Monday, August 31, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 232: Read “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy

Walker Percy’s 1961 novel, “The Moviegoer,” is a book I’ve heard about for years, and it’s almost always mentioned in discussions of great Southern books. I’ve seen this book listed on all types of “best of” lists, which made me want to read it even more. For that reason, I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago.

I didn’t even own a copy of the book until last Friday when I stumbled across a copy of the 1998 Vintage International paperback edition. I bought it for a dollar, started reading it later that day and finished it on Sunday afternoon. At 242 pages, it was a relatively quick read.

For those of you who haven’t read this book, which won the National Book Award in 1962, it’s about a Korean War veteran named Binx Bolling. Bolling’s a young, relatively well-off stockbroker and financial advisor living in post-war New Orleans. Most of the novel is set in New Orleans, but some of it also takes place in Chicago and on Gulf Coast beaches.

I’d always wondered about the origin of this book’s title, and now that I’ve read it, I understand. Bolling, as you might have imagined, enjoys going to the movies, which is one of the ways he searches for meaning in his life. Having seen a lot of movies, he tends to compare the real people in his life with famous actors (and actresses) as well as characters in movies.

Be forewarned, this book probably isn’t for everyone. Some readers will find it boring, which others will probably find it depressing. Personally, I enjoyed the book because I knew it was well regarded and is considered a classic. While reading it, I continued to think critically about the book and to determine for myself why it’s considered so noteworthy.

As mentioned, this book won a number of awards and can be found on a number of “best of” lists and here are a few of those lists:

· TIME magazine ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 54 on its list of “ALL-TIME 100 Novels.”

· The editors at the Book-of-the-Month Club included it on their 60th Anniversary “Well-Stocked Bookcase” list.

· The James Agee Project ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 14 on its list of “Top 25 Great Southern Books.”

· In 1998, Modern Library ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 60 on its list of “100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century.”

I was also interested to learn that the book’s author, Walker Percy, was born in Birmingham, Ala. and that “The Moviegoer” was his debut novel. Of course, this left me wanting to read his other novels, which include “The Last Gentleman” (1966), “Love in the Ruins” (1971), “Lancelot” (1977), “The Second Coming” (1980) and “The Thanatos Syndrome” (1987).

In the end, how many of you have read “The Moviegoer”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Let us know in the comments section below.

Today in History for Aug. 31, 2015

Louis Antoine de Bougainville
Aug. 31, 1540 – The DeSoto Expedition reached the Indian town of Hoithlewalli on the right bank of the Tallapoosa River in present day Elmore County, Ala.

Aug. 31, 1777 - On the Ohio frontier, Patriot Captain Samuel Mason survived a devastating Indian attack on Fort Henry in present-day West Virginia.

Aug. 31, 1803 – Lewis and Clark started their expedition to the west by leaving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 11 in the morning.

Aug. 31, 1811 – French admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville passed away at the age of 81 in Paris, France. A contemporary of the British explorer James Cook, he took part in the Seven Years' War in North America and the American Revolutionary War against Britain. Bougainville later gained fame for his expeditions, including circumnavigation of the globe in a scientific expedition, the first recorded settlement on the Falkland Islands, and voyages into the Pacific Ocean.

Aug. 31, 1813 – Lt. Montgomery sent out a mounted patrol that reported that Fort Mims had fallen and the river swamp was full of Indians.

Aug. 31, 1824 – During his extended tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette left Boston, traveled through and made stops at Lexington, Concord, Salem, Marblehead, and Newburyport, Mass.

Aug. 31, 1831 – Dr. John Watkins married Mary Thomas Hopkins Howard Hunter at Belleville in Conecuh County, Ala. She was the daughter of William and Sarah Goodwin Howard and was descended from the distinguished Howard family of Baltimore.

Aug. 31, 1837 - Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his famous “American Scholar” address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard. He told the students to think for themselves rather than absorb thought, to create rather than repeat, and not to look to Europe for cultural models.

Aug. 31, 1850 – John Watkins became postmaster at Burnt Corn, Ala.

Aug. 31, 1861 – U.S. Representative James Adam Stallworth died in Evergreen, Ala. of enteritis.

Aug. 31, 1861 – During the Civil War, Richmond announced that no less than five men were being named as full generals, the promotions being effective on different dates so that these five would know who was superior to each other. In order they were: Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard. The only full General the North would name wouldn’t get the job for almost three years: U.S. Grant.

Aug. 31, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Little River Turnpike, Va.

Aug. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Stevenson, Ala. in Jackson County, Ala.

Aug. 31, 1863 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Will's Valley, Ala. in Etowah County, Ala.

Aug. 31, 1864 – Samuel C.H. Dailey commissioned for a second term as Monroe County, Alabama’s Sheriff.

Aug. 31, 1864 - At the Battle of Jonesboro, Ga., U.S. General William T. Sherman launched the attack that finally secured Atlanta, Ga., for the Union, and sealed the fate of Confederate General John Bell Hood's army, which was forced to evacuate the area. The entrenched Yankees lost 178 men, while the Confederates lost nearly 2,000.

Aug. 31, 1873 – Eliza Allen Watts, the wife of Thomas Hill Watts of Butler County, Ala., who served as Alabama’s governor, passed away, leaving a family of 10 children.

Aug. 31, 1888 - Prostitute Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, the first victim of London serial killer "Jack the Ripper," was found murdered and mutilated in Whitechapel's Buck's Row.

Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1905 – The Monroe County Masonic Conference was scheduled to be held at the Monroeville, Ala. Lodge.

Aug. 31, 1905 – The Monroe Journal reported that M.E. Hudson was preparing to erect an up-to-date ginnery in Monroeville, Ala. The ginnery was to be located on the vacant lot just north of the “school grounds” and was to be equipped with a large gasoline engine and “other improved appliances.”

Aug. 31, 1907 – William Shawn, the longtime editor of The New Yorker, was born William Chon in Chicago. In 1965, he first published Truman Capote's “In Cold Blood” as a series of articles.

Aug. 31, 1908 – Pulitzer-Prize winning Armenian-Ameican writer William Saroyan was born in Fresno, Calif.

Aug. 31, 1911 – Freight and passenger service on the Manistee & Repton Railroad was discontinued.

Aug. 31, 1920 - The first news program to be broadcast on radio was aired. The station was 8MK in Detroit, Mich.

Aug. 31, 1925 – Evergreen’s Agricultural School and City School opened for the 1925-26 school year. Public schools throughout the county opened on Oct. 5.

Aug. 31, 1931 – The first service was held in current Monroeville Methodist Church building on Pineville Road with the Rev. R.K. Jones delivering the sermon.

Aug. 31, 1935 – National Baseball Hall of Fame right fielder, left fielder and manager Frank Robinson was born in Beaumont, Texas. He went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, the Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the California Angels and the Cleveland Indians and managed the Indians, the San Francisco Giants, the Orioles and the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Aug. 31, 1946 - Superman returned to radio on the Mutual Broadcasting System after being dropped earlier in the year.

Aug. 31, 1947 – Locke Thompson and A.B. Blass, both of Monroeville, Ala., members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry in Japan with postwar occupational forces, summitted 12,388-foot Mount Fuji. Of the 44 who started the climb, only seven reached the top.

Aug. 31, 1950 – Army Cpl. Elven J. Hobbs of Conecuh County, Ala. was killed in action in Korea.

Aug. 31, 1950 - Gil Hodges of the Brooklyn Dodgers hit four home runs in a single game off of four different pitchers.

Aug. 31, 1958 – The Orpheus Club of Evergreen, Ala. celebrated its 50th anniversary with a “Silver Tea” at the Evergreen City School. The club was organized in 1908 and was federated in 1909.

