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Our 5th Anniversary Issue! | Helen Keller: Beyond the Water Pump | Wendell Gunn Opens a Door

NOV/DEC 2013 $3.95

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November/December 2013


From a Hollywood studio to a diner in Pulaski, TN: movie food stylist and UNA grad Jack White comes home.


RED RHYTHM RUNWAY In a once-in-a-lifetime event, Shoals fashion and music come together to shine their lights on a great cause.



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OPENING DOORS Fifty years after desegregation, UNA's first AfricanAmerican student reflects on how far we’ve come.


CAKE CONTEST WINNERS! Just in time for your holiday table, we crown a new Best Cake in the Shoals! PHOTOS BY DANNY MITCHELL


HELEN KELLER: BEYOND THE WATER PUMP The “First Lady of Courage” was an advocate for all people. She just so happened to be deaf and blind.




WHAT TO WEAR, WHAT TO GIVE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON Our Annual Holiday Buying Guide offers gift suggestions for everyone in your life, in every price range.

Shoals native Harriet Hill takes us on a remarkable journey from the jungles of Vietnam to the shores of America.


PHOTOS BY DANNY MITCHELL AND PATRICK HOOD © American Foundation for the Blind


“MERRY CHRISTMAS! ENTERTAIN ME!” What do you do with a house-full this holiday season? We have the answers.



Former professional elf Lauren Merritt tells us what it’s like to work for the Jolliest Man on Earth during the most wonderful time of the year.



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contents SHOALS ••••• November/December 2013 Volume 6: Issue 6 ••• C. Allen Tomlinson Editor-In-Chief David Sims Creative Director Contributing Writers Amy Collins, Sarah Gaede, Laura Anders Lee, Claire Stewart, Allen Tomlinson Contributing Photographers Patrick Hood, Danny Mitchell, Shannon Wells Marketing Coordinators/Advertising Sales Heidi King, Myra Sawyer Features Manager Claire Stewart Business Manager Roy Hall Graphic Designer Rowan Finnegan ••• No’Ala is published six times annually by No’Ala Press PO Box 2530, Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-766-4222 | Fax: 256-766-4106 Toll-free: 800-779-4222 Web:

Danny Mitchell


Standard postage paid at Florence, AL. A one-year subscription is $19.95 for delivery in the United States. Signed articles reflect only the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors. Advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their advertisements. © 2008-2013 ATSA, All rights reserved. Send all correspondence to Allen Tomlinson, Editor, at the postal address above, or by e-mail to Letters may be edited for space and style. To advertise, contact us at: 256-766-4222, or




Events for November-December 2013


Check It Out

“Happy Holidays—For Real!” Baked Eggs and Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins

Book Reviews






The Vine Palate-Pleasing Personalities

Back Talk “What Happens When Kids Are Bad Before Christmas?”



Food for Thought

The editor will provide writer’s guidelines upon request. Prospective authors should not submit unsolicited manuscripts; please query the editor first.

No’Ala is printed with vegetable-based inks on 100% recycled paper.



Join us on Facebook: No’Ala Mag

Bless Their Hearts “Here’s Wishing You a Messy Christmas”





editor’s letter « Allen Tomlinson « 11 Thank you for all our many blessings. Where in the world does the time go? It seems like yesterday when this year started, and here we are looking at the mad rush of the holiday season once again. More surprising than that, No’Ala Magazine is celebrating the end of its fifth year of publication in the Shoals—where did the last five years go? We’ve grown a lot since that first issue, with Santa Carl (Casiday) on the front cover; we’ve won some awards, we’ve increased our pages and our circulation, we’ve launched a Huntsville magazine, and we’ve gotten a little more well known. We’ve been blessed, and we have our readers to thank—from an idea, formed before we knew the world was going into a recession, to the magazine you’re holding today, you have had a tremendous influence on us. Thank you. This issue includes our annual Holiday Buying Guide, filled with dozens of pieces of proof that you do not need to go out of town to find everything on your shopping list. Our staff loves picking items to feature in this issue, because we are always surprised at the wonderful things here in the Shoals. We’ve even included our staff picks, in case anyone wants to spring for a gift for any of us. (You can leave the keys to mine under the mat—I’ll make room in the garage for it.) It’s not just things that make this such a fascinating place—it’s really all about the people here. So, we’re bringing you three stories about people from here who are doing or have done some amazing things. Wendell Gunn was the first black student at Florence State University (now UNA), and you will be interested in reading about how he was treated; Jack White, another UNA graduate, styles food for the movies, including Catching Fire, opening in November. And we are all so proud of our native daughter, Helen Keller, but did you know there is more to her than just a pump and the word “water?” You’ll also see the results of our cake recipe contest, just in time for your holiday baking, and see some highlights from Red Rhythm Runway, an amazing show that combined the high styles and fashion from this area with iconic Muscle Shoals music. There’s a lot of variety in this issue—we hope you enjoy it! Our dear friend, Marigail Mathis, used to say that shopping locally is like watering your garden. You have to water your garden, or it won’t grow and produce the beauty you want. You have to shop locally if you want local stores to continue to be able to provide you with the things you want. As we travel, we hear over and over again that the Shoals has a reputation for wonderful boutique stores, outstanding food choices, and a wealth of talented entertainers. (Huffington Post named us one of the best small towns in the country, based on our creative reputation.) This holiday, make a pledge to help us water our garden by shopping for your gifts right here at home. You will be amazed at what you’ll find! Now, take a deep breath. The year has passed quickly, and the holidays will be a blur unless we savor the moments. Spend time with the people you love; take advantage of the activities that always happen in this wonderful place at this wonderful time of year. No matter how you say it or celebrate it—Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays—we hope this is a joyous season for you and yours. And thank you for being one of our many blessings for these past five years.

We don’t like to brag, but at the annual Southeastern Magazine Publisher’s Association GAMMA Awards, No’Ala won eight gold awards, one silver, and one bronze. Only one other publication, Professional Photographer, won more this year—and thank goodness we don’t compete in their category! Heartfelt thanks to all of the writers, photographers, and fascinating subjects they covered that culminated in this recognition.

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Now through November 15 Susan Weil and Jose Betancourt: Blueprints Mon-Fri 9:00am-5:00pm and Sun 1:00pm-3:00pm; $5 adults, $3 students, and free on Sundays; Tennessee Valley Museum of Art; 511 N. Water St., Tuscumbia; (256) 383-0533; November 1 First Friday 5:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Downtown Florence at Court St.; (877) 290-8880; November 2 First Saturday and Christmas Open House 3:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Heritage Park; 300 Wheeler Dr.; Downtown Rogersville; (256) 247-9449; November 2 Success By 6 ReadAPalooza 11:00am-2:00pm; Admission charged; Regency Square Mall, Florence; (256) 764-5892 November 7 - December 31 Debra Riffe: Linoleum Block Prints Mon-Fri 9:00am-4:00pm; Free; Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts; 217 E. Tuscaloosa St.; (256) 760-6379; November 7-10 Snow White Thurs-Sat 7:00pm and Sunday 2:00pm; $12 adults, $9 students, and $5 kids; Shoals Theatre; 123 Seminary St.; (256) 764-1700; November 9 Second Saturday at Jack-o-Lantern Farm 9:00am-2:00pm; Free; Live music and local specialty foods; Garage Road at TVA in Muscle Shoals; (256) 386-2335; November 11 Veteran’s Day Parade 11:00am; Free; 200 N. Main St.; Tuscumbia; (256) 381-2298; November 13-December 13 Quilt Challenge ‘13 Mon-Fri 9:00am-4:00pm; Free; Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts; 217 E. Tuscaloosa St.; (256) 760-6379; November 14 Downtown Tuscumbia’s Christmas Open House 5:00pm-9:00pm; Free; Sixth and Main streets; (256) 320-5437; November 16 W.C. Handy Birthday Celebration 11:00am-1:00pm; Free; W.C. Handy Home Museum & Library; 620 W. College St.; (256) 760-6434; November 17 The Ascending Voices Fall Concert 6:00pm; Admission charged; Guillot University Center at UNA; (256) 765-4590; November 21 A Christmas Carol Preview 7:30pm; $5; Norton Auditorium at UNA; (256) 765-5122;

November 17 The Ascending Voices Fall Concert November 22-24 A Christmas Carol Fri and Sat 7:30pm and Sun 2:00pm; $5 students and $15 adults; Norton Auditorium at UNA; (256) 765-5122; November 22-December 24 Visit with Santa Free; 6:00pm; With special choir performances on Dec. 2-3, 5-6, and 9-13; Regency Square Mall, Florence; (256) 766-2176; November 23-24 Christmas in the Country 10:00am-4:00pm; Free; 1461 LaGrange College Rd.; Leighton; (256) 383-0783; December 1 Sheffield Christmas Parade 6:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Montgomery Ave.; Sheffield; (256) 383-0250; December 3 Tuscumbia Christmas Parade 6:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Deshler High School to Main Street; Tuscumbia; (256) 386-7200; Santa Express 8:00pm-9:00pm; Admission charged; Tuscumbia Depot/Roundhouse; 204 W. 5th St.; (256) 389-1357; December 5-8 Dashing Through the Snow Thurs-Sat 7:30pm and Sunday 2:00pm; $10; Zodiac Theatre at Hermitage Ave. and Court St.; (256) 764-1700; Continued page 16

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December 6 First Friday Florence 5:00pm-8:00pm; Free; Downtown Florence at Court St.; (877) 290-8880; December 6-7 Santa Express 6:00pm-9:00pm; Admission charged; Tuscumbia Depot/Roundhouse; 204 W. 5th St.; (256) 389-1357; Basement Burlesque Presents “Jazzy Bells: A Classic Christmas” 8:00pm; From $10; Pegasus Records Garage; 612 E Tennessee St.; Florence; December 6-8 Junior League of the Shoals’ Sugarplum Marketplace Fri 9:00am-7:00pm, Sat 9:00am-6:00pm, and Sun noon-5:00pm; $5; North Alabama Fairgrounds; Muscle Shoals; Christmas Train Parade of Lights 5:00pm-8:00pm; Admission charged; Spring Park; 1 Spring Park Rd.; Tuscumbia; (256) 389-1357; December 6-24 The Trees of Christmas Mon-Fri 9:00am-5:00pm, Sun 1:00pm-3:00pm; $5 adults, $3 students, and free on Sundays; Tennessee Valley Museum of Art; 511 N. Water St., Tuscumbia; (256) 383-0533; December 7 Rogersville Christmas Parade and Yule Log Ceremony 5:30pm; Free; Heritage Park; 300 Wheeler Dr.; (256) 247-9449; December 8 Plantation Christmas 1:00pm-5:00pm; Admission charged; Belle Mont Mansion; 1569 Cook Ln.; Tuscumbia; (256) 383-0783; The Shoals Symphony Orchestra Presents “A Christmas Gift” 2:00pm; Admission charged; Norton Auditorium at UNA; (256) 765-5122; December 10 Florence Camerata Presents “Christmas in the Shoals” 7:30pm; Admission charged; Grace Episcopal Church in Sheffield; 103 Darby Ave.; (256) 765-4515; December 13 Christmas Train Parade of Lights 5:00pm-8:00pm; Admission charged; Spring Park; 1 Spring Park Rd.; Tuscumbia; (256) 389-1357; Dickens Feast 7:00pm; Admission charged; Tuscumbia Depot/Roundhouse; 204 W. 5th St.; (256) 389-1357; December 14 Christmas at Ivy Green 8:30am-4:00pm; Admission charged; 300 N. Commons; Tuscumbia; (256) 383-0783; Second Saturday at Jack-o-Lantern Farm 9:00am-2:00pm; Free; Live music and local specialty foods; Garage Road at TVA in Muscle Shoals; (256) 386-2335;

December 21 NCAA II Football Championship

UNA Commencement 10:00am and 2:00pm; Free; Flowers Hall at UNA; (256) 765-4444; Dickens Christmas, Y’all 10:00am-6:00pm Free; Downtown Tuscumbia at Sixth and Main; (256) 383-9797; Joe Wheeler Parade of Lights 6:00pm; Free; Joe Wheeler State Park; 4403 McLean Dr.; Rogersville; (256) 247-5466; December 15 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 2:00pm; Admission charged; Ritz Theatre, 11 W. 3rd St.; Sheffield; (256) 381-8370; December 21 NCAA II Football Championship TBA; Admission charged; Braly Stadium; N. Royal Ave in Florence; (256) 740-4141; December 24 Christmas Train Parade of Lights 5:00pm-8:00pm; Admission charged; Spring Park; 1 Spring Park Rd.; Tuscumbia; (256) 389-1357; December 31 Joe Wheeler New Years Eve Party All Day; Admission charged; 4403 McLean Dr.; Rogersville; (256) 247-5466;

The Joseph Naidu Foundation is a coalition of healthcare providers who are committed to helping screen and educate people for a variety of health conditions, so that they can know - and seek treatment - if serious conditions exist. These health screenings are FREE, and take place in a variety of locations. Joseph Naidu was 43 when he died of a massive heart attack. To honor his memory, his family and friends created the Joseph Naidu Foundation, to encourage health screenings and healthy living so that others would not have the same fate. These screenings, for PAD, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other serious conditions, are FREE. Knowing if you have a treatable illness is the ďŹ rst step toward preventing a premature death.

