Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dothan, AL (3/29/16)

Dothan is a town in southeast Alabama, population around 65,000.  I've traveled through it many times on the way to some other place, but never stopped.  For several years, I've been aware that Dothan is home to the Whispering Giant for the state of Alabama, but I just never made the effort required to search for it.  Driving a motor home towing a vehicle can be a dicey proposition in narrow downtown streets, and you never know when parked cars or a dead end will cause some grief.  However, I figured this may be my last opportunity, since I'm heading west for good (hopefully) and don't expect to see Dothan again.  So, I found an RV park near town and spent the night.  I set up camp early enough to visit the Whispering Giant.  While registering, I told the woman why I was here.  She was not even aware of the statue or its significance, so I told her the story.  She then mentioned I might be interested in the town's murals and gave me a brochure with a map and description of all fifteen murals.  Naturally, I visited and photographed most of the murals, which I thought were very important in telling the history of this town.

First, the Whispering Giant, fifth in Peter Toth's series of 77 tributes to American Indians.  As in Colquitt, the Dothan statue is well presented in a small garden area near the library.  It's the only one I've seen with a backdrop, which is made of logs stuck in the ground.
Whispering Giant

Whispering Giant
Dothan's murals are mostly on St. Andrews St. in the heart of downtown.  Many are beginning to fade, so I hope something will be done to preserve them.  They depict a variety of historical and cultural events that might otherwise be lost.
Ray Charles & Others

Tribute To The Railroad

Tribute To The Cotton Industry

Tribute To The Logging Industry

Tribute To George Washington Carver & Peanuts
Tribute To A Tuskegee Airman

Tribute To The Creek Indians
Fort Scott Protected Early Settlers
 Most folks are too young to remember Johhny Mack Brown, but he was a famous movie star who appeared in more than 160 films between 1927 and 1966, plus a few TV shows.  Before his film career, Brown starred on the Dothan High football team and went on to star for Alabama's Crimson Tide.  He is in the College Football Hall of Fame.  
Tribute To Johnny Mack Brown

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Colquitt, GA (3/29/2016)

You gotta love it when a plan comes together.  The condo is sold, furnishings included, my personal stuff packed and stored, visits to family enjoyed, so now I'm on the road.  Leaving Florida, I decided to finally visit two of Peter Toth's "Whispering Giants" that I had never managed in all my trips through Georgia and Alabama.  After all, who knows when I'll have another opportunity?

Driving into Colquitt, I was pleased to spot the sculpture right away, standing proudly in the lawn of the welcome center, located on the major road into town.  Across the street, an ideal place to stop and have lunch before getting photos.  Who could ask for a better set-up?

After lunch, I'm walking around the large statue taking photos, when a car stops and the woman inside called me over.  She started explaining the background of Toth's mission to honor American Indians with a sculpture in every state.  When I told her I have visited more than thirty of his works, she was more than impressed.  She also told me she watched as Toth carved the original Giant in Colquitt (1973) while she was in high school, and when he made a replacement for the deteriorating original in 2002.  Colquitt was the fourth location in the series, which now numbers least one in every state and several in Canada.

The nice lady also informed me that Colquitt is known for its murals, advising me to drive through the downtown and check them out.

After she left, I went into the welcome Center and met Casey, the gal who runs it.  She was equally proud of the Whispering Giant, giving me a brochure they have, explaining the whole story.  She also has a copy of Toth's book, "Indian Giver", which I was unaware of.  Now I have to find a copy.  Casey also recommended a tour of the murals.
Whispering Giant

Whispering Giant

For a town of 2000 people, Colquitt has a large number of murals that depict the history and culture of this small agricultural community.  The community pride was very evident in everyone I met while walking around the town square.

Fifties Scene

Early Transportation Hub

 This next photo amazes me.  The country scene is painted on the building, while the truck, fence, sidewalk, buildings on the right, and the cotton patch are all real.  The mural blends so well with real objects, it's hard to tell where the mural ends and reality begins.
Country Scene
 These next murals are fascinating because they are difficult to interpret.  A man drags a bag along the creek, while another hands a phone to the woman, and man on a horse talks to a woman who seems to be melting.  Beautiful, but puzzling.

  The town square is very colorful, with an old Chevrolet dealership converted to a clothing shop called "Southern Hissy Fits", a pink inn and a series of brightly colored shops.
Southern Hissy Fits

Pink Inn

Colorful Shops
One of the most interesting buildings is Cotton Hall, a former cotton warehouse made into a theater.
Cotton Hall
The theater is home for the locally produced play called "Swamp Gravy".  Originally planned as a one-time event, the play is a collection of stories from the town's history consolidated by a professional playwright.  Local volunteers perform under the direction of professionals.  It was so well received, it has become the state play with thirty performances each year.  A new script is developed each year with new stories from the residents.

Recent Billboard
While "Swamp Gravy" has become a model for community theaters world-wide, Cotton Hall also presented a professional production, "A Southern Christmas Carol", in 2003.  That show was so successful, it appeared two more years in Colquitt and has been presented in many other venues.  Numerous actors from this production have gone on to become Broadway stars.  An incredible story for such a small town, and I feel very fortunate to have finally found my way here.