Tag Archives: Fairfield

Birming-Images

For those of you who aren’t very familiar with our city, I thought that you may enjoy a bit of a photographic tour. These images are the landmarks that make us who we are; they’re the things that make us unique.

The Vulcan Statue is generally considered to be the symbol of Birmingham. It was sculpted, begining in 1903 by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. He was Birmingham’s entry for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Vulcan was the god of the fire and the forge in Roman mythology. Since 1936 Vulcan has stood watch over the city from his perch atop Red Mountain. Symbolizing the city’s founding on the iron and steel industry, he is made from iron ore mined from the very mountain on which he stands. At 56 feet, he is the tallest cast iron statue on Earth and is the 7th tallest free standing statue in the United States.

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But Vulcan isn’t the only cool statue in Birmingham. “Miss Electra” has adorned the top of the Birming-images 005Alabama Power building since 1926. Unlike Vulcan who is partially clothed, Miss Electra is totally nude and has lighting bolts for hair and bolts in her hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man greets visitors to the Medical Forum in downtown Birmingham.

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Once known as the “Football Capital of the South” Birmingham’s Legion Field has been home to some legendary games involving the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. For many years it was the largest stadium in the state and the Tide and the Tigers usually chose to play their biggest, most important home games here. Up until the last few years of the 20th century, the Tide and Tigers always played each other here. That’s why the label “Iron Bowl” became associated with the huge rivalry. When the two teams began updating the stadiums on their own campuses, Legion Field became less important. Now those two stadiums, especially Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, dwarf the “Gray Lady” , a name often used to refer to Legion Field. The stadium is still in use but not for the big glory games of the state’s largest two universities. It’s now the home field of the UAB Blazers and is the home of the “Magic City Classic” another big rivalry game between Alabama’s two largest historically black universities, Alabama State and Alabama A&M. The BBVA Compass Bowl is also played here every January.          Birming-images 023                                                                                 Birming-images 019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of a dark chapter in the history of Birmingham. A dark chapter in terms of the shameful way that city officials and many white citizens reacted to the struggles for civil rights by African Americans. On the other hand it could be viewed as a bright chapter in the city’s history because it was the catalyst of change. It was the begining of the dismantling of the segregation and discrimination that unfortunately; this city and state had become infamous for in the eyes of the world. The area along 16th street north between 4th and 6th avenue north is sacred ground. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now stands across 16th street from Kelly Ingram Park, an area where Bull Connor once used water cannons and vicious police dogs to subdue civil rights demonstrators. It stands across 6th avenue north from 16th Street Baptist Church, the scene of a Ku Klux Klan bombing that took the lives of 4 little girls in 1963. Birming-images 048

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As I’ve mentioned before, healthcare is the economic crown jewel of modern Birmingham. Banking is a close second. Regions Bank and BBVA Compass Bank are both headquarted here. Wells Fargo has a large presence. Birming-images 008

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One of the most interesting buildings in Birmingham IMO is Southside’s Quinlan Castle. Built in 1927 to resemble a medieval English castle, the building has served mainly as residential apartments throughout it’s history. It’s now owned by the Southern Research Institute and is not being used for apartments. According to the Bhamwiki article on the castle, in 1940 Quinlan Castle was rumored to have been the Birmingham headquarters of the Communist Party. It was in fact the home of party secretary Robert Hall. Hall’s apartment was raided by the Birmingham police but they didn’t find much of interest. Just a letter from someone at the Tennessee Valley Authority suggesting communist activities in that agency. Birming-images 043

 

 

 

 

 

 

Familiar to many visitors to the city is sculptor Frank Flemming’s “Storyteller” fountain at 5 points south. It sits in front of Highlands United Methodist Church and is at the center of the 5 points entertainment district. Birming-images 032

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Lovoy, a 5 Points South icon gladly poses in front of the fountain.

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The newest building on Birmingham’s skyline is the gleaming new Benjamin Russell wing of Children’s Hospital. marcsteel 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works is still operating just west of downtown. uss 007

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ensley Works of USS ceased operations in the early 1970’s CIMG6868

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the location of the famous Tuxedo Junction “The place where the people go to dance the night away”. The song was co-written by Birmingham composer Erskine Hawkins. It was originally written as an instrumental. The nightclub that was the subject of the song was located in this building on 20th street Ensley. The building briefly served as a punk rock venue in the 1980’s. 3312010 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sloss Furnaces operated from the late 19th century until 1971 near downtown Birmingham.  The old mill has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark. It serves as a museum as well as a music venue, a venue for weddings, beer festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It’s said that the ghosts of many men who died on the job here over the decades still haunt the old mill.

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Built in 1929 this building was the home of the Thomas Jefferson Hotel. At that time it was one of the finest hotels in the south. In the 1970’s it became known as the Cabana Hotel and finally Leer Tower before it was closed in 1983. The object on the right side of the roof of the building is a zeppelin mooring mast, the last of it’s kind in the world. In 2012 a non-profit corporation was formed to raise money to buy the property and restore it back to it’s former glory. Jeff hotel 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mural with a message painted on the wall of an abandoned grocery store in west Birmingham.

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Sources: Wikipedia and Bhamwiki.

