Thursday, February 24, 2011

What a Difference 100 Years Makes by John Dersham

One hundred years ago my grandfather John Alexander Dersham, of whom I am named had been married to Lena (Shoemaker) Dersham for only two years. Lena received her college education graduating in 1906. 100 years ago not many women graduated from college. She went on to teach school for 35 years. My grandfather was an accountant for the Pennsylvania railroad. Soon they would have three children, one was my father. All three kids received Masters Degrees from Penn State and Bucknell. Even in the 1930’s the percent of kids going to college was very small. They lived in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Mifflinburg was a German farming community about 40 miles from State College, the home of Penn State University. Mifflinburg had a cabinet factory and a silk mill but mostly they were known as the Buggy Capital of the US. At one point there were more than fifty shops making buggies. Some were large companies and some where one man shops. My Great Grandfather Alexander Dersham was a farmer and buggy maker. Mifflinburg was the Detroit of buggy making. Then one day came the horseless carriage and Mifflinburg began building bodies for cars. Mifflinburg had no river close enough to get steel to them in large enough quantities and Mifflinburg had no way to keep up with Detroit and other cities on the Great Lakes, or on a major river system. By 1910 demand for horse carriages was nearing its end and Mifflinburg was beginning to loose out in the increasing demands for auto bodies.
One hundred years ago Fort Payne had already seen its Boom Days come and go. In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s New Englanders brought wealth and industry to Fort Payne. They built fine homes, factories and buildings, many of which are still with us today. In 1889 Fort Payne had grown to more then 3,000 people but by 1910 the Boom had been over for nearly two decades and Fort Payne had all but dried up leaving buildings empty and beginning to crumble with age and neglect. There were more houses, buildings and factories than there were people and companies to occupy them. By 1910 Fort Payne was down to only 300-400 residents which was nearly the same as the pre Boom Days. In 1907 the first hosiery mill opened and very, very slowly the town began to grow again as Fort Payne became the “Sock Capital of the World”.
Just for fun I have listed some facts from 1910. This came from the National Archives and floated around on the internet last year.
The average wage in the US was 22 cents per hour. The average worker made between $200-400 a year. A Dentist made $2,500 and a mechanical engineer around $5,000. The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower. The average life expectancy for men was 47 years. Only 14% of homes had bathtubs. 8% of homes had a telephone. There were 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads in the US and you could only buy gas from a drug store. 95% of births took place at home. 90% of doctors were not college educated. Sugar cost 4 cents a pound, eggs were 14 cents a dozen and coffee was 15 cents a pound. Most women washed their hair once a month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo. The five leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Heart Disease and Stroke. The population of Las Vegas was 30. Crossword puzzles, canned beer and ice tea had not been invented yet. Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only 6% of Americans had graduated from high school.18% of households had at least one full time servant or domestic help. There were only 230 murders reported in the entire US.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Follow me around DeKalb County, Alabama! By Kayla Worthey

