Stuck in the Middle

Before the Tuscaloosa City Council’s vote to approve another Gastropub on University Blvd, the site was being readied for the new business.

During the Pre-Council meeting on July 26, 2022, no concerns by members of the Council about the Gastropub The Standard were expressed. Council President Kip Tyner said that a letter written by the father-in-law of the applicant was in support of the new venture. Peter Melon, who was a Councilman in Easton, Pennsylvania was the sole individual who had submitted a comment. (The letter was never read into the record.)

Council member Matthew Wilson, in whose district the Gastropub is not located, said that he welcomed the new venture. There was a spirit of collegiality among the Council members, with a good deal of amiable banter and laughter before the vote.

The city made a pro forma presentation and the applicants made comments about the Gastropub being a family oriented place, where people could eat and drink. The hours of operation would be on Sunday from eleven am to eleven pm; and for the rest of the week, from eleven am to two am.

The Tuscaloosa Fire Department had registered its concern about “adding another establishment of this type in an already densely populated area. The adjacent occupancies have a combined occupancy load of close to 1100 people and it creates issues with exit discharge and loitering as it stands today.”

Mayor Walter Maddox said that, since it was obvious that everyone on the Council supported the Gastropub, there was no reason not to call for a vote.

It was not too long ago that Maddox had lamented that the Council had been given the false impression that another business located on The Strip would be a family oriented sports grill. Instead it has been among the bars on The Strip that, as reported by Stephan Dethrage, had been part of “loitering, overcrowding, open container violations and other problems.”

The city’s classification of a business as a Gastropub is codified (§24-5.) as:

Gastropub: An establishment where full menu meals are primarily served during typical mealtime hours and bar operations continue independently or as the primary use during late night hours, providing the on premise sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. In making this determination, the zoning officer shall consider the following criteria:

(1) Exclusions of patrons under the age of twenty-one (21) at any time;

(2) Removal or rearrangement of table and seating facilities from the floor area;

(3) Meals are still being served; and

(4) Cover charges being collected.

WVUA 23 NewsJabaree Prewitt and Erin Patterson in 2021 reported on new regulations for Gastropubs:

By unanimous vote, the Tuscaloosa City Council now has more power over the city’s bars and gastropubs after ordinance amendments were signed Tuesday.

The Council used the amendments to change full-service operating hours for gastropubs, which serve food until a certain time and then close their kitchens and serve only alcohol. Before the vote, gastropubs could serve food until midnight, but the new rule pushes that back to 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., gastropubs may only serve alcohol until close. These hours will apply only to new businesses, not existing ones.

Some prominent gastropub examples are Innisfree on University Boulevard, Bear Trap on the Strip and World of Beer on University Boulevard in downtown Tuscaloosa.

Essentially many Gastropubs have been a restaurant that morphs into a bar, allowing minors to be served food until a set hour. Closing a Gastropub to minors, when it has changed into a bar, has been at the discretion of its operators. Drink specials promote alcohol sales that frequently attract under-aged drinkers, according to BMC, part of Springer Nature.

Jason Morton in The Tuscaloosa News reported on steps that the city was considering to reduce overcrowding on The Strip. He wrote:

The City Council is weighing options to require permits for businesses – mainly bars and gastropubs, or restaurants that convert to bars after a certain hour – where a night’s entertainment can draw crowds that take over outdoor walkways.

A “queue permit” would be required for businesses that have experienced long lines outside their venues.

An ordinance that would amend §21-29 of the Tuscaloosa codes was discussed at the July, 26, 2022 Pre-Council meeting. It addressed problems with loitering, outdoor alcohol consumption, pedestrians being forced into the street and overcrowding.

The newly approved Gastropub on The Strip is located in between two of the most problematic establishments. Perhaps, if queuing is required, the existing problems will be alleviated?

Somehow the Stealers Wheel song “Stuck in the Middle With You” comes to mind:

Clowns to the left of me,

Jokers to the right, here I am,

Stuck in the middle with you.

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Rose in the Stadium

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Photo by Cole Keister on Pexels.com

Now that I’m haunting Bryant-Denny Stadium, a lot of my thoughts have revolved around football.

I got the name “Rose” because my parents were such fanatical Alabama Football followers. You see, after the Alabama football team won the Rose Bowl in 1926, that’s when the Crimson Tide began its storied rise to become the greatest of all football teams. My parents actually named me Rose because of that unlikely victory.

The battle song of the Confederacy was played in a championship parade on the streets of Tuscaloosa after the Rose Bowl victory against the Washington Huskies. After the South had lost the Battle of the States it had had a chip on its shoulder. The process of Reconstruction just rubbed salt in the bloody wounds of defeat. The success of the football team in California seemed to many in the Heart of Dixie as kind of a redemption. It was considered by many to be “The Game That Changed The South.”