To learn about health screenings near you, or to schedule a FREE screening for your business, church or organization, please visit N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 17


JENNIFER LAWRENCE SHOOTS AN APPLE INSIDE THE MOUTH OF A ROASTED PIG in The Hunger Games; Will Ferrell eats cake at the table in Step Brothers; Brad Pitt munches on another snack in Oceans 13; John Hamm sips a cocktail at a Mad Men Christmas party. Food plays a big role on the silver screen, and Jack White serves it up on a silver platter. The Pulaski, Tennessee native and UNA graduate has been in show business for more than 20 years. While he’s acted in several major productions such as Guiding Light and Iron Man 2, his biggest role has been as a food stylist for some 100 films and 25 television shows including Arrested Development, Two and a Half Men, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Star Trek, The Hangover, Spiderman, Charlie’s Angels, and Cat in the Hat. Today, he shares his time between Venice Beach, California and downtown Pulaski, where he lives above his new restaurant, Savory Jacks, which doubles as a prep area for films such as The Hunger Games. No’Ala meets Jack at his restaurant, just off the courtyard square, on a sunny fall day at lunch. Wearing sneakers, jeans, and a black t-shirt, Jack greets us with a friendly smile, unaffected by Hollywood pretentions. We sit at a café table and talk, and as customers come and go, he apologetically interrupts the interview to greet them by name. Some get handshakes, others get hugs. “Jack, you’re back!” One customer is especially thrilled. “Have you tried Jack’s carrot cake?” she asks. “It is to die for.” Jack hasn’t lived in Pulaski in three decades. After high school, he left for UNA, where he graduated with a degree in broadcasting. Then he headed to Nashville, where he “had the fabulous job of being a tour guide at the Grand Ole Opry,” he jokes. But lucky for Jack, his friend from UNA, Pam Long, called him one day and said, “I’m moving to New York—come with me.” In New York, Jack held various jobs, such as a sales position at the Hyatt at Grand Central Station and as a singing waiter on a train from New York to LA. But when his friend Pam landed a job as head writer on Guiding Light, Jack got a recurring role. Then, at the age of 31, he moved to LA with his eyes on Hollywood. “I was pursuing an acting career and was cooking to pay the bills,” says Jack. “I didn’t know what a food stylist was.”


Jack White in his Pulaski, Tennessee restaurant, Savory Jacks



But through a mutual connection at his catering job, he was introduced to the industry. “My very first food styling job was Doing Time on Maple Drive,” he recalls. “The main character was dysfunctional and neurotic, you know, really anal, and everything had to be meticulously perfect. In the scene, her son comes home for Thanksgiving. I really had to think about how the food reflects the character. When the actor came out, she was really pleased with what we had created for her. She even thanked us for helping her be convincing in her role. At that moment, I realized I was a food stylist, and that what everyone does behind the scenes adds to the storyline. I could have artistic input. We could give depth to the film. I didn’t miss acting after that.” Jack developed a strong relationship with the prop masters in town, where he served their team as a food stylist in productions. “The prop master is responsible for anything the actors touch,” Jack explains. “And I’m kind of the department head for the food.” In some films, food and beverages just play a minor role, and Jack’s job is fairly simple; in others, food is an integral part of the scene, and Jack works closely with the director as well as the talent. “On the new Hunger Games, we had to create and style 185 feet of buffet table,” he says of Catching Fire, set to release this month. “When they get back to President Snow’s house on the victory tour, it’s the most opulent, over-the-top food that anyone has ever seen before. We worked for two weeks on that, with six to seven people on my crew, helping cook and style. On a movie like that, I get to work with some of the greatest designers and prop masters in the business. As an actor, I never got to that level.” For the movie, which was filmed in Atlanta, Jack brought in three UNA culinary students to assist him. The buffet table features gigantic cow ribs weaved together, resembling something off the Flintstones, roasted pigs with candied eyes, and trays of elaborate candies and cookies. “Some food must be edible for the actors, and other food is called set dressing,” he says. “That’s what I call bullet-proof food; it has to sit out 12 hours a day under hot lights and the whole nine yards.” Jack and his crew must be extremely detail-oriented. If one bite is taken, if one piece of ice melts, it must be replaced perfectly when the scene is cut and begins again so the scene appears flawless in final editing. “Once you’ve carved into a Thanksgiving turkey, you can’t use it again,” he says. In some cases, there are hundreds of back-up items to replace the food that was touched in the scene.

For this iconic scene from The Hunger Games, Peeta throws a burnt loaf of bread to a starving Katniss. White made dozens of burnt loaves (above) for multiple takes. The rolls with the District 11 brand were also painstakingly made by White and his crew for the film, yet the scene was ultimately cut.

Everything must also pass the director’s eye. The crew had to pull an all-nighter to change the icing on a plate of cookies to make the scene just right. While there is no food in Mockingjay, the last of The Hunger Games trilogy, Jack’s crew member and UNA student James Perini has already been hired as production assistant for the prop department. Jack recently finished another film, August: Osage County, which comes out in January with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, and other A-list actors. “There is a 25-page scene where all 10 actors are sitting around the table,” he says. “It’s quite a crazy scene. We changed out the plates every hour. There’s a lot of continuity. Whenever they say cut, we have to get it just right.” © Lionsgate N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 21

After four days of shooting the scene, the director announced that, thanks to the work of the food-styling crew, they would finish a day early. The entire cast applauded Jack in a proud moment in his career. “Working with an actress like Meryl Streep is life changing,” Jack says. “She’s a method actor, so when she talks to you, she talks to you in character. That was great fun. And Julia, I love her. They were all great to work with. Meryl is just Meryl Streep, what can you say? One of my first movies was with Katharine Hepburn (Love Affair), and I thought I couldn’t top that.” Another challenging part of the job is that despite all the painstaking, tedious work, scenes often get cut in final production. For The Hunger Games, Jack and his crew baked dozens of District 11 rolls for a scene with Jennifer Lawrence. Using a branding iron, the crew spent hours making the roll look just right. “Jennifer ate like eight rolls that day, and then they cut the scene.” While Jack thinks Catching Fire and August: Osage County probably fulfilled his bucket list as a food stylist, the most fun he’s ever had on set was on Anchorman. “I’ve done five Will Ferrell films; my first was Old School,” he says. “Anchorman was one of my favorite movies. I had to run off the set because it was so funny, and I didn’t want to be that guy who laughed out loud while they were shooting. Remember the cat poop salad? I worked on that.” Jack cracks up again, just thinking about it. In two decades of working in Hollywood, Jack has expectedly been forced to work with his share of divas and their fastidious and unreasonable requests. But all-in-all, he has loved working with the talent. “I absolutely loved working with Holly Hunter,” he says. “I did all three seasons of Saving Grace. I tell everyone, working with her is like being in a master’s class. It wasn’t like being at work. It was all about making it the best you could. All of us in life do what we can to get by, but the great ones really push.” Many of the ideas for the food White makes for film are created in his commercial kitchen in Pulaski.

Jack began spending more time in his hometown of Pulaski about four years ago when his brother was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. His brother, who owned a restaurant for 25 years, passed away, and Jack was called to open a café in town. “I’ve been gone for almost 30 years,” says Jack. “But there’s a lot to be said about reconnecting with old roots. LA is a different city than it used to be. The majority of the film work has left LA. The last two films I did were in Atlanta and Oklahoma.” From the looks of things around the restaurant, Jack feels right at home again, and he is enjoying his work more than ever. Jack, who owns three buildings on First Street, is fully invested in downtown Pulaski. He’s bringing in singer/songwriters for Dinner and a Show at Savory Jacks. He’s hosting a cooking series for public access television in Pulaski and Huntsville. And, he continues to look for ways to get students involved, whether he’s speaking to a class at UNA or booking musicians from nearby Martin Methodist College. He’s doing all this at home, while managing his crew in LA, who is working on their latest project, Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood. “In New York, I met a mentor at one of the first jobs I had,” he says. “He told me, ‘if you enjoy the industry, stay in the industry. As long as you enjoy being in that industry, do it the best way you can.’” Whether it’s the culinary industry, show business, or a marriage of the two, Jack is savoring the sweet taste of success.



In fashion, sometimes you’re inside... and sometimes you’re out.

SAVE THE DATE: December 7, 2013 Silent Auction and Cocktail party inside the Historic Sweetwater Depot in East Florence Dinner and dog and owner fashion show on the runway outside, under the tent A fashionable fundraiser for PAWS and HASRA, limited to 200 guests $100/ticket $150 to walk the runway Sponsorship opportunities available

Limited seating: Call 256-766-4222 for reservations or purchase tickets at The French Basket, English Village, Florence

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Kellie and Joey Poss David, Revonda, and Cat Twesme, Robert Smith and Michael Hasty Carter, Zoie, and Brandi McGuyer

Robert Smith and Michael Hasty

Rob Bunch and Pam Bolton Chad and Valerie Oakley

Neil Caudle and championship rings

Linda and Terry Mitchell

Above: Auburn Alumni Scholarship Dinner

Below: Dish Gourmet Café 7th Anniversary Party


SEPTEMBER 12, 2013  DISH C AFÉ, FLORENCE Hope Frederick, Barbara Hunt, Mary Marshall VanSant, and Judy Keenum

Kayla Mitchell, Heidi King, and Tashina Southard

Jon and Lisa DuPuis

Billie Ryals and Kay Gable

Billy and Brandi Hammock

Cindy Frazier, Sandra Wilson, and Rachel Hillis

Trav Hovater

* Names for photos are provided by the organization or business featured.

Tashina Southard, Tracie Swift, Adam Grissom (back row), Tracy Posey, and Duell Aldridge Photos by Heidi King




“One of the great things about universities is when you make a difference in the life of a young person, you make a ripple across time.” —Dr. William Cale, UNA Celebration of Diversity Breakfast

Looking at his resume today—a bank executive, a college professor, a White House adviser, business owner, the father of a Rhodes Scholar—it’s difficult to imagine the struggle he had to overcome 50 years ago. In front of a packed audience for the 50th anniversary of desegregation at UNA, Wendell Gunn shared his story, and then sat down with No’Ala for a one-on-one interview.

A Different Era Tuscumbia native Wendell Gunn had just completed his sophomore year at Tennessee State University and was home for the summer. “I was sitting at a friend’s house near the campus and looking at a Florence State College yearbook on the coffee table,” Wendell recalls. “I noticed they were no longer a teacher’s college and now had a liberal arts degree. I was interested in chemistry. I literally put the book down, walked out the door and into the registrar’s office for an application.”

Courtesy of The University of North Alabama

IT WAS THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, AND WENDELL WAS NERVOUS. He had not a friend at the entire university. Nobody dared to make eye contact, much less speak to him in class. He had endured a summer of threatening phone calls, warning him about being the only black student at an all-white school. He had watched on television as Governor George Wallace stood at the schoolhouse door trying to block students—students just like him—from getting an education. But in the fall of 1963, Wendell Wilkie Gunn decided to go to college anyway, becoming the first African-American to attend Florence State College, now known as the University of North Alabama.

Above: Wendell Gunn, right, leaves the doorway of Bibb Graves Hall at The University of North Alabama (then Florence State College), September 12, 1963. At left is former college president E.B. Norton. Facing page: Wendell Gunn, photographed at UNA during the college’s recent 50th anniversary celebration of desegregation.

A few minutes later, Wendell was sitting in the office of President E.B. Norton, after three rather baffled university officials had passed him off. It was Norton who delivered the news that under Alabama law, Wendell could not be accepted.


