Mobile Bay THE LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE FOR MOBILE AND BALDWIN COUNTIES
Southern E legance
THE HOLIDAY ISSUE
Naturals & neutrals are the new seasonal chic
ES 5 GREAT PLAUCT TO PIG O pg. 20
SECRETS OF THE GRAND
Point Clearâ€™s classified mission that helped win World War II pg. 54
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FEATURES DECEMBER 2016
VOLUME XXXII / ISSUE 12
33 2016 Holiday Gift Guide Find some of the best buys around the Bay to quickly check everyone off your shopping list.
46 Holiday How-to Decorating your home for the season shouldn’t be a stress or hassle. A local floral and decor expert shares the best tricks for a holly, jolly home.
SHOPS AND BOUTIQUES AROUND THE BAY OFFER THE PERFECT PRESENTS. PHOTO BY ELISE POCHÉ.
54 Operation Ivory Soap A secret World War II operation based at the Grand Hotel saved many lives. Take a look back as we approach the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. ON OUR COVER
An ornate gold mirror and marble fireplace provide the perfect spot for experimenting with holiday decor. Floral design by Carol Reeves. Caneback chair courtesy of Atchison Home. PHOTO BY ELIZABETH GELINEAU
In 2015, the average American spent around $815 on Christmas gifts! Luckily, our holiday gift guide, page 33, provides a peek at the best local buys for every loved one — for any budget. Get your shopping done easy peasy this year!
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DEPARTMENTS DECEMBER 2016
VOLUME XXXII / ISSUE 12
28 LEFT Emily Clarke and her little helper Murphy decorate festive cookies for a family get-together. PHOTO BY ELIZABETH GELINEAU RIGHT The iconic Thyme by the Bay has moved to Thyme on Section with the same gorgeous style and excellent food. PHOTO BY BLAIR ABRAHAM
11 Editor’s Note 13 Reaction 13 On the Web 14 Odds & Ends 18 Elemental The Christmas Orange Mobilians have a special love for the small, orange citrus known as the satsuma. Turns out, the fruit loves our hometown just as much.
20 The Dish The Best Pork The beloved breakfast protein isn’t just a Saturday morning splurge. Restaurateurs around the Bay are giving bacon the royal treatment.
22 Bay Tables A Clarke Christmas One family bands together after a year of hardship to celebrate life and the holidays. And, of course, share their favorite recipes for a jolly Christmas.
28 Tastings Thyme on Section 58 Bay Boy The Chiquimula Watt Key shares a true story from his grandfather as he purchased an old schooner in the early 1940s. What unfolds is a tale of teamwork and determination.
68 Ask McGehee What is the link between Mobile and the “Ponzi scheme”? The infamous financial conman spent some time in the Port City before gaining notoriety elsewhere.
70 Point of View Down the River MB’s final installment of Bay area drone photography
OUT & ABOUT
16 Must List 62 Holiday Highlights 64 On Stage & Exhibits 66 January Highlights
Bacon is one of the oldest processed meats in the world. The Chinese began making bacon in 1500 B.C. — nearly 4,000 years ago! The meat continues to sizzle in popularity. Check out a few local bacon dishes, page 20.
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Mobile Bay o VOLUME XXXII
PUBLISHER T. J. Potts
Stephen Potts Judy Culbreth EXECUTIVE EDITOR Lawren Largue STAFF WRITER Breck Pappas COPY EDITOR Chelsea Wallace Adams Marie Katz Laurie Kilpatrick WEB PRODUCER Abby Parrott M ARKETING COORDINATOR Maggie Lacey PRODUCTION DIRECTOR
Joseph A. Hyland
Adelaide Smith McAleer
ADMINISTRATION CIRCULATION Anita Miller ACCOUNTING Jody Chandler
Mallory Boykin, Sallye Irvine, Watt Key, Tom McGehee CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS
Blair Abraham, Dan Anderson, Beau Dodd, Elizabeth Gelineau, Jeff Kennedy, Elise Poché, Wendy Wilson ADVERTISING AND EDITORIAL OFFICES
3729 Cottage Hill Road, Suite H Mobile, AL 36609-6500 251-473-6269 Subscription rate is $21.95 per year. Subscription inquiries and all remittances should be sent to: Mobile Bay P.O. Box 923773 Norcross, GA 30010-3773 1-855-357-3137 MOVING? Please note: U.S. Postal Service will not forward magazines mailed through their bulk mail unit. Please send old label along with your new address four to six weeks prior to moving. Mobile Bay is published 12 times per year for the Gulf Coast area. All contents © 2016 by PMT Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use of the contents without written permission is prohibited. Comments written in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ownership or the management of Mobile Bay. This magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. All submissions will be edited for length, clarity and style. PUBLISHED BY PMT PUBLISHING INC .
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EDITOR’S NOTE BEHIND THE STORIES
Home for the Holidays
hristmas came early for MB art director Laurie Kilpatrick and her family of five. Before trickor-treaters even graced the front porch, her newly renovated home served as the picturesque location for our holiday decor photo shoot. As premature as it seems, this celebratory sight was actually a long time coming and so much more than just festive decorations in a lovely home. Laurie and her husband, Lt. Col. John Kilpatrick U.S. Army Reserve, closed on their dream house in the charming Fearnway neighborhood on June 12, 2015, the day before John deployed to serve in Kuwait. The couple had planned a complete overhaul of the circa-1904 home, which Laurie primarily handled, with the help of architect Pete Vallas and interior designer Trini Bryant, while her husband was away. Rooms were reconfigured, the kitchen was gutted and the attic was transformed into a secondfloor suite for their two boys, complete with the addition of a grand staircase in the dining room. Following John’s safe arrival home nearly eight months later, construction was eventually completed, and the two put all the finishing touches on the white-columned jewel over the summer. As the Kilpatrick clan finally began the big move this past August, the MB staff swooped in and invaded their spectacular kitchen as the headquarters for our October food feature before “Chef John” even had a chance to cook in his new space. While we all marveled at the craftsmanship and character of the bright and airy abode, photographer Elizabeth Gelineau commented, “Wow, this will look spectacular all decorated for the
holidays!” We all agreed, and so it was decided that the Kilpatrick home would be decked out for our December holiday inspiration decorating shoot. Carol Reeves, of Elizabeth’s Garden, created a modern and sophisticated look with a nod to the home’s genteel Southern roots. After the painstaking renovation process, the sprightly, festive design is a beautiful reminder of all the joys of the season and memories sure to be made here for many years to come. Welcome home and merry Christmas, Kilpatrick family!
Lawren Wood Largue, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
MEET MAGGIE This month, Mobile Bay welcomes the talented Maggie Lacey to our editorial team. A Vanderbilt grad with a background in fashion, event planning, graphic design and the local food movement, Maggie will wear a variety of hats from marketing coordinator and events planner to resident food editor.
This month marks the conclusion of our Point of View drone photo series. To take a look back at this year’s breathtaking aerial views, visit mobilebaymag.com
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CAPTAIN KATHRYN HIRE. PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA ARCHIVES
1939 FOOTBALL TICKET STUB. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHC ARCHIVES
Get even more local coverage this month on mobilebaymag.com. Here’s what’s new!
YOUR CALLS, EMAILS, LETTERS, POINTS OF VIEW . . .
2016 : The Review FROM MURPHY TO OUTER SPACE On October’s “The Amazing Life of Captain Kathryn Hire” We are proud of our alumna! Murphy is the only high school in the country that has produced two astronauts. - Noel Tate
MORE THAN A BEER STOP On October’s “Tastings” on Old Shell Growlers We loved “The Growler!” The staff was very helpful in advising us to choose a beer we’d like. The escargot-stuffed mushrooms were delicious! - Peggy Shilling Domning
LEATHERHEADS ON THE HILL
little upset with — the Dining Guide. Nowhere was the Semmes area mentioned. We have several very popular restaurants. The Hickory Pit Too is one in particular. Parking is always limited and the restaurant is always full! Not to mention, they cater, too. Brandon Van Hook and his staff are always quick to serve. They also have a drive-up window for those who do not have time to come in. I will put his barbecue ribs and pulled pork up against any restaurant. I ask you to do one thing. Come and try their barbecue or daily lunches anytime. Ride by and see how the people of Semmes support this restaurant. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. - Jim Crone
On October’s “Spring Hill’s Eleven” Interesting article. I didn’t realize LSU played their first home night game against Spring Hill College. - Kimberly Miller Doiron
DON’T FORGET ABOUT SEMMES On November’s Dining Guide I received my copy of the November issue, and I loved reading the articles. However, there was one particular portion that I was a
GETTING TO KNOW YOU Do you have an idea for a story? Share your thoughts and reactions to the issue with us. EMAIL email@example.com MAIL P.O. Box 66200, Mobile, AL 36660 WEB mobilebaymag.com
We close the door on 2016 with a look at the most eye-catching photos, scrumptious recipes and talked-about articles from MB this year.
2017: The Preview We look ahead to 2017 with a brand new list of things to do, places to shop and restaurants to try. Happy New Year!
App-y Holidays You can’t have a holiday party without appetizers. Browse our list of easy, go-to recipes you must try this season.
Shopping Made Easy Want to avoid long shopping lines this holiday season? Visit us online to purchase MB gift subscriptions, cookbooks and other local gifts without ever leaving the couch.
Party Pics Share your event with us! Go online to fill out the Party Pics registration form and submit your event photos to be featured in a gallery on the Web.
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text by CHELSEA WALLACE ADAMS
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY
DECEMBER 7, 1941 The day that will live in infamy, the attack on Pearl Harbor, occurred 75 years ago. Japanese bombs rained on the port, and more than 3,500 Americans lost their lives or were injured that day. A few years later, the USS Alabama would enter the fray of World War II and receive nine Battle Stars in three years. The ship suffered zero casualties from enemy fire during its campaigns, according to ussalabama.com, earning it the nickname “Lucky A.” Have you heard of the secret World War II operation to help the American troops’ progression through the Pacific? Speed over to page 54 and learn all about Operation Ivory Soap, based at the historic Grand Hotel in Point Clear.