Aug. 31, 1959 - Brooklyn Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax struck out 18 batters, setting a new National League record for most strikeouts in a single game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won, 5-2. Koufax’s total of 18 strikeouts in the game broke Dizzy Dean’s 26-year-old National League record, and tied the major league record held by Cleveland Indian ace Bob Feller. Koufax also broke the record for strikeouts over two consecutive games, fanning 31 men combined, having struck out 13 batters in his previous start.

Aug. 31, 1968 – Marine Lance Cpl. Henry Beall Smith Jr. of Andalusia, Ala. was killed in action in Vietnam.

Aug. 31, 1973 – Monroe Academy lost its first ever football game, falling to Central Alabama Academy, 14-9, in Montgomery. This loss snapped the school’s streak of 39 straight games without a loss.

Aug. 31, 1978 – W.S. Neal High School beat Evergreen High School, 31-0. Outstanding Evergreen players in that game included Sanford Moye, Wendell Parker and Keith Rabb. Charles Branum was Evergreen’s head coach.

Aug. 31, 1985 - The "Night Stalker" killer, Richard Ramirez, was captured by residents in Los Angeles.

Aug. 31, 1995 – MCHS graduate Kenny Croft was the football team’s honorary team captain for a game against Paramount in Monroeville, Ala. Monroeville won the toss, elected to receive and Chris Kirkland returned the kick 90 yards for a touchdown. MCHS won, 28-18.

Aug. 31, 1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris, France. The television audience for Diana's funeral, broadcast around the world, was believed to be around 2.5 billion viewers. Conspiracy theories surrounding Princess Diana's death emerged almost immediately and, despite official inquiries by both the French and UK governments, the accident remains shrouded in suspicion.

Aug. 31, 2006 – Marlon Anderson of Montgomery, Ala. was traded by the Washington Nationals to the Los Angeles Dodgers after scoring the winning run in a 6-5 thriller against the Phillies in Washington. At the time, Washington had been struggling for much of the season and was not a playoff factor while the Dodgers appeared to be headed for the playoffs with the NL West division crown. Anderson was brought in hopes to assist in the Dodgers' playoff push. He was intended to be a pinch hitter, but Anderson won the starting job in left field when rookie Andre Ethier struggled towards the end of the season.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Mon., Aug. 31, 2015

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall: 1.90 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 9.90 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 33.95 inches

Notes: Today is the 243rd day of 2015 and the 72nd day of Summer. There are 121 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is Franklin's 'Bradley House' the most haunted location in Monroe County?

Old store building in Franklin, Ala.
(The following story about the Bradley House in Franklin, Ala. was originally published in the Aug. 15, 1991 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper in Monroeville, Ala. Published under the title “Things that go ‘bump’ in the night: Do noisy ghosts haunt the Bradley house?,” the story was written by Journal staff writer Anna Thibodeaux.)

Bedtime came early at the Bradley house at Franklin as family members eased out of telling ghost stories and into bed.

Lee Kirkland, who went to the first room on the left side of the hallway, awoke to the sound of footsteps on the wooden floor in his room just before daylight. Moments later he sensed someone staring at him.

Half asleep, he dismissed the visitor as a relative and nodded back off, whispering, “Go to sleep, go to sleep,” not opening his eyes once. At breakfast, the family denied entering Kirkland’s room. Later that day, with thoughts of the mystery still weighing on his mind, he realized the visitor had entered his room without opening the door.

“I didn’t believe in ghosts until it happened to me,” Kirkland told a Journal reporter, recounting the first of two experiences that convinced him ghosts haunt the house where his mother-in-law lives. He will not sleep in the house again.

Conjuring spirits

Kirkland’s tale is one of several reports from relatives who claim mysterious visitors have walked the hallway or visited their rooms during the night (usually early in the morning). Generations of families have lived in the house, and it seems likely spirits of some kind would frequent a house built sometime in the 1800s.

Franklin, one of several communities dotting Alabama Highway 41 from Monroeville, is a place that appears to have been bypassed by the progress that has consumed many other historic landmarks in Monroe County.

The Bradley house is among several 1800s buildings there, offering a rare glimpse of country life that is disappearing in rural Alabama. The house rests in a secluded area just past the Franklin General Store on County Road 17.

Rapping, knocking, door chains rattling, footsteps and sometimes stomping have been reportedly heard in the dark hallway. The hall was built east to west to invite the cooler “gentle winds” of all, Kirkland said.

Necessity has kept the hall at the center of family activity throughout the years. Occupants must enter the hallway to enter or exit the house’s five rooms. But now the passage has seemingly become the place for the lingering spirits of those who may have once walked the hall in life.

Four generations

Four generations of the Bradley, Dubose, Wiggins, Nettles and Bohannon families have made their mark on the house. Their names are carved in the tombstones of the Bradley cemetery, a small burial site surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and concealed in a grove of magnolia trees behind the house. Some of the headstones date back to the late 1700s.

The Bradleys built the house, which has changed hands several times, and the most recent owner is Dr. Charles Rutherford of Mobile. Mrs. Barbara Boothe’s brother leases the property behind the house to farm, and she leases the house.

When entering the dwelling, eyes are immediately drawn upward, up 14 feet where the ceilings tower above the room. The walls cradle nine-foot-high windows, another telling sign of the house’s age, according to Kirkland. The oldest part is constructed of heart pine and bound with wooden pegs. The kitchen and indoor bathroom are later additions.

The house’s longevity attests to the workmanship of its time, and the ghost stories add to its charm.

Mrs. Boothe, who still lives in the house, says the spirits have calmed down some in recent years – and she welcomes the quiet.

“This is the only place I’ve ever known,” she said. “This is home to me.”

Rappings and footsteps

She has never seen the ghosts that walk the Bradley house, while she concedes they have spooked many overnight visitors by walking into rooms and rapping on the walls. Mrs. Boothe keeps a close eye on the buzzer in the hallway in case she has to summon her son-in-law and daughter, Donna, who live in a mobile home nearby.

“I have heard knockings,” she said, adding that she leaves the television on loud to drown out ghost noises. “I don’t play around the hall much after dark. I wait until the next morning.”

Several years ago, on at least three mornings when Mrs. Boothe was helping her daughter prepare for school just before daylight, she noticed lights floating above the cemetery. She observed, “It really looked like a big flashlight moving around the trees.”

Mrs. Boothe and her late husband, Levy, first moved into the house about 45 years ago to care for her ailing parents. Neither parent ever mentioned ghosts to her, but she did not hear footsteps in the hallway while she was there.

Another story recounted by Kirkland is about an aunt who stayed with Mrs. Boothe’s parents overnight. Late at night, the aunt heard someone stomping down the hallway, rattling door chains and banging on the walls. She looked out and saw the chains swinging back and forth on a windless night.

‘Absolutely terrified’

“She was absolutely terrified,” Kirkland said, adding that the aunt and her husband were too scared to call for help. “She was crying. They [she and her husband] were too scared to ring the ball in the hallway.”

So many deaths have occurred and wakes held in the house that identifying the ghosts have proven difficult, Kirkland said. Many general activities have been held there over the years, as well, including prayer meetings through the mid-1900s.

He recounted the story of Dan Bradley, who died of old age in the room where Kirkland spent his first night in the house. Bradley was laid out on the bench on the back porch while family members sought a coffin. That bench is still there today.

“I believe there is another dimension – another side we don’t see,” Kirkland said, glancing back at the hallway. “Very rarely we get a peek at the other side – only by chance.”

Today in History for Aug. 30, 2015

Ty Cobb
Aug. 30, 30 B.C. - Queen Cleopatra of Egypt killed herself with a snake she had smuggled into her chamber where she was held captive by Octavian, formerly the political rival of her lover Mark Antony. Octavian had defeated Cleopatra and Antony at the Battle of Actium and had taken Cleopatra prisoner. When Cleopatra learned that Octavian planned to parade her as part of his triumphant return to Rome, she planned her own suicide.

