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Wigwam Village

Somehow a Tweet about Wigwam Villages showed up in my feed today. I have no idea why. For those of you who are too young or not lucky enough to live in Birmingham back in the 50’s, you may have no clue what I am talking about.

After we got our first car in 1949, my parents liked to go on Sunday drives around Birmingham. Because we lived in the west end of town, West End, to be exact, we were closer to downtown Bessemer than we were to downtown Birmingham. So, many of our Sunday drives took us that way. We would pile in the car – Momma drove since my dad did not know how – Dean and I in the back seat. We drove over to Lomb Avenue and followed it Southeast until we hit Highway 11. Bessemer Road as it was known then, a main drag if there ever was one. We would drive south past the coke plants and steel mills that so stunk up our air, through Bessemer toward Tuscaloosa, though I cannot remember ever going all the way there.

There was a restaurant downtown Bessemer owned by a friend of my father. We did not eat out often and when we did it would be a restaurant where we could get family-style meals at a cheap price. I cannot recall the name of that restaurant now, and I am sure it ceased to exist long ago.

But the highlight of the trip for Dean and I was the Wigwam motor hotel just about midway between the Alabama Fairgrounds and downtown Bessemer. You could not miss it. 15 silver teepees surrounding an even larger central teepee containing the restaurant. The Wigwam Village, as it was called, opened in 1940, the fifth of seven eventually built across the country. My understanding is it was torn down in 1964 when I was in my first year at the Academy.

Dean and I loved to argue with my father about the name. You see, Dean and I watched Hop-along Cassidy on our new TV and we knew that the “wigwams” were really teepees. Wigwams, we tried to convince my father, were short and squatty, not tall and pointed. But he never listened to us and just said, “Then why did the rich man who built Wigwam Village call them wigwams?”

Unfortunately, our arguing with him meant he would never agree to stop the car and let us explore them. So, we drove by, always missing our chance to go in a real teepee.

That is until one cold December day in 1951. My birthday fell on a Sunday that year and I guess my father decided to give in to our pleas because of that when we drove by the teepees on the way to Bessemer. Mother pulled into the gravel parking lot and parked by the big restaurant teepee.

“How would you like to eat dinner here?” he said. We were ecstatic and could not wait to get out of the car and run inside. I honestly cannot remember what we had to eat. More than likely, we had vegetable plates because they were usually the cheapest dinners on the menu. We gobbled our food down and ran around the restaurant looking at the sloping walls. Mom talked to the manager and he let us into one of the wigwam cabins. I cannot remember much about the inside – just a bed and a bathroom. But you could look up at the top of the teepee and see out because there was a window up there, just down a bit from the peak.

The photo below was taken Dec 6, 1951, just four days after we were there.

Don’t Give Them Clicks

clicktivism-clicks-count-1-1024

Just thinking out loud.

Clicks count.

Data is the new form of currency and clicks can make people and groups more ‘popular’ and give them more visibility and power. When you run across an article about a hate group, right-wing politicians, and/or their latest machinations, don’t just share a post that contains a link to their website or FB page. Or even one to someone reporting on them if the report is on Faux, Breitbart, or even mainstream media. Even a mad or angry FB response counts in their favor. The more activity related to the posts/articles on them, the more you will see similar posts/articles, as will everyone else.

Instead, take a few minutes to search for a LGBT source commenting on them/their latest evil deeds and share that. If you cannot find a friendly source, write a synopsis and your thoughts/recommendations and share those. If you don’t feel comfortable, right-clicking on the image/meme in the original piece, make your own. It doesn’t take long and having a bit of personal involvement feels good.

Just don’t give them any clicks.

For more info, check this slide presentation:

Bubba, Frances, and the flowers of spring

Ellie,

I do not know if you will ever read this. Your father David keeps encouraging me to tell my story and I resist, mainly because I do not feel worthy most of the time.

But this is springtime 2016 and I’m watching flowers break out in riotous joy everywhere I look. And that reminds me of your great, great grandmother Bubba.

iris One flower always jumps out in my mind, the iris.

One of my first vivid memories was at our little house in West End. I can remember that the poor front yard was small and had no vegetation, mostly dirt and weeds. But on the side yard between our house and the wealthier Reeds, my mother had somehow performed a miracle and transformed the dirt and rocks into a wonderful garden. There were, of course irises, but also roses and daffodils and, in the summer, daisies and bachelor buttons.

