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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuskegee, Union Springs and Eufaula, Alabama

Woke to the melodious barking of some of our resident dogs, whose accommodations were right outside our window--a suite with jacuzzi and a dog run--what more could one ask for? The room next to ours was unoccupied however the alarm went off at 4ish though I never heard it--I guess Bill did but he gets up then anyway. I started the day with a delightful soak in the jacuzzi while sipping my morning coffee. On the road on a hot, humid overcast morning. By ten the haze had burned off but the heat and humidity continued. We headed out toward Dadesville where we had taken rt 49 north yesterday to Horseshoe Bend but took it south today toward Union Springs.

Depending on the wind pattern and the temperature Alabama is redolent of either pulp mills or flowers --today it was sweet with the blooms of spring, especially the Wisteria that is so abundant and beautiful. I haven't noticed as much Kudzu this year in either Mississippi or Alabama--it may be the area of the states where we traveled this year--sort of right in the middle moving west to east.

Our destination today for study was Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site--which only opened in 2008. The temporary visitors' center was more temporary than planned having become contaminated with mold. As a result there is a small reception area at the entrance of Hangar 1 in which a rather extensive display has been assembled. The lady volunteer with whom we spoke said that Hangar 2, which burned down in 1987 has been rebuilt and there is another display area there along with a theatre but that it will not open until 2012. I hope we will return.

Briefly, the history is that black men were not allowed to be pilots during WWII being considered subservient and lacking in the abilities necessary to become pilots. In 1939, with an impending war, Congress passed the Civilian Pilot Training Act which allowed non-military guys to become pilots and move into the military if needed--basically building a bank account of a large number of flight ready pilots. An organization of African American pilots --National Airmen's Association, six black colleges and a private flying school joined the effort. Tuskegee Institute was very successful in turning out licensed civilian pilots and as more legislation was passed preventing discrimination in training etc and with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt the segregated 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed in 1941. The Tuskegee Airmen were born. The pictures show many of the men involved and the type of training etc that took place. Unfortunately, I could not record the stories told by some of them in their own words which were available to listen to on the phones on the desks scattered throughout the hangar. I spent over 2 hours, reading, listening, and photographing the exhibit. I hope you enjoy what I can provide for you. I never saw the Denzel Washington film but will now watch it with this experience as background. I also hope to return for the rest of the story when hangar 2 is opened.

Bill did not listen to all the tales so he was finished much sooner than I but he and the lady volunteer had a pleasant chat about many things so he wasn't at all upset that I wanted to be more thorough. The story of these men was told me by my Dad, who a product of his time was very biased but who, in fairness, was impressed ( surprised? I don't know.) by their accomplishments and greatly admired them. He is also the source for my knowledge of internment camps which my junior high school civics teacher told me did not exist. HMMMMM

We headed out through town with me snapping shots of the beautiful houses as we left--There is also the Tuskegee Institute to explore with the artifacts of George Washington Carver and the home of Booker T. Washington. The heat and humidity of the South tires me more easily than it has before and so I don't want to overextend. If we do too much in one day I'm too tired to sleep easily and feel awful the next day. Bill doesn't like to do too much in one day since he finds it hard to absorb so much info in such a short time. So in this way we are compatible in our approach and TI will definitely be another trip tour.

We arrived in Union Springs which my Historical Alabama book stated had a great bird dog statue in the center of town--they weren't kidding--the dog is not only in the center of town he is in the center of the road!!! His photo will go well with my coon dog statue from two years ago. There are brown signs at the entrance to town directing drivers to the dog! While photographing a young man and his little girl crossed the road and I asked if there were a place to grab a sandwich or something. He suggested the wings and fish place so we went seeking it.Definitely a local place and it is like sitting in a lady's informal dining room with her in the kitchen cooking the meal for you. I had three fried chicken wings, cole slaw and sweet tea! At last, good food--this black lady was a delight--housedress--who wears a housedress anymore and apron. Bill had hot wings so she said yours are messy so here is toweling--to me she said--you're more dainty so here are a few more napkins. Then she gave me my utensils and said I know they're on the wrong side but we'll manage. Soon she came out and said is that tea sweet? I said not overly but it has sweetening--nope she said, I added more tea and forgot to add more sugar--out she went to the kitchen and she brought two new jars--gave me the one with the handle--and said take your straw and away went the not sweet enough sweet tea. It felt like eating at home--LOL I hated to leave.

Off we went to our night's rest in Eufaula( asked the fried chicken lady how to pronounce that--oh, she said that's an Indian word and I always figured they said you folla so that's how I say it!)--the Quality Inn. The directions in the directory says on rt 82 at the Alabama Georgia border--they weren't kidding--the parking lot overlooks the Chattahoochee River which is the border! Actually, the river belongs to Georgia--so if we sit on the lawn later when it cools down we will be in Georgia and EST. Here is the room it is Alabama and CST! Took more pictures of yet more beautiful homes as we passed through town. The Pilgrimage here will be Apr 1st weekend.All of these towns have these open houses etc for a large fee per person --I'm sure they are beautiful but not Bill's thing.

So now--I'm going to finish Hornet's Nest--the trial is on lunch recess and lots is happening--soon it will be over. :(

Tomorrow Plains and Jimmy Carter!

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