The Ironman and a Coal Miner’s Daughter…

Vulcan_statue_Birmingham_AL_2008_snow_retouched

Sitting ‘High atop Red Mountain’, Vulcan is the original Ironman- completely designed and forged of cast iron in my hometown of Birmingham Alabama, he is the largest iron ore statue in the world! He was disassembled to be shown at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and won a grand prize! When I was a little girl- Vulcan was painted iron ore red- the picture above is the original color, refurbished just a few years ago. I went to Minnie Holman Grammar School and we learned a song about Vulcan:

‘High on mountaintop am I…    I look o’er the valley from on high!…    And what care I, if the stars –  are beating in a fury at my feet?       O-ah..   I look o’er the valley where I stand –   and see a city, grand!

I totally loved singing that song! The first time I recall visiting Vulcan- I was very small and he was very tall! In fact, one of the problems about visiting the Roman God of the Forge was that visitors looked at him from the back-  his bare backside is in full view! My slightly older sister didn’t let that pass her notice- I was holding my mother’s hand, and Sis was dancing around and said-

 ‘Why doesn’t he have any britches on?’ …Silence…clearing of throats…’Hush now, he has them on- they’re just real tight..shh’…Well, I’m here to tell you – that Ironman doesn’t have any britches on and he became known as the ‘Moon over Homewood’- even Wikipedia makes note of that fact and more- go check the article out- it is very interesting – poor ol’ Vulcan. Anyway-I have more to tell you about my hometown than this article can contain, let’s just say, Vulcan represents the powerful Industrialist City that Birmingham once was; full of rich red iron ore deposits which were mined, then forged- right there at his feet- there were thriving steel mills and furnaces. The story goes that after Reconstruction- the land-owning Bourbon Democrats of South Alabama and the wealthy Industrialists of Central and North Alabama joined forces to re-build. By the time Vulcan was forged, Birmingham was a melting pot of another kind- there were Greek, Italian, Asian, Europeans, Freedmen and Yankees! They knew how to capitalize on the natural resources of the Birmingham area. Some of the most beautiful homes in the South are in Birmingham and they aren’t plantation homes- they are estates on the East and to the West, sagging and worn – are homes of the mill and foundry bosses which I believe are making a comeback! But Birmingham also had her working men- ironworkers, steel millers and coal miners- who lived in camps and shanties- poverty really…which brings me to a little coal miner’s daughter…IMG_0560

Born in the year of Our Lord, 1920 on June 6, in the eastern outskirts of Birmingham, my Aunt Iva was the second of four children- two girls and two boys. I am 10% taller than Aunt Iva ever was- that’s not saying much because she was only 4’11” in her stocking feet. She was a coal miner’s daughter, which makes me the granddaughter of a coal miner, who also happened to be a union organizer. Alongside her father, in 1937, at age 17, Iva stood at plant gates and on the streets, collecting dues of $1.00- in a worn cigar box, which held scraps of paper, a small notebook and a pencil.  Aunt Iva was proud of this, too- her portable desk was an overturned apple crate. Now, they did this before the steel industry recognized the union.image

Industrialist Birmingham, late 1800’s and early 1900’s must have been an exciting place-where coal fields and mines, ironworks and steel mills were basically what we  would call ‘start-ups’ today. Growing up in the shadow of Vulcan, Iva had a choice- to become a steel magnolia or tough as pig iron– she chose to become a little of both. She was the ‘original’ career woman on that side of our family. She married a man of the steel mills, never had children of her own- the steel workers and coal miners were her ‘boys’. It was downright scandalous, to marry a divorced man and be working woman among the toughest of tough men. Perhaps she never had children, because her parents died when she was so young leaving her to see about the family and her older sister died in childbirth. One of her brothers was a POW in World War II- life was not easy- but my tiny Aunt Iva had the grit of coal dust in her eyes, iron ore in her veins and a spine of steel.image

We never knew our grandparents on that side- but we do know a little about them-Emma was a ‘Gibson Girl’ who was a postmistress for a time; William, a coal miner and union organizer all over the southeast. They both died young- William at age 40, Emma about 6 years later of ‘female troubles’- probably cancer.