We were relatively poor, with only the income my father made as a hair stylist, and there was no way my mother could have afforded to buy plants for her garden. So how did she get the plants?

When I was a lot older, Bubba and Travis finally were able to buy a home in Acipico that had room for Bubba to make a garden. Prior to that, Bubba and Travis had rented space from my great grandmother Big Momma Dean. I learned that my mother Frances was giving plants from her garden to Bubba for her new place. And Bubba had a tremendous green thumb. While Frances had been successful in growing the plants in her small garden, Bubba soon had a very large flower garden that dwarfed the one Frances had.

On one of my overnight stays with Bubba and Travis, I worked with Bubba in her garden and she shared for the first time more of her story.

Travis was not my blood grandfather, she told me. Bubba had divorced my ‘real’ grandfather Snow long before I was born because he was cruel to my mother. Your great grandmother, Frances, was a smart, athletic girl – she won three letters in basketball at Whitwell high school in Tennessee – and had wanted to go to nursing school. Back then, most southern girls did not think they could be doctors. But Grandpa Snow did not think girls should do anything except find a husband and work in the home. So he refused my mother and Bubba divorced him because of that. This is not to mention that Grandpa Snow had played around on my Bubba – he had. But when it came to her daughter, Bubba drew the line.

At the big house in Whitwell, Bubba had a large flower garden. But Grandpa Snow kept the house in the unfair divorces of the era, given that Bubba had initiated the divorce, and she lost her garden. Or would have except she colluded with a friend and raided the big house and ‘stole’ a large quantity of the flowers she was growing. Her friend transplanted the flowers at her home and promised Bubba she could have them when she found a new garden of her own.

After they moved to Birmingham, Bubba and Frances lived in an apartment house on Southside and, of course, could not make a garden there. But after my parents were able to get the small house in West End, Bubba’s friend would drive down to Birmingham with a trunk full of flowers and so Frances began her garden with the offspring of Bubba’s flowers. I’m guessing Bubba did her green thumb magic, because later when she and Travis were able to buy their own home, the flowers came home to roost.

Years later, we moved to East Lake, and after a few more years, so did Bubba and Travis. Both houses in East Lake soon had tremendous gardens that were unbelievably beautiful in the springtime. I spent many an hour helping Frances with hers, and just as many helping Bubba with hers. They had quite a competition going back then in the early 60s.

While I was at the Air Force Academy, my mother Frances finally found a way to go to nursing school. I to this day do not know how she found the money. But she did and by the time I graduated, she had earned a LPN, licensed practical nurse, associate’s degree. For the first time in my life, she had a way to make her own money and, shortly after I graduated, she divorced my father. They sold the house on 9th Avenue and most of the flowers found their way back to Bubba’s, as did my mother and brother Dan. Mother took over the second of the two bedrooms upstairs in Bubba’s house, and Dan got the new bedroom in the basement that I had dug with Mr. Grey the summer before I left for the Academy.

Your grandmamma, Cyndy, and I started a new home in Lake Forest near Mobile just before Bubba died. Frances soon began to insist that I take some of Bubba’s plants for our new house and I did, though I did not have much of a green thumb. Those flowers were lost when Cyndy and I temporarily separated when your mom was two, but after we built the house in Sans Souci, Frances again gave me offspring of Bubba’s to plant at our new home. I don’t have a green thumb, and most were lost, but enough lived and prospered to grow into a respectful garden on the back side of our garage in Sans Souci.

Unfortunately, that is where the story of Bubba’s flowers ends. When C and I sold the Sans Souci house, neither of us had earth in which to plant the flowers. So all were left to the new owners. Perhaps, if God is good, Bubba’s flowers continue to grow at that house in Montrose. Perhaps, someday, you can go to that house and ask the owners if you can take a cutting or bulb.

Bubba would like that. This one and the original.