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
THE ORIGINS OF SANTA
Be Santa’s helper and find the perfect gift for everyone on your list in our annual Gift Guide, page 33.
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Which of the following is NOT a casual name for the herb thyme? A. Mother of thyme B. Mountain thyme C. Creeping thyme D. Serpent thyme Check the bottom of this page for the answer. Then, learn about another type of thyme (hint: it’s a local fave in dining) in Tastings, page 28.
“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.” WORD UP mikan /MEE-can/ n.) In Japanese, an orange citrus fruit; an unshu mikan is the beloved satsuma orange, which originated from Japan You love to peel ’em and munch ’em, and now you can learn more about Mobile’s favorite orange fruit. Read up on the citrus’ strange history in Elemental, page 18.
— LEE IACOCCA, businessman and car manufacturing executive, who has helmed Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation Relying on the love and support of family helped the Clarkes survive the hardest months of their lives and come out stronger. Flip to Bay Tables, on page 22, and celebrate the holidays with their favorite family recipes.
CORRECT ANSWER: D - SERPENT THYME. THOUGH THE SCIENTIFIC NAME FOR WILD THYME IS T. SERPYLLUM IN REFERENCE TO THE SPRAWLING, SNAKE-LIKE QUALITY OF THE PLANT.
Every December, images of a jolly, rosy-cheeked, white-bearded man in red dominate the Christmas season. But where did he come from? St. Nicholas was a Turkish man living in the 300s A.D., according to history.com. The fellow was well known for his kind heart. The most famous story of his generosity — and also a reason for his role as a contemporary gift-giver — stems from the story of the three daughters. With their father unable to afford dowries for any of the girls to marry, their futures seemed bleak. However, as each reached the age of marriage, St. Nicholas gifted each girl a bag of gold to use as a dowry, and all three happily married. By the late 1700s, Dutch families in New York had begun gathering in remembrance of the passing of St. Nick. His Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, was a shortened form of “Saint Nicholas” and easily morphed into today’s “Santa Claus.”
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MUST LIST text by MALLORY BOYKIN
This month’s not-to-be-missed events.
DECEMBER 10 - 11 The Mobile Ballet’s magical annual production of “The Nutcracker” is a classic Christmas experience. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $20. ✦ MOBILE CIVIC CENTER THEATER MOBILEBALLET.ORG
“THE NUTCRACKER” PHOTO BY JEFF KENNEDY
A white Christmas comes to the Gulf Coast as a part of Foley’s Let It Snow event. The local landscape changes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ✦ DOWNTOWN FOLEY • 943-1300
through dec. 31
A memorable stroll through the Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens is sure to brighten up the holiday season. More than 3 million lights glow in 15 different scenes around the picturesque property. Admission: $15 - $24 for adults, $7.50 - $13 for children (5 - 12), free for children under age 5. ✦ BELLINGRATH GARDENS AND HOME • BELLINGRATH.ORG
DEC. 10 - 11 Roman Street and Mithril bring their unique brands of Christmas cheer to Downtown’s Saenger Theatre. It is a performance that local music aficionados will not want to miss. 6 p.m. Doors open. 7 p.m. Show starts. ✦ SAENGER THEATRE MOBILESAENGER.COM
The anticipation for the big Dollar General Bowl showdown builds with plenty of pregame activities. The teams kick off at 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN. Tickets: $15 - $45. ✦ LADD-PEEBLES STADIUM • 635-0011 DOLLARGENERALBOWL.COM
THROUGH JANUARY 1
Experience a magical light spectacle of Christmas cheer at Hank Aaron Stadium from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Don’t forget to tune your radio to the designated station to hear Christmas music timed to the lights. Admission: $6. ✦ HANK AARON STADIUM • CHRISTMASNIGHTSOFLIGHTS.COM For more events, check out calendar, page 62.
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The Christmas Orange text by BRECK PAPPAS
rowing up in Mobile, I always thought the delicious satsuma was named after the town that lies a few miles north of the Port City. I wondered if the rest of the world even knew about the sweet, wonderful orb or if it was just
another of our well-kept secrets, like Mardi Gras or the Delta. Lo and behold, I had it all backwards. The town of Satsuma was named after the foreign fruit in anticipation of the (unfulfilled) agricultural promises to come. Production of the satsuma was
booming in the 1900s until Mother Nature directed her icy stare at the Gulf Coast, destroying all but a few of the wintertime citrus trees. Here, learn about the origins of the satsuma orange, its journey to Mobile and its never-ending fight against the cold.
SPIT TAKE The Citrus unshiu, better known in these parts as the satsuma orange, is a seedless fruit that originated in Asia. Well, technically, it averages 1.5 seeds per fruit. Good for your lunch, bad for your lunch break seed-spitting competitions.
BRRRR, IT’S COLD IN HERE Satsuma trees are actually among the most coldtolerant edible citrus species, able to survive even when the temperature drops to 15 degrees. Only the hardy kumquat can top this feat!
MRS. NOMER The name “satsuma” is usually credited to the wife of Gen. Van Valkenberg, the U.S. minister to Japan from 1866 to 1869. Although the general sent home the fruit by way of the Satsuma Province in Japan, the citrus fruit did not originate from that area, contrary to common belief. Way to fact check, Mrs. Valkenberg!
A FRUIT WITH MANY NAMES
A WINTER WINNER
Other monikers include satsuma mandarin, cold hardy mandarin, Christmas orange and zipper-skin citrus for its trademark easy-to-peel rind. At my house, it’s called breakfast.
The satsuma tree is self-fertile, meaning that its flowers have both male and female parts. Its fruit, which is about three-fourths the size of a tennis ball, reaches maturity around November and December.
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OUR HISTORY IN SATSUMAS ◗ Although scientists believe it originated in China, the satsuma was first reported in Japan more than 700 years ago. In 1878, just two years after the “Owari” satsuma was introduced in the United States, the first satsuma trees reached Alabama. ◗ Because of a similarity to Japan’s climate, satsumas immediately thrived in the warm Gulf region. In the 1920s, the Gulf Coast Citrus Exchange shipped thousands of train cars of satsumas to eager eaters in northern markets. ◗ In 1915, an area north of Mobile, then called Fig Tree Island, was renamed Satsuma in honor of the booming Japanese fruit. However, several freezes from 1924 to 1933 severely damaged the trees and their fruit. This was compounded by the fact that longleaf pine forests, which had once protected the town from cold northern winds, had recently been cut down. Then, in 1940, a sudden drop in temperature during growing season dealt a fatal blow, essentially eliminating the Gulf Coast satsuma industry for the next 50 years. ◗ We weren’t the only geniuses who thought to honor the fruit; Florida, Louisiana and Texas also have towns named Satsuma. ◗ The introduction of micro sprinkler irrigation in the 1990s was a major step for the satsuma industry, allowing farmers to reduce the impact of hard freezes. The result was an increase in satsuma acreage in both Mobile and Baldwin counties. MB
Through mid-December, you can pick your own local satsumas! Visit Sunnyland Satsuma Orchard at 1381 Grand Bay Wilmer Road on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Check out sunnylandsatsuma.com for more information.
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THE DISH text by CHELSEA WALLACE ADAMS • photo by WENDY WILSON
The Best Pork No breakfast protein is as universally adored as bacon. The classically delicious meat improves any dish it’s on, as these local entrees prove.
ANYTHING BUT SHRIMPY The El Matador shrimp app spices up any meal. Four jumbo Gulf shrimp are stuffed with Gouda cheese and jalapeños before being wrapped in delicious bacon. Served atop a jicama slaw with a jalapeño and red wine vinegar topping, this dish is a zesty, citrusy delight. FUEGO • 2066 OLD SHELL ROAD • 378-8619 FUEGOCOASTALMEX.COM
GET A PIECE OF THE PIE Looking for a sweet and savory dessert? Try Bill E. Stitt’s famous baconwrapped sweet potato pie, left. A sweet potato, cinnamon and brown sugar filling is loaded into a flaky crust, sealed with a fork all the way around and wrapped in housecured bacon. It’s dropped into the deep fryer and comes out with a crispy exterior and sinfully gooey center. OLD 27 GRILL • 19992 AL-181, FAIRHOPE 281-2663 • OLD27GRILL.COM
GRILLED CHEESE TO THE EXTREME Stevie’s turns a classic into a masterpiece. This sammie combines Boar’s Head provolone, Swiss and American cheeses for a delectably rich flavor. Loaded onto grilled sourdough bread, then grilled again, it comes out with a satisfying crunchy exterior. Add on bacon for a crispy treat. STEVIE’S KITCHEN • 41 W. I-65 SERVICE ROAD NORTH #150 • 287-2791 • STEVIESKITCHEN.NET
HIGH STEAKS Certified Angus beef filet mignon is wrapped in strips of sinful, smoked, black pepper bacon and grilled on pecan wood for a satisfying carnivorous meal. WOLF BAY LODGE • 20801 MIFLIN ROAD, FOLEY 987-5129 • WOLFBAYLODGE.COM
A PEARL OF A DISH What could be better than a combo of two of Lower Alabama’s favorite ingredients: oysters and bacon? The Bienville oysters are topped with herbs, Gulf shrimp, crab, bacon and breadcrumbs before being baked. It’s all sprinkled with Parmesan, making a pleasant app for all.
