JCHA NEWSLETTER –JANUARY 2012

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JCHA’s 24th Historical Marker
Erected Inside the Alabama Theatre

—by:Thomas M. West, Jr.


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he latest JCHA historical marker is going up inside the lobby of the Alabama Theatre, the Association’s 24th marker.

The Association also erected the marker in 1998 that stands outside the historical old theatre on Third Avenue, North built in 1927 noting the "Showplace of the South" as one of Alabama’s great motion picture theatres.

The inside marker takes note of the many contributions of Cecil Whitmier and his wife, Linda. Cecil died recently. His wife, Linda, died earlier.

Upon Mr. Whitmire’s passing, Historical Marker Committee Chairman Tom West met with Bryant Beene, the new Alabama Theatre manager, and suggested a bas relief bronze marker be installed honoring Cecil and Linda. Unlike other markers, it has a three-dimensional or bas relief head and shoulders and hand-sculpted likeness of the Whitmire’s

Although more costly than the aluminum markers the JCHA normally erects, funds for the inside marker were left in Mr. Whitmire’s will. The marker was handcrafted by Al Delvecchio Enterprises of Troy, Michigan.

 
Old Boynton ad

From the Jemison Magazine, December 1910.


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Entertainment From Yesteryear:
Air Shows and Carnivals

—by:By Jim Bennett


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efore television and the web and even major motion pictures, Jefferson County residents had an entirely different set of entertainment venues including Confederate reunions, air shows, Christmas carnivals, vaudeville and even Mardi Gras celebrations.

One of the most spectacular downtown events in 1917 was an appearance by Harry Gardiner, "the Human Fly", who scaled the outside of the 16-story Empire Building before a crowd of over 35,000.

Large Mardi Gras events were the rage beginning in 1886. By 1896 the Birmingham Carnival Society’s downtown parade attracted 35,000 to 40,000 people. By 1889 the parade was hit by cold weather. Three days before the event a blizzard left a foot of snow on the city and temperatures fell 9 degrees below zero which forced the carnival to be cancelled. Eventually, the celebration waned and the last Mardi Gras Ball was held in 1901.

In the 1930's and 1940's, Christmas carnivals were popular. What began as a ball in 1934 became a city wide carnival by 1949. These events waned after the Korean War.

Air shows drew thousands between both world wars. On May 31, 1931, the Birmingham Airport opened with pomp, ceremony and the greatest air show that the city had ever seen. Hundreds came to witness the Birmingham debut of commercial passenger service with a stop by American Airways along its Atlanta to Fort Worth route.

More than 50,000 people attended the 1931 air carnival and the event, sponsored by the Birmingham Aero Club, attracted celebrities from far and wide including Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Tanner, Eddie Rickenbacker and Claire Chennault.

Before World War II Birmingham’s National Air Carnival was the largest free air show in the United States. Charles Lindbergh stopped overnight on his 1927 tour of the states, landing at Robert’s Field before the Municipal Airport was built, an event which also highlighted local air service.

Birmingham’s National Air Carnival

Poster advertising Birmingham’s National Air Carnival.

 

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The Hawes Horror Conclusion

—By Tom Badham

(continued from last issue)



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fter the attempted lynching of Richard Hawes, Major Goldsmith B. West again telegraphed Alabama Adjutant General A. B. Garlander in Montgomery for Militia units to keep the peace. Nine state militia units comprising between four and five hundred men were immediately sent to Birmingham to patrol the town. Militia Colonel Thomas Goode Jones (later governor of Alabama 1890 – 1894 and a federal judge afterwards) was put in command of the units.

Richard Hawes

Mr. Hawes

Headquarters for the units were established in the new courthouse yard on 21st Street. But, there were no barracks or quarters for the men. They only had crude makeshift shelters like a few boards or a sheet of tin over their heads. The men had to be fed unit by unit by local restaurants. To make matters worse, several days of freezing rain began to fall. But the troops did their duty even though many came down with colds and pneumonia due to the raw weather.

After arriving late Saturday night and early Sunday morning the day after the riot, they began patrolling the city, guarding the jail, padlocking all gun shops and permitted no gatherings of people on the streets. However, they didn’t close the saloons (that really would have caused trouble), but did keep a close eye on them. The Age-Herald reported, "They recognized their duty to preserve order and performed that duty well, treating the citizens firmly but with courtesy and respect." There were no further outbreaks of violence.

The Age-Herald reported that "On Sunday afternoon, (December 9th), the body of May Hawes was, ‘interred in a pure white casket purchased by the citizens of Birmingham’ and was taken in a black curtained hearse and buried in ‘a nice grassy little plot’ near the top of the hill at Oak Hill Cemetery, within a short distance of the vault in which her mother’s battered remains were stored." However the Atlanta Constitution reported that James H. Hawes had taken May’s body back to Atlanta to be buried in the Pettus Burying Ground in the Oakland Cemetery.

Supposedly very simple funeral services were conducted by Lockwood & Miller’s mortuary at the Oak Hill Cemetery. Afraid that any funeral parade or elaborate services might incite further trouble, city officials kept the services quiet. Also a "neat stone" was purchased for May’s grave at Block 5, lot 15, but Dr. Hoole found no record of the burial or marker at Oak Hill.

(Continued on Page 4)

 
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