Aug. 30, 1645 - American Indians and the Dutch made a peace treaty at New Amsterdam. New Amsterdam later became known as New York.

Aug. 30, 1682 - William Penn sailed from England and later established the colony of Pennsylvania in America.

Aug. 30, 1776 - British troops occupied American fortifications on Long Island. George Washington and his 9,000 men had evacuated to Manhattan overnight.

Aug. 30, 1776 - General George Washington gave the New York Convention three reasons for the retreat from Long Island. The reasons were the need to reunite his forces, the extreme fatigue of his soldiers and the lack of proper shelter from the weather.

Aug. 30, 1776 - General George Washington rejected British General William Howe's second letter of reconciliation.

Aug. 30, 1780 - General Benedict Arnold secretly promised to surrender the West Point fort to the British army.

Aug. 30, 1797 – “Frankenstein” author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in Somers Town, London.

Aug. 30, 1800 – Gabriel Prosser postponed a planned slave rebellion in Richmond, Va. but was arrested before he can make it happen.

Aug. 30, 1806 - New York City's second daily newspaper, the "Daily Advertiser," was published for the last time.

Aug. 30, 1813 – About 1,000 Creek Indians under the command of William Weatherford attacked Fort Mims in what is now Baldwin County, Ala., killing over 500 settlers (including over 250 armed militia) gathered there for protection. The attack caused fear and hysteria among frontier settlers, who quickly raised militia companies to fight the Indians in the Creek War of 1813-1814.

Aug. 30, 1825 – Creek chieftain William McIntosh was killed in Carroll County, Ga. by Creeks who believed he betrayed them in his role of getting treaties signed that ceded Creek lands to the U.S. government.

Aug. 30, 1832 – The post office at Walker’s Mill, Ala. (present day Monroeville) had its name officially changed to “Centerville.”

Aug. 30, 1833 – The post office at Centerville, Ala. had its name officially changed to “Monroeville” because there was already a town in Alabama named Centreville.

Aug. 30, 1862 - Confederates defeated Union forces at the Second Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Va.

Aug. 30, 1862 – At the Battle of Richmond, Confederate troops under Edmund Kirby Smith soundly defeated a Union army under General Mahlon D. Manson at Richmond, Ky. Manson and his entire staff were captured. More than 4,300 of the 6,500 Federals were captured, including Manson and his entire staff. Confederate losses stood at 98 killed, 492 wounded, and 10 missing out of 6,800.

Aug. 30, 1862 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred near Larkinsville, Ala. in Jackson County.

Aug. 30, 1868 – Minnie Lee “Miss Minnie” Robbins of Beatrice, Ala., who operated Robbins Hotel (built 1861) as “an elegant haven for commercial men,” was born.

Aug. 30, 1871 – Noble Prize-winning British physicist Ernest Rutherford was born in Brightwater, New Zealand. He is probably best known for developing a model of the atom, after discovering that most of the mass of an atom is concentrated in its tiny nucleus.

Aug. 30, 1873 – The Rev. Pitts Milner, founder of Georgiana, Ala., passed away at the age of 67.

Aug. 30, 1873 – Austrian explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht discovered the archipelago of Franz Josef Land in the Arctic Sea.

Aug. 30, 1885 - 13,000 meteors were seen in one hour near Andromeda.

Aug. 30, 1905 – Baseball legend Ty Cobb made his major league batting debut with the Detroit Tigers.

Aug. 30, 1908 - Officials of the United Mine Workers (UMW) in Birmingham, Ala. called off a bitter coal strike, prompting The Birmingham News to declare that the result would be "Prosperity in the Birmingham District." Workers had walked out of the mines in early July to protest wage conditions, and almost two months of violence ensued. As many as 18,000 black and white workers had joined UMW, but resistance by employers, intervention by Gov. B. B. Comer, and public dissatisfaction broke the strike and debilitated UMW's strength in Birmingham for years.

Aug. 30, 1918 – National Baseball Hall of Fame left fielder Ted Williams was born in San Diego, Calif. He played his entire career for the Boston Red Sox and later managed the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Aug. 30, 1918 - The New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1-0, in a game that only took 57 minutes to play.

Aug. 30, 1925 – During the closing sermon at the end of a three-week revival in Andalusia, Ala., about 5,000 people in a “big, open air tabernacle” watched as 24 masked and white robed members of the Ku Klux Klan silently presented the Rev. Bob Jones with a $1,568 check from Andalusia Klan No. 29. The donation to Jones was believed to be “a record for the amount of such contributions.”

Aug. 30, 1925 – Children’s writer and illustrator Laurent de Brunhoff was born in Paris, France.

Aug. 30, 1943 – Cartoonist R. Crumb was born Robert Dennis Crumb in Philadelphia, Pa.

Aug. 30, 1965 - New York Mets Manager Casey Stengel announced his retirement, ending his 56-year career in professional baseball.

Aug. 30, 1966 - Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a game against St. Louis.

Aug. 30, 1972 - Sparta Academy was scheduled to begin the 1972-73 school year on this Wednesday at 8 a.m. Richard Brown was headmaster.

Aug. 30, 1979 -  A "sungrazer"  known as Comet Howard-Koomen-Michels collided into the sun, reportedly with the impact of one million hydrogen bombs.

Aug. 30, 1984 – The Central of Georgia Depot on Central Street in Andalusia, Ala. was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Aug. 30, 1985 – J.W. Weaver, Superintendent of the City Electrical Department in Evergreen, Ala., retired after 37 years of service to the City of Evergreen.

Aug. 30, 1985 – Lyeffion opened the 1985 football season by blasting Alabama Christian, 60-0, in Montgomery, Ala. Willie King led Lyeffion’s offense with eight carries for 240 yards and five touchdowns.

Aug. 30, 1985 – Evergreen High School beat Wilcox County High School, 26-0, in Camden, Ala.

Aug. 30, 1992 – The 11-day Ruby Ridge standoff ended with Randy Weaver surrendering to federal authorities.

Aug. 30, 1994 - Oasis' first studio album, entitled "Definitely Maybe," was released.

Aug. 30, 1996 - An expedition to raise part of the Titanic failed when the nylon lines being used to raise part of the hull snapped.

Aug. 30, 2002 - The Major League Baseball Players Union and the team owners came to an agreement that avoided a player's strike set to begin on this day.

Aug. 30, 2003 – “My Life Without Me,” a movie version of Alabama author Nanci Kincaid's book “Pretending the Bed Is a Raft,” was released.

Aug. 30, 2007 – The final high school football game between Excel and Frisco City was played in Excel, Ala. Excel won, 22-14, closing out a series that is believed to have begun in 1921.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sun., Aug. 30, 2015

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall: 1.90 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 9.90 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 33.95 inches

Notes: Today is the 242nd day of 2015 and the 71st day of Summer. There are 122 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Singleton believed Alabama River held secrets to many unsolved mysteries

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Watching the deep river run: Alabama River keeps secrets of old steamers” was originally published in the Sept. 20, 1990 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

It would be hard to imagine the many secrets that lie beneath the waters of the Alabama River. Since the time of DeSoto’s crossing near Claiborne, this great river has kept to itself many things.

The coming of the river steamers added greatly to the Alabama’s many secrets. According to the records on hand, there is hardly a mile of river bottom that does not hold the wreckage of a sunken steamer. And hundreds of stories wait in the shadows.

Shortly after moving to Monroe County, I did quite a lot of scuba diving in the river near and around Claiborne. During these dives, I saw many things: parts of old steamers resting on the muddy bottom, steam boilers, and winches that had been used to hoist bales of cotton to the decks of the large boats headed for markets in Mobile and New Orleans. Much of the freight that was aboard the river travelers still can be found in the soft mud on the bottom, where it came to rest after the many tragedies that befell the river steamers.