 

Not hate – just new tech and jobs!

magic Man bandWhat are the red states to do now that they require ‘suspicious’ people to present their birth certificates to gain access to the bathroom?
I envision a new law requiring everyone anticipating going to a public bathroom to be issued (i.e. in republican vernacular: buy) a properly colored ‘magic band’ not unlike those you use at Disney World. The bands would be linked back to the database that Trump and Cruz are building to control Muslims and immigrants, a database that can surely be expanded to include direct links to state birth records and a newly required 23 & Me DNA test. And like Disney, the entrance to all public bathrooms would be guarded by a scanner that reads your magic band and sets off loud alarms and locks the bathroom door if you are not qualified to use that particular bathroom.Of course, “real” women would be locked inside, but republicans don’t really care about women anyway. After 30 seconds, if an ‘offender’ is still proximate to the wrong bathroom door, newly hired Bathroom Police would be dispatched.
See? It is not hate driving these laws.
The republicans are just stimulating economic development and new jobs after all.

Just too much hate

hateI have to admit I am angry.

I am one of those “freaks” who you do not want sharing a bathroom with your daughter.

I have worked a job essentially every day since I turned 16. I did all the things republicans preach you should do so that you are not a “leech” on society. I came from a lower middle-class family that could not afford to send me to college. I studied hard in school, played sports, participated in civic activities, went to church, and eventually won a scholarship to the University of Alabama and a congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. Because we were then (and still are) in war, I chose the latter. I wanted to serve our country.

And I did. But I became frustrated by the politicians running the war and costing my friends lives. I left the Air Force and used the GI Bill to get a master’s degree. I found a job with a good company in Mobile and worked my way up from the drafting board to the board of directors of a large environmental engineering firm. I worked on or led many engineering projects that still are important, functional parts of the infrastructure in many cities in Mobile and Baldwin counties, and, indeed, across many southern states. But my boss found out I was trans and kicked me out of the company, destroying my financial stability and even my ability to get another job in engineering. I was blackballed for being “queer.”

After I graduated from the Air Force Academy, I got married to a wonderful woman, had a daughter who has out-shown me in her accomplishments and who now is a mother to the most perfect child of her own. I am still her father and grandparent to her perfect baby. But the love of my life divorced me, and continues to drive a wedge between my daughter and myself. I have not spent Christmas or birthdays with my daughter for almost 20 years. I know she loves me and is torn between her mother and me. But it hurts so very much.

To republicans and many so-called Christians, I am a freak who should not be allowed to use a public bathroom. I am a freak that can be refused service, a job, a place to live, just because I don’t fit their idea of a ‘normal’ person. Ted Cruz’s Christian supporters even believe it should be legal to murder freaks like me.

Though I was never afraid all the time I was serving in the Air Force, flying F4’s during the Vietnam War, I am now afraid.

And my closest friends, who are republican and will vote for either Trump or Cruz, don’t understand why I am afraid.

Although we freaks have made tremendous gains these past seven years, all could, and, most likely will, be washed away if a republican is elected president.

I have seen the dominos begin to fall, beginning with Kansas where they have placed a bounty on the heads of trans people, to North Carolina and Mississippi where they have passed terrible hate laws in the name of ‘religious’ freedom, to Louisiana, where the republicans have introduced a bill that doubles down on NC and MS and specifically targets overturning the LGBT anti-discrimination laws in NOLA. How can Alabama fail to follow suit?

Soon I will not be able to legally use a public bathroom in my home state. Thanks to my local probate judge, who told me that he would not accept my petition to change the sex marker on my birth certificate unless it was prepared and presented by a lawyer, I have not been able to afford to get my birth certificate to match my social security card and passport.

I have turned 70 this past December. My life is more behind me than in front of me. I wonder why I keep fighting to stay alive.

I went back to school after losing my engineering career, thinking I could get a Ph.D. and a job teaching. But I had not reckoned on the age discrimination that exists in universities. They will always take a young new Ph.D. in preference to a 65-year-old new Ph.D. every time. And, of course, being a trans-freak does not help.

When I was on the board of BCM Engineers, I helped to get the company to give a scholarship to Auburn’s Civil Engineering school. I got my masters there, served on the school’s board of visitors for almost 10 years, but was told that they would not accept me into their doctoral program because of my age. At least, they were honest.

So here I am at 70. A freak. Working multiple jobs as an adjunct for a pittance but enough to keep me off welfare.

And I am so very tired.

Sometimes I think the hate I see coming is just too much to endure.

But I will stand up and fight. I will not go quietly.

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