Monday, April 11, 2016

Montgomery At It's Finest

No matter how I struggle and strive, I'll never get out of this world alive.”   Hank Williams

Greetings from Montgomery, Alabama. I thought I should start heading north, maybe just a little bit. Not too fast – don't want to get into those freezing snow filled days. So I will just meander along.

I am staying at Gunter Hill Campground which is a great find. It is a Corp of Engineers Park. I have always like their parks. I'm not too sure what their mission is, but they build some really great campgrounds along rivers. Another plus is that since they are a national organization and I am a geezer, I get to camp here for half price. I am paying $9 a night. Inconceivable!!!! There are two sides to this campground – one side has just been redone with level cement slabs and full hookups. Of course it being the weekend, that side is completely packed. The side I'm on – the Antioch Loop is a lot more rustic. Gravel sites with just water and electricity which suits me just fine. The other side is more like Suburbia while my side is more like camping. Of course I am glamping but still - give me that woodsy private feel. I have now stayed here for three nights. All the weekend warriors have gone home and there are only a few other folks in the campground.
My view from my lawn chair

I've been busy though. I went downtown Montgomery on a Saturday which sort of reminds me of St. Paul on a weekend. You don't have to look right nor left when crossing the street. Hardly anybody around. My goal was the Hank Williams Museum, a rather pricey museum but an excellent museum. It cost $10 to get in – no photography allowed and if you needed to talk or text on your cell phone, you needed to come up front and be supervised.
Downtown Montgomery - just me and him hanging out

This museum was what a museum should be. It showed through its exhibits Hank's journey from a poor shoeshine boy into one of the most influential musicians of the current day. The exhibits showed birth certificate, contracts, 17 stage suits including Nudie (famous suit maker for the Opry), custom made boots, cowboy hats, tie collection, awards, furniture, portraits, records, horse saddle, rare film footage, piano, family history, lots and lots of photos and more! There was also a lot of space allocated to people he played with in his various bands. They had a few Grand Ol' Opry set lists which were interesting. For example: 7:00 – 7:30 five bands would play. 7:30 – 8:00 another five bands would play. It sort of boggles the mind how quick they would have to move people around to make this all happen. It was fun seeing on these set lists from the early fifties, many names that I had actually heard of. They also had the 1952 Baby Blue Cadillac in which Hank “took his final journey on Jan 1, 1953” plus the blue jump suit he was wearing when he died. In fact, they had most of the personal contents from the car (suitcase, overcoats, gun, etc) on that fateful day.

I then got walking directions to the “life size” Hank Williams bronze statue. Since I couldn't take any pictures of the paraphernalia in the museum, I figure I had better walk over there. It may have been life size but all his limbs certainly didn't seem to be to scale.

I then had directions to go see his and Audrey's(wife) grave. Got to the cemetery and got totally lost so I called it a day. I couldn't spend a lot of time looking for the graves because my next sight to see was closing at 3 and it was already 2:00. I scurried over to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitgerald Museum which was a house where they lived in Montgomery(Zelda came from Montgomery). The Fitzgeralds only lived in this house as a family for about six months.

When I told the tour guide that I was from St. Paul, she wanted to know all about the Fitzgerald houses in St. Paul and wanted to know why St. Paul did not make a bigger deal about the Fitzgeralds since St. Paul had such a big influence on F. Scott. I vaguely remember seeing his house on Summit Avenue but did not have enough details to make my tour guide happy. Oh well.

I watched the movie which was great because I only had cursory knowledge about the Fitzgeralds and the short documentary helped pull together many of the facts of their lives. The young tour guide stayed past closing time to give me my own personal tour. She was very enthusiastic about her subject. There was not anything said about the house itself. The house was more of a vehicle to present the life details rather than how they used the house. Each room had displays laid out by year. 1931, this happened; 1932, this happened. Lots of photos, lots of personal letters. I felt rather badly about my tour guide having to stay late, so I didn't spend near enough time looking at all of the exhibits. I came away much more impressed by Zelda than F. Scott. The woman had severe mental illness, which caused hospitalization many times over her life, yet, she was an artist in her own right. From designing paper dolls to her Georgia O'Keefe influenced stage to finding her own voice. The docent said that she was diagnosed as a bi-polar schizophrenic and her paintings would show what stage she was in. When she was depressed,her paintings were very somber and dark. When she was happy, the paintings just exploded with color. The docent said that Zelda was responsible in some ways for the introduction of art therapy in the treatment of mental illness because the doctors studied Zelda and her art extensively during her hospitalizations.

The House
I'm a little bummed.  There is one museum that I will not get to see.  It is the Mooseum.  It is a museum sponsored by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association and it is all about one of my favorite creatures....The Cow!!!  I am just going to have to put it on my list for the next time I come through this way

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