BILL E.’S BACON-WRAPPED PIES, OLD 27 GRILL
HALF SHELL OYSTER HOUSE • 3654 AIRPORT BLVD. 338-9350 • HALFSHELLOYSTERHOUSE.COM
Can’t get enough bacon-y goodness? Head over to mobilebaymag.com for an extended list of area dishes that feature the heavenly strips. 20 mobilebaymag.com | december 2016
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A Clarke Christmas Through a trying year, the Clarke family supported and encouraged one another. Now on the other side, this year’s holiday celebration has become all the more meaningful. text and styling by SALLYE IRVINE • photos by ELIZABETH GELINEAU
his year, the Clarke family got a special early Christmas gift. The youngest member of their large clan, baby Mary Myers Clarke, survived a harrowing health crisis against all odds. “The doctors say she is a miracle,” her dad, Will Clarke, shares. At the age of three months, Mary Myers suffered cardiac arrest caused by a critical, undiagnosed heart defect. She was life-flighted from Mobile to Birmingham. Open-heart surgery, a second cardiac arrest (requiring an agonizing hour of CPR) and 37 days in the cardiovascular infant intensive care unit at Children’s of Alabama followed before she emerged smiling yet incredibly fragile. Her mother, Ashley, recounts how one of the surgeons told them that there was a good chance Mary Myers wouldn’t make it. “At one point, they said, ‘Every hour is a victory,’” she says. “Mary Myers could hold onto my finger, so I knew that she was there and she knew we were there,” says Will. “It was day 13 before she opened her eyes.” Not every day since has been progress, but now she’s home and still smiling. “It is amazing the number of people who came and supported us,” says Will. As luck would have it, Will’s sister Miriam’s in-laws live in Birmingham and provided housing for friends and family throughout the lengthy hospitalization. And, because Miriam is a teacher and it was summertime, she was often able to keep Will and Ashley’s 2-year-old son, Murphy. “And there were so many people praying. You could tell just from watching Facebook,” says Mary Myers’ grandmother, Penny Clarke. All of the Clarkes agree that this tumultuous year of joys and sorrows has brought them closer together and made them realize the strength and importance of family. Joe Clarke, Will’s dad, says, “We have had a lot of prayers answered, and we are so grateful.” Penny adds, “It has been a whirlwind and there were a lot of hard times, but we feel incredibly blessed. So it is a happy ending.” In celebration of the season and the gift of family, the Clarkes share their story along with some of their favorite recipes for their own holiday gatherings. MB
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ABOVE Ashley and Will Clarke with 2-year-old Murphy and baby Mary Myers. The day after her dad’s 27th birthday, Mary Myers suffered cardiac arrest caused by an undiagnosed heart defect. Today, after a lengthy road to recovery, she is a smiling survivor. Her family is incredibly grateful for the life of this precious little girl and the encouragement that they received from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. OPPOSITE The extended Clarke family congregates to celebrate the season of joy, hope and thanksgiving. Peter Boehme, Miriam Clarke Boehme, Murphy Clarke, Will Clarke, Ashley Clarke, Mary Myers Clarke, Joe Clarke, Penny Clarke, Clisby Clarke, Emily Clarke, Ransom Clarke, Caleb Clarke and Phillip Clarke. This year’s gathering will hold a special place in their hearts.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin
SERVES 10 - 12
Instead of the traditional turkey or beef, the Clarkes always enjoy these grilled pork tenders on Christmas Day. Penny says they double the recipe to feed their crowd. 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil 3/4 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons dry mustard 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 2 3 1 1
tablespoon black pepper cloves garlic, minced (1-pound) pork tenderloins 1/2 tablespoons butter tablespoon dry roux (Will prefers Karyâ€™s Dry Roux.)
1. For marinade, combine oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire, dry mustard, parsley, pepper and garlic. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. 2. Place tenders in a large zip-top bag or airtight plastic or glass container. Pour marinade over meat and close container. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours, turning occasionally to evenly distribute the marinade. 3. Remove tenders from marinade, reserving marinade, and cook covered loosely with foil on grill over medium coals for approximately 15 - 20 minutes until no pink remains. Slice to serve. 4. Meanwhile, strain the marinade to remove solids, pour into a saucepan and add butter. Bring to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes and whisk in dry roux, stirring until there are no lumps and mixture is slightly reduced and thickened. Serve with the sliced meat.
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Penny Clarke’s Tabouli SERVES 6 - 8
Penny Petro Clarke’s family is of Lebanese heritage, as is her daughter Miriam’s new husband’s family, so traditional Lebanese dishes play a prominent role in any holiday feast. Tabouli is a sprightly, refreshing complement to almost any entree. 1 cup cracked bulgur wheat, medium or fine 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped 2 bunches curly-leaf parsley, finely chopped 1/2 - 1 cup finely chopped fresh mint or 2 - 3 tablespoons dried mint (Penny uses dried mint.) 6 tomatoes, chopped juice of 4 lemons 1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil pepper and garlic salt, to taste (Penny uses a couple of good shakes.)
1. Soak the wheat in cold water, then cover for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well, squeezing out excess water, and return to bowl. 2. Stir in green onions, parsley, mint and tomatoes along with lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper and garlic. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Ashley Clarke’s Holiday Dressing SERVES APPROXIMATELY 8 - 10
This family recipe originally came from Ashley’s late grandmother, Patricia McDonough Murphy. 2 - 3 large yellow onions, chopped (approximately 3 - 4 cups) 3 - 4 cups chopped celery 2 sticks butter, divided 3 (6-ounce) boxes turkeyflavored dressing (Ashley prefers Stove Top.)
1 pound regular sausage 1 pound hot sausage 1 1/2 - 2 (14-ounce) bags Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned breadcrumbs 1 cup chopped pecans (save extra halves for optional garnish)
1. Boil onion, celery and 1 1/2 sticks of butter in approximately 6 - 8 cups of water for about 1 hour. 2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing according to package directions. Cook the sausage and drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 3. In a very large bowl, mix the cooked dressing, sausage, breadcrumbs and cooked onion and celery mixture, reserving the liquid. 4. Stir in pecans. (Ashley only puts pecans in half the dressing.) Pour in half the reserved liquid and mix. Add more liquid, 1 cup or so at a time, until mixture is “very moist but not too mushy.” 5. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan and a 7-by-11-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread dressing evenly into each pan. Dot with the remaining butter, and cover with foil. 6. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Garnish with pecan halves. Note: Dressing can be made ahead and frozen.
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Emily Clarke’s Iced Sugar Cookies MAKES APPROXIMATELY 2 DOZEN COOKIES
These stunning, splendid sugar cookies are Emily Dobbe Clarke’s specialty. Making these beauties is a festive labor of love. 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature 2 cups sugar 2 large eggs 3 teaspoons almond extract 5 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt
1. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment at medium speed for about 1 minute. (Do not overmix or your cookie will not hold its shape.) Add eggs and almond extract. Slowly mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl. 2. Sift flour and salt. Add to mixture and mix on low speed for approximately 30 seconds. When the dough clumps to the paddle attachment, it is ready. 3. Roll the dough out between two large pieces of wax paper. Place on a baking sheet and place in fridge for a minimum of 1 hour. Cut out cookie shapes and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. (They will then hold their shape better when baked.)
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4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. (You may need to adjust baking time according to the size of the cookies.) Let cookies cool to room temperature before decorating. 5. Prepare Royal Icing. (See below.) 6. Add outline icing to an icing bag fitted with a No. 2 tip. Pipe the outline onto the cookie. Let it dry for a few minutes. 7. Add a few drops of water to the colored icing and add to a squeeze bottle. Start piping from the outside and work your way to the middle. Pop any air bubbles with a toothpick. 8. Let cookies dry overnight.
Royal Icing 1/4 cup meringue powder (Available in the cake decorating aisle) 1/2 cup cold water 4 cups confectionersâ€™ sugar gel coloring
1. Combine meringue powder and cold water in mixer with whisk attachment. Beat until peaks form. Beat in confectionersâ€™ sugar. 2. Divide prepared icing into separate bowls and add gel coloring for desired colors.
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THYME ON SECTION
text by MAGGIE LACEY • photo by BLAIR ABR AHAM SEARED GROUPER
ON THE MENU “CHEF’S CHOICE” CHARCUTERIE A selection of cheeses, house-cured meats, pickled vegetables and seasonal compotes rotates monthly. A recent menu featured a persimmon Champagne compote over Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tomme and Asher Blue cheeses, as well as sumptuous blue crab toast.
CAULIFLOWER SOUP Pureed cauliflower soup, rich but not heavy, is topped with toasted almonds, grapes and a pile of blue crab.
SEARED GROUPER Fresh Gulf fish is served over a bed of salty prosciutto, warm melted leeks and roasted fingerling potatoes, topped with an almond garlic sauce and crispy sliced almonds and finished with arugula.
BISTRO STEAK Kentucky hanger steak is seared, then sliced, and drizzled with a creamy, rich truffle sauce. Shoestring fries are served alongside, with truffle aioli for dipping.
he story of Thyme is one of growth and evolution. It begins at a mom-and-pop cafe where chefs and owners Adrian and Rachel Yots put down roots, grew their own vegetables, worked side by side in the kitchen and quietly toiled away at making an exceptional restaurant. After attracting a loyal fanbase at their tiny dining room, Thyme by the Bay spread its wings and moved to a grownup space in Downtown Fairhope, now called Thyme on Section. With an expanded menu, increased seating, a full bar and au courant decor, Thyme on Section has a new vibe but the same roots in quality, seasonality, inventiveness and personal attention. Before opening Thyme, the Yots worked at several top restaurants across the U.S. where they trained in modern gastronomy. Upon opening their own eatery, they combined that palate with homey local flavors to create a menu of avant garde Southern cuisine that is at the same time familiar and exciting. The new, larger kitchen at the Section Street location, which replaced the Bayfront location this October, has allowed the Yots to expand the menu. Adrian says he is Thyme on Section •
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excited to now offer a larger selection of small plates for folks to enjoy at the bar, which features a number of creative cocktails and a respectable list of wines. What was a simple charcuterie platter before now showcases an array of Southern cheeses and house-made pâtés, rillettes and pickles. Chef Yots makes his own house-cured bacon that reappears several times on the menu. The fish is always fresh, and the overall menu will change every three months to feature seasonal local produce. The husband and wife team oversaw every aspect of the design of their new space, and it shows, right down to the tables that the chef crafted himself. The Yots even made many of the serving pieces — the Kentucky hanger steak and truffle fries are presented on a carving board made from reclaimed wood supplied by local customer Charles Phillips of the eponymous antiques business. Warm wood, trendy Edison light bulbs and exposed brick finish out the modern interior. The Yots designed the dining room around a large window to the kitchen, putting the chefs and their team on display as they work with their fresh, local ingredients. They keep it comfortable and delicious, so diners won’t be disappointed. MB
Entree price average: $25 • 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. W - Sa; 10:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. Su. 33 N. Section St., Fairhope • 990-5635 • thymeonsection.com
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DECEMBER 2016 BROWN AND GOLD GIFT WRAPPING SEAMLESSLY FITS INTO THE EARTHY HOME DECOR, WITH A CHARMING OYSTER SHELL FOR A FINAL TOUCH. PHOTO BY ELIZABETH GELINEAU.