My good friend and experienced scuba diver, Joe Champion, just a few days ago was diving in the great river near where the old cotton slides were at Claiborne. He tells me that there on the muddy bottom lies the old windlass that was used to hoist up the steep bank the freight that the merchants of Claiborne ordered from points south. He says the long beam that was attached to the wooden windlass drum is still part of the old, mule-drawn equipment.

It seems that the windlass, complete with the beam and all the attachments, was just pushed in the river to get rid of it. Joe has checked on several boats that met their fate between Claiborne and Selma, and he has a collection of items such as minnie balls, cannon shot and bottles recovered from beneath the high banks at Selma. These items were thrown in the river to keep them from falling into the hands of Union forces when the town was overrun during the latter days of the Civil War.

In his spare time, Joe is now doing some research on a sunken steamer near Selma. He hopes to add greatly to his collection before this salvage operation is over. He has some items now on display in the county museum, and we hope he will display more of his findings at a later date.

Who knows, or could even guess, what lies in the deep waters below the site of the old fort at Claiborne? As one stands there and looks into the deep, dark waters below, many things pass through the mind.

One can imagine a careless Union soldier throwing something in the river just to get rid of it. Or, during the Indian wars, a lookout, posted on the high platform that overlooked the river, searching the waters for any movement of war canoes on the glistening surface below.

If one stands quietly and listens to the winds across the high bluffs, one might hear the faint notes of a bugle, calling the troops to muster on the parade ground just east of the old fort site. Or you might look to the south and see a troop of dusty soldiers on horseback, returning to the fort after a long day on patrol in the surrounding countryside.

If you yearn for a period of 12 million years or so ago, climb down to the fossil beds at the water’s edge and dig for fossils that give evidence of the first living creatures on this planet. Pick up a tooth of a great white shark that swam these waters in search of food some several million years back. Imagine some prehistoric animal walking slowly along the bank, grazing on the heavy growth of plant life that was abundant there.

The water of the great river still holds the secrets to many unsolved mysteries. As the water slowly makes its way to the sea, the answers to these mysteries lie silent on the muddy bottom until the time when man seeks to break the deadly silence of the depths of dark water. Perhaps this might never happen, but then again, it just might.

For now, the answers wait. The deep water continue to hold its secrets, and man will stand and wonder as he looks into the depths of the great river and gives thought as to what lies beneath the dark surface.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

Today in History for Aug. 29, 2015

George B. McClellan
Aug. 29, 1498 – Vasco da Gama decided to depart Calicut and return to Kingdom of Portugal.

Aug. 29, 1533 - Atahualpa, the last Incan King of Peru, was murdered on orders from Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. The Inca Empire died with him.

Aug. 29, 1632 – British philosopher John Locke was born in Wrington, Somerset, England. His ideas were a foundation for much of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Aug. 29, 1758 – The first American Indian reservation was established, at Indian Mills, New Jersey.

Aug. 29, 1776 - General George Washington held a meeting with his generals. The Generals agreed that General Miffin's Pennsylvania Regiments should make up the rear guard as the rest of the army withdrew from Brooklyn.

Aug. 29, 1778 – During the American Revolutionary War, British and American forces battled indecisively at the Battle of Rhode Island.

Aug. 29, 1779 - In modern-day Elmira, New York, near the state’s southwestern border with Pennsylvania, Continental forces led by Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton defeated a force of Loyalists and Indians commanded by Captain Walter Butler and Chief Joseph Brant in what is now known as the Battle of Chemung or Newtown, N.Y.

Aug. 29, 1813 – Paddy Welsh and William Weatherford hid their main force in the woods and tall grass about six miles from Fort Mims, where soldiers and settlers were enjoying a supply of whiskey that had arrived that day.

August 29, 1813 - Two black slaves tending cattle outside Fort Mims also reported that "painted warriors" were in the vicinity, but mounted scouts from the fort found no signs of the war party. To the detriment of Fort Mims, Major Daniel Beasley had the second slave flogged for "raising a false alarm."

Aug. 29, 1861 – During the Civil War, in North Carolina, Confederate troops at Fort Hatteras surrendered after a two-day battle.

Aug. 29, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Morse's Mill, Mo.

Aug. 29, 1862 - Confederate General Robert E. Lee dealt a stinging defeat to Union General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia—a battle that arose out of the failure of Union General George McClellan’s Peninsular campaign earlier in the summer.

Aug. 29, 1863 – The H.L. Hunley submarine sank during training exercise, killing five of her crew.

Aug. 29, 1863 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Carperton's Ferry, Ala.

Aug. 29, 1864 - Democrats nominated George B. McClellan for president to run against the Republican incumbent, Abraham Lincoln.

Aug. 29, 1885 - The first prizefight under the Marquis of Queensberry Rules was held in Cincinnati, Ohio. John L. Sullivan defeated Dominick McCaffery in six rounds.

Aug. 29, 1892 – “Pop” Billy Shriver of the Chicago Cubs caught a ball that was dropped from the top of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

Aug. 29, 1895 – The Monroe Journal reported that “work on the Monroeville Academy building goes bravely on. The outside walls have already been put up and the materials for the interior work are on the ground and being put in place as rapidly as possible. The dimensions of the building are 36 x 60 feet, which will afford ample room for present necessities.”

Aug. 29, 1896 – The first issue of The Monroe Democrat newspaper was published by D.M. Gordon and associates. That newspaper moved to Daphne, Ala. about two years later.

Aug. 29, 1900 - William Carver, Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a Union Pacific train of more than $30,000 near Tipton, Wyoming.

Aug. 29, 1911 – State Superintendent of Education Henry J. Willingham and State Auditor C. Brooks Smith visited Monroeville and Jones Mill (now Frisco City) to announce that the state high school commission had awarded Monroeville the County High School by a unanimous vote on Aug. 24.

Aug. 29, 1911 – The 19th Annual Session of the Second District Agricultural School opened in Evergreen, Ala. with Henry T. Lile as President.

Aug. 29, 1911 – The Evergreen Motor Car Co., which “featured entirely and completely Ford automobiles and Ford products,” was established by C.P. Deming Sr., H.W. Dunn, W.B. Ivey and R.B. Lee. It operated under that name in the same block on Rural Street until Sept. 1, 1955 when it sold out to Bryon Warren, who changed the name to Warren Ford Co.

Aug. 29, 1911 – Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerged from the wilderness of northeastern California.

Aug. 29, 1918 – Laula M. Middleton was born near Evergreen, Ala. He would later become a military pilot and would be killed in World War II. Evergreen’s airport was later named in his honor. A memorial marker for Middleton came be found in Belleville United Methodist Church Cemetery.

Aug., 29, 1920 – Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas.

Aug. 29, 1922 – The first radio advertisement was broadcast on WEAF-AM in New York City. The Queensboro Realty Company bought 10 minutes of time for$100.

Aug. 29, 1940 – Evergreen’s Rotary Club defeated Brewton’s Rotary Club, 19-9, in a softball game in Brewton, Ala.

Aug. 29, 1941 -  “The Pittsburgh Kid,” a movie version of Alabama author Octavus Roy Cohen's book “Kid Tinsel,” was released.

Aug. 29, 1951 – The final issue of “The Frisco City Sun” was published. The first issue was published on June 6, 1950.

Aug. 29, 1957 – Future NFL player Benjamin Rudolph born in Evergreen.

Aug. 29, 1958 – The United States Air Force Academy opened in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Aug. 29, 1971 - Hank Aaron became the first baseball player in the National League to hit 100 or more runs in each of 11 seasons.