The Alabama fight song “Yea Alabama” alludes to the Rose Bowl victory:

Remember the Rose Bowl, we’ll win then.
Go, roll to victory,
Hit your stride,
You’re Dixie’s football pride,
Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!

The football team was first described as “The Crimson Tide” by a sports writer in Birmingham who gave the team that nickname after a 1907 game in Birmingham’s Legion Field against its instate rival the Auburn Tigers. The writer thought that the red mud on the field that was exposed in the soggy contest stained the white Alabama uniforms a crimson color. He said that the game was played in a sea of crimson.

Many of the girls on my floor in Tutwiler Hall, began to experience what one professor called the McClintock effect, where the onset of our menstrual cycles were synchronized. We began to refer to this phenomenon as our Crimson Tide. My “home after life” for over 50 years was in the residence dorm. It was brand new when I’d moved in. I really had only a short stay in the hall before I returned to haunt it, after I’d committed suicide.

The blood splotches that were all over the walls of my parents’ bedroom after I blew my brains out on Christmas Day in 1968 resembled red rose petals. I’ve always wondered if my parents saw them in that way.

The stadium that is now my earthly abode has gone through some changes since it opened in 1929. It was initially named Denny Stadium in honor of George H. Denny, the school’s president from 1912 to 1932. In addition to promoting the University’s football program, he was largely responsible for establishing the school’s dominant Greek culture. Denny had, as a student in Virginia, been a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. As the University’s president in 1914, he had pulled strings to have Sigma Chi rechartered after its involvement in a campus underground society. Stories about one of Denny’s daughters had been told throughout the years. She was reputedly involved in drinking, partying and skinny dipping in Hurricane Creek. She must have been ahead of her time.

Denny Stadium had expanded by the time I’d enrolled to become a bowl shaped stadium with both end zones being fully enclosed. It had a capacity of about 60,000. The success of Alabama football was largely due to the arrival of Paul “Bear” Bryant who became the head coach in 1958. He had won three National Championships by the time I became a ghost only ten years later. He went on to win six in all. The stadium was renamed in 1975 as Bryant-Denny Stadium.  

When I enrolled at the University, the air in Tuscaloosa frequently smelled like a rotten egg. A large paper mill that had been operating since 1928 was the cause of the stench. I heard that Coach Bryant had worked out an agreement that the mill would curtail its operation on the Saturdays that the football team played in town. The mill closed down for good in the seventies. The gentrification and expansion of the University that has occurred in the last couple of decades would’ve doubtlessly not have occurred if the campus had still had a smell redolent of rotten eggs. Some locals always said that the paper mill smelled like bacon, because it created so many jobs. I bet that the University’s expansion has created far more jobs though.

During the football season when I first was at the University, not far away from where George Denny’s segregated Sigma Chi fraternity house was located, a huge Confederate flag was draped over the front of Kappa Alpha house. Standing in front were its members who wore gray Confederate uniforms along with co-eds who were wearing  hoop skirts. It looked like a scene out of “Gone With The Wind.” In spite of fact that the Greeks who were wearing Rebel outfits were all lily white, I‘m sure many of them screamed in joy at football games after a black player scored a touchdown in the stadium.

“Bear” Bryant’s success as a head coach was doubtlessly due to his recruitment of black players. The University had been integrated in 1963 after Alabama’s Governor George Wallace had made his “Stand In The School House Door.” President John F. Kennedy had federalized the Alabama National Guard to expedite the enrollment of two black students. Four years later, when I had enrolled, there still weren’t many black students at the University and no black football players. Wallace’s promise of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” was broken in any event.

The story of how Coach Bryant arranged for the Alabama football team to play an integrated University of Southern California football team in 1970 is part of Crimson Tide football lore. The talent and athleticism of the black players on the California team was largely responsible for the Tide’s humiliating defeat. After that black football players were recruited by Alabama.

But it was still “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” for the Greek system at Alabama.

It won’t be long before my new home at the stadium is packed with rabid football fans. I don’t know whether to look forward to their arrival or to feel dread.

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Tutwiler Memories

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Tutwiler was reduced to rubble on July 4th

It’s me, Rose, again. Now that I’m haunting Bryant-Denny stadium I can look back to where Tutwiler Hall was located. It’s almost as if it never existed. For a short while there was rubble. Now it’s just a vacant space.

I couldn’t very well go into the new Tutwiler. It wasn’t inhabited and I can’t haunt a building that doesn’t have people in it. Its first residents weren’t scheduled to arrive until August. The stadium always seemed to have people inside. So that’s where I went.