VOLUME XXXII / ISSUE 12
THE HOLIDAY ISSUE
Holiday How-to 2016 GIFT GUIDE PG. 33 • HOLIDAY HOW-TO PG. 46 • OPERATION IVORY SOAP PG. 54
“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” — EDNA FERBER
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Pull your sleigh around both sides of the Bay to shop for everyone on your list this holiday! We found presents that are unique, rustic, luxurious and just plain fun. Pick up a few, and your shopping is done!
text and styling by MAGGIE LACEY • photos by ELISE POCHÉ
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GENTS These handsome gifts will be a hit with the dapper or laid-back men. 1. UASHMAMA PAPER TOTE BAG, $58. Chapel Farm Collection. 19130 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope. 929-1630.
2. "THE ESSENTIAL OYSTER" BY ROWAN JACOBSEN, $35. The Garage Studio. 17070 Scenic Highway 98, Point Clear. 928-3474.
3. WOODEN REINDEER ORNAMENT, $16. Sarah B. Atchison’s. 2602 Old Shell Road. 473-4086.
4. WILLIAM HENRY STEEL-BLADED KNIFE WITH 24K GOLD HANDLE INLAID WITH WOOLY MAMMOTH TOOTH AND STUDDED WITH SMOKY QUARTZ, $1,775. Zundel’s Jewelers. 3670 Dauphin St. 344-8300.
5. WILLIAM HENRY STEEL-BLADED KNIFE WITH TITANIUM HANDLE INLAID WITH NORWAY BLUE SPRUCE PINE CONE AND STUDDED WITH SAPPHIRES, $750. Zundel’s Jewelers. 6. 9-OUNCE CORKCICLE CANTEEN IN BRUSHED COPPER, $20 plus optional engraving. Claude Moore Jeweler. 3700 Dauphin St. 380-9400.
7. CANVAS AND LEATHER SHAVE KIT, $264. Claude Moore Jeweler.
8.“PICKLES, PIGS & WHISKEY” COOKBOOK BY JOHN CURRENCE, $40. The Garage Studio.
9. HAND-TURNED ZEBRA WOOD PEN, $40. Claude Moore Jeweler.
10. PEN AND INK SKETCH BY B. BETH WELDON, $175. Chapel Farm Collection. 11. CITIZEN COURAGEOUS PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WATCH WITH CROCODILE STRAP, $975 Friedman’s Fine Jewelry. 851 East Interstate 65 Service Road South. 479-9469.
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LADIES Something to make your wife, mom, daughter or sister feel extra special… 1. ITALIAN FRINGED THROW, $88. Design House. 3607 Old Shell Road. 607-6310.
2. COPPER STUDDED EARRINGS, $32. Sway Boutique. 324 Fairhope Ave., Fairhope. 990-2282.
3. SHAGREEN CLUTCH BY VIVO, $309. Chapel Farm Collection. 19130 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope. 9291630.
4. HANDMADE HERB NAPKIN RINGS (SET OF 8), $117. Chapel Farm Collection.
5. ROSY RINGS WAX SACHET (PAIR), $24. The Garage Studio. 17070 Scenic Highway 98, Point Clear. 928-3474.
6. COCKTAIL RECIPE COASTERS, $27. The Garage Studio.
7. FUR POM POM KEY CHAINS, $28. Sarah B. Atchison’s. 2602 Old Shell Road. 473-4086.
8. FISH PAINTING BY DENISE INGE, $50. The Garage Studio. 9. CERAMIC SNOWMAN BY CAROLINE BOYKIN, $95. Chapel Farm Collection.
10. SILVER LEATHER EARRINGS, $38. Sway Boutique.
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BOYS Something fun for boys big and small… 1. CRAWFISH BOIL PLAY SET, $40. Big City Toys. 4356 Old Shell Road. 308-8997.
2. TEDDY BEAR,
$40. Big City Toys.
3. WOODEN BLOCKS,
$43 a set.
Big City Toys.
4. TOY CAMERA CRAFT KIT,
5. BOUY BAT AND BALL SET,
Big City Toys.
6. ICE MULE WATERPROOF COOLER, $50. Red Beard’s Outfitters. 4354 Old Shell Road. 217-7466.
7. NEEDLEPOINT BABY SHOES, $56. Chapel Farm Collection. 19130 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope. 929-1630.
8. BLUE MARLIN TIKI TOSS, $30. Big City Toys.
9. 25-OUNCE CORKCICLE CANTEEN IN RIVIERA BLUE, $33 plus optional engraving. Claude Moore Jeweler. 3700 Dauphin St. 380-9400.
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GIRLS Something to spoil your little sugar plums… 1. WIRE AND STONE BANGLE BRACELETS, $15 - $22. The Visitation Shop. 2300 Springhill Ave. 471-4106.
2. SILK EYE MASK, $42. Living Well. 25 S. Section St., Fairhope. 929-3255. 3. KNIT ICE CREAM AND DONUT RATTLES, $12 each. Big City Toys. 4356 Old Shell Road. 308-8997.
4. HANDMADE DOLL, $48. The Garage Studio. 17070 Scenic Highway 98, Point Clear. 928-3474.
5. KNIT STRAWBERRY HAT, $27. Chapel Farm Collection. 19130 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope. 929-1630. 6. WISH PAPERS, $10 each. Living Well.
7. FROSTED TABLETOP TREE, $29 Sarah B. Atchison’s. 2602 Old Shell Road. 473-4086.
8. FAIRY MOUSE, $30. Chapel Farm Collection.
9. HEREND DONUT, $135. Claude Moore Jeweler. 3700 Dauphin St. 380-9400.
10. KINDNESS CARDS, $24. The Garage Studio.
11. PUSH POP CONFETTI, $10. The Garage Studio.
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FRIENDS, TEACHERS, NEIGHBORS And for all those people you love like family… 1. RAE RAE CROSS, $27. The Visitation Shop. 2300 Springhill Ave. 471-4106.
2. COWHIDE CLUTCH,
$79. Sarah B. Atchison’s. 2602 Old Shell Road. 473-4086.
3. STONE BRACELET WITH RELIGIOUS MEDAL, $40. The Visitation Shop.
4. MADONNA PAINTING BY JOANIE ZOGHBY, $35. The Visitation Shop.
5. GOLD ASSORTED PRINT COASTERS, $28. Design House. 607 Old Shell Road. 607-6310.
6. 32-OUNCE GROWLER,
$5 (plus cost to fill with craft beer or wine). Old Shell Growlers. 1801 Old Shell Road. 345-4767.
7. OYSTER BAY ANGEL, $10. The Visitation Shop.
8. OOWEE LEATHER HUGGER, $20. Red Beard’s Outfitters. 4354 Old Shell Road. 217-7466.
9. PAINTED GLASS ORNAMENT, $14 Sarah B. Atchison’s.
10. UASHMAMA PAPER WINE BAG, $30. Chapel Farm Collection. 19130 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope. 929-1630.
11. DRIFTWOOD NATIVITY, $16. The Visitation Shop.
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GIFT GUIDE EXPERIENCES Research shows experiences make us happier than things, and none of us need more stuff in our lives. This year, give those special people on your Christmas list something they will really remember. Get creative and wrap up memberships, tickets or classes, and slip them under the tree. Here are a few of our favorites.
ADOPT AN ANIMAL AT THE GULF COAST ZOO Help the “Little Zoo that Could” keep all the animals healthy and happy by adopting your favorite: sloth, white tiger, tiger, opossum, lynx or capuchin monkey. Recipients receive an adoption kit containing a personalized certificate of adoption, two 4--by-6 inch photos, a fact sheet and a stuffed animal of the animal you choose to adopt. $50 per animal. 968-4910 • algulfcoastzoo.org
FAIRHOPE BREWING COMPANY TOUR Treat the craft beer lover on your list a tour of South Alabama’s first microbrewery. The tours take place Saturdays at noon, are limited to just 15 people and cost $15 per person. This behindthe-scenes beer immersion includes a souvenir logo pint glass filled with your choice from the taproom. 279-7517 • fairhopebrewing.com
TRIP ON THE SCHOONER JOSHUA Take friends, family or employees to a sunset sail on the Official Tall Ship of the State of Alabama, the Joshua. Charter the entire boat for $495 for 1 – 15 passengers (additional charge for more passengers up to 49) and enjoy a leisurely sail along Alabama’s beautiful waters. Making Waves Charters • 209-1168 schoonerjoshua.com.