Aug. 29, 1971 - Alabama author Emma Gelders Sterne died in San Jose, Calif.

Aug. 29, 1973 - U.S. President Richard Nixon was ordered by Judge John Sirica to turn over the Watergate tapes. Nixon refused and appealed the order.

Aug. 29, 1977 - Lou Brock brought his total of stolen bases to 893. The record he beat had been held by Ty Cobb for 49 years.

Aug. 29, 1983 - The anchor of the USS Monitor from the U.S. Civil War was retrieved by divers.

Aug. 29, 1985 – Sparta Academy opened the 1985 football season with a 34-12 win over Greenville Academy at Stuart-McGehee Field in Evergreen, Ala. Chad Grace and Danny Reed led Sparta’s offense with two touchdowns each, and Mark Rigsby, who also scored a touchdown, led the defense with eight solos, six assists, an interceptions and two caused fumbles.

Aug. 29, 1987 – Evergreen Mayor Pat Poole and Anthony Baker, the president of Polyfelt, were scheduled to appear on television on Evelyn Babcock’s weekend show, “Update,” on WAKA-TV in Selma, Ala. at 6:30 a.m. Babcock invited Poole and Baker to be on the show to discuss how Polyfelt selected Evergreen as the city to build its manufacturing plant.

Aug. 29, 1988 – Public schools in Conecuh County, Ala. opened on this day to start the 1988-89 school year.

Aug. 29, 1989 – English explorer and painter Peter Scott passed away at the age of 79 in Bristol, England.

Aug. 29, 1990 - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in a television interview, declared that America could not defeat Iraq.

Aug. 29, 2003 – Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Shia Muslim leader in Iraq, was assassinated in a terrorist bombing, along with nearly 100 worshipers as they left a mosque in Najaf.

Aug. 29, 2005 - Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, made landfall on the Louisiana coast, and became one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history. Katrina left a wake of destruction stretching across the northern Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida, killing an estimated 1,836 people and causing over $108 billion in damage. Before it reached land, it was the strongest hurricane ever measured in the Gulf of Mexico, with winds of up to 175 miles per hour.

Aug. 29, 2008 – Hillcrest High School upset Class 6A Theodore, 21-20, at Brooks Memorial Stadium in Evergreen, Ala. The game included Theodore junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, who would go on to star at Alabama and to be selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., Aug. 29, 2015

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall: 1.90 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 9.90 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 33.95 inches

Notes: Today is the 241st day of 2015 and the 70th day of Summer. There are 123 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, August 28, 2015

'WALK TO MORDOR' UPDATE: 314 miles down and 1,485 miles to go

I continued my (virtual) “Walk to Mordor” during the past week by logging nine more miles since my last update. I walked/jogged three miles on Sunday, three more on Tuesday and three more miles yesterday (Thursday). So far, I’ve logged 314 total miles on this virtual trip to Mount Doom, and I’ve got 1,485 more miles to go before I reach Mordor. All in all, I’ve completed about 17.5 percent of the total trip.


In relation to Frodo’s journey, I’m on the eighteenth day of his trip, which is Oct. 10 on the Middle Earth calendar. I left off on my last update at Mile 305, which was seven miles from where Frodo’s group camped at the end of Day 17. I’ve covered nine additional miles past that point, which puts me just three miles from the end of Day 18.


Frodo’s group covers a total of 19 total miles on Day 18, which is the fourth from Weathertop. The next significant milestone comes at Mile 317, where the group camps before continuing to travel along the valley.


For those of you reading this for the first time, I began this “Walk to Mordor” fitness challenge on Jan. 1. Using a book called “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” by Karen Wynn Fonstad, fans of “The Lord of the Rings” created this challenge by mapping out Frodo’s fictional trek to Mordor, calculating the total distance at 1,799 miles. They also used the original "Lord of the Rings" text to outline the journey, so you can follow their route by keeping up with your total mileage.


The folks who worked out the nuts and bolts of this virtual journey have divided it into four parts. It’s 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 462 miles from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien, 389 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls and 470 miles from Rauros to Mount Doom. (Those locations should sound very familiar to “Lord of the Rings” fans.) The hobbits averaged 18 miles a day, but if you walk (or jog, as I sometimes do) five miles a day, it’s possible to cover 1,799 miles in a year.


If you’re interested in learning more about the “Walk to Mordor Challenge,” I suggest you check out two Web sites, and Both of these sites provide a ton of details about the challenge, including how to get started.


In the end, check back next Friday for another update and to see how much closer I am to Mordor. I hope to knock out at least 10 more miles next week, and I’ll include all that in my update next week.

Today in History for Aug. 28, 2015

Edgeworth David
Aug. 28, 1609 - Delaware Bay was discovered by Henry Hudson.

Aug. 28, 1749 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the father of German literature and the author of the epic drama “Faust,” was born in Frankfurt.

Aug. 28, 1774 - Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in New York City. She went on to found the first Catholic school and the first female apostolic community in the United States. She was also the first American-born saint beatified by the Roman Catholic Church.

Aug. 28, 1776 - General George Washington ordered 1,200 more men from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Aug. 28, 1833 – The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 received Royal Assent, abolishing slavery through most of the British Empire.

Aug. 28, 1845 – The first issue of Scientific American magazine was published. It’s the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, and it started as a four-page weekly newsletter.

Aug. 28, 1859 – The Carrington event disrupted electrical telegraph services and caused aurora to shine so brightly that they are seen clearly over the Earth's middle latitudes.

Aug. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, Union forces attacked Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in the Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries, which lasted for two days. This closed an important outlet from Pamlico Sound for Confederate blockade runners. Its propaganda value was vastly greater. It was the first Federal incursion of Confederate soil in the Carolinas since secession, and caused rejoicing in the North, and corresponding despondency in the South, all out of proportion to its true value.

Aug. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Ball's Mill, Mo.

Aug. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Ball's Cross Roads and near Baily's Cross Roads, Va.

Aug. 28-30, 1862 – The Second Battle of Manassas (Second Bull Run) took place in Prince William County, Va. and four members of the Conecuh Guards were killed there - Thomas Robertson, Joseph Stallworth, James H. Thomas (who’d been wounded earlier at Seven Pines on May, 31, 1862) and Jasper Newton Stinson (who’d been promoted to color sergeant of the Fourth Alabama Regiment about a month before). Five other members of the Conecuh Guards were wounded - 1st Lt. Alfred Christian, 1st Lt. John G. Guice (who was wounded in two places, lost a leg and was honorably discharged), William Morrow (who was later wounded at Spotsylvania Court House in May 1864 and returned to live in Mobile County after war), Buck Stuckey (who would be killed at the Battle of Darbytown Road in September 1864) and Francis M. Sampey (who would be wounded later near Farmville, Va. in April 1865 and die in Selma in 1874).

Aug. 28, 1862 - Confederate General Braxton Bragg captured a Union garrison at Mumfordsvilled, Ky.

Aug. 28, 1863 - Confederate Naval Lt. George W. Gift paid a visit to the shipyard above Mobile Bay, Ala. to observe the progress in construction of the two vessels, the Tennessee and Nashville.

Aug. 28, 1864 - Union General Alfred Terry was promoted from brigadier general to major general in the United States Volunteers.

Aug. 28, 1869 - Convinced they would have a better chance surviving the desert than the raging rapids that lay ahead, three men (Seneca Howland, O.G. Howland and William H. Dunn) left John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the Grand Canyon and scaled the cliffs to the plateau above. When Powell reached the nearest settlement, he learned that the three men who left had encountered a war party of Shivwit Indians and were killed.

Aug. 28, 1895 – Monroe Masonic Lodge, No. 485, was scheduled to hold its regular communication at 10 a.m. at River Ridge, Ala. A.H. Johnson was the lodge’s secretary.