“I’m not going to say all the problems have been solved, but most of them don’t have to do with race. I didn’t necessarily want to have a black president, but I wanted to know that being black wouldn’t keep you from being president. Now that that question has been answered, we can move on to the next thing.” —Wendell Gunn

“I was in his office, and I was ready to go, but he kept talking,” Wendell says. “He said, ‘I’m sure that you know if you were to sue us, and a federal judge ordered us to admit you, we would have to admit you. Take a moment and talk about it with your parents.’” While Wendell wanted to attend Florence State, he wasn’t sure it was worth all the trouble. But to his surprise, his parents reacted differently. Before he knew it, his mother was on the phone with civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who agreed to represent Wendell and secure funding for the suit from the NAACP. “I didn’t really expect them to follow through with a suit,” says Wendell. “If anyone was courageous in the situation I think it was they. My parents knew better, and they did it anyway.” And just as Dr. Norton had expected with his “wink-wink” suggestion, Wendell was accepted to Florence State. “I got a lot of encouraging phone calls,” Wendell says. “Encouraging me to stay the hell away from there. I didn’t know I would go there until I actually went there.” Wendell’s minister drove him into campus for registration, and they waited in the car until the registration line dwindled before Wendell ran out to sign up and then ducked back into the car. Once he was enrolled in school, the phone calls stopped, but Wendell wasn’t exactly welcomed warmly. “Students didn’t speak to me unless they happened to be my lab partner,” Wendell recalls. “I had no social life; there was plenty of time to study. During that first year I didn’t dare go to a football game—not that anything would happen—but I didn’t know that.” Everything changed for Wendell the end of that first year when he received a physics achievement award on honors day for having the highest grade. “I stood up with a big smile on my face,” he says. “People clapped. I cried. The applause grew. Within a few seconds the entire assembly was applauding. Not only did I lose my composure, I lose my composure every time I tell it. It tells me a lot about people. There were just a few people who had problems with human interactions. Most people are just trying to get through the day—get their children educated and keep them safe. I learned a lot that day.” That same spring of 1964 the Civil Rights Act went into effect, making it illegal for a business to refuse service to a customer based on their skin color. Photo by Shannon Wells N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAMAG . COM | 31

“However, as long as we are free to explore the opportunities we have, there is no end to what we can do. That’s what is great about America and the free enterprise system.” —Wendell Gunn

job in Tennessee before later moving to Chicago, where he worked as a chemist and attended graduate school.

Wendell chuckles then turns serious. “Those were two defining moments for me: honors day and my steak at Dale’s.”

“I didn’t particularly want to leave the South,” he says. “I just wanted to go to graduate school at night. I did end up at the University of Chicago tutoring people from those “elite” universities. They can’t teach mathematics better than they do here (at UNA). That’s why I tell the students here, ‘you do what you have to do here, you’ll do just fine out there.’”

Wendell says that looking back, the Shoals community and Florence State really took to the changes well. “Given everything that was happening during 1963 and how smoothly things went says a lot about our area. Something must have told me it was okay to come over here.” After he graduated, President Norton and Wendell’s chemistry teacher Dr. Thomas continued to support him. “Every time I got a promotion Dr. Norton wrote me a hand-written letter telling me how proud he was of me, and Dr. Thomas was determined that I succeed.” After that first year, Wendell’s sister’s husband joined him at Florence State, and he even built a few friendships with white peers from his classes. Wendell graduated in 1965 and got a


Wendell went on to become the vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, served as assistant professor of finance at Texas Southern University, and was director of investor relations for Pepsico. Then, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as assistant director for commerce and trade. Today he lives in Connecticut where he runs his own software business, Gunn Solutions.

Courtesy of The University of North Alabama

“I went with a date to Dale’s Steakhouse,” Wendell says. “I fully expected the service to be very cool at best. I was a little apprehensive. But the service could not have been more courteous. That was a good steak.”

Fifty years later I don’t see color as much as personality. I have a wide variety of friends. We’re all the same in some aspects, but different races.” —Darius Asher

UNA Freshman chemistry major Darius Asher admits he hasn’t faced many of the obstacles that Wendell Gunn had experienced 50 years prior. Facing page: Wendell Gunn’s UNA yearbook photo.

“I’m not going to say all the problems have been solved,” Wendell says. “But most of them don’t have to do with race. I didn’t necessarily want to have a black president, but I wanted to know that being black wouldn’t keep you from being president. Now that that question has been answered, we can move on to the next thing.” In response to integrating the University of Alabama’s Greek system, Wendell says, “all the sororities should be open to membership by anyone who wanted to join. Desegregation and integration are two different things. Segregation just tells me where I cannot go. Absent that, I’ll go where I want to go.” Wendell says that blacks and whites still may segregate themselves in lunchrooms, at church, and at social events. “Their similarities can be along racial lines, occupational lines, or just plain interests,” he explains. “You’ll still see clusters, but as people get to know each other, they will cluster around those common interests, organically.” As for how far the world has come in 50 years, Wendell believes there really is no such thing as equal opportunity.

Darius stands in the doorway of Bibb Graves Hall—the very same doorway that Wendell Gunn crossed through on his way to making history in Florence, Alabama.

“I don’t think any kid has the same opportunities as any other kid,” Wendell explains. “However, as long as we are free to explore the opportunities we have, there is no end to what we can do. That’s what is great about America and the free enterprise system. Not everyone who is rich grew up rich. Freedom is the key, not equality. I don’t want to be equal to you; I want to do better than you. As long as we’re all competing with one another to do better, we all end up better. People talk about how this country has problems. It is still the land of opportunity.”

IT WAS THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, AND DARIUS ASHER WASN’T NERVOUS AT ALL. He was clearly wanted at the university, where he had received half a dozen scholarships. He was enrolled in the honors program and had made the drum line, something he had always wanted to do. As far as fitting in at the University of North Alabama, it seemed he had already found a place on day one.


Like Wendell Gunn, Darius is a bright chemistry student with a supportive family. “My dad died when I was 12, and I’m the only child,” he says. “My mom is a little protective, but I was always told I was going to college no matter what.” Darius graduated from Florence High School, where he was section leader of the marching band and maintained a 4.2 GPA. But unlike Wendell Gunn, Darius, who was born in 1995, has attended school with white kids his entire life. And he’s used to the feeling of being the only black guy in the room. “In high school I was an honors AP student, and I was that one guy,” he says. “On the snare line, I’m the only black guy. Even though I’m black and they’re white, we’re all people. I don’t see color as much as personality. I have a wide variety of friends…white, black, Mexican. We’re all the same in some aspects, but different races.” Darius admits he hasn’t had the same obstacles that Wendell Gunn faced 50 years before, and he doesn’t think he would be able to do what Wendell did. “I don’t think my mama would have even let me,” Darius says. “It must have been dangerous, being the only black student. Back then you just didn’t do things like that. He’s a courageous guy.” Darius believes segregation still exists but that it’s natural, part of human nature. “I’m not opposed to mixing together races in any setting,” he explains. “But there are times where you have black people together and white people together for certain occasions. It’s probably how you were raised—like at church.” Darius, who has just rushed from class to band practice then home and back to campus for this interview, is more focused on his present life as a college student than on the past. But he takes a moment to consider what the world is like for him in 2013 versus what it was like in 1963 for Wendell Gunn. “As far as racial equality, it’s a thousand times better,” he says. “I’ve never in my lifetime experienced outrageous racism. I’ve never had that problem. I know of racism, and I know it’s out there, but I don’t really run into it. It’s pretty fair. I think I have the same shot at success as any other person.” N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAMAG . COM | 35

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“Merry Christmas! Entertain me!” Tips for taming restless holiday guests TEXT BY L AURA ANDERS LEE AND CLAIRE STEWART

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most trying time of year, with all the holiday errands, shopping, cooking… not to mention dealing with having the kids out of school and preparing for out-of-town company. To make the most of your time together, here are some activities sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit.


For the Little Ones “Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again…” Instead of dreading the holidays, make the most of them with a family outing during the Christmas season. Downtown Florence is the perfect place to get away from the traffic and enjoy a stroll. First head to UNA for a visit with the resident lions, Leo and UNA. Throw a penny in the fountain for a Christmas wish on your way back up Seminary Street. Walk across Wilson Park to the library, where you can check out a few Christmas books or DVDs. Then, head back toward Court Street to Trowbridge’s for an “Oh My Gosh” ice cream big enough to share.

The year’s last First Friday falls on December 6. Whether you’re buying last-minute gifts from street vendors or your kids are catching up with their old high school friends, you can all enjoy First Fridays together. •••

“With candy canes and silver lanes aglow…” Bobby Wright of Spring Valley would make Clark Griswold proud. He has been spreading Christmas cheer for the past 40 years with hundreds of over-the-top light displays, from traditional Nativity scenes to favorite childhood characters. You really must see it to believe it. Throw your kids in the car with their pjs, pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and sing carols all the way. To get to Wright’s Lights from Wilson Dam Road, turn left onto Highway 157, and then a right on Colbert County Road 61. At the stop sign, turn right, and go around the curve. Then follow the glow (and the parade of cars). “O tannenbaum…” There’s just nothing quite like cutting down your own Christmas tree. Shell Farms in Colbert County has a great selection of Virginia Pine and Leyland Cypress trees that you can select and cut yourself. Your family will have a blast running around the great outdoors or even taking a mule and wagon ride. Inside the country store, your kids can sit in Santa’s lap while you sip some hot apple cider. City sidewalk, busy sidewalks…” In December, Downtown Tuscumbia’s Main Street is dressed in holiday style. A Dickens Christmas Y’all is December 14, where your family can meet some good, oldfashioned characters and take a horse and buggy ride. Enjoy an afternoon treat at Palace Café or a hot chocolate at Cold Water books while doing a little Christmas shopping.

“Yes, we need a little Christmas…” One of the best ways to get into the spirit is to escape for a few hours with a great Christmas story. The Ritz Theatre is bringing back The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, December 11-15. Come laugh as the wildest, toughest kids in town take over lead roles in the play. “Oh what fun it is to ride…” In December, you can hop aboard the Santa Express at the Tuscumbia Depot. Admission includes a visit with Santa and a reading of the children’s book Polar Express. At Spring Park, you can enjoy unlimited rides of the roller coaster, carousel, and train. Be sure to stay until twilight when the light displays begin to sparkle.

For Your College-Aged Kids “Don we now our gay apparel…” After a semester in college, your young adult has seen the latest styles that “everyone else on campus is wearing.” Instead of sending them to the mall with money or putting a gift card in their stocking, make a shopping day out of it. Check out English Village Shopping Center where your daughter can find an outfit at Marigail’s, then you can grab lunch at Sweet Basil Café to catch up on her life. Then visit Main Street in Tuscumbia, where you can grab a coffee at Cold Water Books before looking for the perfect winter outfit at Audie Mescal or Tuscumbia’s new men’s store, Leo Martin. They might not admit it, but they know you still have style. “Walking in a winter wonderland…” The year’s last First Friday falls on December 6. Whether you’re buying last-minute gifts from street vendors or your kids are catching up with their old high school friends, you can all enjoy First Fridays together. Eat together as a family at Dish or Yumm, and then scatter to various venues— catching a concert at Rivertown, buying sweets at Court Street Market, and watching the lighting of the tree in Wilson Park, before meeting up after a night well spent. “Lean your ear this way…” For those nights your kids want to meet friends, encourage


them to check out the shows at Pegasus Records. In the past year, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Local Saints, Doc Dailey and the Magnolia Devils, and The Pollies have graced their stage on the weekends with some exceptional shows. With weekly concerts, this venue has become a hot spot for young music lovers in the Shoals. Though they may have only enjoyed Justin Bieber or Ke$ha before they left for school, you may find they’re back with a new appreciation for the amazing talent in their hometown—the talent that you have been telling them about for years!

Bobby Wright of Spring Valley would make Clark Griswold proud. He has been spreading Christmas cheer for the past 40 years with hundreds of over-the-top light displays, from traditional Nativity scenes to favorite childhood characters. You really must see it to believe it. •••

“Santa Claus is coming to town…” December 6 through 8 will mark the 7th annual Sugarplum Marketplace, hosted by Junior League of the Shoals. This three-day marketplace at North Alabama State Fair Grounds in Muscle Shoals features more than 90 vendors from across the Southeast who will be selling clothing, food, and gift items. Grab some hot chocolate in the main building and stroll the aisles with your college-aged kids. There will be tons of cool handmade jewelry, funky clothes, and original gift ideas they will love to check out. “I don’t know if there’ll be snow, but have a cup of cheer…” If it is your undergrad’s first trip back home after turning 21, what better activity to try out than Tapas Thursdays at the Wine Seller? It could be sushi and sake, Oregon wines and oysters, or sangria and Spanish food, but the Wine Seller crew always comes up with inventive and delicious combinations for the foodies of Florence. Teach your new legal adult how to drink the right way and prove to them that you know where the happening spots are in town, too.

Out-of-Town Guests “I saw three ships…” The Tennessee River is the perfect place to showcase the Shoals, whether it’s having a picnic at McFarland Park, checking out the raised boardwalk at Riverfront Park, or taking a stroll along the Old Railroad Bridge. Your out-of-town friends will marvel at the engineering of Wilson Dam, as barges lock their way through. The Joe Wheeler boat Parade of Lights on December 14 is another fun way to experience life on the water.


“Rocking around the Christmas tree…” For its 40th year, Tuscumbia’s Tennessee Valley Art Museum will present The Trees of Christmas. The exhibit includes nine 12-foot-tall live trees, each carefully decorated by various organizations, businesses, and schools. Visitors can expect a variety of fun and traditional themes, including the Master Gardeners’ all-natural, floral tree and the UNA communications department’s First Amendment Tree.