Wildflower Café in Mentone atop Lookout Mountain

For Valentine’s Day, my sweet husband made reservations at the Wildflower Café in Mentone. See I am not a flower girl and I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, so the typical Valentine’s traditions don’t really work on me. But I do like to eat! And my husband knows this, so he decided to take full advantage and made reservations at one of my favorite places to eat. It is close to home and the food is out of this world.
If you have never been to the Wildflower Café, I highly recommend it. The building was once a home to a local resident and still has that basic floor plan today. A cozy fireplace helps to warm the guests, while the enclosed porch allows you to view the beautiful scenery of Mentone. The walls are blanketed with local art and on weekends the air is too! Chef Ben and L.C. Moon do a wonderful job of keeping this restaurant alive!
We arrived five minutes prior to our reservation time and were immediately seated in the room just off the porch. Me with my bottle of wine and my husband with his small cooler of beer in tow. You see, the Town of Mentone is “dry”, so the Wildflower cannot sell alcohol, but they don’t mind you drinking it. They will even provide the appropriate glassware. So as our server arrived with a wine glass, a beer mug and two glasses of water, she began to explain the Valentine’s Special to us in depth.
The restaurant was very romantic. White linens covered the tables with red candle lit center pieces and a little “I Love You” balloon. We were wooed by the voice of Amanda Quarles as she strummed her guitar and filled the room with soft tunes of romance. Some guests made special requests to which she fulfilled beautifully! Great job Amanda! You were very enjoyable.
Our server explained the Valentine’s Special so vibrantly that we decided to try it. We began with an appetizer of garlic parmesan cream cheese dipping sauce with bread. This was a first for me and I really enjoyed it. Up next was a mixed green salad with homemade raspberry vinaigrette. The raspberry vinaigrette was also a first for me and I was impressed. I will be having that again. That was followed by the main course which was a platter of absolute indulgence! A hormone free, fresh cut of the most tender filet mignon wrapped in bacon and grilled to “medium” perfection; a fluffy crab cake topped with spicy aoli and ripe avocado; and a skewer of grilled succulent shrimp! It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. We also chose the garlic smashed red potatoes and grilled purple cabbage as our sides. If you like cabbage, this is a must! And then to top off a fabulous romantic dinner, we shared a piece of Hummingbird cake. I am a sucker for cream cheese icing!
Thank you Wildflower chefs and staff for another wonderful meal and great entertainment!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Follow me around DeKalb County, Alabama! By Kayla Worthey

Cloudmont Ski Resort in Mentone atop Lookout Mountain

Ok, so I became eager to learn and tried to “hone” my skills at Cloudmont Ski Resort. You can go ahead and laugh now, I am laughing hysterically inside because my outside is too sore to laugh.
I step into the rustic mountain lodge and order my boots and skis from the lady behind the counter. Size 7 please. She is very polite and helps me get my boots and my skis picked out and hands me my poles. No way am I trying the snowboard very first thing. That will come after I have mastered the skis. She asks, “Is this your first time skiing?” I reply, “Yes maam, it is.” She proceeds to tell me about the FREE beginner lessons that are offered. Thanks, but no thanks. I can do this. I am a natural athlete, I will be fine. So I politely decline.
I am an athlete. I have played basketball, softball, volleyball, ran track, you name it and I have done it. I can ice skate, roller skate and roller blade. Surely I can ski, even though I have never tried. How hard can it be? I don’t need to waste my time taking lessons on the “bunny slope”. I AM AN ATHLETE!
So I grab my lift ticket and head over to the benches around the fire to sit down. I put on my boots and bundle myself up then I head out the door. I walk (looking somewhat like a robot, I am sure) through the snow toward the ski lift. I drop my skis, pop them on and glide over to hop on the pony lift.

So this looks easy enough. The cable comes around, you grab the T-bar, hold on tight and it takes you to the top. No problem. Here I go. The cable comes around, I grab the T-bar, hold on tight and there I go…face first into the snow. What just happened? Why am I lying on the ground? Then I hear someone say, “roll out!” Roll Out? What? Then I realize and begin to roll from under the lift cable. I look up to see a nice young gentleman standing there to help me up. Thank you kindly, young lad. So with my mildly bruised ego I head off to try it again. This time I am victorious and make it all the way to the top. This is going to be fun. So I glide over very gracefully to the top of the hill. Here goes nothing.

I push off with a gentle glide and my downhill decent begins. Three seconds later I am on my butt, but not stopping. I have managed to sit down on my skis just perfectly so that I can’t get back up, I can’t use my poles (which I promptly drop), I can’t steer, and my speed downhill is rapidly increasing. This is just great! So I hold on for dear life and scream like the girl that I am. Finally I land mangled in the orange netting at the foot of the hill. By the way, you are supposed to stop yourself way before you get to this point!
I gather my composure and bring myself to my feet only to hear that tiny part of my brain screaming, “How about those FREE lessons now?” Yes, I think so.
So, I take my free lessons on the bunny slope as first suggested, too bad I didn’t listen. The instructor was great. He showed me how to keep my knees bent, but not so far that I actually sit down, and keep my skis pointed slightly inward so that I can keep them in control (somewhat). He spends enough time with me so that I am now comfortable and am taking the bunny slope like a champ!
I spent the rest of the day perfecting my stride down the hill, not without a few tumbles, bruises and yells along the way. The fellow skiers were great and the staff was fantastic. I highly recommend you test your skills at Cloudmont. This was an adventure well worth the money. I do suggest the free beginner lessons if you have never been. They are a must, athlete or not!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