Aug. 28, 1895 – Col. B.L. Hibbard left on this Wednesday for Birmingham, Ala. to attend the Midsummer Carnival of United Confederate Veterans, given under the auspices of Camp Hardee, of which he was a member. Hibbard was on the program for an address on the theme, “Fraternal Patriotism.”

Aug. 28, 1898 – Caleb Bradham invented the carbonated soft drink that will later be called "Pepsi-Cola."

Aug. 28, 1906 – British poet laureate John Betjeman was born in the Highgate section of London.

Aug. 28, 1914 – N.B. Jones, a “well known and highly esteemed citizen of Evergreen,” passed away at his home on Pecan Street at the age of 73. (Some sources say he died on Aug. 26.) A former Evergreen postmaster, merchant and farmer, he was also a Confederate veteran and a member of Camp Capt. Wm. Lee, U.C.V. and of Armor Lodge, No. 31, Knights of Pythias. Born at Fort Decatur, Macon County, Ala. on Nov. 21, 1841. Moved to Butler County with his family in 1858 and joined the Confederate Army in 1862, serving with Capt. Isbell’s company from Talladega County, which was part of the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment. He served in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, and was taken prisoner during the battle and siege at Port Hudson. He was later exchanged and was sent with his regiment to Georgia. He was later severly wounded in the Battle at New Hope Church, which closed his active service, but he served on detail duty until the end of the war. He and his family moved to Conecuh County in 1865.

Aug. 28, 1922 - The first radio commercial aired on WEAF in New York City. The Queensboro Realty Company bought 10 minutes of time for$100.

Aug. 28, 1934 – Welsh-Australian geologist and explorer Edgeworth David passed away at the age of 76 in Sydney, Australia. A household name in his lifetime, David's most significant achievements were discovering the major Hunter Valley coalfield in New South Wales and leading the first expedition to reach the South Magnetic Pole. He also served with distinction in World War I.

Aug. 28, 1941 - The Football Writers Association of America was organized.

Aug. 28, 1955 – In Sunday afternoon baseball action, McKenzie beat Paul, 9-3.

Aug. 28, 1963 – In a disappearance attributed to the “Bermuda Triangle,” two new KC-135, four-engine jet Stratotankers, on a refueling mission out of Homestead Air Force Base, Fla. on their way to a classified refueling range in the Atlantic, disappeared shortly after giving their position as 300 miles southwest of Bermuda.

Aug. 28, 1963 - Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.

Aug. 28, 1981 – Leroy, Ala. native Kelvin Moore would make his major league debut, playing first base for the Oakland A’s against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston. Oakland lost, 12-5. Batting fifth, Moore went 1-for-4, his hit coming on a single to center field in the top of the eighth.

Aug. 28, 1981 - "The New York Daily News" published its final afternoon edition.

Aug. 28, 1981 - John Hinckley, Jr. pled innocent to the charge of attempting to kill U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley was later acquitted by reason of insanity.

Aug. 28, 1985 – Hurricane Elena, which destroyed about 300 coastal Alabama homes, formed in the Atlantic. The hurricane did very little damage in Conecuh County, but did knock out power to a number of homes.

Aug. 28, 1985 – ABC Agent Dennis Farr, Conecuh County Sheriff’s Deputy Jimmy Lambert and Conversation Officer Glenn McDaniel destroyed an illegal liquor still in the Lenox community. No arrests were made in connection with the still, which was capable of making between 20 and 25 gallons of moonshine at a time.

Aug. 28, 1986 – Six historic districts in Greenville, Ala. were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Those districts included the Commerce Street Residential Historic District, the Fort Dale-College Street Historic District, the King Street Historic District, the South Greenville Historic District, the South Street Historic District and the West Commerce Street Historic District.

Aug. 28, 1987 – Evergreen High School was scheduled to open the season against J.F. Shields at Brooks Memorial Stadium in Evergreen, Ala. at 7:30 p.m. Projected offensive starters for Evergreen included Travis Stallworth, tight end; Patrick Atkins, tackle; James Gross, guard; Craig Blackburn, center; Russell Meeks, guard; Scott Jones, tackle; Marvin Cunningham, split end; Tony Simpson, tailback; Steve Cunningham, fullback; Jack Harvey, quarterback; and Greg Stanton, tailback. Projected defensive starters for Evergreen included Craig Palmer, James Gross, Patrick Atkins, James Grace, Travis Stallworth, Greg Stanton, Tony Simpson, Russell Meeks, Earl Johnson, Steve Cunningham and Marvin Cunningham.

Aug. 28, 1988 - Sixty-nine spectators were killed when three jets collided at an air show in Germany. The carnage from the accident was horrific, as debris and jet fuel covered the crowd below. It would be three years before Germany allowed another air show to be held, this time with more stringent safety precautions.

Aug. 28, 1990 - Iraq declared Kuwait to be its 19th province and renamed Kuwait City al-Kadhima.

Aug. 28, 2005 - Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast of the United States. At least 1,200 people were killed in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Aug. 28, 2008 – The Beda Cemetery and Butler Cemetery in Covington County, Ala. were added to the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Aug. 28, 2015

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall: 1.90 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 9.90 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 33.95 inches

Notes: Today is the 240th day of 2015 and the 69th day of Summer. There are 124 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Frank Shaughnessy was the invention of the Shaughnessy playoff system

Frank 'Shag' Shaughnessy
While preparing this week’s Sports Flashback feature, I ran across a sports-related term that I had never heard before, that is, a Shaughnessy playoff.

To find out what it meant, I do what almost all of us do nowadays, I Googled it. According to the results, this playoff system is used to determine a champion in a sports league that isn’t divided into separate divisions. Invented in 1933 by baseball manager and executive Frank Shaughnessy, this playoff system pits the top four teams in the final league standings in a single elimination tournament.

In the first round, the first and fourth place teams play each other and the second and third place teams play each other. The winners of those two games, play each other in the finals to determine the overall champion.

Shaughnessy was a pretty interesting guy. Born in Illinois in 1884, he went on to play football and baseball at Notre Dame before moving on to a professional baseball career with the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) and the Philadelphia Athletics (now the Oakland Athletics). Later, he became the general manager of the Montreal Royals minor league baseball team, and during that time he invented the Shaughnessy playoff system.

This playoff system became popular and has since been widely used by minor league baseball leagues for years and years. Later, it even spread to other sports leagues, including several now-defunct American professional and minor league football leagues.

If you take a look down the page at this week’s Sports Flashback feature, you’ll see where in August of 1957, the Conecuh County Amateur Baseball League used the Shaughnessy playoff system to determine its champion. However, the story in The Courant mentions that this playoff was also a round robin series, which implies that each team played all the others in turn. In other words, they used some variation of the old Shaughnessy system.

Plus, the 1957 Conecuh County Amateur Baseball League playoff also appears to have involved more than just four teams. At the end of the regular season, Evergreen was in first place, Garland was in second, Paul was in third, Castleberry was in fourth, Red Level was in fifth and Lyeffion was in sixth.

In the finals, Lyeffion, the sixth-place team, was facing Castleberry, the fourth place team. In a true Shaughnessy playoff, Lyeffion and Red Level would not have been eligible for competition.

Another thing that I found odd about the 1957 Conecuh County Amateur Baseball League playoffs was the fact that the finals were scheduled to be played in Brewton, which didn’t have a team in the league. While I don’t know, it is possible, but probably not likely, that Castleberry played its home games in Brewton during that particular season.

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If you’re still interested in signing up to compete in our local ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em contest, you still have plenty of time to do so. To sign up, visit and register. Our local group is called the “South Alabama FB Experts,” and the password to get into the group is “football.”