At the old Tutwiler, people had to pass by a large circular desk to gain access to the elevators or dining area. Girls always seemed to be able to sneak male students inside anyway. We shared bathrooms. On some nights it seemed that people were fighting to get space at the mirrors to put their makeup on.

Co-eds at the University when I enrolled were a distinct minority. By 1968, the year that I died, the University only had about 13,000 students enrolled. About 8,000 were male and about 5,000 were female. Over the years the enrollment of female students became greater than that of males. Out of about 38,000 students, 22,000 were female by the time Tutwiler was condemned.

The University has been gentrified since I was first enrolled. I had followed the continual changes on campus over the years in the student newspaper. Luckily a copy of the latest Crimson White was blown into the stadium during a summer thunderstorm. It was wet but I could still read about the new Tutwiler.

The new version of Tutwiler, which was to be opened for students the month after the old building was demolished, would accommodate over 1200 co-eds. Two girls would share rooms, that had bathrooms. That sure beats having to share with other girls on the floor, like when I moved in. Rooms would have a microwave and mini-frig too. I doubt if any of the rooms will be subject to the dorm room inspections that I had to undergo. There will be a lot of cameras around so there’s a lot of video surveillance.

Girls used to wear skirts to class. That eventually changed to short exercise shorts and tee-shirts or leggings, joggers and tight jeans along with a tank top, at least during the warm months. When I first entered the University, “conservative” bathing suits were required when girls sunned themselves on private sun decks and even the use of Bermuda shorts was restricted. There was the curfew for women students too.  Eventually the doctrine of “in loco parentis” ceased to regulate the lives of University co-eds.

A professor once lectured about a “biological mandate to reproduce.” I think he was just talking about being horny. Put thousands of pheromone laden students together and that’s what you get.

When I was at school there were conversations among the girls about what “base” their boyfriends had gotten to. First base was kissing; second was petting above the waist (allowing a boy to grope your breasts); third was petting below the waist (allowing a boy to fondle your nether regions); and home plate was going all the way. Things have sure changed since then.

“Hooking up,” as the co-eds now call getting to home plate, is more commonplace. Many just go right to home plate and skip the other bases. And it could be with a stranger. I once read an Snapchat post by a sorority sister who thought that the Machine endorsed local school board candidate was attractive. She wrote, “He’s so hot I’d give him a handy.” I guess that hand jobs and even “blow jobs” were still on the menu.

What was sad to me is when a female student, who was drunk, became pregnant by hooking up. She might find herself having to marry an immature, disgusting boy that she barely knew. Thank God abortions were possible!

One girl said, “I forget just about everything I’ve ever learned in class. By going to the University at least I’ve learned to hold my liquor!” Of course, some students have partied too much instead of studying and have flunked out. I think the idea that “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” is the reason that there was so much drinking going on. Many girls who were sloppy drunk and wearing short shorts and clingy tank tops might as well be wearing “Fuck me. I’m about to pass out” signs. It seems that many of their parents also existed in an alcoholic haze, so students were just becoming another version of their folks. Like their parents their social lives revolved around booze. Maybe that’s how they came into the world in the first place?

I thought differently about the idea that the University was the breeding ground for our “nation’s future leaders” after the Covid pandemic started. With students living in densely packed dorms and fraternity houses as well as meeting in bars and classroom settings, it seemed as if the University had also become a breeding ground for disease. After infections rose rapidly in 2020, the University called for a moratorium on student activities outside of classrooms. Gatherings were prohibited both on and off campus. Certain areas in dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses were closed. The city even closed bars for two weeks. At one point there was a state wide mask order.

But before the Covid pandemic had shown any sign of ending, things had gotten back to normal on campus. Here in the stadium, where I now reside, for a year there had been fewer fans allowed in. A lot of them refused to wear masks. A popular basketball “superfan” with the nickname Fluff died due to Covid after attending a championship game. He frequently took his mask off after his followers asked him to pose with him in “selfies.” Most students were not fully vaccinated. Bars were crowded. At one point, the band The Velcro Pygmies posted pictures in Twitter of maskless students at a local bar. The Tweet included the message, “You’re being reckless. You’re going to get everyone killed.”

I don’t think that there were a lot of student deaths due to Covid. The basketball fan may be haunting Coleman Coliseum for all I know. Fluff’s place in the basketball arena, section S, row one, seat seven, now has a plaque in his honor. Students were more resilient when it came to infections. I don’t know whether they took the virus home when they visited Grannie or Grand Dad. I also don’t know if many students simply had no symptoms and now have Long Covid either.

It could very well be that I’m not the only ghost haunting the Capstone. I’ve never seen another spectral entity, but that may just be due to the rules of ghostly life.

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Drinking Booze — Unsafe?

