JCHA NEWSLETTER –FALL 2015

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Place Names: Dolomite


Early photo of Bethlehem Methodist Church (Hueytown Historical Society)

Early photo of Bethlehem Methodist Church (Hueytown Historical Society).

 

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olomite is an unincorporated community in west Jefferson County known for coal mining. Today much of the community’s residential neighborhoods lie within the corporate limits of Birmingham and much of its business district in Hueytown.

Its most notable landmark is the Bethlehem Methodist Church which was established in 1818, before Alabama was admitted to the Union. Its adjoining church cemetery contains the graves of some of Jefferson County’s early pioneer settlers including James Tarrant, Mortimer Jordan, and Isaac Sadler.

Dolomite was first settled by William Brown around 1815. Brown called the area "Possum Valley". At the time of settlement, Possum Valley took in more area than the present day Dolomite.

The main occupation in the early days was farming. After the Civil War, mining became the chief occupation.

Dolomite No. 1 mine opened around 1884. It was first thought there was Dolomite here, a form of limestone used as a fluxing agent in iron-making. That is how Dolomite got its name, but it turned out to be coal. Two more mines opened as the community became a boom town. In 1922, the No. 3 mine blew up due to a dust explosion killing 84 and injuring 75.

Nearby Woodward Iron Company located a doctors’ office here which burned in1980. The area also had a commissary, coke ovens, a school (located in an area called Sweet Gum Flat) and a masonic lodge.

A post office opened on April 22, 1878 known as Earle, but the name was changed to Dolomite on August 31, 1885.

Sources: Leon W. Mock, a native of Dolomite; Wikipedia; History of Dolomite (Part II) as told by Mildred Brown Crain to her daughter Martha Jean Crain, March 30, 1982; Birmingham Age-Herald, November 24, 1922.

 
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Archives Album


Trail Blazer - Equal employment rights for women had a long way to go in the 1920s but was Kathleen Franklin (left) the first woman bus driver for the Jefferson County School System? Some say yes. There are currently 7,600 school bus drivers in Alabama, many of them women (Norma Teague/Hueytown Historical Society).

Trail Blazer - Equal employment rights for women had a long way to go in the 1920s but was Kathleen Franklin (left) the first woman bus driver for the Jefferson County School System? Some say yes. There are currently 7,600 school bus drivers in Alabama, many of them women
(Norma Teague/Hueytown Historical Society).


A Site To Remember: West Lake, photo taken in the 1930s or 1940s; the large building housed a skating rink, dance floor and a bowling alley.  West Lake Mall was constructed on the site in 1969 and the lake, centerpiece of West Lake Park, was filled in to facilitate the mall’s construction  (Milton Tramell/Hueytown Historical Society).

A Site To Remember: West Lake, photo taken in the 1930s or 1940s; the large building housed a skating rink, dance floor and a bowling alley.
West Lake Mall was constructed on the site in 1969 and the lake, centerpiece of West Lake Park, was filled in to facilitate the mall’s construction
(Milton Tramell/Hueytown Historical Society).


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Tales From World War II
There’s A Pizitz Connection

—by: Jim Bennett


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irmingham citizens were extremely patriotic in World War II as events in both foreign theatres filled the news wires from Pearl Harbor to D Day. Two of those stories involved a pair of extraordinary individuals associated with the Pizitz Department Store.

The first raid on Tokyo was the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942 when 16 B-25 Mitchells were launched from the USS Hornet to attack targets including Yokohama and Tokyo and then fly on to airfields in China. It was payback time for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor the year before.

U.S. Bombs Tokyo newspaper headline

So incensed was Pizitz Department Store President Louis Pizitz he offered $1,000 to the first US pilot to drop a bomb on Tokyo. While Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle said it would be impossible to determine who in his bomber group was the first to drop his bomb load, he said he would accept the check on behalf of all his men.

It was given to a relief fund benefiting the wives and children of American aviators.

In a letter of appreciation, Col. Doolittle, who led the carrier-based raid, responded: "This is to record receipt of your most generous gift of $1,000 which I am pleased to accept in behalf of the men who participated with me in the air raid on Japan. The check has been endorsed over to the Army Air Forces Aid Society Trust Fund."

The deposit read: "For deposit to the account of the Army Air Forces Aid Society Trust Fund on behalf of the officers and men who participated in the raid on Japan led by Col. Doolittle." U.S. Sen. Lister Hill helped make the arrangements.

Just as he had done during World War I, Pizitz, who had immigrated to the United States in 1889 from Polish Russia, played a key role in war bond drives.

Lt. Col. Doolittle wires a Japanese medal to a bomb for “return” to its originators (U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph).

Lt. Col. Doolittle wires a Japanese medal to a bomb for “return” to its originators (U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph).


John Jacobson, who joined the Pizitz store staff after the war, was a German citizen who fled Hitler’s persecution of Jews in 1940. A college student in Italy at the time, he began a perilous journey to New York with $5 in his pocket. Once in the U.S., he joined the United States Army, fought at Normandy as part of George Patton’s Third U.S Army and won a Bronze Star.

He was from a wealthy Berlin family that was associated with the Englehardt Brewery before it was taken over by the Nazis as Jews lost their businesses. Life for a Jew was little better in Italy, so he hopped a train to Paris with no ticket shielded by a friendly family. His papers were still in Italy. He only got to America after his mother, who had moved to New York in 1938, made a personal appeal to Secretary of State Cordell Hull while taking a bus

Washington, DC for a chance meeting. Speaking with the aid of an interpreter, she told Hull her husband had been killed by the Gestapo and her daughter was missing and that her only son was trying to get to London. Hull sent a cable, got his papers released and had them sent to London which was then enduring the blitz. From there Jacobson boarded a ship to New York. Because he was bilingual, he was sent to language school in Indiana and shipped back to Europe. He was fluent in five languages.

Louis Pizitz, John Jacobsen, Gen. George Patton

At age 23, he was aboard a troop ship off the coast of Normandy where he landed on Utah Beach during the D Day invasion. After he was assigned to an army team trying to put French villages back in order, he joined Gen. George S. Patton’s personal staff as an interpreter riding around in jeeps with officers sitting next to the driver and those of lower rank in the back seat.

"Patton had a standing order that whenever he sat down, the jeep had to go," said Jacobson. "That meant that I had to crouch near the back and dive in as soon as he sat down."

Cpl. Jacobson interpreted remarks from French partisans to Russian generals.

After the war, Jacobson returned to New York, then moved to Birmingham where he married Ann Smolian, Louis Pizitz’s granddaughter, and worked his way up to vice president of the Pizitz Department Store in charge of branch stores.

Sources: Pizitz Family records; Pizitz, Your Store, Hollis, Tim, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2010.

 
 
 

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