As of this writing (Monday), only nine people, including me, have signed up, so I hope more of you will join the fun before the contest begins on Sept. 5. For the record, Glennis Curry is the reigning local contest champion, but he has yet to sign up for this year’s contest. In other words, at this point, there’s plenty of room for someone who thinks they can take top honors this year.

New 'Railroad Bill' book is a must read for Alabama history buffs

For those of you in the reading audience who enjoy local history, I highly recommend a new book by Larry L. Massey called “The Life and Crimes of Railroad Bill: Legendary African American Desperado.”

To be published by the University Press of Florida on Sept. 8, this 192-page book examines the criminal career of one of Alabama’s most famous outlaws, a Robin Hood-type figure who was wanted on multiple charges of robbery and murder up and down the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in the 1890s.

For those of you unfamiliar with Railroad Bill, most sources agree that his real name was Morris Slater, who probably came to Southwest Alabama and the Florida Panhandle from South Carolina in the 1890s to work in the turpentine mills. Slater first ran afoul of the law in Florida when officers tried to arrest him for carrying a repeating rifle without a license in 1894. This led to a gunfight with a deputy and Slater’s ability to elude the ensuing manhunts made him one of the most famous outlaws in Alabama and Florida history.

About a year later, in July 1895, Slater became perhaps the most wanted man in the South when he shot and killed Escambia County Sheriff Edward S. McMillan of Brewton. McMillan had vowed to bring Slater to justice, but Slater got the upper hand in the end. A massive manhunt was launched and this led to one of the most famous episodes of Slater’s criminal career, “The Castleberry Chase.”

During “The Castleberry Chase,” which Massey devotes an entire chapter to in his book, Slater took to the swamps along Murder Creek between Brewton and Castleberry and managed to outwit and escape a massive manhunt that was composed of dozens of armed men and state prison bloodhounds. Despite their best efforts, the manhunt was eventually called off after the fleet-footed Slater managed to out-run, out-hide and out-think the men that were hot on his track. The fact that Slater was also a deadly shot with his famous Winchester rifle also aided in his escape.

Slater’s ability to elude these manhunters, which included a wide variety of Sheriff’s deputies, reward-hungry bounty hunters and professional Pinkerton and L&N Railroad detectives, was such a big deal that Slater began to gain the reputation as a supernatural shape-shifter. All kinds of stories began to circulate that Slater could escape by turning himself into an animal and even inanimate objects. Slater apparently fostered many of these stories, which only added to the mystique around him and caused many to help him out of sheer fear.

Of course, Slater came to a bad end. In March 1896, Constable James Leonard McGowin shot and killed Slater in the Tidmore & Ward’s Store on Ashley Street in Atmore. Massey’s book gives a vivid description of this incident and of how Slater’s body was shuffled around in the following days as hundreds of onlookers tried to get a firsthand look at the famous outlaw’s corpse before its final burial in a Pensacola graveyard.

In the end, I highly recommend this book to anyone in the reading audience with an interest in local history. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better book on Railroad Bill, and it’s worth every penny. The book won’t officially be released until Sept. 8, but you can pre-order copies of the book online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Today in History for Aug. 27, 2015

Hannibal Hamlin
Aug. 27, 1776 - British forces under General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard viscount Howe, defeated Patriot forces under General George Washington at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights in New York.

Aug. 27, 1809 - Hannibal Hamlin, the 15th Vice President of the United States, who served under President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, was born in Paris, Maine.

Aug. 27, 1846 – Samuel G. Portis was commissioned as Monroe County, Alabama’s Sheriff.

Aug. 27, 1856 – R. Hunley Agee was born at Perdue Hill, Ala. He later became the president of the R.H.&W.C. Agee Grocery Co. and one of Selma’s leading businessmen. He served as a member of Selma’s city council and as city tax assessor for two years.

Aug. 27, 1858 - The first cabled news dispatch was sent and was published by "The New York Sun" newspaper. The story was about the peace demands of England and France being met by China.

Aug. 27, 1859 – Petroleum was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania leading to the world's first commercially successful oil well. It's been called "the most important oil well ever drilled" because it marked the beginning of the modern petroleum age. Petroleum had been discovered elsewhere, of course, but this was the first well successfully drilled in search of the stuff.

Aug. 27, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at the Antietam Iron Works in Maryland.

Aug. 27, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Ball’s Crossroad, Va.

Aug. 27, 1861 – During the Civil War, King Kamehameha IV announced that his nation, Hawaii, would observe neutrality in the hostilities. This simplified matters for Pacific naval operations of both sides, but had little diplomatic effect.

Aug. 27, 1861 - Union ships sailed into Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, beginning a two-day operation to secure the area for the Federals and denying the Confederates an important outlet to the Atlantic. The capture of Cape Hatteras was an important victory for the Union, especially after the disaster at the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, one month earlier. It also gave the Union a toehold on the North Carolina coast, and it sealed an important outlet to the Atlantic.

Aug. 27, 1862 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Bridgeport, Alabama.

Aug. 27, 1865 - Charles Dawes, the 30th U.S. Vice President, who served under President Calvin Coolidge, was born in Marietta, Ohio.

Aug. 27, 1871 – Novelist Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He’s the author of several novels, most notably “Sister Carrie” (1900) and “An American Tragedy” (1925).

Aug. 27, 1899 – Novelist C.S. Forester was born Cecil Smith in Cairo, Egypt.

Aug. 27, 1908 - Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was born in Stonewall, Texas.

Aug. 27, 1914 – Brewton and Monroeville played a baseball double header in Brewton, Ala. Brewton won the first game, 3-2, and Monroeville won the second game, 1-0.

Aug. 27, 1921 - The owner of Acme Packing Company bought a pro football team for Green Bay, Wisc. J.E. Clair paid tribute to those who worked in his plant by naming the team the Green Bay Packers.

Aug. 27, 1921 – The British installed the son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali (leader of the Arab Revolt of 1916 against the Ottoman Empire) as King Faisal I of Iraq.

Aug. 27, 1937 - The movie “Dead End,” screenplay by Alabama author Lillian Hellman, was released.

Aug. 27, 1938 – Phyllis Newcombe, 22, died after spontaneously combusting in front of numerous witnesses around midnight during a dance at the Chelmsford Shire Hall in England.

Aug. 27, 1942 – The Evergreen Courant reported that construction of the Halso Mill Bridge over Pigeon Creek on Oaky Streak Road in Butler County, 10 miles southwest of Greenville, had been completed. At 920 feet, the bridge was the longest bridge in the Butler County. It was 20-1/2 feet wide and rested on 300 pilings and was constructed of creosoted timbers.

Aug. 27, 1943 - The USS Eldridge was officially commissioned with Lieutenant C. R. Hamilton, USNR, in command.

Aug. 27, 1943 - A movie version of Alabama author Lillian Hellman's play “Watch on the Rhine” was released.

Aug. 27, 1949 – Jeff Cook, who is best known as one of the founding members of the country music group Alabama, was born in Fort Payne, Ala.

Aug. 27, 1953 – Inverness, Ala. native Billy Hitchcock appeared in his final Major League Baseball game, taking the field one last time for the Detroit Tigers.

Aug. 27, 1955 – The first edition of the “Guinness Book of World Records” was printed.

Aug. 27, 1964 – Baldwin County High School principal C.V. Daniels announced that Vance McCrory of Frisco City had been named assistant coach and science teacher at Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette, Ala.

Aug. 27, 1969 – Alabama native Oscar Gamble made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago Cubs.

Aug. 27, 1976 – In Charles Branum’s debut as Evergreen High School’s head football coach, Evergreen lost to W.S. Neal, 19-0, in East Brewton. Tony Rogers led the offense and the defense with nine solos and five assists.

Aug. 27, 1981 – Mike Qualls’ long-running “From the Sidelines” sports column made its first appearance in The Monroe Journal.