“I’ll be home for Christmas…” Several historic homes in the Shoals are worth visiting while your friends and relatives are in town. The Rosenbaum House in Florence is the only Frank Lloyd Wright House in the Southeast open to the public and is a prime example of Wright’s Usonian style of architecture. On December 8, the Belle Mont Mansion in Tuscumbia opens its doors to the public for Plantation Christmas. Helen Keller’s Ivy Green is another lovely place to visit at Christmas—for the decorations as well as the inspiring story. Then, turn on your Shoals playlist in your car stereo and give your friends a driving tour of homes on Sheffield’s Montgomery Avenue, Tuscumbia’s Sixth Street, and Florence’s Walnut Street and Wood Avenue.

“Sing, choirs of angels…” For a small community, the Shoals is home to some firstclass arts organizations that rival those of bigger cities. The Florence Camerata, under the leadership of UNA’s Dr. Ian Loeppky, is sure to move everyone in the audience at its annual Christmas concert on December 10 at Grace Episcopal Church in Sheffield. Also in December, the Shoals Symphony Orchestra presents A Christmas Gift at Norton Auditorium at UNA. After the concerts, treat your guests to some amazing local cuisine at one of the area’s local restaurants. “Up on the house top…” For a stunning view of the Shoals, including Wilson Lake and the Tennessee River, there is no better place than the Marriott’s 360 Grille. Grab a local cheese plate and a champagne cocktail in the revolving restaurant. Watch as the city glows in the sunset, and toast to another great year with friends and family.



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A gift subscription to No’Ala Magazine is the perfect gift - that keeps giving, all year long! Share a little bit of the Shoals with your friends through the pages of our award-winning magazine — and save money doing it. Buy one subscription and get the second for just $10; we’ll even send a gift card to the recipient, telling them about your gift. Visit to subscribe...and give a gift that gives all year long! N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 67

68 »

check it out » Florence-Lauderdale Public Library

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny Adult Fiction Call Number: F-PEN (In New Arrivals Section)

Out Standing in My Field by Patrick Jennings Juvenile Fiction Call Number: JF-JEN (In Juvenile Fiction Section)

How the Light Gets In is the latest in the best-selling Inspector Gamache series by Canadian author Louise Penny. As the story opens, it’s Christmas-time, and a reclusive celebrity is scheduled to visit an old friend in Three Pines. When the woman fails to appear, her friend calls Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. In the series’ first book, Gamache was led to the tiny remote village by a murder. Since that time, he has made many trips to town and forged multiple friendships. But while Gamache is helping a friend in Three Pines, his department and career in Montreal are being destroyed by dirty cops and politicians. The scandal threatens both public safety and the life of his protégé, a young man Gamache feels he must save.

Out Standing in My Field is a story by Patrick Jennings that takes place entirely in the course of a single baseball game. It is the story of Ty Cutter, a kid who is not very good at baseball but is forced to play on his dad’s team each year. The story is told primarily through Ty’s internal monologue, as he attempts to survive the last game of the season without having another error to his name. His thoughts often wander from the game at hand, as he thinks about conflicts with his baseball-obsessed father. Through the course of a single baseball game, the reader gets an understanding of Ty’s life.

Penny’s series is at heart a village mystery. Readers step back in time to visit the town with no internet or cell phone service. But this is no cozy series—the link to Montreal brings the stories fully into the often dangerous modern world. Penny’s characters, particularly Gamache, are complicated, flawed, heroic, and appealing. These are not just mysteries; they are exciting and thought-provoking literary novels that draw readers in and leave them wanting more. (Elisabeth South)

Although the book is targeted for a younger audience, many adult themes are explored. Themes such as the obsession with winning, father-son relationships, and even hints at alcoholism are visited. Since the themes are told through the mind of 11year-old Ty, they are told in such a way that even younger audiences will be able to understand them. Out Standing in My Field is a story for anyone who enjoys tales of baseball, on and off the field. (Colby Dow)

Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez Adult Fiction Call Number: F-MAR (In Adult Fiction Section) Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain is a wacky, whimsical, sort-of sci-fi adventure. The story is told from the perspective Emperor Mollusk—a genius from Neptune, Ex-Warlord of Terra (Earth), and reformed all-around bad guy. The book begins with Mollusk saving the world (again), by foiling the plans of his evil clone, The Sinister Brain. Eventually, he joins forces with Zala, a lizard-lady soldier from Venus, by side-tracking her from her favorite obsession: trying to capture Mollusk and force him to answer for his crimes against the Venusians. The book is a break-neck rollercoaster that rockets you through the story, taking you everywhere from other planets to Atlantis, but it does all of this in style. Surprisingly enough, though, it’s not all camp. Emperor Mollusk deals with some very interesting themes about the morality of a supervillain, or at least, an exsupervillain. It manages to reflect on these themes in a very self-aware, tongue-incheek way, keeping the book light and playful, without being composed entirely of fluff. If you like tearing apart the fourth wall like it’s wrapping paper, or if you enjoy spaceships or giant, gelatinous monsters, then look no further: this one’s for you. (Patrick Lindsay)

Truman by David McCullough Adult Nonfiction Call Number: 92-TRU (In Biography Section) Of all United States Presidents, Harry S. Truman is perhaps the one who is most misunderstood. To many, his presidency seems unimportant and pales in comparison to the presidency of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. After all, how could a simple farm boy from Missouri who had limited experience in government affairs trump a man who had done so much for this nation during its most critical hour? In short, everything was against Harry Truman from the very start. Truman constantly battled others’ opinions of him. Many lacked confidence in him and doubted his abilities. In the end, Truman proved to be a man who could overcome all the obstacles that were set before him. Do not let the thickness of this book scare you away. David McCullough creates a detailed masterpiece that clearly and accurately depicts the life of Harry S. Truman. It will surely keep you on the edge of your chair wondering what will happen to Truman next. Truman is not only a story of inspiration but is also a story about a common man, a man who came from humble beginnings and went beyond what anyone expected of him. (Kristen Tippett Briggs)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Jim Kay Young Adult Fiction Call Number: YF-NES (In Young Adult New Arrivals Section) In his Young Adult novel A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness explores the grief of a young boy whose mother is slowly dying from an illness that affects every aspect of his life. Thirteen-year-old Conor spends his days at school being bullied and overlooked, and at night he walks with a monster who speaks in metaphors and knows his most secret nightmares. When his grandmother and estranged father arrive to help take care of him and his mother, Conor’s situation gets even more complicated, as the people who care about him the most are unable to help him process his feelings. As Conor’s anger and sadness rage out of control, he becomes very similar to the monster who haunts him, but he ultimately finds help and understanding in a most unexpected place. The author’s narrative is paired with Jim Kay’s beautiful yet disturbing illustrations, which give the reader a unique perspective on Conor’s emotional journey. Full of both sorrow and hope, this book serves as a reminder to readers of all ages that love is much stronger and more powerful than grief. (Jaimee Hannah)


At No’Ala Magazine, we believe strongly in giving back. For that reason, we’d like to offer our services for a year to a non-profit organization in the Shoals who might benefit from professional marketing advice, graphic design and a year’s worth of exposure in No’Ala.

Our guidelines are simple. First, write us a letter explaining the mission of your non-profit, what your particular marketing needs might be, and how you might benefit from our help. Make sure that letter arrives at the No’Ala office at 250 S. Poplar Street, Florence, before the close of business on December 1st, 2013.

We may ask you and others from your organization to come in for a personal discussion, so we can better understand your needs. We’ll select one organization to “adopt” for 2014, and we’ll work with you to help you spread the word. No strings; no obligation. You’re doing great things. Can we help?


Red Rhythm Runway Brings Shoals Music and Fashion Together at Last TEXT BY ALLEN TOMLINSON PHOTOS BY PATRICK HOOD

If you travel much, you’ve probably run in to people who have heard of the Shoals. People know us either as the place where all that great music comes from, or the country’s emerging Fashion Capital (behind New York and Los Angeles, of course). The sounds and styles that got their start here have gone out into the world, made an impression, and have reflected well on our region. On September 28, Porsche of Huntsville and Grogan Jewelers presented Red Rhythm Runway, an evening of entertainment that married the soulful, get-up-and-dance music that made us famous with the sophisticated fashions from three area designers. A fundraiser for the AIDS Action Coalition’s Hames Clinic in Florence, more than 500 people gathered at the Marriott Conference Center to hear world-class musicians and see stunning clothes draped on beautiful local models. There was an exhibit of designs by UNA students in the lobby, pop-up shops featuring local merchants, and an after-party sponsored by Truly Cigars of Florence. It was a special night—it was Muscle Shoals Magic. (contiuned, page 74)


Above, clockwise from left: Show director Keith Sims fine tunes light cues during rehearsal; Shawna P and Jimmy Hall address the audience during the after party concert; Jessie Childers models a Marianna Barksdale creation.



Clockwise from top left: Hair stylists Tim May (left) and Wesley Roden prepare the models (like Kaitlyn Wilson), before the show; Makeup artist Kendra Johnson applies lip color to Caroline Bobo; Nicole DeVaney gets a feel for the zig-zag runway during her ďŹ rst rehearsal; models Anna Whitten, Storm Spencer, and Sarah Patterson wait back stage during the morning rehearsal for their cue; one of six looks designed by students from UNA’s Department of Human Environmental Sciences, created entirely out of found and recycled materials.

Clockwise from left: Kate Hunt in Billy Reid; Laney Risner in Marianna Barksdale; Justin Lanfair in Billy Reid, Kaitlyn Wilson in Marianna Barksdale; Courtney Sledge, center, in Billy Reid.



Clockwise from top left: Chris Klaus models a Billy Reid look from the designer’s Fall 2013 collection; Jessie Childers models an ensemble from Alabama Chanin’s latest line; Anna Whitten in another look from Alabama Chanin; Nicole Hugaboom in Marianna Barksdale; Canaan Marshall, center, opens the show as a young W.C. Handy.

Clockwise from left: Kelvin Holly, Jimmy Hall, Shawna P, and Will McFarlane. Shane Baker, center, entertains guests in the atrium before the show.


Clockwise from top left: Guests admire the gowns created by the students from the University of North Alabama’s Department of Human Environmental Sciences; Stage manager Sarah Haynes (left) with models during rehearsal; The horn section: Chad Fisher, Ken Watters, and Brad Guin perform during the show.

“Savor the runway show, embrace the music, and immerse yourself in the inspiration that surrounds us here. See and hear the unique magic that unfolds when world-class artists come together in the spirit of creativity and compassion.” —Judy Hood, from her RRR Forward



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Matt Liles and Keri Klaus Jonathan Oliphant and John Cartright Billy and Jeanne Reid Jenny and John Paul White

Harris Pride, Kris Lard, Kailey Smith, and Haleigh Hodges

Bradley and Jordyn Dean

Merle and Megan Stein Daniel and Maggie Crisler Photos courtesy of Billy Reid

Above: Screening of Muscle Shoals at Billy Reid’s Shindig

Below: Florence Foodies Event at Yumm Sushi & Beyond



Joe Daniel, Teryl Shields, Rachel Hillis, and Deb Jaquette

Mirium Stangel, Sarah Gaede, and Richard Fisk Gift Iddhichiracharus and Paul Visuthikosol Paul Visuthikosol, Libby and Dick Jordan, Joe Daniel, Rachel Hillis and Deb Jaquette

Justin Spears and Paul Visuthikosol

Tommy Mathis Photos by Abraham and Susan Rowe

*80 Names | NOALAPRESS for photos are . COM provided | N OVEMBER by the organization /D ECEMBERor2013 business featured.

Providing Insurance and Financial Services

Myron Gardner, LUTCF 1819 Darby Drive, Florence, AL 35630 Bus 256-764-2234;Cell 256-335-6080 Email

Phil Wiginton 419 Cox Boulevard, Sheffield, AL, 35660 Bus 256-383-4521; Cell 256-762-5859 Email N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 81

“Only through freedom, freedom for all, can we hope for a true democracy.” Helen Keller




We Alabamians think we know the story well. Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880, to Kate and Capt. Arthur Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama. At the age of 19 months, an illness left her blind, deaf, and mute. She remained speechless until she was almost seven years of age, when her parents, with the help of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, brought Anne Sullivan to their Ivy Green home, where Helen spoke the word “water” at the famed pump. But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, that is just the beginning. Like many other American heroes, Helen Keller has become more myth than human. Tens of thousands visit Ivy Green each year from all around the world longing to see the pump for themselves, to stand on that sacred ground where a miracle took place. “There are the urban legends that accrue to famous people in history like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and Big Abe with his stovetop hat,” says Lee Freeman, public historian with the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, “but once you start learning about them, you realize how much more complex they are.” Complex indeed was Helen Keller. In her lifetime, she wrote 14 books, 475 speeches, and thousands of articles and letters. Freeman points to a shelf filled with books about Helen Keller and a thick binder of local newspaper clippings. The American Foundation for the Blind employs a full-time archivist—Helen Selsdon—with the sole responsibility of sorting through 80,000 documents housed at the New York office which span Helen Keller’s 87-year life. “My biggest job since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here 11 years, is to make her a real person, not just a mythic figure,” says Selsdon. “She lived her life as much as she could. She was extraordinary, there is no question. But people don’t see how very hard she worked. She was prolific. She wrote letters constantly. She was a clever child and a smart woman, but she worked hard at it.”