I’ve been told stories from descendants of coal miners who lived in camps beside the coal train rails- just to wash clothes defined the word ‘chore‘. One man told me that he was assigned the job of sitting outside near the clothesline- when he would yell out- ‘Coal Train!!’- everyone would come running out of the house to grab the clean clothes- so the soot from the coal wouldn’t get the clothes dirty all over again!  By the time Iva was 10 years old, the United States was in a deep Depression- she laughed and said that she didn’t realize how poor they were until about 10 years after that!  Coal mining, ironworks and steel milling was hard dangerous work. Just a few years ago- I met an elegant elderly lady whose father had died when a molten vat of steel poured over him because his  foundry rail cart stalled out on the track below the vat. This lady told me that if it had not been for the steelworker’s union, her family would not survived, financially or otherwise.

When the union was finally recognized in 1940, Aunt Iva’s name was listed as a dues paying member- she had attended the very first continental convention as a delegate to form the United Steelworkers Union and attended every single convention until the 1990’s when she was in her 70’s! Her accomplishments are astounding- but hey, she was my aunt. I didn’t know all she was doing, really until after she died- that she was a very influential political activist- I knew she argued my daddy down with politics; it usually got loud…we had to go outside with our cousins and played ‘Swing the Statue’ – though it was more like ‘Sling the Statue’ on Aunt Iva’s front yard and my sweet Uncle Roland was the peacemaker. He was amazing in his own right- a foreman on the third shift at the robust U.S. Steel- he could cook like a man on fire…or put up the best blackberry jam I’ve ever tasted!  And he loved my aunt-she ‘tickled him’-another way of saying, she made him laugh-he adored her and was very proud of her work- and Uncle Roland loved us…they gave us our first bicycles, they took us to the Alabama Theater with it’s ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ organ, they took us to eat Chinese food at Joy Young’s with tiny umbrellas in our iced tea and fortune cookies! When they travelled she added silver charms to our charm bracelets. She was an irritating but persistent photographer! She was one of my ‘southern mothers’, who influenced me in ways no other did. Uncle Roland died in 1971, she was devastated but Aunt Iva continued to work- maybe doing some of her best work for almost 30 years as a widow. She kept meticulous journals which recorded the journey of the working men and women of her era -students and doctoral candidates from all over the nation- sought out Iva Goodwin for help with their dissertations on various Labor Topics, her wisdom and information were an  invaluable resource. Perhaps my love of writing came from her! I love to travel, my Aunt Iva was always an avid traveler- two trips I remember well- she went to Pearl Harbor and took a list of her ‘boys’ who had died there; and she went to Washington DC to see her nephew’s name inscribed on the Vietnam War memorial. Until she was 78 years old, she continued to work daily in her office at the Steelworkers Union. When she died in 2001, hundreds of honorary pall bearers- big strapping union men, cried- they were her boys after all.

Today, June 6, is her birthday, I was thinking about her…just wanted to tell you about this spunky, tough little lady who also happened to be a coal miner’s daughter, a steel magnolia and my aunt. A life well lived, Iva Elaine Goodwin, may you rest in peace.

Love, y’all, Camellia

*photo of Vulcan

History and Resources of Working Men and Women in Alabama – multiple sources from Amazon Affiliate link