Aug. 27, 1982 - Oakland Athletics outfielder Rickey Henderson stole his 119th base of the year, breaking Hall of Famer Lou Brock's 1979 record for stolen bases in a season.

Aug. 27, 1985 – “Claiborne-Murphy Bridge” at Claiborne, which opened to traffic in October 1930, was demolished, replaced by more modern bridge.

Aug. 27, 1986 – Excel’s Scott Bell played offensive tackle for the University of Alabama in the Tide’s 16-10 win over Ohio State in the “Kickoff Classic” in New York City. Between his careers at Excel and Alabama, he played OT at Miss. Delta Jr. College, where he was named to the Miss. Jr. College Conf. All-State Football Team in 1985.

Aug. 27, 1986 - Nolan Ryan of the Houston Astros earned his 250th career win against the Chicago Cubs.

Aug. 27, 1990 – Conecuh County public schools were scheduled to open for the first day of classes for students. Steve Coker was Conecuh County’s Superintendent of Education.

Aug. 27, 1990 - The U.S. State Department ordered the expulsion of 36 Iraqi diplomats. Fifty-two Americans also reached Turkey after leaving Iraq, and three young American men were detained by the Iraqis.

Aug. 27, 1994 - The largest mass balloon release --a staggering 1,592,744 balloons-- was staged by Disney Home Video in Wilts, UK.

Aug. 27, 2003 – Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, passing 34,646,418 miles distant.

Aug. 27, 2007 - Michael Vick, a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, formally pleaded guilty before a Richmond, Va., judge to a federal felony charge related to running a dogfighting ring.

Aug. 27, 2014 – Former Conecuh County Superintendent of Education, principal, teacher and coach Walter B. Hudson Jr. of Evergreen passed away at the age of 85 at West Florida Regional Medical Center in Pensacola, Fla. A native of Louisville, Ala., he served in Japan with the U.S. Air Force. He was buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Evergreen.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., Aug. 27, 2015

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall: 1.90 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 9.90 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 33.95 inches

Notes: Today is the 239th day of 2015 and the 68th day of Summer. There are 125 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Aug. 26, 2015

AUG. 27, 1987

“Warrior blanks Sparta, 21-0: Warrior Academy blanked the Sparta Academy Warriors, 21-0, Saturday night in Eutaw. Neither team showed much offense, but the Braves took advantage of several breaks and Warrior miscues to score their points.
“Robbie Bolton had 15 yards on four carries; Lee Wild, 10 on 12; Kenny Bledsoe, 15 on nine; and Jamie Deason, seven on five.
“Bledsoe completed five of eight pass attempts for 24 yards and was intercepted once. Brad Watts was incomplete on two tosses. Jeff Carrier had two catches for 21 yards; Watts, one for nine; Craig Blackburn, one for one; and Deason, one for a loss of seven yards, according to Sparta Sports Information Director Byron Warren Jr.”

“This is probably the way the Evergreen High Aggies will line up on offense here Friday night when they meet J.F. Shields in Brooks Stadium in the season-opener at 7:30: Travis Stallworth, tight end; Patrick Atkins, tackle; James Gross, guard; Craig Blackburn, center; Russell Meeks, guard; Scott Jones, tackle; Marvin Cunningham, split end; Tony Simpson, tailback; Steve Cunningham, fullback; Jack Harvey, quarterback; and Greg Stanton, tailback.”

“Probable starters on defense for the Evergreen Aggies (are) Craig Palmer, James Gross, Patrick Atkins, James Grace, Travis Stallworth, Greg Stanton, Tony Simpson, Russell Meeks, Earl Johnson, Steve Cunningham and Marvin Cunningham.”

AUG. 24, 1972

“Jaycees drop Pee Wee football: The Evergreen Jaycees regret that they will not be able to sponsor their previously planned Pee Wee football program. The decision to drop the program from their list of projects was made due to a lack of coaching help and due to the cost of the program.”

AUG. 22, 1957

“Local Baseball Play Ends Sun., Lyeffion Takes On Castleberry: The Conecuh County Amateur League is winding up its season Sunday with the finals of the Shaughnessy playoffs in Brewton at 1:30. The round robin series finalists are Lyeffion and Castleberry. A large crowd from the vicinity of Lyeffion and Castleberry, and from other league communities, is expected to be on hand to see who winds up the winner.
“Robert Dees will pitch for Lyeffion, and Red Green will start for Castleberry. In Lyeffion’s last outing, Dees struck out 16 men as Lyeffion gained the finals with a 3-2 victory over Paul. Green is also an outstanding pitcher.
“The Evergreen entry in the league took the pennant during the regular season play, but was eliminated early in the Shaughnessy playoffs. This is the first time in several years Evergreen has had a team in the league. Another new entry in the circuit was Castleberry, and League President Bernard Powell stated that both teams played an outstanding brand of ball. Prospects for the league next year look good, according to Powell, and it is believed that all teams presently in the circuit will field strong entries next season.
“Final standings of the Conecuh County Amateur League: 1. Evergreen, 2. Garland, 3. Paul, 4. Castleberry, 5. Red Level, 6. Lyeffion.”

“Evergreen High Aggies Begin Workouts On Friday Morning: First Game Will Be In Atmore On Sept. 13: Football practice for the 1957 version of the Evergreen High School Aggies begins officially Friday morning at 5 a.m., according to Coach Wendell Hart. He said it would be much cooler that time of the day, for the preliminary workouts.
“Thirteen lettermen will be returning, with eight in the line and five in the backfield. Expected to provide a lot of experience in the line will be: Howard Claybrook, Paul Pace, George Bolton, Bobby English, Robert Daniels, Byron Warren and Jerry Mitchell. Thought to be lost to the team this year was Zeke Zukowski, but he will return as the captain of the squad.
“In the backfield, returning stalwarts will be: Robert Ellington, who will alternate at halfback and quarterback, Robbie Boykin, Jimmy Moorer, Billy Grace and Jimmy Bell. Also returning will be Ceylon Strong.
“The line is expected to be medium, but fast. Several large boys, with little experience, but lots of determination, are expected to turn out: Wayne Peacock, who weighs about 225; Dale Wiggins, who will weigh in at about 195; and Cleveland Brown, who probably weighs over 200.
“Coach Hart’s load is expected to be lighter this year, with the addition of Jeff Moorer to the coaching staff, as assistant coach. Jeff was the assistant coach last year at Andalusia High.”

AUG. 27, 1942

“Aid And Guide To Alabama Fishermen: The fish and game division of the Alabama Department of Conservation is endeavoring to aid all Alabama fishermen, and in the past few days has issued fishing reports on lakes and streams of 23 North Alabama counties, 15 counties in Central and 14 counties in South Alabama. The reports tell fishermen when, where and how fish are biting, the kinds of bait to use and other details. However, the department does not guarantee that all fishermen will ‘catch the limit.’ Fishermen must plan their own trips, furnish their own equipment, including yard sticks and scales, and formulate their own post-trip yarns.”

AUG. 25, 1927

“Fishing Tackle: We sell to EXPERT FISHERMEN who fish from South Florida to Northern Wisconsin and they tell us that we have the best line of FRESH WATER TACKLE that can be found in any town of this size. Also have a full line of Gold Medal Camp Equipment. – WILD BROS. HARDWARE CO. – Evergreen, Alabama.”

“GUNS & AMMUNITION: Large Stock to Choose From at Right Prices: Single Barrel Guns - $8.50 to $15.00; Double Barrel Guns - $22.50 to $50.00; Winchester Pumps, Browning Automatics and Rifles. A Complete Stock of Rifle and Pistol Cartridges – RUTLAND HARDWARD COMPANY – ‘Always Reliable’ – Evergreen, Alabama.”