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Kiddieland Brings Back The Memories

—by: BhamWiki


ho doesn’t have fond memories of Kiddieland at Fair Park? If it were still around, it would have just turned 66.

Kiddieland was a small amusement park which operated at the Alabama State Fairgrounds from 1948 to the mid-1980s.

The park was planned by the Alabama State Fair Authority, newly reorganized under the ownership of the City of Birmingham, as an effort to combat juvenile delinquency. It was aimed primarily at younger children and was seen as the successor to the East Lake Amusement Park, which closed during the Great Depression. Birmingham News city editor Vincent Townsend chaired the subcommittee responsible for developing the attraction.

At a cost of $100,000, the park opened on June 5, 1948. Special guests that week included Joe Rumore and Happy Wilson’s Golden River Boys, as well as the Industrial High School Band and Captain J. P. Snyder’s trained bears. Ernest Norris of Southern Railway dedicated the park’s miniature train.

WSGN-AM and the Birmingham News sponsored a weekly contest during the first summer, inviting kids to send short essays to Miss Ann, who read comic strips over the air, describing which character they’d like to bring to the park. The winning boy and girl would be crowned King and Queen of Kiddieland and have their pictures in the newspaper. The park’s bandstand featured "hillbilly shows" and concerts on Sundays. The programs were broadcast live on WSGN. Admission and parking were free, with most rides costing 9¢ for children and 10–20¢ for adults. Free rides were given to "underprivileged groups" during special events sponsored by the park and local civic clubs.

Many of the park’s thrill rides were installed by the National Amusement Device Company (NAD) of Dayton, Ohio. William L’Horbe, Jr and Charles Paige from NAD provided design and consulting for the park’s development. The park and each ride within it boasted a neon-lit entrance arch created by Dixie Neon for $10,000.

Kiddieland at Fair Park

Kiddieland at Fair Park held its grand opening June 5, 1948.

Previously open only to white patrons, Kiddieland was closed on January 1, 1962, along with all of Birmingham’s city parks, in defiance of a court order to end segregation. The parks were reopened to all comers by the newly installed Birmingham City Council in July 1963.

After the majority of the original rides were dismantled, the site continued to be used for traveling carnivals, such as Spring Fling and Fall Carnival, which were subsidized by the City of Birmingham.

Eating cotten candy at Kiddieland at Fair Park

Hmmm good.


Recent History Center Acquisitions

City Resolution Honoring Louise Wooster

City Resolution Honoring Louise Wooster

This resolution and medal honoring Louise (Lou) Wooster, Birmingham’s most famous madam, was donated recently by Terri Hicks. Presented in May of 2013 on the 100th anniversary of her death, this resolution was signed by the Birmingham City Council members and Mayor William Bell, Sr.

In part the resolution reads, "Her colorful character and her care for the sick and dying during the cholera epidemic of 1873 endeared her to the Birmingham community. A woman of great courage, Louise Catharine Wooster leaves a humanistic legacy which will endure the passage of time."

new office at 1807 3rd Avenue N0. from the collection

Bring any items of historical interest to our new office at 1807 3rd Avenue N0.

Birmingham bottle collection

Many of the History Center’s artifacts, including its fabulous Birmingham bottle collection, can be viewed at the Alabama Power Archive Museum at 600 North 18th Street. The exhibit runs until August 8, 2014.


downtown Birmingham, 1873

Photo of downtown Birmingham, 1873 taken from top of courthouse
(Samford University).

Fernandez & Shepherd Grocery Only Store To Stay Open
During The Cholera Epidemic

—by: Jim Bennett


n 1873 when the cholera epidemic visited Birmingham, the stores were closed and half the population deserted its houses.

The population dwindled rapidly from its pre-epidemic population of 4,000 quickly down to 2,500.

Among those who stayed were James R. Powell, president of the Elyton Land Company, Louise Wooster, the town madam who helped nurse the sick and dying, and the owners of a general store operated by Randolph Fernandez and a Mr. Shepherd.

There are numerous stories of personal courage during this period. Many medical professionals stayed to tend to the sick despite the risk to their own health. Other residents contributed by sharing their private wells and rain cisterns with the community.

The epidemic nearly spelled the end of the little industrial village that grew from the juncture of two railroads in a corn field two years earlier. At least 128 people died in Birmingham from cholera, which struck in the height of summer and persisted for several weeks. The effect of the disease, combined with a subsequent national financial panic, was devastating.

A Birmingham News story on Mrs. Fernandez written in 1925 details the horrors of the time. In a poem she wrote for a presentation to the Pioneers Club, she penned:

"I came here the last day of June 1873, remained five days, and from cholera had to flee. Suddenly we left, our lives to save, from what seemed a sure, untimely grave.

But we found to our dismay, many dead and moved away. Many went, too, to stay, nor have they returned until today."