All photographs and text copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

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Silver and Gold

The thing that most people fear most about cab driving is the possibility of being robbed at gunpoint or even murdered by a customer. Thank God I haven’t been robbed. I know it has happened to some of our other drivers over the years but contrary to popular belief, it’s not an everyday occurrence. There is however, another thing that happens much more frequently that’s not nearly as dramatic but can still put you in a bad mood and mess up your day. It’s when you don’t get paid for your services. Most drivers call it “getting stiffed”.

As with most cities, at least in the working class and poorer areas, the check cashing, payday loan and title loan business is big business in Birmingham. These places are everywhere you look in payday loancertain parts of town. I had just dropped off a customer in Fairfield and was heading back toward downtown. I booked into the 200 zone as I approached the Arkadelphia Road exit. I immediately recieved a call to an address I knew to be in the Elyton project.

The cell phone seemed to be a permanant attachment to her body. She didn’t take it down from her ear until we had reached our destination. She was young, I’d say about 20. She was thin and dressed cheaply, a red bandana covered her hair. She quickly told me where she wanted to go, a payday/title loan place on Greensprings Highway. She was talking with someone who was obviously selling her something. I overheard talk of shipping options, dates of arrival ect…Whatever it was, I guess she really wanted it. So much so that she would call a cab to take her to get a loan to buy a money order in order to buy it, whatever it was.

I started to worry that my cab fare depended on my customer being able to get a loan as well. I was right, it did. I had had a similar situation about a week earlier when getting paid depended on my customer being able to pawn a Kirby vacuum cleaner. That trip worked out in my favor, the pawn shop took it and I got my money.

She didn’t stay in the place very long, she was turned down quickly. It seems the only payday she had was a government check for a little more than two hundred dollars a month. She had no car to pawn the title to, she was S.O.L and so was I. She already owed me more than $20 by this time. Once it became clear that she had no means of paying the fare I just turned the meter off and told her I would take her home but let her know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have to. I could have, and probably should have, just left her ass stranded there.

I gave her a lecture on the way home about why she should make sure she had money before she called a cab. I told her that I could have called the cops and that most drivers would have called them. “Fo’ real?” she asked. “Fo’ what?” She had no idea that stiffing a cab driver could possibly be against the law. I told her it was called theft of service, which is similar to theft of property, like shoplifting from a store.”Naw it ain’t” she said. It seemed to me that this young woman had grown to adulthood without a clue as to how to function in society. Pitiful, I thought. At least she did offer a “thank you” as she got out of the car back at home.

It was fairly early in the morning, after sunrise but before 8am. I had been working the going to work business in the 400 and 500 zones. It had been raining off and on and was a very gray morning. Norwood is one of Birmingham’s grand old neighborhoods that fell into decline and disrepair after the white flight. Big houses that were once elegant mansions line some of the streets. A few of them, a very few, have been bought in recent years and renovated back to their former glory. Most are still in sad shape, some repairable with a major effort. Others that are burned out or literally falling down are beyond repair. This call wasn’t to an old mansion but to a decent home in good shape.norwood 018

She was sitting on the front porch when I drove up. A young girl, no doubt a teenager, jumped up and immediately got in the back seat. “How much will it cost to take me to Bessemer?” she asked. i said probably about $40, maybe more, depending on where it is in Bessemer. At first I didn’t worry about getting stiffed because most passengers that intend to stiff you don’t ask for an estimate. That’s because they’re not planning on paying you anyway.

On the way to Bessemer I learned that she was 16 and she had been out all night with boys that her mother didn’t like. She anticipated a big fight with her mother when she got home and was clearly anxious about it. She didn’t tell me but I instinctively knew that my fare would depend on an angry, possibly hysterical mother paying me. I started to worry. When we arrived at the house the meter was at $42 and mom was nowhere to be found. My customer’s brother said that he thought she had been called to work but he wasn’t sure. The girl made no attempt to call her mom. Maybe she couldn’t take calls at work or maybe it was just out of fear, I don’t know.

The girl was about to panic. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay you” she said. I had just been stiffed by the payday loan girl about a week earlier and I wasn’t in the mood to get stiffed again. I had already decided that I would call the cops if it became necessary. She approached the car window and said “I’ve got this little bracelet, it’s made of silver and gold. If I can pawn it I’ll pay you.” She saw that the meter was at $42 already and was able to reason that by the time she got to the pawn shop and took the necessary time to pawn it, the fare would be much higher. She asked if I could just charge her a flat rate. I told her that if she didn’t mess around and take too much of my time I would turn the meter off and just charge her the $42, she agreed.

The first place turned her down cold. The second place had a sign out front that said “We Buy Gold”. She stayed in this place for about ten minutes. She came out accompanied by a bling wearing heavyweight dude that reminded me of Biggie Smalls. The rain had started to fall steadily as the big guy knocked on my window. He had a $100 bill in his hand. He asked “you got fifty eight dollars?” I dug around in my pockets and found that I did indeed have fifty eight dollars. Just as we made the transaction my customer said “you don’t have to worry about taking me back home.” She and Biggie walked back into the office. I got paid and I don’t know how the story ended with her mom.

copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.