Wayne James

Above: Ivy Green, Tuscumbia, Alabama Facing page: Helen Keller at Randolph College

Another spokeswoman for Helen Keller is her great-grand niece, Keller Johnson Thompson. Thompson lives in Tuscumbia where she serves as an ambassador for the American Foundation for the Blind and vice president of the Helen Keller Foundation, based in Birmingham, which conducts research and implements educational programs. “Unfortunately people tend to focus on the pump story and Annie Sullivan and not what she did later on and not what she fought for,” says Thompson. Here is where Helen Keller’s story continues. After that famed day at the water pump, Helen and Anne worked together closely on her studies. They had a special bond, and Helen Keller later called Anne her guardian angel. “She understood the void in my soul because her childhood had been so empty of joy,” Helen Keller described Anne in her memoir Midstream. In 1896, by the time Helen was 16, she began studying for college entrance exams. Her father, who died that same year, had been a graduate of the University of Virginia, a four-star veteran in the Civil War, editor of the North Alabamian, and believed a good education was very important. Helen first attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and then Radcliffe College. Not only was she accepted, but in 1904 she became the first deaf and blind student to ever graduate from college. Helen had a zest for life, and she loved new experiences, whether swimming, sailing, flying, or art. She loved taking in the smells of a new city and feeling the sunlight on her skin. At college, she thrived on the new surroundings and worldly ideas. Anne remained by her side, attending all her classes and transcribing her lessons. In 1902 at the age of 22, Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life was published in a serialized version and the following year it was published as a whole. Helen was greatly assisted by John Macy, an editor and Harvard professor who had become close to both Helen and Anne. In 1905, John and Anne married, and John moved in with Helen and Anne. The three had a big influence on one another. They were intellectuals, often discussing politics and current events. Helen was passionate about pro-


“We are marching toward a new freedom,” she said in her first speech. “We are learning that freedom is the only safe condition for all human beings, men and women and children. Only through freedom, freedom for all, can we hope for a true democracy.” In 1912, she sent money to women in New York who were protesting better working conditions. In 1913, she stood up for laborers in the following excerpt from Justice: “the output of a cotton mill or coal mine is considered of greater importance than the production of healthy, happy-hearted, free human beings.” In 1914, she wrote to the Sacramento Star about the brutal treatment of the unemployed. She wrote to President Woodrow Wilson about a trial she believed was unfair. © American Foundation for the Blind

Helen Keller spoke out publicly in favor of birth control, which was highly controversial and not legalized until many years later. “The limiting of families is a matter of the gravest necessity to the workers,” Helen wrote in a 1915 New York Call article. “In spite of our boasts of national prosperity, poverty is steadily increasing. The cost of living mounts higher and higher, and wages do not advance in proportion. If the families of the workers are left to the uncontrolled caprice of nature, we shall have a larger percentage of children that are forced to toil in mills and factories—who are denied their birthright of education and play.”

“John Macy was definitely a huge influence on her and introduced socialism to her,” says Selsdon. “I think some people are innately more emphatic, and Helen was one of those people. She was always for the underdog. She had a very Ghandi-esque quality about her.”

Helen Keller also fought for a woman’s right to vote. In an article entitled Why Men Need Women’s Suffrage, she wrote: “Anyone that reads intelligently knows our ideas are up a tree, and that traditions are scurrying away before the advance of their everlasting enemy, the questioning mind of a new age. It is time to take a good look at human affairs in the light of new conditions and new ideas, and the tradition that man is the natural master of the destiny of the race is one of the first to suffer investigation.”

As a 30-year-old woman, Helen Keller’s beliefs were ahead of her time, and the issues she fought for were at the forefront of national debate, something that is often missed in history books.

Helen Keller was a self-proclaimed socialist and felt capitalism meant big profits for a few elite at the expense of hard-working Americans.

“We don’t learn that in elementary school,” says Carl Brandt of Vero Beach, Florida, a tourist to Ivy Green. “It’s all about overcoming the disability, but when you’re older, you research her and realize there is much more to her. We are given just that basic portrait of her and not the whole picture of her life. Her political life is glossed over, left unmentioned.”

“You have to understand her views and the time in which she held those views,” says Freeman. “Critics pigeon-hole her by calling her a socialist, but you have to put everything in historical context.”

tecting individual rights, whether the rights of those with disabilities or the poor or disenfranchised.

“She was blind and deaf but didn’t just sit there with her hands tied,” says Thompson. “She was working with things close to her heart. She wanted to make the world a better place.” In 1913, Helen Keller gave her first public lecture. People flocked to hear her inspiring story, the miracle of the deaf and blind girl now able to speak, but Helen took it as an opportunity to share her beliefs. At the podium, she often spoke about her faith, world peace, women’s rights, and the plight of the poor.

During this time, there were national debates about women’s suffrage, frequent strikes at factories and mills, and the country was entering World War I. “The future of the world rests in the hands of America,” Helen said in a speech at Carnegie Hall during the war. “The future of America rests on the backs of 80 million working men and women and their children. We are facing a grave crisis in our national life. The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. You are urged to add to the heavy


BEYOND THE WATER PUMP burdens you already bear the burden of a larger army and many additional warships. It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dreadnoughts and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam yachts, and country estates. You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars.” Helen Keller was also very passionate about the constitutional rights of Americans, believing everyone had the right to their political views. In the 1920s, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer arrested thousands of people he believed were radicals and communists in what became known as the “Palmer Raids.” This angered many citizens, and as a result, the American Civil Liberties Union was founded. Helen Keller was among its first members. Throughout this time, Helen remained close with her family. She often visited her sister Mildred, who lived in Montgomery with her three daughters. Until she died in 1921, Helen’s mother Kate accompanied her and Anne on lecture tours. Helen also had other loyal companions, such as Polly Thomson who managed her tour and had moved in with Helen and Anne in 1914, by which time John and Anne’s marriage had collapsed. “In the modern world, people see it as funny when women lived together or traveled together,” says Selsdon. “But in the Victorian Age, it was common for unmarried women.” “At one time, Helen was engaged to Peter Fagan (who was John Macy’s assistant), but she was 36, and her mother and Anne quieted that down,” says Thompson. “I think they were concerned about his intentions. And while I know she especially enjoyed children since she didn’t have any of her own, I think she felt she had other work to do.” Since her teenage years, Helen Keller had been a devout member of the Swedenborgian Church, a Christian church based on the teachings of Swedish scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg who influenced other prominent figures such as Henry James and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In her book My Religion, published in 1927, Helen wrote, “Sick or well, blind or seeing, bond or free, we are here for a purpose and however we are situated, we please God better with useful deeds than with many prayers or pious resignation.” Helen Keller wasn’t just a woman who spoke her mind and from her heart, but she was a woman of action. “The piece I like to point people to is Helen’s letter to the Student Body of Germany,” says Selsdon. “It really just sums up what she stood for and who she was as a person.” In the May 9, 1933 letter, Helen wrote: “To the Student Body of Germany: History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and


the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them. You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books to the soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people. Do not imagine your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His Judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung round your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.” While politics and human rights were extremely important to Helen, she never lost sight of her core mission to help those with vision loss, and she became a life-long spokeswoman. “She was employed by the American Foundation for the Blind from 1924 until she died,” says Selsdon. In 1925, Helen Keller went to the Lions Club International and asked them to be Knights of the Blind. In 1931, Helen, Anne, and Polly participated in the first World Council for the Blind, and they continued to travel abroad as advocates for the American Foundation for the Blind. During World War II, Helen visited blind, deaf, and disabled soldiers in military hospitals around the country. In a letter to President Herbert Hoover in 1933 requesting he attend the American Foundation for the Blind’s new sound studio, Helen wrote: “Always there is a glow of grateful remembrance in my heart of how you received the delegates of the World Conference for the Blind. Your fine spirit and cooperation and Mrs. Hoover’s gracious hospitality are precious memories in my work. I realize how very heavy your burden is, and this letter stirs in me an ache of sympathy, but we are told that if we take His Yoke upon us and learn of Him, we shall find the burden light and the yoke easy. The blind of this country will have another reason to remember you with gratitude if you can grant this request.” The following year, she wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt with this introduction: “It stabs me to the quick to take from you one second of the precious hours of rest and recuperation you are seeking in the South, but my championship of the cause of the blind is the urge that will not let me leave you alone.” Helen Keller also wrote letters to President Calvin Coolidge, President Harry S. Truman, President John F. Kennedy, President Richard Nixon, Samuel L. Clemons, Will Rogers, and Albert Einstein. In 1946, Helen and Polly made their first major overseas tour on behalf of the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, (Anne had died in 1936), and over the next decade, the two visited three dozen countries on five continents. All the while,

Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan and Polly Thomson

“She was not an angel. When she traveled abroad, she was always incredibly charming and sweet but very determined to speak out. She didn’t hold her opinion back. She was a Trojan Horse. Here was this 70-plus woman with a staggeringly tough schedule who spoke her mind and spoke directly to governments. And because of that, laws were changed around the world.” Helen Selsdon, Archivist for the American Foundation for the Blind

© American Foundation for the Blind



she continued to write books and articles for her many causes. In September 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented Helen Keller with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, but she was unable to attend the ceremony due to a stroke. Four years later, Helen passed away, and her ashes were interred alongside Polly Thomson and Anne Sullivan at the National Cathedral. She left her archival collection including letters, speeches, photographs, and memorabilia to the American Foundation for the Blind. On the front page of the paper on June 6, 1968, the Florence Herald published, “Tuscumbia-born Helen Keller whose magnificent courage and determination made her an inspiration to millions throughout the world died Saturday at her estate at Easton, Conn. She was 87. Her long-time companion Mrs. Winifred Corbally, was at her side. Once blind, deaf, and mute, Miss Keller’s phenomenal mastery of this triple handicap was a triumph unequaled in this or any age. She became a symbol of hope and encouragement to the handicap everywhere. Miss Keller rose from this void of soundless blackness to become a world traveler, lecturer, author and humanitarian who devoted her life to helping the afflicted of every land.” At a time when most women were raising their children and tending to household chores, Helen Keller was out fighting for a cause. She fought for people with hearing and vision loss. She stood up for the poor and the afflicted. She protected the rights of women and laborers. She believed in equal rights for all. Hostess Mary Eubanks leads a group of schoolchildren through Ivy Green.

“She was not an angel,” Selsdon says. “When she traveled abroad, she was always incredibly charming and sweet but very determined to speak out. She didn’t hold her opinion back. She was a Trojan Horse. Here was this 70-plus woman with a staggeringly tough schedule who spoke her mind and spoke directly to governments. And because of that, laws were changed around the world.” Helen Keller’s legacy lives on in many ways. Her work goes on through scientific research at the Lions Club International and the Helen Keller Foundation. Her letters and speeches are living documents at the American Foundation for the Blind. She represents the state of Alabama on the quarter. Her statue stands


in the U.S. Capitol as one of 100 American heroes. And the pump remains at Ivy Green as a symbol of hope and perseverance. In all her greatness, Helen Keller cannot be reduced to a symbol, and her tremendous efforts cannot be simplified to a miracle. She was a real person. She was an Alabamian, a daughter, a sister, a college graduate, a woman, an author, a public speaker, an advocate for all persons. And she just so happened to be deaf and blind.

10 Facts You Might Not Know About Helen Keller 30,000 people have visited Ivy Green this year from all 50 states and three dozen countries. LIFE Magazine named Helen Keller one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th Century. Helen Keller was one of the first members of the ACLU. Helen Keller won an Academy Award for best documentary in 1955 for The Unconquered (renamed Helen Keller in Her Story), a story about her life. William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker, based on Helen’s early life, debuted on television and on Broadway. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, at age 84. Her remains are buried at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Her statue is at the U.S. Capitol. She is honored on Alabama’s quarter. There are 21 million blind people in the United States today.