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

A new study on alcohol consumption warned of the dangers of drinking by younger people. The study printed in the Lancet reported that there were no health benefits from alcohol consumption in people under 39. An American Association for the Advancement of Science press release stated:

Young people face higher health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults, according to a new analysis published in The Lancet.

The analysis suggests that for young adults ages 15-39, there are no health benefits to drinking alcohol, only health risks, with 59.1% of people who consumed unsafe amounts of alcohol in 2020 between ages 15-39 years and 76.7% male.

The proliferation of bars that primarily serve the University of Alabama‘s student community have business models that depend on drawing students in. Low prices on drinks during “Happy Hours,” or even during other times that the bars are open, promote student drinking.

BMC, part of Springer Nature, in 2014 published a study about how young adults’ drinking behaviors change in the presence of happy hour specials. The study said:

Women, students under 21, non-athletes, members of Greek-affiliated organizations, more affluent and unemployed students, and students living on campus were more likely to change their drinking behavior in the presence of happy hour specials. In general, the most robust predictors of negative events are gender, alcohol use frequency, age of alcohol use onset, and increasing drinking due to happy hours/bar specials.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has published its concerns about college drinking. According to the NIAAA, binge drinking by college students is a major problem:

Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Some students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can lead to a problem. According to a national survey, almost 53 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 33 percent engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame. For the purposes of this survey, binge drinking was defined as consuming 5 drinks or more on one occasion for males and 4 drinks or more for females. However, some college students drink at least twice that amount, a behavior that is often called high-intensity drinking.

There was some confusion during recent discussion during a Tuscaloosa City Council meeting about the approval of a Gastropub. In 2021, as reported by WVUA‘s Jabaree Prewitt and Erin Patterson, the Council enacted new laws that would limit the hours that bars that serve food could operate. Some Council members had questions about under-aged drinkers being allowed on the premises.

Under the new laws, some restaurants that have always morphed into bars, such as Innisfree, would be grandfathered in. Any new Gastropub would be have to be approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council before it could operate.

The possibility that alcohol will be sold during University of Alabama athletic events was reported by The Tuscaloosa NewsNick Kelly. During the early months of the football season, temperatures at Bryant-Denny Stadium can be searing. Heat indexes of as much as 107° F have been experienced in September.

Beyond the long term dangers of chronic alcohol consumption, the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) has warned about alcohol use during hot weather. Savannah Koplon wrote:

“It is tempting to want to cool off with an adult refreshment; but in temperatures like we see here in Alabama, it not only creates a false sense of hydration for folks but simultaneously causes quick onset feelings like impairment and disorientation, which can be amplified quickly by the sun,” said Sarah Nafziger, M.D., vice president for Clinical Support Services at UAB Hospital.

“Alcohol notoriously can make someone feel full, but we really caution people to not mistake feeling full and having fun with signs of dehydration and eating proper filling meals,” Nafziger urged.

“The body uses sweating to cool itself; but with extreme temperatures, high humidity and a high heat index, body temperature can rise to dangerous levels,” said Marie-Carmelle Elie, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. “Older adults, young children and those with preexisting conditions are at highest risk; but anyone can develop heat-related illnesses under the right conditions.” 

Booze has been around for a long time. It has played a significant role in the history of Western Civilization. According to Britanica, warnings against the “evil effects of excessive drinking” were present in Greek, Hebrew, and Roman cultures.

Today’s medical community has provided a scientific basis for the ancient warnings. One thing is highly likely. When the first kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium takes place in September, it will occur during a hot time in T-Town.

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My Home Away From Life In The Stadium

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

Photo by Aidan Roof on Pexels.com

Oh, by the way, my name is Rose. When I came to the University, the University’s President’s last name was Rose. He was a pompous man who bloviated about The Great Society a lot. I’ve seen University Presidents come and go. One of the scariest ones was a woman. Bonner seemed to be a real pawn of the University’s Machine, a secretive Greek student organization that virtually ran the campus. She didn’t last all that long. Since I’m a ghost maybe I shouldn’t say anything about being scary. I’m certainly not scary, but living people often scare the hell out of me.

When Tutwiler Hall was reduced to rubble, I lost my home. As I floated in the dust, I saw a cluster of nearby sorority houses, a cemetery (which was no place to live) and Bryant Denny Stadium.

I remember looking down from Tutwiler and each year observing people decorating graves with big floral arrangements shaped like “A”s during the football season. I thought, “Boy, they must be big Crimson Tide fans.” But I doubt if the deceased who were buried there were shouting “Roll Tide Roll” wherever they landed after their lives. I’ll bet that few football stadiums were built next to a graveyard, but I’ll guess that cemeteries everywhere would be decorated in support of sports teams.