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KIDS COOKING CLASSES AT THE COOKERY Culinary classes at The Cookery are sure to spark some creativity and teach your little ones some lifelong skills. Kids have an opportunity to broaden their palates, learn about healthy eating and get their hands messy! One month of weekly kids cooking classes runs $75. 654-7646 • thecookerymobile.com
AERIAL YOGA CLASS Aerial yoga and circus conditioning is an out-of-the-box idea for the fitness nut in your life. Kudzu Aerial Fitness teaches classes for folks of all ages and abilities who want to hang from the ceiling like an acrobat and get an amazing workout in the process. Plan to be really sore after you soar! Also, include a little After-Flight workout salve, made inhouse, with your gift. $15 for one class or a 4-pack for $56. kudzuaerial.com
EXPLOREUM STUDENT MEMBERSHIP Budding scientists will appreciate an Exploreum student membership. It’s a deal at only $25 a year, is a tax deductible donation and includes all member benefits as well as one guest pass per year. 208-6893 • exploreum.com
SYMPHONY GIFT TICKETS Gift tickets for the Mobile Symphony concerts can be purchased at a range of prices and redeemed for any upcoming concert. The Symphony will wrap and mail your tickets to your loved one on your behalf — so simple! 432-2010 • mobilesymphony.org
DAUPHIN ISLAND SEALAB MEMBERSHIP Become a “Friend of the Sea Lab” for $50 ($30 for students) for free Estuarium admission, a 15 percent discount in the gift shop and more. 861-2141 • disl.org
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“Earthy colors and tones are popular right now — burlap, browns and greens, with splashes of gold.” - Carol Reeves, floral designer
Peek inside this newly renovated Fearnway home, and learn some decorator tricks to festoon your own place this Christmas season. Carol Reeves, co-owner of Elizabeth’s Garden and Zimlich’s Patio and Garden Center, shares her best tips and ideas for creating an easy, elegant look.
text and interview by CHELSEA WALLACE ADAMS photos by ELIZABETH GELINEAU
OPPOSITE Two interwoven garlands of magnolia leaves and cotton wind their way up the banister. Swags of short-needle pine, eucalyptus and cedar coexist beautifully with the loquat leaves. Glistening ornaments and simple burlap stockings make the scene homey, while keeping with the earthy spirit of the decor. Two silver reindeer prance on the artisan wooden side table from Atchison Home decked with loquat leaves and cotton. While the cotton bolls are genuine, they have been attached to faux foliage wires for easy arranging.
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â€œLet live and fake greenery mingle, and pull from your own backyard to easily freshen up the presentation.â€?
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Tip 1: Cohesion is key. Use one or a few elements of decor consistently to tie formal and informal spaces together. Whether it’s a certain color, flora or textile — our Fearnway home uses burlap, cotton and oyster shells — a unifying element will help your spaces feel seamlessly connected. Tip 2: Create a “down-to-earth” design. Earthy textures and colors are especially on trend. Using readily available materials adds something extra to your decorations (and saves time and cash). “If you’ve got greenery in your yard, use that! Use the trimmings from your tree. Things that are recyclable, renewable, sustainable — aspects that go beyond the aesthetics.” Tip 3: Trick the eye. Garlands are gorgeous, but not every mantel or home has space for such a large piece. Instead, fake it with pieces of greenery (in the case of this mantelpiece, cedar) tucked in with small potted succulents and plants to create the illusion of a garland without dealing with something that cumbersome. Tip 4: Keep it green. If you’ve ever used live greenery, you’ve probably struggled with keeping it, well, green. Reeves reminds us that plants dry out from the leaves. “Plants take in moisture through their leaves, and in the wintertime, we’ve got heat on which pulls the moisture from our homes. Mist the plant’s leaves with a spray bottle to keep them hydrated.” Tip 5: Take a bow. What’s the one decorating staple you should keep year after year? “Good ribbon! You can do more with ribbon and greenery from outside than anything else. Make sure it’s either wired or has good body to it. At the end of the season, roll it up to store it, or stuff the loops of bows with tissue paper to prevent crushing.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Cedar sprigs peek from behind potted plants. Succlents are beautiful and add instant panache. Delicate lady slipper orchids pop from the center of the display. An antique chair from Atchison Home lends class to the room.
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THIS PAGE Little star orchids add flair, as well, with the star-shaped petals that earned them the nickname. october 2016 | mobilebaymag.com 49
ABOVE AND OPPOSITE A cluster of pine, amaryllis and magnolia whimsically welcomes nature into the kitchen. Arms of white Star of Bethlehem buds and birch vines add height to the focal arrangement, while â€œChristmas treesâ€? of real oyster shells and birch wood vases bring texture. Pine cones and deer antlers create rustic holiday ambiance. 50 mobilebaymag.com | october 2016
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Tip 6: Focus on the “holy trinity.” If you can only decorate three spaces, which ones should be your focus? “Definitely the front door! That’s the first impression you make. A dining room table is another place where people gather. Then, choose wherever you spend the most time with family and friends.” Tip 7: Mix things up. Why stick with one type of plant or greenery? Layer your decorations for a fuller, more diverse display. Let live and fake greenery mingle. Pull from your own backyard to easily freshen up the presentation. In this home, magnolia, cedar, loquat and eucalyptus leaves come together to create a lovely holiday scene. Tip 8: Hang it hook, line and sinker. For troublesome decor that just won’t stay in place, pull out the tackle box. “Fish hooks will work in areas where nothing else will, and you can stick them right into the wall or catch them on an edge.” With the aid of monofilament fishing line or fine wire, keeping your trimmings where they belong is a snap. Tip 9: Better design in small packages. Cozy spaces can easily become claustrophobic, especially with too much styling. Avoid deep shades, such as red, in favor of lighter greens and khakis to open and brighten the rooms. Also, avoid items with a large “visual weight,” such as oversized ornaments. Tip 10: Add the scents of the season. Finally, note that in addition to a few small accents scattered about the house, a pleasant aroma wafting from the kitchen can create more drama than you might realize. Bake a batch of fresh gingerbread cookies. Or, try heating a teakettle on the stove with water and spices or fruit for an easy, scentsational ambiance. Your entire home will feel fresh, vibrant and celebration ready. MB
RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM A swag of cotton, pine and pinecones feels rustically cozy for the top of the front door. More burlap and antlers form a wreath that greets visitors to the Midtown home with refined, natural elegance.
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Operation Ivory Soap This month, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, learn about the secret World War II operation based at the Grand Hotel and the many aircraft — and lives — it saved in the Pacific. text by BRECK PAPPAS • photos courtesy of THE GR AND HOTEL
uite 1108 at the Grand Hotel isn’t your typical hotel room. Situated at the far end of the east wing, the corner suite provides a snapshot of Point Clear at its finest: a timeless live oak at the window, a stretch of trimmed grass and the lapping waters of Mobile Bay. But it’s not the scenery that sets this particular room apart. Rather, it’s the story of one of its guests, who occupied the room for five months in 1944, that makes this room special. For it was from this very suite that Lt. Col. Matthew Thompson ran a secret military operation that played a vital part in World War II’s final push. They called it Operation Ivory Soap. As Allied forces fought their way through the Pacific toward Japan, they employed a tactic called “island hopping.” The idea was to capture Japanese-held islands of strategic importance while skipping, or “hopping,” ineffectual islands and leaving them to “wither on the vine.” This tactic had many advantages. It allowed the Allies to move through the Pacific quickly, it prevented them from wasting supplies and manpower on capturing inconsequential territory and it provided them with the all-important element of surprise. By taking over an island and its airfields, the Allies could extend their air superiority throughout the Pacific on their long march to Japan. As the island hopping campaign progressed, it presented a problem that needed to be resolved — and quickly. Ameri-
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can bombers and fighter planes returning from long-range missions needed to be repaired and rearmed for the next mission, but building repair facilities on each island was taking too much time. Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces, recognized the need for floating repair facilities and determined that six Liberty ships could be modified into Aircraft Repair Units carrying 344 men and 18 smaller vessels turned into Aircraft Maintenance Units carrying 48 men. The ships took just six months to modify and were designed to carry everything from the smallest aircraft parts to entire wings. These floating mechanic shops would fix it all: radars, tires, carburetors, batteries, sheet metal, parachutes, everything. If you could break it, they could fix it. But who would man these ships? Mechanics from the Army and Air Force were the obvious choice, but such men had never been trained to live and operate at sea. Enter the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.
A Floating Idea
The task of training these men fell to Lt. Col. Matthew Thompson of the Army Air Force and former member of the British Royal Navy. Thompson was given just two weeks to organize the training program, and the first step was to find a suitable location. When he heard rumblings that the Grand Hotel, a his-
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT Soldiers learn the parts of a ship underneath a Grand Hotel oak tree. Trainees heave up a boat during a lifeboat drill. Soldiers perform maritime drills in the waters of Point Clear. Knot-tying instruction was a crucial part of a soldierâ€™s training. Soldiers take notes during a lesson about lifeboat gear on the sands of Point Clear. PHOTO BY FRED DUNCAN. Lt. Col. Matthew Thompson sits at his desk in room 1108, now known as the Thompson Suite.
