Career relived as more donated to state archive

Posted 4/26/18

Well, I sent off a form and some photos to start another process where I give away another part of my life. Again. Years ago, I decided I had some stuff that the Alabama Department of Archives …

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Career relived as more donated to state archive


Well, I sent off a form and some photos to start another process where I give away another part of my life. Again. 

Years ago, I decided I had some stuff that the Alabama Department of Archives and History might like. I have always liked history to begin with. But I realized from Ken Burns' "The Civil War" that ordinary Americans have a part in history, too. We record diaries, letters and such, or we collect items from the people we come in contact with or from the places we go. If we save them long enough, it turns out they are history, and can have a part in preserving that. 

In my case, August will be 37 years since I started with the Times-Record's old Winfield office.  That, I have to admit, is a long time. Especially when you never throw anything away — like me.

A number of years ago, I sent a couple of donations. One was about the dinosaur tracks that were eventually preserved at the old Union Chapel Mine site and now under state protection. I had some material from those days, particularly a binder of photos and material.  And then there was electronic bingo; I had notes, court documents, copies of permits and other material. 

So I filled out some forms and turned them into the archive. Lo and behold, they accepted the donations. I had a collection in the state archives. But that got me to thinking of other things I had. The past few years, I've sent several small boxes of items from my career. Now, I am arranging larger boxes.

During my last move to Japer, I heard the moving people say they had never seen so much material for a two-bedroom apartment. I am now more convinced it is time to let go more of this stuff at 55. After all, I won't have anyone to leave this stuff to. Who will clean out my apartment and what are they going to do with it? So it might as well be arranged now.

I've had a ton of stuff already accepted: Campaign buttons for Lucy Baxley, Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale; an old-fashioned razor handle for cutting border tape for newspaper layout; photo proportion scales for sizing photos for layout; pica poles for measuring space during layout. 

I sent college journalism textbooks, press cards and a news media directory and legislative directories from a generation ago. I had a 1996 Birmingham News letter discussing their switch from afternoon to morning. I had Bob Riley's Plan for Change (although nothing did), brochures from Looney's Tavern, Newsong publicity photos from the mid-1990s (when Charles Billingsley was with them) and paperwork involving a visit by U.S. Sen. Howell Helflin to the University of Alabama in the 1980s when I was a student and had to drive him to an event in my 1974 Maverick, talking to him about the merits of televising the U.S. Senate. (Listening to his successors, I sometimes wish I could have taken that one back.)

I had a program from a Birmingham benefit I covered that actor Christopher Reeve attended in 1998. There was material from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and state Sen. Roger Bedford; there was a campaign material for Circuit Judge Jerry Selman, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt and Gov. Bob Riley. (I covered him as a congressman in Clanton and remember lobbying him for Corridor X funding, standing alone with him in front of the Winn-Dixie. He assured me Aderholt was not letting him forget it.) I had material when I covered the grand opening of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, as I had recently interviewed Hackleburg native Sonny James. I had an autographed copy of Bert Bank's book, "Back From the Dead, a manual for a Macintosh Plus, dedication programs for Corridor X at the state border and for Winfield Elementary School. I had a Shop Walker County button and a Journal Record announcement that it was starting an electronic edition of the Marion County newspaper. 

Long before he was a candidate, I had a Scott Dawson press pass and promotional materials for his Jasper crusade. I had a 1992 Mule Day section I designed and wrote, and material on the 1996 Olympics. I had flyers and a ticket for Reagan's 1984 campaign visit to the University of Alabama, which I attended. (It was worth it to see the sourpuss look on reporter Sam Donaldson's face when he was asked for his autograph by someone in the row behind him. 

I had family items, too. I had sheet music by grandmother, Eva Cantrell Davis, had, as well as her French lesson book when she was growing up in Fayette. My Mom, Joan Davis Howell of Winfield, had a 1947 JCPenney comic book detailing great Americans, including Helen Keller. I had a Vulcan brochure from visiting in 1971, and a booklet on the State Capitol, as well as publicity photos they handed out of Gov. George Wallace at the Capitol before he was shot. From the 1970s, I have the first TV cable lineup in Marion County on one small card I saved; 12 channels were on the first tier, six were on the second tier, and that was it. Seven of the 18 were area broadcast stations. 

That was all accepted. And now, I am sending even more items: Sonny James' funeral program, a  Peach Festival cap from Clanton, a 1993 shirt noting Bevill State Community College had taken on the Hamilton Campus, press material from Don Siegelman's administration, including his 2002 State of the State address that I covered from the back of the chamber on the floor. I have an unpublished memoir of a POW from World War II from Clanton. I've got publicity material for Seventh Day Slumber and Shenandoah, who have band members from this area. 

Plus I am sending stories I have done over the years from a number of newspapers. I was proud of a couple of stories early on from the Daily Home in Talladega pointing out Lee deForest, who invented the important audion tube for radio and TV, grew up in Talladega, a fact almost forgotten. I have stories on I-22's progress (or lack of it) and the bingo halls here. I covered the Chem Waste hazardous landfill in Emelle when it was at its height. In Clanton, I photographed people praying after 9/11, asked Lt. Gov. Steve Windom about using a jug while presiding over the Senate, learned about growing peaches and covered the Steve Flower-Hank Erwin state Senate race. I had aftermath coverage of the tornado in Hackleburg and did a story with an old-fashioned headline you only see in movies: "GUIN GOES WET." 

I still have photos I've taken, autographed photos and books, awards, more newspapers, early scrapbooks of clippings, so they may get some more of my stuff to yet. Some of my junk may not be of some interest to some. But it was interesting to come close to history. It is even more interesting to unpack history and try to make room in your apartment. But hopefully some of these items can be used by others to connect some dots in history. It has been interesting to watch, anyway.

Oh, darn. I just realized this column will have to go someday, too.