Described as a typical pioneer mother, Mrs. Fernandez, lived for many years later in life at 1630 34th Street North. The house was not far from Norwood Elementary School. It was considered way out in the country then. Earlier, she lived in a house near present day Phillips High School.

That’s when her husband, Randolph Fernandez, ran the downtown grocery store with Mr. Shepherd. While Fernandez took his family to Shades Mountain to escape the spread of cholera, Mr. Shepherd stayed downtown and offered credit to many poor families who badly needed the help.

"As I have told in my Pioneer story we fled and fled again. When we left Mr. Shepherd, my husband’s partner, refused to leave the store and I think that was about the only store that stayed open during the epidemic. He extended credit to everyone and when conditions were such that we could return to Birmingham we had no groceries or business either," she said.

(Her husband) "secured a house for us to live in right where the Philips High School is now located; we got water from Col. (John T.) Terry’s cistern next door. With a roof over our heads, he next set about making a living. He was very resourceful. He went all through Jefferson and Tuscaloosa Counties buying fruit, strawberries, peaches, etc., which he shipped north by the carload. He also shipped tanbark, red oak bark, for tanning leather."

"My father, Major M. C. Wiley, came to visit us and decided to move to Birmingham. He and my husband went into the grocery and furniture business. Their store was located at about Twentieth Street and Third Avenue, (North) near where is now situated Cloe Tower", said Mrs. Fernandez.

Cholera notice

"Father built a house for us on the corner of Twenty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue—the house stands today. It was at that time spoken of as the prettiest place in Birmingham. I had beautiful flowers and vines and the children often stopped on their way to school to ask ‘for a bunch of flowers for my teacher.’ I loved my first real home in Birmingham. Here my other three children were born."

The Fernandez family worked a Mr. Hale before fleeing a second time to the farm of a Mr. Hill.

Her father, had been involved in iron manufacturing during the Civil War including the Oxford Furnace near Anniston and the Tannehill Furnaces near Bessemer.

In her narrative which followed the poem to the Pioneers Club, Mrs. Fernandez referred to the people who stayed: "A beautiful devotion was displayed by those who remained, in this season of the trial. Even the outcasts and the despised became good Samaritans". She likely was referring to the town’s madam, Louise Wooster.

A similar comment was included in a paper on the epidemic of 1873 from Dr. M. H. Jordan, a member of the Board of Health and secretary of the Jefferson County Medical Society:

"Before closing this paper, justice demands that we should briefly allude to the heroic and self-sacrificing conduct during this epidemic of that unfortunate class who are known as “women of the town." These poor creatures, though outcasts from society, anathematized by the church, despised by women and maltreated by men, when the pestilence swept over the city, came forth from their homes to nurse the sick and close the eyes of the dead. It was passing strange that they would receive no pay, expect no thanks; they only went where their presence was needed, and never remained longer than they could do good. While we abhor the degradation of these unfortunates, their magnanimous behavior during these fearful days has drawn forth our sympathy and gratitude."

Interestingly, while many of the town’s more well-to-do residents temporarily left the city, poorer families stayed. When the epidemic had passed, Birmingham’s elite returned with a celebration, the Calico Ball. However, some of the residents that stayed and helped nurse the sick back to health, such as Madam Wooster, known for her popular brothels on Fourth Avenue, South, were not invited.

Mrs. Fernandez died at age 84 in 1929 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery which contains the gravesites of many of the victims of the cholera epidemic, along with those who cared for them including Louise Wooster and town mayor James R. Powell who is given credit for naming the city.


Independent Presbyterian Church’s Waffle Kitchen

—By: Judy Haise


he enterprising women of Independent Presbyterian Church started earning money to buy an organ right after the church’s founding in 1915. The absence of a church home (and kitchen) challenged them to sell their homemade waffles in a loaned downtown building near the old Pizitz store.

Every weekday for many years the volunteers made waffles and lunches for downtown businessmen.

"The meals always included the delicious waffles," recalled early church member Mrs. Donald Beatty (Mary Alice Gatling Beatty 1901–1995). Her firsthand testimony of the Waffle Kitchen and the church’s early days is preserved in a living history video released for the church’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1990.

Iola M. Payseur Gatling 

Iola M. Payseur Gatling
Fulgham in long gossamer
dress, ca 1915.

Mrs. Beatty recalled how she loved working in the Waffle Kitchen when she came home from her music studies at Juilliard. She used the newly-invented electric waffle irons, alongside her mother, Iola "Ola" M. Payseur Gatling Fulgham (1877–1972) an accomplished concert organist. Ola and Mrs. Beatty’s father, George Bodding Gatling, and step-father William Wharton Fulghum, all IPC members, loved the tasty waffles.

The IPC chefs had the convenience of using the newly invented electric waffle irons, but there were no electric mixers, Mrs. Beatty said. She remembered a big, strong man named Sam, who used to beat the heavy batter using no more than eight eggs at a time. As the women would work the waffle irons mounted on card tables, the batter would spatter all over their aprons held together with elegant, jeweled bar pins.

