Friday, April 18, 2008

A Day at My State Capitol

I have to admit, I have been a resident of Alabama for the better part of 36 years. I was born and bred here, only living in Portland Oregon for a year when I was a child, and a year in Sarasota, Florida when Bama was in first grade. For those 36 years of living in my home state, I had never been to our capitol. Never. I hadn't set foots on the steps where Martin Luther King delivered his speech before the march to Selma. The closest I had seen of the capitol building, was by seeing the dome from the interstate when I drove through Montgomery on my way to the beach. I know, it is quite shameful, though I didn't realize the depth until I went yesterday. I have been missing out on so much! I love history and I even more so, I love historical architecture. Montgomery was rich in both.
I also noted that Montgomery was a very clean least the parts I saw yesterday. I had heard that it was not clean. I disagree. I wouldn't have a bit of concern to walk the streets alone marveling the buildings. One building in particular was built in the 1800's, it now housed a Chinese restaurant. One of the children asked our tour guide, "Was the Chinese Restaurant there in the 1800's?". I thought it was cute. There were a few of those funny moments on our guided tour of the city, as one would expect being with a large group of 4th graders.
Sledge and I left the house yesterday morning at 6:40AM, we arrived home about the same time but only in the PM hour yesterday. It was a long and exhausting day, but very interesting and entertaining. Our first stop was the capitol building. This was where the low light of my day came. Our guide explained to our group that the capital was a working building (which I knew, of course) and we must be quiet (no sweat), we were about to climb the stair wells to the second floor, and that EVERYONE must hold onto the hand rails (huh?). Have you any idea how many people come into contact with those stair rails-even per day? Do you know how many times they are cleaned? Nor do I, but it freaked me out. We entered the capitol quite enough, and then as we took the rails, the guide said to each one of us, "Hold onto the railing, Hold onto the railing.." It was a sentence that became the motto of the day. It was said at almost every place we went. I developed a technique though, I wore a light jacket and would pull my hands into the sleeve and then "Hold onto the stair rail", so some kid wouldn't call me out for not following the rules. They do that at that age, you know. It is a daily occurrence at my house, where Sledge is the house monitor and takes great delight in ratting her brothers out on something. But I adapted. And if this was the low light of the day, I made it. Thank you, God, for antibacterial gel.
At the capitol the brief highlights for me was the art display of Holocost survivors living in Alabama. I enjoyed looking around at the display, and was particularly haunted and yet touched by this painting below. The depiction of such a range of emotion that was captured in the face was very moving and powerful to me.

Another moving moment was the board of Fallen Alabama soldiers. I couldn't help but think of Nick and his great sacrifice.

Finally the architecture of the capitol, where Jefferson Davis was sworn into his presidency, was so breath taking. The dome was absolutely gorgeous, as was the spiral staircase and front doors of the capitol building. Another funny moment came when the tour guide was asking the children about the governors of the past. She was trying to see if they recognized the large paintings of the former governors in the Capitol Dome area. One painting is always rotated to be the previous governor that was in office. At the end of Bob Riley's reign his picture will go there. Currently the picture is of Don Seigleman, who most of the children recognized. "Do you know where his picture will go when Mr. Riley's is then hung on that wall?" asked our guide. "In the trash?" asked one kid, with such sincerity. Of course that wasn't the correct answer, but it got quite a rousing chuckle from all of the adults in the crowd, considering the circumstances.

From there it was onto our next destination spot, which I didn't have a clue at the time what it was. I was content to sit on the bus and ride through downtown Montgomery. It was beautiful. Our tour guide pointed out historic places along the route. But what I noticed was the architecture. I later asked our guide about some of the buildings. She recommended a book to me, that tells about the city's architecture and history and that will give a self guided tour. She said to check the Old Alabama Gift shop for it, when we got there. She also said that she gives tours of the building and architecture. I would love to take that tour! Also along the route was the city circle with the fountain with pink water. The children delighted in seeing the water, which was dyed in recognition of women's breast cancer awareness.

