some places even today, programs on local AM radio stations carried the culture of the people they served. Riding along Sand Mountain a while back, I was treated to a local “swap shop” where people called in with something to sell or trade. The program was sponsored by a store that sold damaged furniture — “it ain’t broke bad” — and canned goods that had tumbled out

72 LIVING Spring 2013

when the crate ruptured — “ain’t a dent in ’em.” This was when the recession was raging and times were hard up there. And there is music. Northeast Alabama has some of the finest Appalachian music-makers anywhere, and the AM stations connect them with their audience. String bands during the week, gospel quartets on Sunday, singing and playing songs old and new, some of which you can find in the National Archives Folklore Collection. Some folks still believe that up on Sand Mountain they once spoke the purest Elizabethan English found outside the British Isles, and after you have listened to the pronunciations and inflections you hear from the callers and the singers and even the announcers, you can believe with them. But when I think of Northeast AlaMargaret Poplin bama AM radio, I think back to my college days in the 1960s, and to a story told to me by a friend who tuned into a local station while driving to Chattanooga. The program, featuring a string band, was sponsored by the Kelly Coffin Company. The show’s theme song, sung to the tune of “Rock of Ages,” went something like this: Kelly’s caskets are just fine, Made of sandalwood and pine. If your loved one has to go, Call Columbus-610. Kelly’s caskets, now we sing, Death o’ Death, where is thy sting? I bet they sold a bunch. Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Anniston Star.


More Than $25 Million In Employee Wages And Benefits $27.7 Million In Uncompensated Care Paid In Excess Of $1.2 Million In Taxes OUR PEOPLE t 321 Associates t 174 Physicians on Medical Staff t 16 Volunteers

OUR FACILITY Invested $10.2 Million for facility and service improvements over the past five years These benefits highlight some of the many ways that Stringfellow Memorial Hospital positively impacts our community. Our associates, physicians and hospital volunteers work hard to provide the highest quality care available to our patients. We are proud to have served Northeast Alabama since 1938.

QUALITY t Chest Pain Accreditation t American Heart Association Get with the Guidelines Silver Award

GIVING BACK t Raised $6,750 in Fundraising in 2011 t Donated $14,061 in Sponsorships in 2011

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301 East 18th St. Anniston, AL 36207 Phone: 256.235.8900 This Hospital is owned or invested in by physicians.

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Northeast Alabama Living - Spring 2013  

The Spring 2013 edition of Northeast Alabama Living magazine.