2508 East Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals · 256-381-6889


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Jo Ann Thomas, Laura Jane Self, Connie Barnes, and Martha Truitt Chapeaux Club Dina Ba’albaki

Susanna Wylie, Joan Johnson, and Frances Peck Susan Beckett and Ann Aldridge

Mercy Winters, Pat Slusher, and Glenda Oldham

Molly Kalliath Leslie Ryan and Pat Ward Photos by Shannon Wells

Above: Chapeaux Club Summer Luncheon

Below: ECM Doctor Reception



Ashley and Dr. David Cozart, and Dr. Pavan Telang Jena Hamm NP, Dr. Gerard Haggstrom, Dr. Wes Stubblefield, and Jennifer Stubblefield

Dr. Allen and Debbie Barnes

Dr. George Allen and Russell Pigg

Dr. Joseph Mokulis, Dr. Richetta Huffman-Parker, and Dr. Erika Crenshaw

Chris Heaton and Dr. William Heaton

* Names for photos are provided by the organization or business featured.

Dr. Parag Patel, Dr. Pearl Govea, Ismael Govea, and Dr. Vijayamala Bondugula

Dr. Jonathan Summers, Dr. David Colvard, and Linda Colvard





The recipes are cherished,

passed around to friends and family and prized—and that makes sense, because cakes accompany most of the milestones in our lives. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and holidays—you can always be sure a cake will be present. Everyone has that one cake recipe that is raved about at dinner parties and nibbled until the very last crumb is gone. Since everyone has a favorite cake recipe, we decided we wanted to hear (and taste) the best! When we announced this cake contest, we were inundated with submissions from across the Shoals. We sorted through dozens of recipes for bundt cakes, layer cakes, pound cakes, and sheet cakes to find our favorite three. We baked and iced them in the No’Ala test kitchen and found all three to be absolutely delicious. Although any of these cakes could be a perfect addition to your holiday table, our judges picked their favorite: an amaretto-soaked peaches and cream layer cake, submitted by David Auston Johnson. Thank you to everyone who submitted, and we hope you will try these in your own home. But try to remember this is the season of giving—you should share a little with the rest of the family, too!



Cake stand and napkin from The French Basket


Cake • 2 to 3 large peaches, pitted and cut into roughly 1/4 inch slices • 3/4 cup amaretto liqueur • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (fluffed, spooned, and leveled), plus more for pans • 1 teaspoon baking powder • 1 teaspoon baking soda • 1 teaspoon fine grain kosher salt • 1 1/2 cups sugar • 2 large eggs (room temperature) • 3 large egg yolks (room temperature) • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk (room temperature) Place peach slices and amaretto liqueur in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferred for optimal flavor. Make sure to save the extra liquid in the bowl after soaking the peaches. It will be used later in the recipe to make a peach-infused amaretto glaze. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8-inch circular cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, sift baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. (Do not over mix) Divide batter between pans. Smooth out batter with spatula. Tap pans against counter to level the batter and remove excess air pockets. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean—approximately 27 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. Use a serrated knife to cut off any domes from the tops of cakes. Cream Cheese Frosting • 1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature • 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted • 1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract • 1 tablespoon all natural honey • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

CAKE FACTS: The most expensive cake ever reported was $30 million. This wedding cake was made by Buddy Valastro (from TLC’s show, “Cake Boss”) at the request of a New York socialite who wanted the perfect cake for her diamond gala event. On the cake were sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy and combined. Beat in confectioners sugar, lemon zest, amaretto, honey, and vanilla. Tip: Make sure the cream cheese and butter are fully at room temperature. This will ensure a smooth and creamy frosting. Just leave the packages on the counter all day. Peach-Infused Amaretto Glaze • 1/2 cup light brown sugar • 1/2 cup amaretto In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine light brown sugar and ½ cup of the leftover amaretto from soaking the peaches. Swirl pan and continue to heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Lower the heat and simmer until the mixture reduces slightly. It should be the consistency of thin syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. To Assemble Place one cake, cut side down, on a cake plate. Spoon and spread the glaze over the first layer, allowing the glaze to trickle down the sides of the cake. Use an offset spatula (or knife) to spread with a layer of frosting. Lightly dab peaches with a paper towel to remove any excess amaretto. Arrange a single layer of peaches, in a circular pattern, on top of the icing. Top with the second layer of cake, cut side down. Continue steps until all layers have been used. Glaze and spread icing on the final layer and arrange peaches in a circular or decorative pattern.


Queen Victoria was the first person to have pure white icing on her wedding cake—this is why we call it “royal icing.”

Cake • 1 box Duncan Hines Classic white cake mix • 2 packages pistachio instant pudding • 1 cup shelled pistachios, crushed • 1/2 cup whole milk • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil • 1/2 cup water • 5 eggs at room temperature Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, pudding, and pistachios. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, add milk, oil, and water, mixing well after each addition. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Batter will be thick and somewhat fluffy. Pour evenly into prepared pans and bake until done, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks. Make sure cake layers cool completely before icing. Spread cream cheese frosting between each layer and on the top and sides of cake. Store cake in refrigerator. Cream Cheese Frosting • 2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, at room temperature • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature • 1 2-pound bag confectioners sugar Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly add confectioners sugar, a cup at a time, until well blended.

CAKE FACTS: In ancient Rome, bread, not cake, was broken over the bride’s head to symbolize good fortune and fertility to the couple. Over time, with the additions of yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, and spices, and the introduction of baking soda and baking powder, the modern cake eventually made its way into history around the mid-1800s—and we are all thankful for that!



Plates from Halsey House N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 97


Napkin from Halsey House 98 | NOALAPRESS . COM | N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013

Cake • 2 cups all-purpose flour • 3 eggs • 1-3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar • 2 teaspoons cinnamon • 1 teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon baking powder • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (the juicier the better—Golden Delicious are great) • 1 cup chopped nuts • 1/2 cup raisins Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan. In a large bowl, blend together all ingredients for the cake batter except nuts and raisins. Beat 2 minutes on high speed. Stir in nuts and raisins. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 30 minutes; invert onto serving plate. Cool completely. Caramel Glaze • 1/4 cups butter or margarine • 1-1/4 cups confectioners sugar • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar • 1 teaspoon vanilla • 2 to 4 teaspoons milk For caramel glaze, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar; remove form heat. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Blend well by whisking. Spoon the caramel glaze over cake.


CAKE FACTS: The Bundt cake is known for its distinctive ring shape. Though it was inspired by a traditional European fruit cake called a Gugelhupf, the bundt cake is not generally associated with any single recipe. The cake was popularized in America in the 50s and 60s after its name was trademarked by the Nordic Ware company. But, the cake was almost lost in history when the company saw the pan selling poorly in the market. If it wasn’t for a mention in the 1963 Good Housekeeping Cookbook and thus a spike in the sale of the pan, the company would have discontinued the line. From that time, the Bundt cake became popular with Tunnel of Fudge cakes and Jell-O molded treats.

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H’Yoanh Buonya, left, and Harriet Hill, co-authors of Escaping Viet Nam: H’Yoanh’s Story.




AT FIRST GLANCE, YOU’D THINK HARRIET HILL AND H’YOANH BUONYA COULD NOT BE ANY MORE DIFFERENT. Harriet was born in Alabama, H’Yoanh in Vietnam. At 16, Harriet was chasing boys and dancing at the Florence community center with college just on the horizon. At 16, H’Yoanh was fleeing the Viet Cong to the jungle, where there would be no education. At 23, Harriet was having the time of her life, a college graduate living in Atlanta. At 23, H’Yoanh was fighting for her life, crossing the Mekong River to a refugee camp in Thailand. (continued)


H’YOANH’S STORY Today, these women will tell you they are more alike than they appear. They will tell you they met by the grace of God, in 1990 in North Carolina, while Harriet was building a Habitat for Humanity house for H’Yoanh, who was settling in the United States as a new citizen. The two share a special bond, nurtured by afternoons spent together every Sunday for three years, while H’Yoanh told her story to Harriet. Co-authors of the book Escaping Viet Nam: H’Yoanh’s Story, the two want to make sure nobody forgets the gift of freedom. In this compelling memoir, readers will gain a fresh perspective of the Vietnam War from the eyes of a native. An inspirational read for the holidays, it is a story of courage and faith, of loyalty and hope. In the book, H’Yoanh recounts being 16 in 1975 and her decision to seek a better life. “We were young. We had no fear. Nothing mattered except that we join our Montagnard friends and leave the village. We only thought that it would be daring and responsible to get away from the security guards telling us what to do and from the Viet Cong taking our villages. We did not think much of the risks ahead for us.” The risks ahead of H’Yoanh were indeed great. Every day in the jungle she faced the terror that the enemy would discover

Soon, she would meet another woman of faith and loyalty, Harriet, who took a special interest in H’Yoanh. “Our church was fortunate enough to draw their name for a Habitat house,” says Harriet. “I was totally involved in that, and I realized she needed more help with her English, and as I heard bits and pieces of her story, I told her she needed to write a book. This is 23 years ago.” The two developed a friendship, and as the years passed, Harriet began to write H’Yoanh’s story down. “As H’Yoanh told her story, she began to remember more, and her English improved,” says Harriet. “About the second week of writing the book, I went into first person. It was very easy. We have a feeling for each other. We have a spiritual bond. We just know each other. I can feel her enthusiasm, her sadness.” H’Yoanh starts to say something, but her voice breaks, and she wipes away a tear. “Every night, I am so grateful for my life,” she says finally. “God is the most important…I always think God leads me, with angels helping me out.” The two friends want readers to feel inspired by H’Yoanh’s story, an untold perspective from a Montagnard, and a female at that, of the trials and tribulations in Vietnam.

“I’d very much like for the book to be in the colleges and the high schools so young people, especially Americans, can see this true story, this memoir, and realize how fortunate they are to be born in a free country.” —Harriet Hill their camps. She faced grueling hunger, eating only what the wilderness could provide, which some days was only mud to trick her stomach into feeling full. She endured leeches and mosquitos which consumed her body. She suffered heartbreak with the passing of a friend’s baby to parasites, another friend to suicide, and many others from the violence of the Viet Cong and the cruelty of the jungle. Yet for seven years, H’Yoanh kept walking toward freedom, eventually crossing the border. “I had trusted God in my heart-through the hunger, the anxiety, the Mekong River crossing, the false accusations, the marriage to the man I loved....” Then 11 years after leaving for the jungle, H’Yoanh and her husband Y-Jim, whom she’d met at a Thailand refugee camp, began their emigration process. And finally, in 1986, they set foot in their new home in North Carolina. “We could stop running, we were free, we had new friends, we would begin a new life, and we would have a baby born in America. Thanks be to God!”


“For me, I want to share my story with my friends and other people to know what I went through,” H’Yoanh says. “So we all learn about the different lives of people and compare what we have now.” Harriet agrees. “I’d very much like for the book to be in the colleges and the high schools so young people, especially Americans, can see this true story, this memoir, and realize how fortunate they are to be born in a free country.” Escaping Viet Nam illustrates that the American Dream is still alive and well. H’Yoanh and Y’Jim were given a new life in the United States. They now have five grown children, American citizens, who have gone on to college and even law school. “I want to thank the American people for welcoming us here,” H’Yoanh says. “Thanks to sponsors and neighbors and friends, I have a new life…I want to thank them not just for me, but for all my countrymen. We are all so lucky to be here.” Escaping Viet Nam: H'Yoanh's Story is available through Tate Publishing, at

I’m Dr. Lee Nichols. As an orthopedic surgeon, total hip and knee replacements are a primary focus of my practice. Having completed my residency at the world-renowned Campbell Clinic, I have the training and expertise to perform state-of-the-art joint replacement surgery locally. Many people are under the impression that they have to go to Huntsville or Birmingham for these surgeries. That is not the case! In addition, joint replacement surgery requires multiple doctor visits, which require travel time which is not always convenient. This is a great place to live - that’s why you, your primary care physician, and I all chose to live here. This is also a great place for your total joint replacement surgery. If you are a candidate for a total hip or knee replacement, you have a choice. Make it local — make it Shoals Orthopedics. Our quality care is available to you, night and day, right here at home!

Dr. Lee Nichols, Shoals Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Two convenient Shoals locations to serve you: • 426 West College Street, Florence • 203 West Avalon Avenue, Suite 230, Muscle Shoals

256-718-4041 N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAMAG . COM | 107

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ers Lee Laura And

If you want to share some good news about a friend, neighbor, or colleague—or even toot your own horn—send your kudos to

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS The general manager of the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa Larry Bowser was named Hotelier of the Year for 2013 by the Alabama Restaurant Association and the Alabama Hospitality Association. Larry joined the team in 2004 and helped open the property a year later. Under his leadership, the Marriott Shoals was Larry Bowser named the No. 1 Marriott hotel in North America in 2012, and the 360 Grille has received AAA’s Four Diamond Award status. Larry has more than 20 years of management experience at major properties in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama. He is a graduate of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.