Mrs. Beatty’s daughter, IPC member Mrs. Donald Carmichael (Mary Alice) of Mountain Brook, now occasionally wears one of several heirloom, jeweled bar pins worn on the aprons of her mother and grandmother.

Mrs. Carmichael’s gold and diamond bar pin has an interesting provenance. It was inherited by Gatling from his aunt Lucy Catherine "Kate" Moore of Raleigh, N.C., who initially lost it when her sailing ship ran aground on Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Waffle Kitchen Waffle Recipes

The IPC Woman’s Organization’s Band Number Four lists the "Waffle Kitchen Waffles" recipe in probably the church’s first cookbook, published by Birmingham Printing Co. The cookbook committee included several founding church members: Leader Mrs. Robert I. Ingalls, chairman Mrs. H. I. Badham and committee members Mrs. L. J. White, Mrs. V. Q. Prowell, Mrs. E. A. Richey, Mrs. Frank Nelson and Mrs. E. E. Ellis, joined by Mrs. J. R. Rice, Mrs. George Kelley, Mrs. George Morrow and Mrs. Ira Sellers.

A slight variation of the "Waffle Kitchen Waffles" recipe was subsequently published in IPC Band Number Five’s "Cooking With Love" (Birmingham, 1976.) It isn’t mentioned in "Favorite Recipes of Presbyterian Women Desserts Including Party Beverages" (IPC Woman’s Organization, 1968,

Waffle iron in IPC chapel window

Waffle iron in IPC chapel window

Montgomery, AL) or "Holiday Tea Recipes" (IPC Presbyterian Women Holiday House Committee, 2005.) Other IPC cookbooks containing the waffle recipe may have been lost in the church’s devastating 1992 fire that destroyed the parlor interior, Great Hall and pastor Dr. M. Scott McClure’s office and library.

All of the proceeds from the popular Waffle Kitchen, including tips hidden in napkins so as not to offend the volunteer chefs, were initially used to buy the expensive organ. It was installed in time for the 1926 dedication of the Gothic IPC building on Highland Avenue. The Waffle Kitchen money later bought many of the church’s education unit furnishings.

Profits Provide Skinner Organ

Mrs. Beatty said the prominent women could have easily taken up a collection to buy an organ, but many of them had studied music and wanted to make sure the best organ of the time could be a reality for IPC. The Opus 516 made by the Skinner Organ Co. had three manuals, five divisions and 40 ranks.

The IPC Woman’s Organization’s successful fundraiser was certainly in rhythm with the philosophy of the church’s founding pastor, Dr. Henry M. Edmonds.

"Proper business is, in its very essence, spiritual" he wrote in his 1916 book "Sermonettes and Prayers," a compilation of newspaper columns first published on Sundays in the Birmingham Age-Herald. Edmonds went on to say that any successful businessman should always offer a service, while contemplating the good that he can do.

The waffle chefs’ spirituality was validated by the unusual waffle iron depicted in a jewel-toned stained glass window created by Charles J. Connick Associates. Located in the church’s Dr. Henry M. Edmonds Memorial Chapel, the window can be seen through out its year-long centennial celebration in 2015 during public tours.


Place Names:

How Norwood Got Its Name

Norwood BLVD sign

orwood was one of Birmingham’s first neighborhoods constructed outside the central city in 1910. It was meant to give residents some space from the heavy industry of Birmingham. The northside neighborhood prospered at first as many well-to-do citizens built fine homes in the community. It began a gradual decline in the 1930s as residents, aided by the automobile, moved ‘over the mountain’ to newer communities on the southern side of Red Mountain.

B. B. Merriweather, civil engineer for the Birmingham Realty Company, surveyed and laid out 28 full and partial blocks for development. The intricate plan called for the extension of Birmingham’s grid plan, combined with a serpentine boulevard and a circular avenue. The officers at Birmingham Realty named the "elite" subdivision for Stanley Norwood, a real estate man and friend of Leslie Fullenweider, then president of Birmingham Realty.

They dubbed it "the placid place." It was planned to be a streetcar suburb centered on Norwood Boulevard, along the same lines as the development around Highland Avenue.

As predicted, Norwood attracted the cream of Birmingham’s industrial entrepreneurs as well as middle and upper-middle class businessmen.

By 1928, residents could catch a streetcar at the pavilion at the intersection of Norwood Boulevard and 32nd Street and ride down the hill to the central business district. High school students could take the streetcar to Phillips High School on Sixth Avenue.

Throughout the 1920s and the 1930s, Norwood was a stable, prosperous neighborhood. The streets were lined with large and comfortable homes.

Norwood House

This neglected home sits in Norwood near 13th and 31st Street.
Now there are many similar structures needing repair.




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