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ABOVE LEFT Army and Air Force men had to learn about life at sea from top to bottom, including lifeboat procedures in case their ship was attacked. ABOVE RIGHT Aircraft Repair Units also carried helicopters, which were a relatively new addition to warfare. Helicopters served several purposes in the Pacific, including observation, rescue and ferrying shipworkers and ship parts to and from islands. OPPOSITE Today, the Grand Hotel is a national destination, made all the more intriguing by its wartime history. In a statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2000, Sen. Jeff Sessions concluded, “The Grand Hotel still stands elegantly on the banks of the Mobile Bay. A hotel whose rich Southern history embodies the best traditions of this country.”
toric waterfront establishment, would be closing, Thompson was intrigued. He was put in touch with Ed Roberts, head of the Waterman Steamship Co., which owned the Grand Hotel. Years later, in an interview with The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, a 91-year-old Thompson described that meeting, which took place in what is now the hotel’s Bucky’s Birdcage Lounge. Roberts offered to allow the troops to use his hotel for free, taking Thompson by surprise. “Colonel, I’m too old to fight,” Roberts told Thompson, “and this is my donation to the war effort.” A gentleman, Thompson told the owner that using the hotel free of charge just didn’t feel right. “So he said, ‘Give me a dollar,’” Thompson remembers. “I gave him a dollar, and that was that.” In the wake of the meeting, the following contract was drawn up: “It is hereby agreed between Ed Roberts and Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Thompson, representing the United States Government, to lease said premises of the Grand Hotel to the Army Air Corps for the sum of $1 per year for the duration of the war.” With the location decided, the operation needed a name. “We called this the Ivory Soap Project,” Thompson later told The Times-Picayune. “Now how did this become that code name? Someone went to the restroom, and when he came back, said, ‘I’ve got a name for the mission: Ivory Soap.” Ivory soap, like the experimental Aircraft Repair Units the military wanted to deploy, floats. The name stuck. On July 10, 1944, Operation Ivory Soap was officially under way.
Practically overnight, the Grand Hotel was transformed to mimic nautical conditions, and men were made to live in “Navy style.” For example, all personnel were required to refer to the hotel’s floors as decks. Time was kept using a ship’s bell,
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and men were only allowed to use tobacco when the “smoking lamp” was lit. Out of respect for Roberts and his generous donation, soldiers refrained from wearing combat boots inside the hotel to protect its beautiful hardwood floors. “We had to strip the hotel,” Thompson remembered. “The troops ate in the dining room, a mess hall then. I had a 40foot tower built for them to jump [from] so they could learn to abandon ship. There was a lifeboat right out there, with oars … Men from the Naval Air Station in Pensacola would fly over and scare the living hell out of the men here.” The troops were subjected to many courses and exercises, including swimming, knot-tying, marching, navigation, ship identification, amphibious operations, cargo handling and much more. Two men from each ship were trained as underwater divers. Though Operation Ivory Soap was designated a secret operation, local residents could, and often would, watch the men go about their training in Alabama’s summer heat, which closely resembled the climate of the Pacific. Soldiers paddled lifeboats furiously in Mobile Bay, simulating the aftermath of a shipwreck. Amphibious vehicles stormed the beaches of Point Clear. Troops stood in formation on the green grass in preparation for the day’s training. Instructors stood beneath wisps of Spanish moss, using charts to teach the men the different parts of a ship. Lectures were often given outside in search of a cool Point Clear breeze. The hotel’s transformation was both impressive and effective: In just five months, 5,000 men were trained at the Grand Hotel and sent into the Pacific Theater. When the boys finally went into war, their commander, Lt. Col. Thompson, joined them. The men of Operation Ivory Soap would go on to participate in the Allied landings at Guam, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines, Saipan and Tinian. According to the U.S. Congressional Record, “Hundreds of B-29 and P-51 fighters returned to battle to fight again because of these deport and maintenance ships.”
Mobilians Remember Pearl Harbor William G. Caffey, a Mobilian stationed in Hawaii, wrote the following letter home to his family on December 9, 1941, two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Caffey passed away in 2000 at the age of 81:
“In just five months, 5,000 men were trained at the Grand Hotel and sent into the Pacific Theater.” A Grand Legacy
Though officially declassified in 1953, Operation Ivory Soap lingered in obscurity for half a century before the public, and even some of the operation’s participants, understood its scope. In an address to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, Congressman Tony P. Hall stood to honor the brave men of Operation Ivory Soap, saying, “This is another one of the never-told stories out of the dust vaults of declassified secret records. This story was uncovered by one of the ship’s crew seeking his comrades for a reunion. Only in the last few years have these documents been released to the public.” The year before Hall’s address, the Grand Hotel made a gesture of its own to honor the men of Ivory Soap. In celebration of the hotel’s 150th anniversary, room 1108 was officially renamed the Thompson Suite in honor of the commander whose office occupied that very room. Having retired in Pensacola, Thompson was known to frequent the Grand Hotel in his later years and refused to stay in any other room besides 1108. Thompson passed away in 2005 at the age of 99. Every day at 3:45 p.m., the Grand Hotel honors its wartime history with a procession across the grounds, concluding with a brief history lesson and cannon firing on the edge of Mobile Bay. May it ever be a reminder of the resourcefulness and tenacity of those involved with Operation Ivory Soap and the generosity of individuals such as Ed Roberts in the midst of war. On the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2000, Sen. Jeff Sessions honored the veterans of Ivory Soap, concluding, “Perhaps the greatest tribute I can make to the exploits of these seagoing airmen is to paraphrase the Merchant Marines who worked with them and who praised them as ‘equal to any seagoing combatants they had ever served with.’” MB
Dear Folks, Just a line which I hope will go out by clipper — can’t send any cables or wires. I’m OK — so don’t worry. We had quite an attack Sunday but few here at [Fort] Kam[ehameha] were injured — everything has settled down now. As this will be censored anyway, I won’t say more — but don’t worry — and I’ll try to let you hear from me as often as possible. Love, Will G. Dr. Sidney C. Phillips, a Mobilian who served in the Pacific, in a 2013 interview with the National World War II Museum: I was sitting in a drugstore at the corner of Dauphin and Ann streets drinking a vanilla milkshake with my good friend W.O. Brown … A lady burst in the side door and screamed, “Turn on the radio!” He [W.O.] had a radio there on the soda fountain … and he turned it on, and they were talking about Pearl Harbor on every station ... Nobody knew where Pearl Harbor was except me. I was able to show off and tell everyone, “That’s in Hawaii.” Because I had two uncles in the Navy … The news I remember was very sketchy. It did not tell what ships had been hit; it did not tell the extent of damage. Somewhere in his spiel, he said there are thousands of casualties, and I remember some women started crying when he said that. My friend W.O. ... said, “Sidney, let’s go join the Navy tomorrow.” And I said, “OK.” And that was my response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The two friends met at Bienville Square the next day before enlisting in the Marines. Phillips passed away in 2015 at the age of 91. Mrs. Emma Buck St. John was a student at The University of Alabama when she heard the news: I was in the Kappa Delta house ... and there were some seniors in the living room talking, and they were so upset that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Us younger ones had never heard of Pearl Harbor, and I thought they were just putting us on and pretending to make something big out of it. But we learned soon enough.
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The Chiquimula In this special extended edition of Bay Boy, Watt recounts his grandfather’s true tale of a storied old vessel and the seafaring Mobilians who treasured it. text by HOBART KEY JR. AND WATT KEY
hen I was in my early 20s, my father presented me with a set of strange looking checkers. In the box with them was the brief history of the old Chiquimula schooner as it had been written by my grandfather, a terrific historian and storyteller who passed away when I was 14 years old. Many older Mobilians will recall this ghostly schooner looming on the north side of the Causeway for years. On a low tide, one can still see the remains of her hull just before starting up the hill to Spanish Fort. -WK
A Gem in a Shipyard
In the summer of 1941, I was a naval ensign. My assignment was to the office of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding (Chickasaw) as hull and ordinance officer in charge of mine sweep and destroyer construction at Gulf Shipbuilding Company’s yards. At that time, one of the dominant features of the waterfront in Mobile was the schooner Chiquimula, then lying at Bodden’s Dock on Blakeley Island across the river from the city. Her tall spars with topmasts still shipped on all four masts were quite impressive and lent an air of old-time sailing ship days to the harbor. Some months after my arrival at Chickasaw and well into the fateful year of 1942, every maritime facility, civil and naval, was pressed into service in support of the war effort at home and overseas. It was while making arrangements with Capt. Bodden for using his maritime railway to haul a U.S. minesweeper for repairs that I first climbed aboard the Chiquimula. She had been turned over to Capt. Bodden and Bodden Shipyard for unpaid repair bills and dockage and had been there in the dock for several years. Although badly run down, the old ship’s hull and spars and standing rigging were sound, and I wandered about her deserted decks for the better part of an afternoon. Aft, below the quarterdeck, were the officers’ quarters and cabin accommodations for four to six passengers. Here, in a little 58 mobilebaymag.com | december 2016
ABOVE Watt’s grandfather, Hobart Key Jr., left this set of antique checkers along with the incredible story of the vessel on which he found them during World War II.
card room, was a fine mahogany table, nicely decorated and polished, and six matching chairs with carved dolphins fashioned into the arms and back supports. The sail locker forward was filled with old handmade blocks and other interesting gear. All of this induced me to suggest to Capt. Bodden that he might sell me the furniture and a few of the blocks and various other items strewn about.
ABOVE LEFT A young Albert Key Sr. peers curiously into the old ship after it was damaged during a hurricane. ABOVE RIGHT The ghostly bow of the Chiquimula looms over the Causeway from her final resting place.
Acquisition of a Vessel
After considering my modest offer for several days, the captain drew me into his office, located in the shed that housed the engine used to haul the railway cradle. There we engaged in picking oakum (pulling the tar-like substance from old ropes) while trading talk. Bodden rejected my offer for the furniture and gear and proposed instead that I buy the ship and all for $250. I found this splendid offer impossible to turn down. Without further thought, I accepted, placing a modest $10 deposit to bind the trade. In those days, an ensign, U.S. Navy, made $125 per month. Even in those glorious times when 5 cents bought a loaf of bread and cigarettes were a nickel a pack at Navy stores, I knew I would have to have help to handle the trade. Out of the $125 per month, I had to support a wife, two children, a cook, a car and still have a bit over for emergency. Therefore, I enlisted N.W. (“Dutch”) Markel and Bill Ellis, both ensigns, U.S.N.; Clem Bennings, Army; and William Agee, lawyer (eventually Army). Together we formed the Grand Cayman and West Indies Trading Company Inc. Agee did the legal work, and we were soon officially in business. One of the first results of our incorporation and the publishing of the fact in the Mobile Press Register under “Legal Notices” was the appearance of numerous salesmen, all doomed to disappointment, wanting to sell us all sorts of useful and exotic office or seagoing gear. A number of people leftover from the draft also applied for jobs and were likewise disappointed. Our object was to take our prize across Mobile Bay to the Baldwin County side and there bring her to a permanent dockside berth to be used after the war was over as a marine museum or possibly a restaurant and tourist attraction. With our limited capital of $1,000, $250 of which was already invested in the cost of the ship, we had to execute some fast footwork to move her to a suitable location.
