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This Month 185 Years Ago Was Heard The First: ‘Roll Tide’


ell, not quite. That came in the 1950s, but April 13, 1831 is when the University of Alabama first opened its doors. Fifty-two students were accepted that first day. By the end of the session, the student body had swelled to nearly 100. The faculty was made up of four men including the Rev. Alva Woods who had been inaugurated president of the University on April 12, 1831.

Today, the Capstone has over 37,000 students, 46% of them from in-state. The five Alabama counties with the highest enrollments are Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Madison, Shelby and Mobile.

The University of Alabama Medical School was moved from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in 1945. UAB opened in 1936 as the Birmingham Extension Center of The University of Alabama and became an independent institution in 1969. The University of Alabama at Huntsville was established the same year.

Football did not get going until 1892 when it posted a 2‑2 season at Birmingham’s Lakeview Park losing the first Iron Bowl with a 32‑22 loss to Auburn on February 22, 1893.

For 40 years, from 1948 to 1988, the Auburn game was played at Birmingham’s Legion Field, then the largest stadium in the state. By 1980, the series had come to be called the Iron Bowl due to Birmingham’s prominence as a center of iron and steel production. The term Iron Bowl was coined by Auburn’s coach at the time, Shug Jordan. Alabama’s coach, Bear Bryant, said he preferred calling the game the Brag Bowl, since the winner’s fans got to brag all year long.

Getting back to the "Roll Tide" cheer, that came as part of a song on the 1950 Percy Faith album of football songs (later re‑released as Touchdown!) and was played extensively across the state in the 1960s and 1970s as the music behind radio commercials for sporting goods stores. It was also used as the theme music for The Bear Bryant Show. The last words of the song, "Roll Tide!," have become the standard cheer, greeting, and farewell among Alabama fans.

892 Alabama cadets football team (Wikipedia).

1892 Alabama cadets football team (Wikipedia).

The Crimson Tide moniker supposedly was first used by Hugh Roberts, sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in the mud in Birmingham in 1907.

The origin of the elephant mascot dates back to the 1931 Rose Bowl when a local luggage company, Rosenburger’s Birmingham Trunk Company, donated luggage on which appeared the company’s tag, a red elephant standing on a suitcase, to each Alabama player. Reporters covering the game with Washington State dropped the logo was team’s and the moniker stuck.

Sources: Wikipedia, "1892 Alabama Cadets football team"; Wikipedia, "University of Alabama Traditions"; The University of Alabama "Quick Facts."

The Old Cottage ad 1946

Birmingham News, March, 1946.


Magic City Rotary Trail Opens (blog. al.com).

Magic City Rotary Trail Opens (blog. al.com).

Magic City Rotary Trail New Historic Attraction


he Rotary Trail, a greenspace linking Railroad Park with the Sloss Furnaces area, opened April 6. It transforms an unused railroad cut along First Avenue South between 20th Street and 24th Street into a downtown walking pathway.

A replica of the historic "Birmingham: The Magic City" sign, copied after a similar stationary sign that once welcomed visitors to Birmingham at Terminal Station, will be lighted. The new sign reads "Rotary Trail in the Magic City."

Bill Jones, co-chair of the Rotary Club-sponsored walkway, said that although the trail will be for daytime use, lighting and cameras will be installed to focus on security.

The Rotary Club of Birmingham engaged the services of the Clements Dean Building Co. and A.G. Gaston Construction as the contractors and Goodwyn Mills & Cawood as the architect.


2016 Dues Running Behind


reasurer Harry Bradford says dues have fallen behind schedule and urges all who have not paid for 2016 to please do so. Only about 105 of the 300 members are current.

"We have not had a good response so far," he said. "If you don’t get your newsletter it’s because you haven’t paid your dues."

Bradford said dues payments are running behind what they were last year at this time. A dues notice and envelope were included in the last edition.

  • Single memberships $20
  • Couples $30
  • Sponsors $100
  • Patron $250
  • Benefactor $500

Contributions are tax deductible

Please mail your dues to:
Harry Bradford, Treasurer,
Jefferson County Historical Association,
P.O. Box 130285, Birmingham, AL 35213-0285.
Be sure to put your name, address and phone number on your check.