Our bus finally came to a stop at the Rosa Parks Museum. I have to tell you, that this was a most interesting part of the tour. We watched a short film about segregation, about Rosa Parks life leading up to the bus ride and then a reenactment of the bus ride where Rosa Parks took a stand to not get up from her seat to the request of the bus driver, and was arrested. It was facinating, and to think about just a few short years ago, the mistreatment of people based on their skin color.
By now everyone had worked up an appetite and were were happy to find that next on the agenda would be a sack lunch at the Children's Imagination Playground, which is a playground imagined by kids, built by the state. The playground was HUGE and looked to me new. It sat along the steets of Old Town Alabama, which would be coming up on our tour. The kids had a field day playing, and it came at a perfect time to release some of their pent up energy before we proceeded onto other tours.
After the release of energy and fulfillment of nourishment, next on the tour was the State Building, where we climbed SIX flights of stairs (still sweating) and was greeted by our local House Representative, and one of my favorite people, Cam Ward. I have met Cam many times through my days as both volunteer and later co-director of the (now non active) non-profit organization WHIM, as well as other city events. He was always active in donating both his time and money to our projects. I knew that I could always count on him to help with KidFest, it was a given. He does that with many groups and organizations around the state. He is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, a devoted family man, and a "man of the people". If he were to ever run for governor-and I hope he does- I can tell you that I will be happy to volunteer on his campaign, or for anything of the like that he is associated with. That's how much I am impressed by him.
After Cam talked to our group, we snapped some pictures with him. Afterward, Cam and I had a brief conversation. This was the highlight of my time at the state building, because Cam told me to have me or Bama email him and he would have Bama be his Page the first part of the school year next fall. Bama will miss three days of school, excused, and will be paid and stay in a hotel for those days. I think the experience of doing something like that invaluable. Not to mention, it looks great on college applications. Our state accepts children ages 10-19 as a page, for three days. If you are interested in having your child serve as a Paige for their house of representatives, contact your local representative.
Old Town Alabama was the next stop on the agenda. Alabama Old town consist of actual homes and building from days gone by when Alabama was mostly a farming/agriculture state. On this tour we got an up close look at life during that time period. We saw how women sewed on looms, how thread was made, what a blacksmith did, how a grist mill and cotton gin worked. It took me back to my obsession with John Grisham's Book, The Painted House. I yearned for my mom's homemade biscuits...After that we went to the gift shop. I was disappointed to not be able to find the book on historical architecture that the guide had mentioned, but did find a similar book, an autographed copy at a bargain price of three dollars (no tax).

I got to read more about that building, the one of Renaissance architecture that I fell in love with, seen here.....

and it has an interesting story (seen below, click to enlarge if you are the least bit interested in reading). And of all things, it is now owned by Judge Roy Moore. Hmm.

I also got to see as well as read about Chris' Hot Dogs. A place I have long been wanting to go (through I don't eat meat!), as it is listed in the 100 places to eat in Alabama before you die brochure. I will find something there I can eat, I am sure. Mine copy of the brochure ,as I have mentioned before, is dog eared and tattered, but I refer to it anytime I am on the road. I like to try out new places and experiences. Chris is a definite place on my calendar in the near future because now, I know where to find it!

Our tour ended with a stop at the Governor's Mansion, which was my favorite. I was lucky enough to be invited by Bob and Patsy Riley to their Christmas Open House in the past and was awestruck then at the beauty of the home. It was a magical night (a pic of that night is on my sidebar). At that time the house was filled with hundreds of people and it was really hard to get a good look at the interior for the overwhelming crowd. Today was my opportunity in the daylight! While I did miss the extravagant buffet that was served on that Christmas Open House, I did get a look at the gardens outside, which I had not before. I got to see the pool in the backyard that is shaped in the state of Alabama (the only one at a capitol shaped like it's state). We caught a glimpse of Patsy leaving in her car-just Patsy-waving. You can tell that she is still a good ole school teacher and such a southern girl at heart. I really like her. After the tour of the home and grounds, we were served lemonade and sugar cookies across the street at the Governor's Mansion gift shop. I really wanted to go there. At the Christmas Open House I had picked up a limited edition Christmas decoration, and wanted to get another for my collection. I collect hand blown ornaments.

I got it, as well as a GREAT deal on a Waterford Ornament, regularly $40.00 for $5.00!

There were several and I could kick myself for not getting all of them for Christmas gifts for next year. Oh, well, perhaps when I go to the hotdog place I can swing by. We were given little "autographed" pictures of Governor and Mrs. Riley on our departure.

Finally we were on our way home. A full day, indeed. There was really do drama, no fights, all the kids were very well behaved. No one coughed on me, and to this point I haven't contracted a deadly disease, that I know of anyway. It was a great trip. I am so glad I went!
I was so glad that I had planned ahead and made supper in my crockpot. I had just enough time when I got home to feed everyone and then go to dance class with Flo. I was pooped out when I got home, but I was delighted in the day I had. I am already planning my next trip, to of all places, Montgomery! Tune in later for an interesting story, or at least it was to me, about the book I was reading on the way to Montgomery, and how it stopped me in my tracks, bringing me to tears, based on my own personal experience....
Until then, have a great day!


Welcome to Our Lives... said...

That is so cool. I love the fountain with the pink water in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness!!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the Capitol building. I used to work down the street from it and even went to a wedding at the rotunda there. I'm glad you had a good time. yes, fourth graders are tattle-tales. I know this from the little group of 3rd-4th-5th grade girls on my street who are like a girl gang or something, always looking for someone to tattle on.

Deedra said...

Okay Leigh, I was going to put my summary of the Montgomery field trip on my blog, but yours will put mine to shame. I can barely write a complete sentence, much less write as elaquently as you...see I cant even spell. LOL!

Trina said...

wow, what a tour. And what a GREAT deal on that Waterford ornament! I'm jealous, cuz I love a good bargain!

We took a similar tour in DC back in November and it was very interesting.

I'm glad you shared with us!

jennifer said...

We do this in fourth grade and I loved it both of the years that I went (got one more time coming uo in three years). I didn't see the exhibit on the holocaust though. You are right - that painting is haunting.

I love the black and white photography by spider Martin. That was my quiet moment in my soul. Very shocking somehow.

Glad you all had fun!


Travis said...

What a feast of information!

frannie said...

we used to go to our capitol every year with our class at school--- and I loved it!!!