EYE OF THE TIGER This fall, Carter McGuyer received Auburn University’s Young Alumni Achievement Award. Carter graduated magna cum laude in 1998 with a degree in industrial design. After college, he became design director at a Dr. Debbie Shaw presents the national-branded kitchen award to Carter McGuyer manufacturing company. Then, he founded the Carter McGuyer Design Group where he and his wife develop products that are both functional and beautiful, for national renowned clients like Target. Their work has won numerous awards for its outstanding design. Auburn University created the Young Alumni Achievement award in 2011 to recognize extraordinary accomplishments by alumni who are 40 and under. This year, 10 recipients were selected.

Michael and Noelle Ingle, both of Florence, and Logan Heflin of Town Creek. The scholarship was founded to honor the memory of the bank chairman and UNA supporter, Edward Fennel Mauldin, who passed away in 2010.

BOOKING IT Crystal Magruder was recently named the director of Success By 6. An active community volunteer with a love for childhood development, Crystal was the perfect fit for the United Way of Northwest Alabama’s latest initiative. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg where she received a bachelor’s in special education, and she holds her teacher’s license in the state of Alabama. She has taught developmentally-delayed preschool for three years and knows first-hand the importance of reading in a child’s life.

SHINES BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND Grogan Jewelers has been featured in In Store magazine for its new store opening. In order to expand his product offerings and sales floor space, owner Jay Klos moved his downtown Florence store to a new location on Cox Creek Parkway and Hough Road. The $2 million, 8,000 square foot shopping center has space for three tenants, with Grogan being the anchor store with 5,500 square feet. The new store features 24-foot ceilings, a window wall, and a massive stone fireplace along with a special area for engagement rings and new display cases.

CASHING IN ON COLLEGE Bank Independent and the University of North Alabama last month presented three Edward Fennel Mauldin Endowed Scholarships to UNA students Brittany

Congratulations to all of our movers and shakers. If you know someone who has received awards, accolades, or a promotion, please send your kudos to Brittany Michael (left) and Noelle Ingle


Where would you like to go? If you want to go someplace beautiful, to see the fall colors — or just someplace “cool” — Silver Airways and the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport can get you there. From business trips to vacations, anywhere in the world there is air service — your travels begin at the airport right here at home. Fly the Shoals - you can get anywhere from here!

Modern Travel Old Fashioned Service Want the best deals on flights? Join the Silver Circle at


Riverhill School exceeds SAT National Average


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Not only is Riverhill School an ASA Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, our SAT scores exceed the national average. Our low student to teacher ratio, our emphasis on arts education, and even our National Elementary Honor Society Chapter set us apart. If academic excellence means something to you, rest assured it means something to us, too. Come visit and see what we mean!

We’re registering now for our Pre-K2 through sixth grade classes. Call 256-764-8200 or visit for more information.


M ANY COLLEGE STUDENTS KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THEY’LL END UP AFTER GRADUATION DAY. But not Lauren Merritt. Never in a million years would she have imagined her first job after school would be as an elf at Macy’s flagship store in New York’s Herald Square. Daughter of David and Vicki Merritt and a graduate of Coffee High School in Florence and Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, Lauren moved to New York with a theater degree in 2005. “I went to New York to sublet an apartment for three months,” says Lauren. “A friend of mine was a Rockette and told me about being an elf at Macy’s Santaland. I ended up working with Macy’s for five years.” While Lauren has moved on to “bigger” things and now lives closer to home in New Orleans, she remembers fondly her time as Santa’s Little Helper. To be an elf at Santaland, you have to go through an interview process like any other job. “Have you heard of David Sedaris’s Holiday’s on Ice? It’s just like that,” Lauren laughs.


Lauren Merritt (above) with Santa at a Macy’s-sponsored appearance Courtesy of Lauren Merritt


Because of her bubbly personality and petite, five-foot-twoinch frame, Lauren was hired as Jingle Belle, an elf from the South Pole. (Each of the 100 elves has their own name and story.) Using her theater background, Lauren transformed into character each day, where she kept families entertained as they waited to have their picture made with Santa. “It’s a crazy job,” Lauren says. “People wait two hours to see Santa. People who are afraid of Santa aren’t afraid of elves, so they’d often tell me what they wanted for Christmas. It was pretty nutty with all the people, but it’s a well-oiled machine. Sometimes around 800 or 1,000 people would come through the store a day. Macy’s is actually the second-most visited tourist attraction in New York City, second to the Empire State Building.” Macy’s Santaland is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Children wind through the North Pole, complete with snow and gingerbread houses and candy canes—and 100 friendly elves running around. It’s a holiday tradition to sit in Santa’s lap, and the Macy’s Santa is the ultimate. After all, he was proven to be the real Kris Kringle in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street. “Macy’s Santa is classic,” says Lauren. “He’s dressed in a beautiful costume with fox fur, and the kids just love to touch it.” After Christmas, Lauren held odd jobs, including several for Macy’s. She assisted the company in a PR effort when they bought Filene’s Basement and other stores across the country. She served as a chaperone to the NBC president’s children during one particularly cold Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “We just tried to huddle together and stay warm, and I told them they had to try and smile for the camera when it was our turn,” Lauren recalls. But her favorite role was as a traveling elf. “They called me when they decided to go out on tour,” says Lauren. “Macy’s sent out Santa and three other elves. We traveled around by bus; we’d do Make-a-Wish events, give out gifts, go around to hospitals around the country. It was a lot of fun.” So for four years, as soon as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was over, Lauren and her co-elves would take off to a different city with Santa. “We would have to be at the news station at 5:00 in the morning,” she says. “Some days would start at 3:30 a.m. We’d do a Make-A-Wish event, a hospital visit, an in-store visit, and then be finished at 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening.”


“They called me when they decided to go out on tour. Macy’s sent out Santa and three other elves. We traveled around by bus; we’d do Make- a-Wish events, give out gifts, go around to hospitals around the country. It was a lot of fun.” —Lauren Merritt

Courtesy of Lauren Merritt

DID YOU KNOW? Rowland Hussey Macy opened Macy’s in 1858 as a fancy, dry goods store on 14th Street in New York. Macy’s introduced the first in-store Santa in 1862. In 1902, the store moved to its current location at 34th Street and Herald Square. It was the first American store to use escalators. In its 86th year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is seen by more than three million people and viewed by 50 million on NBC.


Being an elf suited Lauren, a small girl with a big heart who loved seeing the faces of the children light up when they saw Santa. “I feel so lucky to have been a part of this really random job,” Lauren says. “Only one time I thought ‘I’m 29, and I’m an elf.’ But it’s really great because of the kids. They totally had a break from being in the hospital, seeing the doctor, being uncomfortable. Two weeks before we came, a girl started decorating her room. She couldn’t even walk down the hallway. When we arrived, the little girl was just so excited to show us her decorations, and then, for the first time, she walked with us to the storytelling room. There are so many stories like that. It’s a really happy job.”

From Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris “I was in a coffee shop looking through the want ads when I read, ‘Macy’s Herald Square, the largest store in the world, has big opportunities for outgoing, fun-loving people of all shapes and sizes who want more than just a holiday job! Working as an elf in Macy’s SantaLand means being at the center of the excitement...’ I circled the ad and then I laughed out loud at the thought of it. The man seated next to me turned on his stool, checking to see if I was a lunatic. I continued to laugh, quietly…I am a thirty-three-year-old man applying for a job as an elf.”

Who Needs A Vein Procedure? Ask Troy Youngblood Dr. Troy Youngblood is an avid runner. When he isn’t taking care of animals at his veterinary practice or spending time with his family, Troy keeps himself in shape by running. So when he developed varicose veins in his legs, the pain was getting in the way of his exercise routine. That’s when he came to Shoals Vein Center. Doctors Shelby Bailey and William Collignon performed a simple, painless and high-tech procedure that relieved Troy’s pain and allowed him to get back to his routine.

If you suffer from unsightly or painful vein problems in your legs, there may be hope for you. Shoals Vein Center understands all of the causes of spider and varicose veins, and can treat those problems to get you back to your routine, too. Ashamed of your legs? Is pain preventing you from doing what you love? Shoals Vein Center can help - ask Troy Youngblood, or Dr. Jimmy Gardiner, Anne Roy, Dr. and Mrs. Neal Clement . . . and many more!

Dr. Troy Youngblood, North Alabama Animal Hospital

S.K. Bailey, M.D., FACS • W.A. Collignon, M.D., FACS Certified by American Board of Veneous and Lymphatic Medicine Located in the Shoals Hospital Medical Office Building 203 Avalon Ave, Suite 100, Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 256-383-0423 • 866-383-0423 • fax: 256-383-0922 •

Home for the Holidays means different things to different people. If it’s time for you or a loved one to find a new home, Glenwood understands. We offer assisted living for those who need a little looking after but can still live independently, and long-term care, for those who need roundthe-clock attention. Our rehab services after surgery or illness, also provide a temporary home away from home. We are dedicated to quality, and we work to earn our great reputation every day. Most of all, we never forget that the most important thing we provide is a home...for the holidays and beyond.

Rehab • Assisted Living • Long-Term Care ____________________________________ 211 Ana Drive, Florence, AL 35630 • 256-766-8963 N OVEMBER /D ECEMBER 2013 | NOALAPRESS . COM | 115

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the vine » Amy Collins

Palate-Pleasing Personalities CHRISTMAS IN MY FAMILY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN EVENT. My mother, a talented shopper, loved to spoil my sisters and me when we were children (presents piled rather than placed under the tree). Christmas morning began early; we’d open gifts and dump out our stockings and Dad would make the best eggs benedict on the planet. By late afternoon, the extended family would begin to arrive, grown half brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, a thick mix of strong personalities and usually a drunken performance or two. It was the company I most looked forward to, the stories that invariably circulated around and between us. The more people, the more personalities. Given the range of variables, it’s a wonder we humans get along as well as we do. Good wine helps. Wines also have different personalities. Certain grape varieties have intrinsic qualities, like color and flavor profiles, which are written into the DNA. A Pinot Noir will always have softer tannins than a Cabernet Sauvignon and some hint of cherry fruit, dictated by DNA. But whether or not the wine is very light, with high acid or dark and oaky, depends on where the grapes were grown and how the wine was raised. Nature versus nurture. And so the possibilities of personality combinations are extensive. When I first got interested in wine and took a few classes, I often heard the phrase, “the more you learn about wine, the more you realize you don’t know.” We could easily substitute “people” for “wine,” and we’d all nod our heads in agreement. For the sake of the holiday season, busy schedules, to do lists, gift lists, and the swarm of personalities we will inevitably encounter at one party or another, let’s put the deep thinking aside until January, when we need something to distract us from the pain of new exercise regimes and torture of dieting, and simplify the wine matter. I asked Jennifer Highfield, owner of The Wine Seller here in Florence, Alabama, to help me select a few personality-driven bottles for a buying guide for parties, dinners, gifts, and family over the next few weeks. Follow Amy at for more stories and wine suggestions.

Amy’s Gift Suggestions Ricco Bianco, white blend, from the Veneto, Italy $9.99 This is a good Pinot Grigio-based white, with a bit more going on, naturally stylish and easy to talk to. Kumbaya 2011, red blend, from California $9.99 The peacemaker and easy drinker everybody loves, because how can you not love someone with a smile and hug for all he meets? Secco Italian Bubbles 2011, from the Veneto, Italy $13.99 Dry and Prosecco-like, this is the late-night party girl, because when you’re having so much fun, you might as well have a little more. Cuvée Stéphi Ebullience NV sparkling wine, from France $19.99 Elegant and sophisticated, yet surprisingly low maintenance. A blend of four different grapes, it is a delicate and delicious sipper. Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2012, from Beaujolais, France $15.99 A leader in the natural wine movement, your new BFF is incredibly knowledgeable on all matters good and healthy. And he’s really funny. Poggio Anima 2011, Greco from Basilicata, Italy $15.99 Friendly with food, good acidity, and pleasantly refreshing, even in cold weather. Secret life: it’s made by a famous, young, hot Italian winemaker. Brandborg Pinot Noir ‘Bench Lands’ 2009, from Elkton, Oregon $20.99 New kid with all the right stuff to make a beautiful, wellstructured drink. For the curious and small production mindful. Ivy league without the ego. Spellbound Petite Sirah 2011, from California $15.99 Deeply colored with a sturdy backbone, yet agreeable and crowd-pleasing. The quiet mentor of good demeanor. DuMol Chardonnay 2010, from Russian River, California $69.99 Rich, luscious, and hedonistic. A favorite of Robert Parker’s, popular with the in-crowd and hard to palate more than a single glass. Belle Glos Pinot Noir ‘Clark & Telephone’ 2012, from California $65.00 Super rich, concentrated chocolate cherry and a little bit of spice in a red wax-dipped, heavy-bottomed bottle. Jay Gatsby in party attire.


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food for thought » Sarah Gaede ALTHOUGH THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FULL OF JOY AND CELEBRATION, peace on earth, and good will to all, holidays are the most fraught times of the year. Not only are we expected to be filled with the holiday spirit at all times, even for those who normally get on our very last nerve, we are expected to produce meals for ravening hordes that could grace the cover of Southern Living.

