Spinning Records and Hula Hoops
Someone has said that good things often come in small packages, and the White Midget began as a small trailer unloaded from a flatbed truck on Fort Williams Street between what was Ham’s Service Station at the corner of Norton and Fort Williams and a Pure Oil Service Station at the corner of Douglas Avenue and Fort Williams. There were only ten stools at that counter inside the Midget, but there was a curb-hop window; and business was good. It was so good that Mrs. Ruby Newman McDiarmid traded that business to her brother, an established restaurateur, Mr. Claude Newman, who moved the trailer out to the old Birmingham Highway where it was enlarged and became a teen hangout as good as anything Happy Days ever produced on the popular television series. The radio broadcasting room on the top of the building was really cool, even for the 50’s. The restaurant closed in 1960. When I heard that the diner was still inside the present building, I made a trip out the Old Birmingham Highway to see for myself. All-Comm Wireless Communication is now in that building, and Chris Duncan was kind enough to show me around. The trailer space IS actually very small, but today it is a neat little kitchen/break- area with a stove, microwave, and refrigerator. It was easy for me to visualize a magical time in the 1950’s when the ten stools with red vinyl seats were at the counter occupied by noisy teenagers wearing black leather jackets or poodle skirts eating Mrs. Anne Newman’s good pie to the tune of Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry.
Next door to the All-Comm is the White Midget marker. Kay Cheshire spearheaded that project, and the beautiful marble monument is as she says: “a testament to OUR generation, for our children, grandchildren, and beyond, in memory of ‘The Circle of Friends’ that we became.” More than 100 names are etched into that beautiful stone, and there are many more who are not listed but who were in that group of friends who gathered there. The dedication was held on October 20, 2010, with David Culberson giving the dedication speech and with Bob Green and Pete Hosey spinning the records for WFEB’s Oldies Diner Show.
That was not the biggest crowd the Midget had ever seen because on October 11, 1958, WMLS radio station and some other participating firms sponsored a big hula hoop contest in the parking lot around the building. It was David Culberson who remembered the exact date the contest was held because he remembered that B.B. Comer had beat Childersburg in football the night before. Culberson played for Comer and has a great memory because in researching this article I found the sports write-up that verified his memory: “Comer romps over Childersburg 20-0.” The person who hula hooped the longest without missing was to receive the prize of a new bicycle. Over 200 participants took part. Janice Bussie Snyder, in the younger division, won a big canvas circus tent with balloons and other circus paraphernalia. She was apparently the only one in the younger division who was still going with the older division kids at the end. She says she remembers that when she stopped spinning the hoop, her body felt as if it were still going. Meanwhile after 6 ½ hours of continual spinning and dusk approaching, the contest was stopped and these last seven youngsters each received a bicycle. Pictured below are Patsy Prince, Betty Ponder, Stewartville, Jean Breedlove, Carolyn Scruggs, Linda ogle, and Ronnie McGrady, Sycamore. Not shown is Norma Jean Marchatleck of Jacksonville, Florida, who was visiting relatives in Sylacauga. This information was published in The Sylacauga Advance, October 30, 1958 edition.
I visited with Mrs. Anne Newman this week, and she said her husband sold the Midget in 1960 and opened another restaurant out of state. The teen drive-in business attracted lots of noisy customers, but they were not big spenders. David Culberson commented that the new owners focused on barbecue and were not so teenage friendly. They put up a barrier that prevented the kids from doing what they most liked to do, “Let’s go circle the Midget.”
It was fun talking with these voices from the 50’s and many thanks go to each of them, especially Ray McDiarmid, Mrs. Anne Newman, David Culberson, Bobby Holmes, Earl Lewis, Kay Cheshire, Sandra Cleveland, Janice Bussie Snyder, Chris Duncan, and the B.B. Comer Library staff, especially Nelda Vogel, who always is ready to help in any project that I attempt.
Spinning records, 78’s, 45’s, and 33’s is somewhat a lost art; but here I am in 2018 getting a new record player from my son and spinning again. Those old records still sound pretty nice. Maybe next year I will get a hula hoop and see if I can spin it like the hula hoopers of the 1950’s and 60’s. On second thought, maybe I will be satisfied to just play that ole timey Rock ‘N Roll and remember the wonderful carefree days of the 1950’s.