The tornado took my former home

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A former classmate from the University of Alabama emailed me a couple of years ago informing me that our 1954-56 apartment was destroyed in the Tuscaloosa tornado.

Disappointing was one of several feelings I had about this building, which served as my home for two years.

I had been planning to go back and visit that home, but, of course, that’s out of my plans now.

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From where we live here in Atmore, the drive to Tuscaloosa is a difficult and somewhat dangerous drive.

Or, let me say, this was the case way back when I made regular trips from Atmore to the Capstone. Not only were roads narrow, but cattle rested on the highway at night. You would find these animals usually in the Faunsdale-Dayton area on state Highway 25. This is the road that runs north of Thomasville through Thomaston into Greensboro.

One night going back to school, I came upon an accident somewhere in this area. I think it was near Dayton. A man, who said he was from New Jersey, had hit a big cow, which was lying on the highway.

Strangely, this man was not familiar with cattle and he thought he had hit a big black bear. His vehicle was heavily damaged, but he was only slightly injured.

This young man was in Alabama with a group studying the Indian mounds in Moundville. I carried him back to Greensboro to a service station, where the attendant told him he would get him in touch with either state or county officials. I forgot his name, but I gave him my phone number and told him to let me know if I could be of further help. He was extremely shaken up and did not know how investigating officials down south would treat him. I told him not to fear, and it would all work out for the best.

About two years later, I received a call from the man and he told me how much he appreciated my help that night. He told me that he hired a lawyer from his home state of New Jersey and his lawyer contacted an Alabama lawyer and they discovered who owned the cow. A settlement was apparently reached out of court. He told me his lawyers were able to recover damages. He also said he was treated very nicely throughout the entire process, eliminating all previous apprehensions about southern justice.

In a sense, it was somewhat amusing that this man from up north pursued this case and received a financial settlement. I say amusing because the man apparently knew very little about small town rural life. He had very little knowledge of our ways and lifestyle. He said he feared he would have to appear before a judge not knowing how he would be looked upon, especially with his being from “up north.”

All this leads to a very comical movie I saw on TV.  The movie was titled “My Cousin Vinny.” It starred Frey Gwynne as the southern judge and Joe Pesci as the lawyer. It was a story about a northern attorney who came south to defend his framed nephew in a felony case.

In an effort to add more comedy to the movie, the attorney, in several scenes, was awakened about 5 a.m. each morning when the local lumber mill blew its whistle (very much like the Swift whistle here in Atmore) and he jumped out of bed, not knowing what was going on. Other scenes had the attorney failing to sleep at night because of the freight trains traveling so close to his thin-walled hotel. And still in another scene, the snorting of hogs being loaded onto train cars woke him from his early morning sleep.

The characters in the movie were the driving comical elements. The actor who portrayed the southern judge could not always comprehend the northern lawyer’s vocabulary, and he seemed to take a hostile approach to him. But with the help of the lawyer’s girlfriend (Marisa Tomei, who played Mona Lisa Vito in the film), who traveled south with him, they beat the case. Automobile mechanical expertise by the girlfriend was the saving factor in his winning the case.

Gwynne, if you remember played Fred Munster. He was also in a weekly 1950 sitcom, “Car 54 Where Are You?” He passed away a few years ago.

Getting back to those two lane highways you can almost take your pick. You can go through Demopolis, Uniontown or go all the way to Montgomery and hit Highway 82 into Tuscaloosa.

It’s a shame we don’t have interstates from here to the university because the drive would be safer with the interstate. It’s much safer and convenient to travel to Auburn as you have interstate highways all the way to the main campus. I have read where a push is on to someday build a four-lane road from Mobile to north Alabama, but I have not heard any recent news about it.

Finally, on a somewhat amusing note, members of one church I know had photos taken for their church directory recently. I remember when our church did this. I was simply amazed how those photo-taking experts could take away wrinkles and signs of age with the stroke of a touch up brush. Isn’t it amazing what they can do for looks?

There will be more next week.