I had found a home after life at Tutwiler. After I had committed suicide in my parent’s bedroom on Christmas Day, I suddenly found what was left of myself in the eleven floor hallway of Tutwiler where I’d had a room as a University student. I wandered throughout the residence hall for nearly half of a decade, submerged in the lives of women students.

I had depended on the student newspaper and gossip from the students to know what was going on in the greater world. Of course I had watched television and then, after the internet became a big deal, looked over the shoulder of students who were using their laptop computers. I guess the Tik Tok posts about sorority life on campus turned me off so much that I’d never have considered “haunting” one of the sorority houses. I’ll bet there are some tormented souls residing in them. The girls in sororities seemed as if they were putting on a brave face in spite of their alcohol fueled miserable little lives. There were sorority members living in Tutwiler for sure.

It seemed that most of the girls at Tutwiler, even when they were in the throes of premenstrual syndromes or brokenhearted over a bad romance, felt as if life was tolerable. Many just liked being away from their parents. But the sorority girls faced an oppressive level of peer group pressure. Even if they had been raped, their sisters told them to accept it. They couldn’t offend the fraternity that their house was affiliated with. I’ll admit that, since I’d never even gone out for Rush, my impressions of Greek life came from second hand accounts.

When Bryant Denny first became my home away from life, it seemed like a pretty empty place. I listened to and observed stadium workers. I missed having copies of the student newspaper and mostly all of the girls that had lived in Tutwiler. Of course, by the time the residence hall was demolished, the girls had left.

The stadium seemed huge. Some of the accommodations, the skyboxes and club areas, were new to me. When I had gone to a few games as a living breathing student in the sixties just about everybody sat out in the open. Now so much has changed. I’ve yet to fully explore the massive football facility.

I can’t imagine what it will be like when the stadium is bursting with a hundred thousand living souls during football season. I guess I’ll be finding out soon enough.

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My Home Away From Life

This installation of the Franklin Stove Blog is a departure from the usual format.

It’s fictional, based on accounts of actual events.

It might even be considered a ghost writ post.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.

My old home is gone. It imploded. After I committed suicide in 1968, I’d been haunting the halls of Tutwiler Hall at the University of Alabama. I’d actually committed suicide in my parent’s bedroom on Christmas day. But I’d returned to the University where my earthly torment had ultimately driven me to put a bullet in my head.

Now Tutwiler has been reduced to a pile of bricks. On July 4th, 2022, the building was demolished by the University. A new version of Tutwiler had replaced it. The fiery hubbub had even been livestreamed by the University.

As a student, I’d lived on the eleventh floor of Tutwiler. In 1968, the building which housed only female students was brand new. Over the years I’ve seen at least fifty thousand co-eds move into Tutwiler. Most never were aware that I was “living” in their midst, just as I had not been aware of any other spirits who were also “haunting” the place.

Of course, there have always been stories about students who were residing in Tutwiler having had the sensation that they were being watched or having heard strange noises. The building was even written up in a blog that was dedicated to the supernatural. The blog post “The Ghosts of Dixie” had erroneously said that a female student committed suicide on a floor in Tutwiler Hall. No. It was actually in my parent’s bedroom that I blew my brains out.

Over the years, other than the gossip by girls in the hall, I’d kept track of things by reading the University’s student newspaper. Copies of the Crimson White were easily found at Tutwiler. I remember a couple of articles about suicide rates being higher at the University than in “average statistics.” The University had even double the national suicide rate.

A Crimson White story in 2011 reported that there had been four suspected suicides at the University. Interviews with students and even an evangelical Christian pastor expressed the grief over the deaths. Over the years doubtlessly there had been a countless number of suicides.

I’d heard a lot about another female student at the University of Alabama who in 2016 had committed suicide in her parent’s house after having been raped in Tuscaloosa. A Crimson White reporter had written “It was a story about education, Southern culture, mental health, friendship, power and how all of those things come together.” There had been a story in the Crimson White that the University in had settled on its portion of a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018. The civil case against the man accused of rape had been settled in 2021.

The University co-ed who had been the subject of the case hadn’t been a Tutwiler resident. I don’t know if her spirit, like mine, came back to the University, but I truly hope that she’s in some sort of other celestial abode now.

I’d heard gossip about a sorority girl being gang raped by fraternity members and then being deposited naked in her sorority’s yard. Stories of professors at the University having had sex with students were common enough. Gossip came and went at Tutwiler. Sometimes I felt that other students had a better reason for suicide than I had.