Happy Holidays—for Real! For many years, seduced by the nostalgia that society propagates at holiday time, my husband Henry and I made the effort to join my family for Christmas, often driving up on Christmas Day—until the year I burst into tears at dinner and fled the room. Being the good husband that he is, Henry followed immediately. As I wept, he asked me, “How old are you?” I snuffled, “45.” He continued: “How much longer is it going to take you to figure out that you can’t do Christmas with your family?” It’s been 18 years since that eye-opening event. We still visit, just not at holidays. Since then, we have come to savor our time alone together on Christmas day, although we often invite for dinner a few friends who are also foregoing family drama. At our house, Christmas Eve is a simple supper of homemade soup or stew, made a day or two in advance, to fortify us for the night ahead at church, which is, after all, what Christmas is about. So as not to follow in the footsteps of a certain member of Christ Church, Savannah, who was prone to keel over at the altar rail, we limit ourselves to one modest glass of wine. When we stagger home after the midnight service, we have a nightcap, fill each other’s stockings, and head for bed. Breakfast the next morning is something simple, with perhaps a mimosa to get us into the gift-opening spirit. For the past few years, we have enjoyed caviar with blinis and crème fraiche (via the Internet) for lunch, along with the champagne left over from breakfast. After a nice nap, I start on dinner, which gets simpler with the passing years. I learned my lesson the year I didn’t wake up from my Christmas afternoon nap until 4 pm, only to realize it takes several hours to roast a whole duck. The first course might be a roasted beet and citrus salad, or butternut squash soup, followed by rack of lamb or duck breasts in cherry-port sauce, accompanied by a really good wine. For dessert, a simple chocolate nut torte that can be made ahead is just as good as the elaborate Bûche de Noël with meringue mushrooms I used to feel compelled to make, and a whole lot simpler.

That leads me to my recommendation for a holiday breakfast much more elegant than cold cereal but almost as simple. No matter how many are at your table, it will leave you unstressed, well-nourished, and ready to enjoy the day. You can make the muffins weeks in advance and freeze them. (Or just buy some from the Publix bakery.) The baked eggs could not be easier, and are really yummy. Nuke some already-cooked bacon or put out a spiral-sliced ham if you want to. Add some cut-up fruit—Publix again—or freshly-squeezed orange juice, spiked with Prosecco for the grownups, and you’ll be set, with minimal fuss and drama—just the way holidays should be.

Baked Eggs • As many large eggs as you have people who want them • Butter as needed • Cream • Salt and freshly ground pepper Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter one custard cup or small ramekin for each egg. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of butter in each cup, and microwave briefly to melt. Then spread butter around cup with finger. Place 2 teaspoons of cream in the bottom of each cup. Break one egg into each cup, add salt and pepper, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the eggs are just set and the whites solidified. It’s best to undercook slightly, as the eggs continue cooking a bit when removed from oven.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins • • • • • • • • • • • •

2/3 cup (5 ounces) cream cheese, softened 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 large eggs 2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed) 1/4 cup finely-chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 12-muffin pans with paper cup liners. Combine cream cheese and butter in mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until well blended. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to cream cheese mixer, beginning and ending with flour. Beat only until just combined. Fold in raspberries and nuts. Spoon batter evenly into liners. Place muffin pans side by side on middle oven rack if possible; rotate front to back and side to side after 12 minutes. Bake for a total of 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pans; cool on wire rack. Makes 24. These freeze great; just pop them into freezer bags when cool, and thaw in microwave.



WHO INSPIRES YOU? Please make your nominations for the 2014 No’Ala Renaissance Awards Every two years, we ask our readers to tell us about the people in our area who quietly work behind the scenes to make this an even better place to live. We’re interested in the unsung heroes, the role models, and inspirational figures who make a difference in your life and the life of our community. It’s time once again to begin gathering our nominees for the 2014 award. Our categories are: Science, Education, Service & Spirituality, Business & Leadership, and Arts & Culture. We will convene a panel of prior award winners and nominees to help us choose the five category winners, and from that group we’ll select a Renaissance Person of the Year. These special people will be featured in our 2014 March/April issue. Who inspires you? Who are your role models, your teachers, your mentors, and your inspiration? Let us know by writing us and mailing your nominations to No’Ala Press, P.O. Box 2530, Florence, AL 35630; or email your nominations to Help us bring recognition to the unsung people who make a difference in our lives.

The No’Ala Renaissance Award trophy is a collaborative effort. It is made from recycled steel with a hardwood base and finished with a sterling silver charm.


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back talk » Claire Stewart

What happens when kids are bad before Christmas? “Santa watches you all year and knows if you are bad. My sister tells on me if I am bad, and my mom believes her and gets mad at me.” —James Mallette

“Santa won’t come at all! If you say bad words, you will be on the naughty list.” —Olivia Williams

“I have always been good. Hitting is bad, and I don’t ever hit anyone.” —Peyton Rardin Olivia


“Santa knows if you are good or bad because his elves watch you and tell him what you do.” —Rishab Telang


“You wouldn’t get any toys if you were bad. I have been very good this year! I hope I get a Spongebob game!”

“You will get coal! One of my friends got some one time because he pushed someone.” —Thomas Scarborough

—Arjun Thatimatla Thomas Rishab


“You will have nothing under the tree. The elves make all the toys. But I do not know how Santa knows what you want.”

“If you are bad you get on the naughty list. I would be sad if I was on that list. One time my friend bit me and she went on the naughty list and got nothing!” —Emery Perry

“You would get no presents. I have always been good. I really hope I get a car this year.” —Jaxon Penn

—Isha Raj


“If you are bad you go in time out. But I am never bad.”


—Ruby Hunt

“Santa wouldn’t bring you toys. But I have been good this year and I am going to get something cool for Christmas. I can’t remember what though.” —Andrew Meza-Tabares



“If you are bad you get no toys from Santa. If I didn’t have any toys on Christmas I would probably just lay in bed and watch TV all day.”


“You should get no presents if you are bad. My brother should be on the naughty list. He always says he is sorry, but I know he doesn’t mean it!” —Lilly McArthur


—Maymie Fowler


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back talk » What happens when kids are bad before Christmas? “You will get no presents. I don’t think Santa is real. I don’t know who gives me presents though. My mom, maybe?” —Trace Fristoe

“You will get no presents. I don’t think Swiper on Dora the Explorer will get any presents. He is always swiping!”

“You would get no presents. I want a scooter this year!” —Maddy Beresford


—Haley Cabler


“You wouldn’t get any presents. I only have friends on the nice list! Santa just knows who is good. Santa is special like that.”

“You would get no presents. I have always been good. I got an iPad last year because I was good.” —Dayne Brewer

—Grant Billingsley


“Santa won’t come if you are bad. He has a globe that he can see all the kids in. When it is Christmastime he will watch you all day.” —Hailey Crabb



All kids are in Ms. Jones’s first grade class at Riverhill School. Hailey


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bless their hearts » Claire Stewart

Earlier this year I learned that in the end, the messy, awkward and comical moments are the ones that matter the most.

Wishing You a Messy Christmas IMAGINE THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON IN YOUR HOME. Are you spending eight hours making a gourmet meal for Thanksgiving Day, attempting to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, or sending your ‘Seasons Greetings’ photo postcard to all of your closest (and not-so-close) friends and family? You may be going over the dos and don’ts with your children again—“Be good or you won’t get any gifts,” “Say thank you for every gift you are given with a smile,” “Don’t interrupt when people are talking,” “Keep your elbows off the table…” I am sorry to tell you, but that turducken probably won’t be as delicious and raved-about as you had hoped. The gift you give this year may be completely forgotten and thrown in a closet somewhere in three months. And your photo postcard will most likely enter a recycle bin soon after it arrives. Your children will probably forget their manners this year—they will chew with their mouth open, make a nasty face when Aunt Edna gives them another itchy sweater, and continue to interrupt all adult conversations throughout the holiday season. But that’s okay. Life is usually a mess, instead of the pretty painted picture we have in our mind—and that is what makes it 10 times better. Earlier this year I learned that in the end, the messy, awkward, and comical moments are the ones that matter the most. In April, my father suffered a stroke very unexpectedly at the age of 60. All at once, our entire extended family was in the waiting room at Huntsville Hospital, realizing these would be

the last few hours of his life. My sister flew in from Boston, my brother rushed in from Tampa, and family members and friends came from across the state of Alabama to be with us during this time. During our last visit, my mother, brother, sister, and I spent time at his bedside crying, laughing, and telling stories. And I am sure he would have hated the stories we chose to tell. Though I may be biased, my father was an amazing man. A Methodist minister for 38 years, he transformed and brought to life many of the churches he ministered to. He had the perfect recipe for a great sermon—a title that pulled you in, an anecdote that made you laugh, a tie-in that made you think, and an ending that left you inspired. He also loved traveling the world. He was an outstanding cook with a love of New Orleans cuisine. He was an avid hiker who completed a number of challenging trails throughout North America. And he loved cultivating beautiful gardens which he planted at each and every one of our homes. But those weren’t the things we remembered. My sister Skye apologized for yelling at him when she was in 7th grade. During a remodel of one of our homes (the United Methodist Church is infamous for moving their preachers around a lot), we got a new commode, and Dad put the old one on the side of the road in front of our house. Skye was absolutely mortified thinking that everyone she knew would see the toilet. Dad didn’t help by egging her on, telling her he had plans to plant flowers in it or considered reading his newspaper every morning, sitting on that toilet. That day in the hospital, she told him she was sorry for being a pain, and looking back, the joke was actually pretty funny.

My brother Nathan thanked Dad for playing catch with him when he was six. At this point, Nathan had decided he was going to grow up to be a baseball player. My father had very little athletic ability but my brother didn’t seem to notice that when he brought back a Braves jersey for my Dad from a game and begged Dad to play with him. Dad put on the jersey, which was three sizes too small and fit more like a tankini than a welltailored baseball jersey, and played catch with his son in the front yard. As soon as Dad threw the first pitch, Nathan hit a homerun into the neighbor’s yard. Nathan never went on to play in major league baseball, but he said he would never forget that day and how much it meant to him. When it was my turn, I apologized for making Dad take me fishing in 5th grade. After another move, I had decided the only redeeming quality of our new residence was the lake that sat behind our property. I insisted that we go fishing. The next day Dad took me to pick out $100 of fishing supplies, including rods, a tackle box, and an assortment of lures (only the ones I thought were pretty), and we headed out for an early fishing trip the next morning. As we walked to the water’s edge, I suddenly became woozy, realizing I should have had more to eat and drink on this humid day in July. I proceeded to barf into the water—surely scaring off all the fish nearby. Dad just held my hair back and took care of me the rest of the day. After that, I decided my fishing career was over. The tackle box sat in our garage until we sold it in a yard sale many years later. He never made me feel bad for not trying again and never pestered me about the money he spent. And I thanked him for that. In his last hours, I am sure my father would have picked other points in his life for us to recall. But those wouldn’t be genuine stories of the father we cherished—and that wouldn’t be an interesting story. He taught us that when telling a good story, just like the perfect sermon, you need highs and lows, a way to tug on heartstrings as well as bring a few laughs. Good stories can be messy. And a perfect situation never makes an interesting story, just like a perfect life is never as good as the crazy, mixed-up, and comical rides we are put on in our day-to-day lives. So this holiday, give up your preconceived notion that this will be the first year you perfect the art of the chocolate soufflé. Throw out the window your idea that the kids will like their toys beyond Christmas Day. Just sit back, take in your time together, and know that the blunders, embarrassments, and hysterics are the ones that make our stories worth remembering. I mean, do you really think Mary would be happy to know the entire world found out her baby was born beside a pig sty? Probably not—but it makes a much better story, right?

Facing page: The Stewart kids: Skye, Nathan, and Claire, Christmas morning, 1990.


We care for women of every generation Women have specific and special medical needs, and we understand. At North Alabama OG/GYN, we know the issues that women face, and how those issues change as we age. From young girls to women of child bearing age and beyond, we help women every day — can we help you? Dr. Daphne Jones and Dr. Mary Robbins

North Alabama OB/GYN Caring for women of every generation 541 W College St, Suite 2400 Florence, AL 35630 (256) 767-0081

Dr. Daphne Jones, Nurse Practitioner Angela Eady, and Dr. Mary Robbins Birthplace of the Shoals


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parting shot Âť Danny Mitchell

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May the spirit of the season stay with you all year long. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at Milner-Rushing—a Shoals tradition since 1853.

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No'Ala Shoals November/December 2013  
No'Ala Shoals November/December 2013  

Annual holiday issue. Holiday fashion and gift guide; profile on food stylist Jack White; cakes; profile on Tuscumbia-born Helen Keller; int...