Birmingham’s Statue of Vulcan  all resources from Amazon Affiliate link

Beautiful…

IMG_1345We met one summer in a foreign country, a British island, at the Fairmont Princess in Hamilton, Bermuda. It was one of those enchanting chance encounters. They were waiting for their room to be ready, we were waiting for our children to come downstairs from their rooms. We struck up a conversation, their younger daughter had gone away for summer camp for the first time with their older daughter, a seasoned camper. They were from New York, we were from Alabama. We just hit it off, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We have two daughters as well. By the end of the trip, we promised to keep in touch and we did. That fall, we made plans to go to New York. We all met at Katz’ Deli and then on to Serendipity and Dylan’s Candy Bar next door. Their daughters were adorable! We became very good friends. We exchanged Christmas gifts- I sent one of my grandmother’s pound cakes, they sent a Junior’s Cheesecake- who got the best end of that deal? We did! Elizabeth participated in a charity that I am passionate about and I thoroughly loved interacting with their precious daughters, Katie and Julia. They are growing up so fast into smart, talented beautiful  young ladies. It seems as if we have known each other for a very long time. We exchanged Christmas gifts and kept in touch. Last fall, after the National Football Championship game- Richard emailed us a congratulations on the win for the University of Alabama, then sent us a photograph of the Empire State Building all lit up in red and white! Three years between visits was long enough- we made plans to go again to New York.. They juggled their schedules and surprised us by getting tickets to the Broadway play- Beautiful- the Carole King Musical.image This could not have been a better choice for the two of us. With all of the blockbuster Broadway shows right now- if we had planned it all out in advance, we might have missed one of the best shows playing on Broadway! Let me explain- Carole King’s music is our ‘era’. And since I grew up in Birmingham it was an extra treat for me! I belonged to a high school sorority, Phi Kappa Nu, from 1965-1969.

We had leadouts, another word for dances. The girls wore formal gowns, the boys wore tuxedos. I’m not sure how many sororities and fraternities were active at that time, but these organizations included young people from 5-6 Birmingham High Schools. We raised money through these leadouts. And we had live bands- not DJ’s. It is amazing to think of it now- Ike and Tina Turner, Martha and the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, even Otis Redding performed! The leadouts were held in what is now known as the Boutwell Auditorium across from Linn Park. As teenagers in turbulent Birmingham Alabama, we were selling tickets, we were having dances! We were in the midst of musicians- who would go on to become icons. We loved the sounds of Motown and black artists from other record labels. These live acts were just starting out, I guess that’s how we were able to book them. We lived and breathed those songs, we bought their records and practiced their moves. What is amazing in that point in history- during those magical nights, Alabama’s young people  were in the very best kind of harmony! What we didn’t know then was that a fantastic songwriter named Carole King along with her husband,  wrote music for some of those groups- the Shirelles and the Drifters are highlighted in the Broadway play. imageCarole King was having a troubled life of her own during those years, but somehow she made a life while she was making a living writing wonderful songs. She went on to become a fantastic performer in her own right.

In the meantime, we were able to share a ‘Beautiful‘ visit with our much loved friends.Elizabeth, Richard, Katie and Julia- thanks for the memories! I was told as a child that the city of Birmingham was laid out in similar fashion to New York City, with long avenues and  short streets or blocks, I don’t know if it is true- I do know the long and short of it is this -both cities have a big piece of my heart. I love our sweet home in Alabama but –imageI hope you will take a good look at that song list- put on some golden oldies- and on some dateless Saturday night, get your best friend to practice those routines like I did! And  if you are lucky enough to be in New York any time soon- I hope you’ll get tickets to see at least one Broadway play- I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘Beautiful- the Carole King Musical’. Oh! I’ve got more to share about our trip! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Camellia

The Liebster Award…

imageI’m so long winded I had to do two posts about the Liebster Award. As part of the process of receiving the Liebster Award, the blogger shares 11 random personal facts, which you will find at the end of this post- and more important-Camellia’s Cottage pays it forward by nominating other bloggers that we feel deserve recognition. We have chosen 11 blogs that we feel are outstanding. Walter is excited…drum roll please! image

Little Leaf of Spring- https://littleleafofspringblog.com – a young lady from London who has chosen to live in Paris.

Life Happens- http so://l1fehappens.com – who loves coffee as much as I do!

Mint Julep Girl – https://mintjulepgirl.wordpress.com – a beautiful Southern girl

The Yellow Telephone – https://theyellowtelephone.com – two girlfriends, long distance girlfriend who are staying in touch by blogging.

Tiny Love Challenges – https://tinylovechallenges.wordpress.com – a girl who lives in New York, who has committed to recoding 365 small acts of kindness.