I was a sophomore at the University when I took my life. I’d felt an overwhelming sense of being out of place. I had experienced an alienation from society. Things just didn’t make any sense. I know that some male students had remained in school just to avoid the military draft. I had always considered the male students not even worthy of my contempt. The war in Vietnam and riots in ghettos throughout the country were hardly things I even thought about. One of my professors had taught about an “existential angst.” Maybe that was what I was feeling? Why did I feel so out of place?

I had accidentally discovered my Dad’s handgun in a dresser drawer on that Christmas Day. I simply pointed it at my head and pulled the trigger. I hadn’t even even thought that it was loaded. It was just a gesture of dispair. I don’t think my parents had a clue about how unhappy I’d been.

But, somehow, in death I was pulled back to Tutwiler Hall. I’d somehow grown to think of it as “home,” more so than even my place of birth. Instead of seeing any kind of heavenly light at the end of a tunnel when I died, I only saw the eleventh floor hallway of Tutwiler Hall. Residents scurried to and fro in a steady rhythm of life. Their constant chatter and activity seemed to me like an ocean of comfort. In life I had been vaguely annoyed by the presence of my fellow co-eds. But in my disembodied state I swam eagerly through the living. My angst dissolved. I had finally found a home.

Then in a fiery combustion my home was destroyed in July of 2022. My very essence seemed to be scattered into the sky for a moment. I looked around for somewhere to go. Then I saw the football stadium that had been so central to the University’s life. I knew then that Bryant Denny stadium would be my new home away from life.

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KABOOM!!!

Photo by Littlehampton Bricks on Pexels.com

Anyone living near the University of Alabama campus would’ve heard a loud explosion on the afternoon of June 23, 2022. The explosion on campus involved hazardous material found in the now renamed Nott Hall. Could it have been a prelude to the scheduled 2022 July 4th demolition of the University of Alabama‘s Tutwiler Hall?

Ryan Phillips in the Patch reported that the University of Alabama had evacuated its Honors Hall “out of an abundance of caution Thursday afternoon after a ‘potentially hazardous material’ was discovered in a storage room.” Phillips wrote that the material “was a chemical commonly used in labs that can become dangerous if dried.” He reported that “it will be transported to a nearby area and destroyed, which may result in a large detonation being heard around campus.”

A call made to the University’s Police Department about the noise made by the exploding material resulted only in a comment about a “controlled explosion” on campus. *

Al.com‘s William Thornton wrote:

Honors Hall is the former Nott Hall, renamed in 2020 following the recommendation of a working group to the University Board of Trustees. Its former namesake, Josiah Nott, helped found the medical school at UA in Mobile but supported slavery and misused medical evidence to argue that non-white races were inferior, according to a study.

Honors Hall houses the Honors College and was originally opened in 1923. It is located on the east side of the UA campus Quad.

The implosion of Tutwiler Hall, scheduled for the the Fourth of July, had received a lot of publicity. As far back as July 16, 2021, Mark Hughes Cobb had written an article “‘Good thing those old walls can’t talk:’ Former Tutwiler Hall residents recall University of Alabama days” about the impending demolition.

Ty Boyle and Lexi Crowe reported in The Crimson White that the University had been selling pieces of the old Tutwiler Hall building. On a Division of Student life website, commemorative bricks were going for $100 and room number plates were selling for $50.

There had been articles about the best ways to view the implosion of Tutwiler Hall, such as Al.com‘s Ben Flanagan‘s story “UA imploding Tutwiler Hall July 4: How to see the demolition live.” The event would even be livestreamed by the University.

Also on the chopping block with Tutwiler Hall in July was Harris Hall, as reported by The Crimson White‘s Reghan Bailey. Harris Hall, a co-ed dormitory built in 1939, would be demolished to make way in part for a twenty-one million dollar Sigma Kappa house, according to a story in The Crimson White by Ty Boyle. The destruction of Harris Hall, in terms of publicity, seemed to rank below that of Tutwiler Hall, which was built in 1968.

The price tag for the Sigma Kappa sorority building is not extraordinary. A House Beautiful article “The 15 Most Outrageous University of Alabama Sorority Houses” by Nikhita Mahtani described the University’s Greek mansions. Dominating the University of Alabama’s landscape are huge Greek mansions that are located on state owned property. The property is leased to the Greek organizations for a nominal amount, possibly as little as a dollar yearly.

T-Town is doubtlessly on the way to having a Fourth of July to remember.

* Does anyone know what that “potentially hazardous material” that was found in Nott Hall was and how it got there? The immediate news coverage of the explosion never clarified the matter.

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Booze at Bryant-Denny?

In February, 2022, a post “Golfballs, Football & Booze” on the Franklin Stove Blog (FSB) mentioned “the night trash was tossed on the field in a Vols’ loss to Ole Miss.” In addition to a golf ball, as reported in the Knoxville News Sentinel by Adam Sparks, beer cans were also showered down upon the Ole Miss Rebels.