State Tourism Meetings by John Dersham

Last Tuesday and Wednesday I attended the quarterly statewide tourism meetings held this time at Vulcan Park, in Birmingham. These meetings consist of four statewide organizations that play different roles in promoting tourism in Alabama. This year I have the honor of being the Vice President of the Alabama Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, which is one of the four organizations.
These meetings were extremely well attended last week. Many people wanted to hear the forecast for tourism this year and to see all the new marketing plans being unveiled by the state. The forecast for tourism this year is better than last. Several key areas of the economy have improved and along with that have come improved tourism trends which began last year. Gas prices are a definite concern for many markets. We feel here in DeKalb County we will do pretty well even with higher gas prices due to the fact we are a fairly short drive for most of our demographics. On average our tourists come from up to eight hours away and most from five, or less. This means we will remain an affordable trip for most. The other good thing is that once a tourist is here we are a low cost destination to visit.
Lee Sentell, State Director of Tourism brought his entire staff. They presented the new marketing plans for this year. This year’s theme is the “Year of Alabama Music”. This theme will be promoted in brochures, magazines and on television. Raycom is a chain of nearly fifty network television stations around the country. Raycom is owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, Dr. David Bronner, CEO. In addition to the television stations RSA has the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and Renaissance Hotels. The tourism commercials will be aired on Raycom stations, nationwide. In the eight years Lee Sentell has been Director of Tourism, the Alabama Department of Tourism has won four major industry awards for its “Year of” marketing programs. The ad company that produces all the advertising both in print and visual is Luckie Marketing out of Birmingham. DeKalb County is well represented in the Year of Alabama Music. Each county is included in the publication with their past and present music artists with historical notes on their history or if a current artist it tells us where they are currently playing music. Also included are the name of restaurants and lounges that play live music all around the state. A picture of Fort Payne’s Ol’ Tymers Bar B Que and Blues is featured as a cover picture on the Year of Alabama Music Facebook page (Year of Alabama Music). For more information on the Year of Alabama Music visit their website at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tourism Legislative Prayer Breakfast by John Dersham

Last Tuesday North Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association sponsored its second annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast. This year it was held in the Magnolia Room in Decatur. The prayer breakfast titled “Turn Your Radio On”, was a celebration of support through prayer of our elected officials in advance of their upcoming legislative session. Members of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association were invited along with all north Alabama elected officials.

This year 38 elected officials were present at our prayer breakfast, including 31 legislators, 5 mayors, Governor Bentley and Secretary of State Beth Chapman.
Dana Lee Jennings, CEO of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Thereasa Hulgan, Executive Director of the Chamber/Tourism in Cherokee County and I spoke about tourism in North Alabama. We spoke about Alabama Mountain Lakes contributions to the sixteen North Alabama counties of which it covers. Governor Bentley spoke about tourism’s important role in our beautiful state’s economy. He seemed proud and enthusiastic that we had so many wonderful reasons for people to visit Alabama from our northern mountains and lakes to the beautiful white sand beaches of the Alabama gulf coast. There were three area ministers who gave prayers and our guest speaker was Reverend Phil Waldrep. Phil’s ministry is out of Decatur. He travels nationwide giving his motivational, funny, interesting, and up lifting message of hope and thankfulness.

We are very fortunate in North Alabama to have a well organized tourism department in each county but also to have the best regional tourism organization in the state, in Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. North Alabama tourism is big business. In most of the northern 16 counties tourism brings in the largest amount of tax revenue to the cities, counties and state from any single entity. Tourism is also the largest non agricultural employer in North Alabama. Tourism is clean money made. It has very little crime attached to it, it has no infrastructure cost to it like schools, trash collection, phone systems, etc. Visitors come to our areas; they spend money on attractions, hotels, food, entertainment and sight seeing. All of these things bring money to our local businesses and they bring in tax revenue.