Divorce capital? Not like the old days ...

Ed Howell
Posted 6/29/17

Let’s clean out the notebook ...

•Recently al.com posted something about divorces in Alabama, saying it came from the Census Bureau. (It linked to a map that I couldn’t download on my computer and it was all but impossible to navigate on my …

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Divorce capital? Not like the old days ...


Let’s clean out the notebook ...

•Recently al.com posted something about divorces in Alabama, saying it came from the Census Bureau. (It linked to a map that I couldn’t download on my computer and it was all but impossible to navigate on my phone. Worse, Safari on my computer wouldn’t link to the U.S. Census Bureau website - at all. And Tiffin comes up to punt...)

At any rate, with 12.4 percent of Alabamians divorced, al.com printed the top 10 list. As it turns out, Coosa County is at the top with 14.9 percent divorced — followed by Walker and Chambers counties at 14.7 percent, and Winston County at 14.6 percent. Fayette County was tied with Dale County at the bottom with 13.8 percent.

Frankly, I’m surprised the numbers are not worse than this.

But al.com, in perhaps trying to be cute, said the top 10 were the divorce capitals of Alabama, which seemed a stretch since the state average is 12.4 percent. However, I was pointed to a past column from Steve Flowers (who spoke to the Jasper Kiwanis Club Monday) concerning how the whole state was once the divorce capital of the nation from about 1945 to 1970. Time even wrote a story about it in 1962, noting in 1960 Alabama had 17,000 divorces to nearly 9,300 for Nevada.

According to Flowers, at the end of World War II, Alabama abolished a law requiring a one-year residency to get divorced. It became lucrative for many lawyers in the state, including legislators. Rankin Fite, who was a powerful speaker of the House at times, was very involved in handling divorces and would fly across the nation to deal with them, getting a pretty good penny for his efforts. I think I recall a Birmingham News editorial cartoon targeting him for it.

The famous came here in droves — and undercover, if possible. Flowers pointed out John Charles Daly, the New York-based newsman and host of “What’s My Line?” on TV, got a divorce in Crenshaw County so he could marry his second wife, the daughter of Chief Justice Earl Warren. He was represented by state Sen. Alton Turner. The wife of cartoonist Charles Adams got one in Limestone County, and Tina Onassis divorced Aristotle Onassis in Washington County, which had to be as far from her culture as you can get.

The big debate in Marion County has always been whether Lucille Ball got divorced from Desi Arnaz in Marion County, and people swear it on their lives. For the record, she divorced twice from him and I think both times were in California — never in Alabama. A biographer called me up once doing an unauthorized bio on Barbara Walters and tipped me off before she became famous, she had gotten a divorce in Alabama (and Marion County, as I recall) using Fite, which the author used in his bio. (I declined to participate out of respect to Fite’s surviving family — although I bought the paperback. By the way, she likely could go to this length because her father was Lou Walters, who owned the Latin Quarter nightclub in New York.)

So while it is not nice that Walker and Winston counties are high in the state in divorce rates, I would hardly say we deserve divorce capital status like in the days before 1970, when authorities began cracking down on the divorce mills.

Having said that, hopefully this could renew efforts to counsel couples to prevent going down this road. It is still not a good statistic to have.

• Sometimes you can’t get all you want. On the restaurant package that we ran Sunday, we had so much coverage, including a photo we took overhead 19th Street with a drone, that we did not have room in the end for a photo showing the crowds at Warehouse 319. You can blame the fool who wrote so much copy — namely, me.

I did hate we couldn’t use it, though, because when I took photos Friday night (and broke an external flash in the process), I was encouraged to come back to Warehouse 319 for a singer who would perform. I came back at a later hour, getting some tea and the most giantic, delicious strawberry cake you have ever seen (I was thinking slice--I wasn’t far from a whole cake. And it was good.) Moreover, I was amazed that the crowds continue to grow at 7:30 p.m., and they probably were all down the street. So I hate we ran out of room for a photo, although we certainly covered their operation in the stories.

•I was also surprised in winding up the package about how far reaching the entertainment district is. The Highlands on 4th reception hall and Restoration Hall, the courtyard next to the railroad tracks, are included, and I have seen events there that can make me visualize that.

It stretches a ways east to the Jasper Civic Center, which I can see given the events that can take place there — although that is a pretty long way to go out, almost gerrymandered by way of going down 19th Street.

But the big surprise for me was that from the civic center it takes a sharp turn three blocks south on Birmingham Avenue to the Midnight Special, which I understand does have entertainment. Their area is confined to Birmingham Avenue going from there to the civic center.

• Two Netflix recommendations: If I havent’ mentioned it, “Anne With an E,” which runs in Canada as just “Anne,” is an excellent short original series that debuted earlier this year, based on “Anne of Green Gables.” (Some, however, may find it darker than the source material.) A slightly older fare I have discovered is the “Father Brown” series that started in 2013 with Mark Brown on the BBC, and an excellent mysteries series.

•For that matter, for those who look to YouTube on their TV streaming, looking up the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television, which are also available online at emmytvlegends.org, and click on interviews. Marking its 20th anniversary this year, the foundation now has 850 oral interviews (and growing) with 4,000 hours of recollections and opinions from TV legends in front of or behind the cameras who tell their stories in interviews, in short and long clips. I’ve played many short excerpt clips on YouTube via Roku and found an hour or two gone by being entertained by them.

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.