Some arrangements were made with the Forster brothers, Herb and Walter, of Fairhope, and their father, an old sailing shipman, to berth the ship in an arm of the Blakeley River. It was opposite a property of theirs called the Mecca Filling Station on Highway 90 at the end of the Causeway.
A Schooner for the Ages The Chiquimula, named after a state and Indian tribe in Panama, was built in 1917 in Seattle for the lumber trade on the Pacific and Alaskan Coasts. She made trips to Hawaii and Japan, as well as one trip to the Marshall Islands. Sold to East Coast owners, she transited the Panama Canal in the late 20s and was in the lumber trade to Puerto Rico, where she was registered out of San Juan. She carried a crew of six forward and three officers aft. A donkey engine was forward for working sails and cargo. She was 168 feet long from bow to sternpost and had a 38-foot beam with a depth of hold of 20 feet. She drew 14 feet fully loaded to her marks. The Chiquimula was rigged as a four-mast schooner and carried two staysails and a jib forward and topsails above her main fore and aft canvas. Her last run on the West Coast, in her youth, was logged at nine knots. I believe she was the last active merchant deep-sea sailing ship to fly the United States’ flag in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Bringing Her Home
The next step was to find a way to get the ship to her new berth. At first, this seemed easy, but it then appeared that the latest charts of the area we wished to traverse were Union revisions of English maps made in 1818 and used in the Civil War by Yankees at the Battle of Blakeley. This called for consultation with local fishermen, the Coast Guard, U.S. Engineers and some interesting evenings in an open boat with lead line going forward for hours at a time around such landmarks as Old Blakeley, King’s Battery, Long Boat Reach, Polecat Bay, Dead Man’s Tree and others equally obscure. Finally, the practicable route was mapped, and two fathoms were found from Bodden Dock, up the Mobile River, down Spanish River, up Middle Alabama River, down Blakeley River and into Blakeley Slough at high tide. This left us a couple of feet to spare in tight spots as we drew 9 feet at our deepest draft, which was aft near the sternpost. The question was who would undertake to tow us the 35 miles up and down the Delta to get us the six miles across the Bay? Every tugboat captain in the area turned us down. Nobody had taken a ship into those waters since the Civil War. Finally, Capt. Jackson, of Jackson Hope Towing Company, took pity on us and not only agreed to tow us across the Bay, but for cost of the fuel alone, just for the fun of it and to help save the old schooner. Accordingly, the great day dawned bright and clear. It had to be a Sunday to avoid conflict with towing company work and Navy business. We were all at Bodden Dock, a couple of guests included, at 5:30 a.m., and with the tug alongside we cast off and began the Chiquimula’s last trip. We steamed about six knots upriver to the draw span on old U.S. 90 where we came to a stop. The span was run to the top with the bridge tender lying on his stomach on the bridge deck to be sure to see that the topmasts would clear the bottom of the draw span. We crept forward at about half a knot and cleared the span by 14 inches. It was low tide. Safely by this hazard, we ran down Spanish River to the shoal ground where the Alabama River runs into the Bay. We
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negotiated this obstacle with some skill and luck, as the tide had begun to rise. Then we proceeded up the Alabama. We ghosted along under bare poles, through the swamp and late morning mist. A break in the haze revealed a couple of fishermen having a quiet morning snort from a brown jug. They took one look at us and threw away the jug. The trip continued as smoothly as a pleasure cruise, and by 3:45 p.m. we had entered Blakeley Slough and anchored, awaiting high tides to shift into our final berth. Jackson Hope’s tug and its brave crew returned to Mobile — the heroes of the adventure.
Her Final Resting Place
Some weeks later, we were able to bring the ship into our berthing place. We allowed her to sink to her light water line where she remained for the war years while the stockholders of the Grand Cayman and West Indies Trading Company were scattered far and wide, serving in the Army and Navy from North Africa to Australia. After the war, we were too busy getting reestablished, Agee in Mobile, myself in Texas, and Bennings, Ellis, and Markel in New Orleans, to give much time to our old schooner. Still, we had plans to go ahead with our original design. A hurricane took three of her masts overboard, and she took on a decided tilt. We were just about ready to move forward when someone went aboard one night and set her afire. And there the Chiquimula burned to the waterline. MB Fins to the Left Behind My grandfather wouldn’t have known to highlight another interesting connection to the Chiquimula, for Jimmy Buffett was not yet born. Buffett’s grandfather captained the ship from 1924 to 1927. In the musician’s book, “A Pirate Looks a Fifty,” he mentions sailing with his grandfather on the Chicimunga. While the spelling is different, and the timing makes Jimmy’s ride impossible, one can imagine that his own grandfather’s storytelling had a lot to do with his creativity and love of the sea. -WK
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DEC. 2016/JAN. 2017 ON STAGE & EXHIBITS PG. 64 • JANUARY HIGHLIGHTS PG. 66
DOWNTOWN FAIRHOPE. PHOTO BY DAN ANDERSON
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
through december 31
through january 14
december 3 - 4
Bragg-Mitchell Mansion Christmas
Riverside Ice Rink
St. Lawrence Christmas Bazaar
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. T - F. See the mansion in its holiday splendor. Enjoy the special Candlelight Christmas on Dec. 3 only, from 4:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. Admission; $10.
11 a.m. - 10 p.m. M - Th. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. F - Sa. 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. Su. Lace up your ice skates and practice that triple axel beside the picturesque Mobile River and skyline. Admission; adults, $10. Kids, $8.
9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sa. 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Su. Enjoy baked goods, gumbo and other treats at this event.
BRAGG-MITCHELL MANSION BRAGGMITCHELLMANSION.COM
RIVERSIDE PARK • 377-0101 • RIVERSIDEICE.COM
through january 1
Fairhope’s Magical Christmas Parade
Give the holidays a coastal spin, and take a trip down to the beach for one of the many seasonal celebrations. SOUTH BALDWIN COUNTY ALABAMACOASTALCHRISTMAS.COM
370 S. SECTION ST., FAIRHOPE STLAWRENCECHRISTMASBAZAAR.COM
december 5 Holiday Cheer at the Five
7 p.m. Beautifully lit floats roll down the streets of downtown, culminating in the arrival of Santa.
5 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Sample delicious dishes from Five Restaurant, listen to live music and take part in a select live auction at the downtown eatery. Proceeds benefit the Child Advocacy Center. Tickets: $35.
DOWNTOWN FAIRHOPE • COFAIRHOPE.COM
DOWNTOWN MOBILE • 432-1101 • CACMOBILE.ORG
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december 9 - 10 Christmas Fest Indulge in various treats and a Christmas parade at this Baldwin County tradition. Free admission. BLACKBURN PARK, BAY MINETTE NORTHBALDWINCHAMBER.COM
december 10 Billy Claus and the LuLu Belles 2 p.m. Santa’s brother and the LuLu Belles come to LuLu’s for an afternoon of fun. Stick around for the Night of Lights Boat Parade at dusk. LULU’S AT HOMEPORT MARINA • 200 E. 25TH AVE., GULF SHORES • LULUBUFFETT.COM
december 17 Holiday Market & Christmas Kids Day 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Enjoy seasonal arts, crafts, music and much more. DOWNTOWN MOBILE • NCSMOBILE.ORG
december 17 Make It to the Line 10 a.m. Run / walk begins. Shed those Thanksgiving pounds to make room for some Christmas ones at this annual 4-mile walk / run and 1-mile fun run. FLORA-BAMA • FLORABAMA.COM
december 23 Santa Drop Who needs a sleigh and reindeer when you have a parachute? FLORA-BAMA • FLORABAMA.COM
december 31 Fairhope’s New Year’s Eve Celebration 8:30 p.m. - 12:30 p.m. Ring in the new year in Downtown Fairhope with dancing in the streets and live music. DOWNTOWN FAIRHOPE • 929-1466 COFAIRHOPE.COM
december 31 Flora-Bama’s New Year’s Eve Bash 7 p.m. Say hello to 2017 in two places at once. Admission: $40. FLORA-BAMA • FLORABAMA.COM
december 31 Mobile’s New Year’s Eve Celebration Watch the MoonPie Drop over Downtown as 2017 kicks off. DOWNTOWN MOBILE • NCSMOBILE.ORG
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ON STAGE & EXHIBITS
through january 1 Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World The exhibit features collectibles, an interactive fretboard, photography and more devoted to the instrument. GULF COAST EXPLOREUM EXPLOREUM.COM
december 2 - 4, 9 - 11 “Elf the Musical Jr.” Buddy the Elf brings his unique blend of magic to the beach. Tickets: $5 - $10. SOUTH BALDWIN COMMUNITY THEATRE 968-6721 • SBCT.BIZ
december 3 John Prine 6:30 p.m. Doors open. 7:30 p.m. Show starts. See the legendary songwriter take the stage. Tickets: $62.50 - $102.50. SAENGER THEATRE • MOBILESAENGER.COM
december 6 - 7 “Babes in Toyland” 9 a.m. / 11:15 a.m. Tu. 7:30 p.m. W. Enjoy Playhouse in the Park’s children’s theater production of the Christmas classic. SAENGER THEATRE • MOBILESAENGER.COM
december 9 - 11, 16 - 18 “The Adventures of Archy and Mehitabel” 8 p.m. F / Sa. 2 p.m. Su. Follow a cockroach and an alley cat in this bizarre original musical. Tickets: $15 - $20. MOBILE THEATRE GUILD • 14 N. LAFAYETTE ST. 433-7513 • MOBILETHEATREGUILD.ORG
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december 9 - 11, 16 - 18 “The 24 Days Before Christmas” 7:30 p.m. F / Sa, 2 p.m. Su. A nostalgic holiday tale filled with Christmas carols told through the eyes of an 11-year-old child. Tickets: $13 - $16. CHICKASAW CIVIC THEATRE • 801 IROQUOIS ST. 457-8887 • CCTSHOWS.COM