Mississippi‘s head coach Lane Kiffin even pulled a stunt later, according to ESPN‘s Alex Scarborough, where he threw a golf ball during the ceremonial first pitch before a Rebels‘ baseball matchup with the Tennessee Vols at the Rebels‘ baseball field. Kiffin had kept the yellow golf ball that he had been pelted with at the football game in Knoxville.

Now, Al.com‘s Michael Casagrande has reported that beer may be sold in T-Town at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Casagrande wrote:

The war of words between the City of Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama appears to be over with a celebration over drinks to come.

After rare public sparring over a plan to sell alcohol at Crimson Tide sporting events, the two sides announced a detente Wednesday. With it, Alabama’s plan to introduce booze sales at sporting events is back in motion, according to a statement from athletics director Greg Byrne.

The FSB reported about the February 8, 2022, Tuscaloosa City Council meeting when Herbert Tesh had representated Levy Premium Foodservice: “During the public hearing on February 8, the food service’s representative Tesh had said that ‘hawking’ (the selling of alcohol by concession stand workers to seated fans) at football games might be a possibility in the future if the council would approve such sales.”

A three dollar public safety fee that would be added to ticket charges for Alabama football games, had been discussed by the Council. Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne was irate about such a charge. He said, “It is very unfortunate that the city of Tuscaloosa’s plan would unreasonably target Alabama Athletics and our fans with a service fee on all tickets where alcohol is sold, even tickets sold to children.”

The Tuscaloosa NewsJason Morton wrote in an article published on February 13, 2022, about the new fees. “According to a 2015 report by the online sports publication SBNation.com, the University of Alabama is the only SEC school that relies on the municipal public safety departments for security during its sporting events while shouldering none of the costs.”

On February 14, 2022, in the Tuscaloosa News, Nick Kelly and Jason Morton reported: “Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne put out a statement Monday on Twitter stating that the department ‘will not be moving forward with alcohol sales at this time’ pending further review of a service fee policy that the Tuscaloosa City Council amended during its Feb. 8 meeting.”

[During an interview on the Tide 1009 radio program] (Mayor) “Maddox referenced last season’s football game between Ole Miss and the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium – where alcohol currently is sold – that was delayed for 20 minutes with orange-clad fans took issue with a fourth quarter call by officials and pelted the field with debris.”

Bama Central‘s Joey Blackwell reported on the details of a University of Alabama press release about future stadium alcohol sales:

According to the press release, UA will provide specialty service funding to cover the increased fire and rescue, police, transportation and infrastructure services that are needed on game days in Tuscaloosa. UA also introduced a new scholarship program intended to raise funds for scholarships for Tuscaloosa police officers and firefighters.

The University Press Release included:

The agreement continues existing shared services arrangements and adds specialty services funding from UA to the City of Tuscaloosa to cover other community event services like enhanced fire and rescue, transportation, and infrastructure services.

The agreement will replace the proposed service fee on UA events.

Nick Kelly and Jason Morton reported in The Tuscaloosa News that: “Starting in 2024, the agreement calls for UA to contribute $250,000 to City Hall by Jan. 31 of each year through 2028.”

Arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct or intoxication at college football stadiums where alcohol is sold have been commonplace.

ABC-8/WFAA‘s Kyle Iboshi wrote about “Beer Fights and Bad Behavior” at college football games:

“You couple alcohol with the upped emotions, the intensity, screaming and yelling and you have some potential for issues,” explained Brian Baxter, sports psychologist and director of the Sport Psychology Institute Northwest.

Across the country, stadium security kicked out thousands of college football fans for illegal consumption or public drunkenness.

For many fans, the drinking begins well before kick-off. Tailgating outside college football stadiums often includes copious amounts of beer, wine and liquor.

A FSB post on January 28, 2022 reported:

Paul Steinbach in his 2004 article “Sporting Events and Booze a Volatile Mix” called for “effective alcohol management’ policies.

He wrote about the role of beer service employees at ball parks:

Most parks now include video surveillance equipment that can home in on specific seat locations, but beer hawkers, concessions-stand workers and ushers equipped only with their own eyes are also relied upon to recognize the tell-tale signs of intoxication, or in some cases the mere probability of intoxication. A hawker who sees a stack of empty cups beneath the seat of a single fan may opt to avoid eye contact with that individual or avoid his or her section altogether. A concessions-stand worker who recognizes repeat visits by one individual must keep in mind that it takes at least one hour for the average fan to metabolize the alcohol that is found in two 12-ounce beers. As a large button pinned to his or her uniform typically states, any vendor reserves the right to refuse service.

