Anniston, Alabama Monday March 13
Twenty four years ago, I was responsible for the move of the law firm I was administering from one old building to a brand new building that was constructed for us in Harrisburg PA for ourselves and a few tenants. Over that weekend, about 8 of us completed the details after the movers finished dropping off all of the furniture and equipment at 2 AM Saturday morning March 13. As they left, it started to snow. Over 20 inches of snow fell that weekend, the winds howled, and the Pennsylvania Governor closed the roads in the state. Now on March 13, 2017, the northeast section of the U.S. is having another good snowstorm. I feel for folks up there.
Our weather here in northern Alabama was not a snow storm but unpleasant enough that it impacted our plans for the day. The day was cool, breezy, and rainy/drizzly. We had hoped to do more walking in the northern Alabama foothills of the Appalachian mountains. We left Gadsden and drove the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway and the Talladega Scenic Drive to Cheaha State Park.
The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway is a standard two lane route nestled in the valley below the mountains. The low clouds only allowed for a partial view of the mountains. The Talladega Scenic Drive was constructed in Talladega National Forest specifically to connect to Cheaha State Park, home to the highest point in Alabama. This scenic drive is constructed similar to the Shenandoah Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway. It has limited connections. It is two lane. It is smooth. It is designed with vistas in mind. It is on top of the mountains presenting views down in to the valleys. It is enjoyable to drive.
Cheaha State Park is eerily similar to the highest point in another state, but for the life of me I can not remember which one. There is a circular design at the top,, with cabins around the edges. There is a stone restaurant at the end of the one way drive. In the middle of the circular, one-way drive is a stone blockhouse at the highest point in the state. The stone block house has stairs climbing to the top and the design looks exactly the same. There is an observation area. There is a USGS brass marker embedded in the concrete out front. One difference, today’s weather was cloudy and foggy and practically nothing could be seen out of the observation windows. I will probably wake up in the middle of the night remembering which state this observation tower resembles.
Given the weather, we chose not to do any hiking. I guess we could have, but it was not going to be pleasant and so we skipped it. Our second choice was a museum of natural history in Anniston Alabama. Oops, today is Monday, that traditional day for all museums to be closed. Third choice was a new national monument to be run by the National Park Service. However, this national monument is so new it has no visitor center. It is the Freedom Rider National Monument.
This national monument recognizes an error in the civil rights movement and specific acts of violence and courage that occurred in and around Anniston. In May 1961, a group of white and black freedom riders were riding on a Greyhound bus. At the Anniston Alabama bus station, the bus was attacked by a mob that threw rocks, broke windows, and slashed tires on the bus. The bus left the station for Birmingham but had to pull over about 6 miles west of town due to tire damage. The mob had followed the bus and when the bus pulled over, the mob attacked again and threw burning rags into the bus. With difficulty, the riders found their way to the Anniston hospital, which provided no real treatment. Once again the freedom riders were under siege by the mob. No police intervention occurred. Eventually deacons from a local Baptist Church rescued the riders and drove them to Birmingham. Even with the intervention of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the ride could not be completed.
A local freelance photographer had been tipped off the night before the bus ride that there might be some “action” at the bus depot. When challenged at the bus station the following morning by mob members, he lied and said that the head of the local Ku Klux Klan had sent him. They let him stay. His pictures of the burning bus were published locally and nationally.
After the photos were published, other freedom riders came forth. A few days later, and under further attack, they were able to complete the bus ride. By the end of the summer, the number of freedom riders multiplied dramatically across the South. The local photographer was haunted and threatened by members of his community. He and his family had to be given federal police protection around the clock. Eventually he moved out of Anniston and never returned.
Let us hope and pray that we are not returning to a time when hate crimes will multiply across America.
After lunch at a local barbecue restaurant, we stopped at a local antique store and did some shopping. Unusual for us but necessary since we could not yet check into the hotel. We did buy one set of notecards.
We ended up checking into the hotel early and doing laundry.
Ed and Chris. Anniston Alabama. March 13