Signs of the Times

Empire Building, Morris Hotel and Bank for Savings Building, were among downtown buildings with drink signs.

Empire Building, Morris Hotel and Bank for Savings Building, were among downtown buildings with drink signs.


oft drink advertisements have adorned downtown buildings since the 1920s, but now the city is turning thumbs down.

You might ask why all the controversy about the sign atop the 18-story Bank for Savings Building changing from Pepsi to UAB when soft drink advertising on downtown buildings has been common practice for years.

Buffalo Rock had a big sign painted on the Empire Building before World War I and the Morris Hotel had one for 7-Up in the 1940s. The Bank for Savings featured a lighted scrolling sign, when the building was built 40 years ago, but was shut down to cut expenses. The more controversial Pepsi sign that replaced it is now the subject of being to replaced itself by a sign on which UAB proposes to run historical images.

The Pepsi sign was installed early 2014 without approval from the Birmingham Design Review Committee. Buffalo Rock, a Pepsi distributor and Papillose leased the sign from Harbert Realty for an undisclosed sum and term.

"The new (proposed) sign is a visual blend of old and new, paying homage to Birmingham’s rich history while underscoring the unique partnership between the City of Birmingham and UAB," UAB President Ray Watts said in a statement. "The future of this region will be driven by collaboration between Birmingham, Jefferson County, UAB, the Birmingham Business Alliance and business and civic leaders and their respective organizations. The new signage is an affirmation of that mutually beneficial relationship."

Anti-billboard groups say the UAB sign still brings blight to the city skyline and opposes it as a billboard in the sky. The city has sent a cease and desist order until DRC approval is given.

Even liquor has been advertised on downtown structures including the Lem Motlow sign, maker of Jack Daniels in Birmingham in 1905, which still faintly exists on a building on Second Avenue, North.

The Jack Daniel’s sign at the corner of Second Avenue,  North and 24th Street (Ginger/Flickr).

The Jack Daniel’s sign at the corner of Second Avenue,
North and 24th Street (Ginger/Flickr).


Day Tripping

Now that spring has arrived, visiting some of our historical markers while observing the new housing growth might be a good idea idea for a Sunday afternoon ride. Here is a list of JCHA Historical Marker Locations

  • Independent Presbyterian Church (3100 Highland Avenue)
  • The Little Theatre (1116 26th Street, South)
  • The Alabama Theatre (1917 Third Avenue, North)
  • Shades Valley High School (original site) (20th Place near Mt. Brook Village)
  • Mountain Brook (City Hall, Church Street)
  • Homewood (2850 19th Avenue, South)
  • Rosedale (US 280 at US 31)
  • Hollywood (Hollywood Boulevard at LaPrado)
  • Edgewood (Oxmoor Road at Broadway)
  • Briarwood Presbyterian Church (2200 Briarwood Way)
  • Will Franke/Early (Mountain Brook Village)
  • St. Vincent’s Hospital (2607 Clairmont Avenue)
  • Oldest House in Shades Valley/Irondale Furnace Commissary (Montevallo Road at Glenbrook)
  • Union Hill Cemetery/Union Hill Methodist
  • Episcopal Church/Union Hill School (Montevallo Road at US 280 Overpass)
  • Lane Park (Cahaba Road between the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo)
  • Birmingham Water Works Company/Cahaba Pumping Station (Cahaba Heights Road, Blue Lake Road and Sicard Hollow Road)
  • Irondale Furnace/Wallace S. McElwain (Stone River Road near Old Leeds Lane)
Birmingham bike messenger, telegrams, October 1914  (Lewis Wickes Hine/Shorpy).

Birmingham bike messenger, telegrams, October 1914
(Lewis Wickes Hine/Shorpy).

  • The Old Mill/Robert Jemison, Jr. (2800 Mountain Brook Parkway)
  • Brock’s Gap/The South & North Railroad Cut/ Gateway to Birmingham (Shades Crest Road, Hoover)
  • Canterbury United Methodist Church (350 Overbrook Road)
  • Edgewood Lake (Lakeshore Drive at University Park Drive)
  • Early Mountain Brook Village (Center intersection of business district)
  • Office Park (near Cahaba Road entrance)
  • Tutwiler Hotel, former Ridgely Apartments (21 Street North at Sixth Avenue).


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