december 10 - 11 Swingin Christmas 6:30 p.m. Doors open. 7:30 p.m. Show starts. Sa. 1:30 p.m. Doors open. 2:30 p.m. Show starts. Su. The Boston Brass band lends their unique stylings to the Mobile Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas program. TIckets: $15 - $75. SAENGER THEATRE • MOBILESYMPHONY.ORG
december 16 The Black Jacket Symphony: Prince “Purple Rain” 7 p.m. Doors open. 8 p.m. Show starts. The unique instrumental ensemble brings Prince’s hits to the stage. First the symphony recreates the “Purple Rain” album as a true symphonic piece. Then the performance features a selection of Prince’s “greatest hits” in full contrast to the first set. Tickets: $22 - $27. SAENGER THEATRE • MOBILESAENGER.COM
december 16 - 18 Willie Wonka Jr. 7 p.m. F - Sa, 2 p.m. Sa - S. Children bring the sweet, magical tale of Charlie and the candy-filled chocolate factory to life. ST. LUKE’S UPPER SCHOOL THEATER SUNNYSIDEDRAMA.COM
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january 1 Polar Bear Dip Noon. Man up and bear the cold at this annual event. Start off the new year with a dip in the Gulf of Mexico. Stick around for a traditional New Year’s feast. FLORA-BAMA • FLORABAMA.COM
january 3 - 31 Tuesday Winter Civil War Tours 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. T. Historians provide insights into Fort Morgan’s history. FORT MORGAN • FORT-MORGAN.ORG
january 4 - february 22 Winter Wednesdays 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Programs on gardening, history and Bellingrath Gardens & Home’s collections during the winter months. BELLINGRATH GARDENS AND HOME BELLINGRATH.ORG
january 8 ServisFirst Bank First Light Marathon 7:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Journey through the Port City’s historic neighborhoods for a good cause. GOVERNMENT PLAZA FIRSTLIGHTMARATHON.COM
january 12 - 14, 19 - 21 “Dearly Departed” 7:30 p.m. F / Sa, 2 p.m. Su. Drama unfolds as the patriarch of the Turpin family dies in the first scene. Tickets: $12 - $18. SOUTH BALDWIN COMMUNITY THEATRE 2022 W. SECOND ST., GULF SHORES • SBCT.BIZ
january 13 - 29 “Chapter 2” 8 p.m. F / Sa, 2 p.m. Su. A recent widower decides to start dating again in this Neil Simon comedy. Tickets: $10, $15, $20. JOE JEFFERSON PLAYERS JOEJEFFERSONPLAYERS.COM
january 13 - 22 “Nunsense” 7:30 p.m. F / Sa, 2 p.m. Su. When nuns accidentally poison their sisters, they put on a talent show to raise funds for funerals. Tickets: $13 - $16. CHICKASAW CIVIC THEATRE CCTSHOWS.COM
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january 27 - 29, february 3 - 5, 10 - 12 “Ripcord” 8 p.m. F / Sa. 2:30 p.m. Su. Theatre 98 presents an intriguing character study of two women at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. Tickets: $12 - $18. THEATRE 98 • 350 MORPHY AVE. 928-4366 • THEATRE98.COM
january 27 - 29, february 3 - 5, 10 - 12 “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” 8 p.m. F / Sa. 2 p.m. Su. Journey back to 1950s Mississippi and watch as the drama unfolds in this quintessential Southern drama by Tennessee Williams. Tickets: $15 - $20. MOBILE THEATRE GUILD • 14 N. LAFAYETTE ST. 433-7513 • MOBILETHEATREGUILD.ORG
january 27 The Artsy Awards 7 p.m. The Mobile Arts Council’s annual awards ceremony celebrates the Port City arts scene’s movers and shakers. This year’s recipients will receive awards crafted by Susie Bowman, owner of the Kiln Studio and Gallery. Tickets: $30 - $35. ALABAMA CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER MOBILEARTS.ORG/WHAT-WE-DO/ART-AWARDS
january 28 - 29 Winter Romance 6:30 p.m. Doors open. 7:30 p.m. Show starts. Sa. 1:30 p.m. Doors open. 2:30 p.m. Show starts. Su. Korngold’s Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 are sure to banish the winter blues. The performance also features works by some of the Romantic Era’s best known composers: Wagner, Korngold and Tchaikovsky. Tickets: $15 - $75. MOBILE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MOBILE SAENGER • MOBILESYMPHONY.ORG
january 28 Senior Bowl 1:30 p.m. The best and the brightest in high school football leave it all on the field in hopes of being noticed by NFL scouts. For those who can’t make it to the game, the action will be televised on the NFL Network. LADD-PEEBLES STADIUM SENIORBOWL.COM
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ASK MCGEHEE text by TOM MCGEHEE
What is the link between the original “Ponzi scheme” and Mobile? LEFT Charles Ponzi emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1903 before ending up in Mobile in 1914. After a few failed business ventures in the Port City, he moved to Boston and went on to gain notoriety for financial fraud.
In the late spring of 1914, a sign painter named Charles Ponzi arrived in Mobile aboard the steamer Tarpon. He had been working on board as a painter but, after arguing with the captain about his pay, was unceremoniously deposited in the Port City. Eleven years prior, Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, had landed in Boston with barely $2.50 to his name. He had gambled away his savings during the voyage and upon arriving, he went to work as a dishwasher in a local restaurant, sleeping on the floor at night. After being promoted to waiter, he was fired when customers repeatedly complained about being shortchanged. Soon after, Ponzi served a threeyear stint in a Canadian prison for a forged check before returning to Boston. There, he went back to sign painting before being hired for the
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Tarpon. While in Mobile, he boarded in a rooming house on St. Anthony Street where he told his landlord’s daughter that one day his picture would be in all the papers. “Maybe when you are hanged,” she quipped. He replied, “Either that or when I am a millionaire.”
From Painter to Librarian
A local newspaper ad caught Ponzi’s eye; the University of Alabama’s medical school, then in Mobile, was seeking a librarian. The painter somehow convinced an interviewer of his fluency in both Italian and Greek and got the job. It paid $30 a month and came with room and board at the school. Ponzi would later reminisce about his time in Mobile and his fondness for the young medical students who were constantly playing pranks on him. One of the most memorable occurred one
night during a bad storm, which had left the city without power. When he went to turn in, he found that he was not alone in the darkness. The students had placed a female cadaver in his bed. Ponzi placed the corpse on the floor and went to sleep, adding that the next morning he got up but she did not. In those years, a plan was underway to close Mobile’s medical school and move it to Tuscaloosa. When one of the college instructors asked the librarian to mail a letter as he headed for a Birmingham-bound train, Ponzi became suspicious and opened it. The contents revealed that the professor was actively working with university personnel in Tuscaloosa to have Mobile’s school shut down. After presenting the letter to the school’s dean, he was thanked and then dismissed for his actions. Despite what he had found out, the opening of a private letter was considered grounds for immediate termination. Ponzi moved to New Orleans where he took up sign painting once more, and the medical school was on its way to Tuscaloosa in 1920.
A Boston Millionaire
By the end of the decade, Ponzi had returned to Boston where he began the Securities Exchange Company, which promised a 50 percent return after just 45 days. He hired well-paid agents to drum up business, and investors
started flocking in to deposit money. He ultimately had agents in cities throughout New England and as far south as New Jersey. In February of 1920, the firm held $5,000. By May, that figure had jumped to $420,000, and in July, the Boston Post wrote a favorable article about his firm. Later that month, he deposited $3 million in the Hanover Bank of Boston. Existing depositors who chose to cash out were paid by the flood of money from new customers. The majority, however, did not withdraw, choosing to reinvest. Depositors moved their life savings to Ponzi’s “investment” while others went so far as to mortgage their homes to get onto the gravy train. Ponzi acquired a colonial revival mansion in suburban Lexington and covered the interior walls in silk damask. A staff of three maintained the place while he met regularly with reporters on the spacious front porch. Eventually, the Boston Post changed course and began an investigation on Ponzi. The report concluded that, although his firm reported $7 million in assets, it was actually over $2 million in debt. The resulting panic brought down six banks, and it is estimated that investors lost $20 million, roughly the equivalent of $225 million today. In the fall of 1920, Ponzi pled guilty to 86 counts of mail fraud in two federal indictments and was later charged with 22 charges of larceny by the State of Massachusetts. Despite his conviction, neither the state nor federal government was ever able to sort out his convoluted accounting system or trace the millions of dollars they estimated he took.
Free to be Deported
In 1934, Ponzi was released from jail only to be deported to Italy as an undesirable. After suffering ill health, he died in a charity hospital in 1949 at age 66. Ponzi seems to have had no remorse for his actions and once said, “I had without malice given the Americans the best show ever staged since the landing of the Pilgrims.” His name will be forever linked to financial fraud. MB
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POINT OF VIEW
Down on the River photo by BEAU DODD
For being one of Alabama’s shortest rivers (at a length of 45 miles), the Mobile River sure does have a long, and storied, history. The area’s earliest European settlers recognized the waterway’s potential as a Gulf port dating back to the Lemoyne brothers in the early 16th century. In short, we’re here today because of the Mobile River. The city’s bustling port is the only deepwater port in Alabama and, in 2010, was responsible for an $8 billion statewide economic impact.
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