Will the University of Alabama‘s “specialty service” funding be adequate to cover the increased public safety costs of game day activity? The amount agreed upon by the University of $250,000 is only a small fraction of the amount that a $3 per ticket public safety fee would have generated.

Greg Byrne has been fully determined that alcohol will be sold at the stadium. T-Town will be further awash in booze on game days if he has his way.

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Judy Judy Judy

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In 2014, The Franklin Stove Blog (FSB) was linked to at the end of a touching and disturbing letter from an Alabama student’s mother to the University of Alabama President Judy Bonner.

Patricia Ann Smith was concerned about the negative experiences of her daughter Katie at the Capstone and with the Machine. Bonner was serving as the first women President of the University of Alabama. (Many of the letter’s readers from T-Town only could find the letter on The Franklin Stove Blog‘s post, because it was never published in the Tuscaloosa News.)

Bonner had her hands full at the Capstone. In 2014, after a a member of the Chi Omega University at the University had made a racially offensive Snap Shot post, she sent an email addressing the situation. The email (as was Smith‘s letter) was published in full on the FSB. In her email Bonner said, “We are all extremely disappointed when any student uses language that is disrespectful or offensive to any segment of the UA community.”

The FSB reported about the sorority’s history:

A  2013 story in The Crimson White reported that a member of Chi Omega, who asked to remain anonymous, said “‘I know [the recruit] got perfect scores from the people in chapter the first day, and she got cut after the first day and I know it had to do with our advisor – is the one that dropped her,’ the Chi Omega member said. ‘Her name is Emily Jamison.’”

The Chi Omegas had just dropped their one black recruit in the most recent rush.

Bonner stepped down from her position at the University in 2014. Reporting by the FSB in the post “Goodbye Judy” included:

Bonner attended the ribbon cutting for the Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. The building was said to be the “greatest fraternity house on campus.” Pi Kappa Phi’s credo was: ‘A house, a grip, a badge, a song, an emblem. These do not make the fraternity. It is the unseen things: friendship, brotherhood, character, honor, courage, ideals. These make the fraternity and the man.’

But there was always a fly in the ointment. ‘Brotherhood,’ when it came to having a black brother or sister, was relative. Bonner took modest efforts to integrate the University’s Greek system. Many who dealt with the University on issues related to student ethics felt that Bonner was constrained by the cozy relationship that the University’s administration had with the Greek system. Nearly thirty percent of the student body are Greeks and many come from wealthy and powerful families.

After Bonner‘s departure from the University, the Machine still dominated campus politics and racial improprieties continued, as had been reported in the FSB. There were still racist posts on social media. And students sometimes faced modest consequences.

The problem with institutional racism at the University seemed intractable. It was indisputably linked to the importance of Greek life at the Capstone.

Bonner was recently given accolades, as reported in Tuscaloosa News reporter Jasmine Hollie‘s June 10, 2022, story “University of Alabama renames Child Development Center in honor of first female president.” Hollie wrote:

In 2016, the university first awarded the Judy Bonner Presidential Medallion, which recognizes a member of the UA community who has gone above and beyond normal expectations. And Eighth Street, between Colonial Drive and Sixth Avenue, is now known as Judy Bonner Drive.

In all likelihood Bonner has fond memories of her time at the Capstone. The University has certainly given her the recognition that she deserves. Smith‘s letter to her in 2014 was doubtlessly just a blip on the radar screen to her.

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The end of truth-seeking in T-Town?

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The Franklin Stove Blog was initiated in July, 2013, when its domain name “ttowntruthseeker.com was acquired. The first post was on August 8, 2013.

The Franklin Stove Blog first reported about the insanity of the 2013 municipal elections in T-Town, when University of Alabama students, who were bribed by the promise of free booze, rode to the polls in limousines to vote for a Machine supported candidate. Subsequent posts concerned under-aged drinking, the Covid pandemic, violence in T-Town and other issues. A blog about a sorority “Farm Party” during the Covid pandemic received the most attention. It was linked to in stories across the globe after it was referred to in a post in the Daily Beast by Olivia Messer “Alabama Sorority Gets Official Blessing for 600-Person Farm Party Just in Time for Holidays.”.

In one more year the Franklin Stove Blog will celebrate its tenth anniversary. It would seem appropriate that anniversary would be the right time to end the blog.

If, for any reason, archiving a Franklin Stove Blog post would be of interest, then a pdf should be created.

Hopefully in its last year, the Franklin Stove Blog will continue its tradition of seeking the “truth”.

The fictional character Robert Langdon in Dan Brown‘s, The Da Vinci Code had this line:

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books–books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”

The quote “The truth is out there” comes from The X-Files television series about the government’s covering up of paranormal phenomena. Sometimes the truth seems stranger than fiction.

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