Society of Southern Gentlmen-https://societyofsoutherngents.org  A very accomplished family man who lives in Huntsville Alabama who is committed to preserving the traditions of how a gentleman should act.

Almost a Cake – https://almost awake.wordpress.com – a beautiful food blog!

Is This a Keeper?  – https://isthisakeeper.com  A blogger who loves to try new recipes and found herself asking her testers ‘is this a keeper?’

Art and Kitchen by Food Friends – https://artandkitchen.wordpress.com – a new blog created by an already successful food blogger that decided to share space with her food friends

Curl a Little Finger – https://christinanifong.com formally ‘Curl a Little Finger’ blog – a sweet charming blog – she is a freelance writer, a mother and an ‘eater and grower’!

Renee Lilly  – http://buzzworthydesignblog.com  Renee is a fantastic interior designer right here in my Alabama hometown and beyond!

So to all you busy as a bee bloggers, here is your invitation to claim your Liebster Award- image

Congratulations! What’s next?

  • Thank the person who nominated you- post a link to their blog
  • Display the Liebster 2016 award badge on your blog
  • Write a post about your favorite blog that is not your own, explaining why you like it
  • write 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserves the award – inform them that you have nominated them!
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers to answer

List the official rules in your post – you can find them at this fantastic Australian blogger’s site- https://theglobalaussie.com

Here are your 11 questions:

  • What is your favorite Southern city?
  • Two things, what is the hallmark of a southern lady and the distinguishing mark of a southern gentleman?
  • What is the most difficult thing for you to do as you post your blog?
  • List 3 things on your personal bucket list.
  • My favorite beach in Alabama is the white sugah’ sands of Orange Beach- what is your favorite beach- it can where you live or have visited elsewhere
  • List 3 of your favorite things, one must be ‘southern’
  • What inspires you on a daily basis, whether you blog about it or not
  • Do you prefer ‘sweet’ or ‘unsweet’ iced tea?
  • Tell me 5 things about yourself that you want others to know
  • What is the most challenging aspect of blogging so far?
  • Give me your 3 best tips for creating a great blog post

Ready, Set, Go! then we’ll celebrate!

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imageTo complete the process of acquiring my own Liebster award,  I will share 11 random facts about myself-

1. I am tech challenged, a woman of a certain age who loves Himalayan cats!

2. Most southerners love sweet tea, not me, I prefer unsweetened with lemon with the exception being, iced mint tea

3. I really prefer coffee, black please!

4. I decided to start this blog because I fell headfirst on an uneven sidewalk in Georgetown DC. After my head injury, I believed it was important for me to challenge myself to learn new skills which require concentration and creativity.

5. I am a collector of funny stories.

6. I am a published author, you can find my book ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’ on Amazon.com and other major booksellers

7. I grew up in the shadow of the original Iron Man, Vulcan- overlooking the massive steel mills and ironworks in Birmingham- if you grow up there, the choice is to become as ‘coarse and common as pig iron’ or be ‘refined into a steel magnolia’; I try to choose everyday to be the latter.

8. I do not believe anyone should be mistreated; I am a Christian who believes that I am at my best taking care of ‘the least of these’ and that the distinquishing mark of any faith should be to ‘love one another’ as God has loved us. One way I act on these beliefs-I am a member of the steering committee for the YWCA Purse and Passion/St.Clair luncheon to benefit victims of domestic violence.

9. I will always be indebted to my older sister, who at age 6, taught me how to read from her ‘Dick and Jane’ books- I was 4 years old. It started the most wonderful journey for me, a lifetime lover of words and books!

10. The most challenging thing for me as a writer or blogger is to avoid comparison.

11. Finally, I am a better cheerleader than a promoter of my own work-I thoroughly enjoyed nominating other bloggers for this part of the award process I prefer to promote lighthearted, good wholesome things, artists and others who live in my home state, Alabama. I hope you will look beyond the headlines to the beauty, industry, creativity and generosity in ‘my sweet home in Alabama’ . Again, it is an unexpected honor to receive the 2016 Liebster Award. Look at the cute award badge below! Love y’all, Camellia