Wednesday, October 4th, 2023 – Linda Rochester

Irene (Rena) Vansandt Teel—Gone but Not Forgotten”

Irene “Rena” Vansandt, born in 1894 near Rockford Alabama, entered the world with a veil or caul over her face, causing her parents to fear that their child was “marked” as a prophet or predictor of the future.  But Rena was a happy, seemingly normal child, even if she did win all the Easter egg hunts, and the couple was busy raising other children while moving often as sharecropping tenant farmers. When Rena was twelve years old, she accurately predicted her baby brother’s death, forcing her parents to deal with grief as well as the reality of their daughter’s unique gift. Rena received more schooling than was usual for a girl of her time, perhaps because her parents were glad to keep her busy with  learning and socializing. In 1912, Rena married a former classmate, Ben Teel, and they eventually moved to Clay County where she procured a license and began to perform psychic readings for others. Rena never wanted to be called a    fortune teller and preferred being known as a mind reader. That she became known as “Miz Teel” is a testament to her generosity with helping find missing children, misplaced possessions, and wayward livestock as well as helping authorities solve crimes and discover bodies. Her legacy lives on and she is indeed “gone but not forgotten.” 

Linda Rochester began gathering stories about Irene Teel in 2007 and the stories that she has preserved are a gift to all. She said, “What I love so much about these stories is that they are not just about Mrs. Teel—but also our neighbors, our families, and friends, giving us a history of Clay County, and the Millerville community in particular.” Mrs. Rochester will share stories that without her, would have been lost, and she will relate “why the story of Irene Teel hasn’t ended, and why it may never end. The author spent thirteen years as a social worker, including seven as Director of the Clay County Department of Human Resources.  She holds Master’s Degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi in Social Work and from the University of West Georgia in English. She served as President of the Clay County Arts league and as a member of the Alabama State Arts Council.  

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023 – Tina Hosey

Songs that are Unforgettable

Some songs stay with us—they are unforgettable.  Maybe we heard them in church or on the radio that was once the heart of the home. In today’s world of YouTube, maybe you have listened to songs that rekindled memories of the different stages of your life. During our teen years, songs were joyous, but they propelled us toward adulthood with its responsibilities. Song lyrics express joy during the good times and sadness during the bad times, offering hope when we fail and reminding us of our strength. They rekindle love and affirm the importance of family, religion, honor and duty. Songs are the soundtrack of our lives bringing back events and memories that we’ve forgotten—taking us on a sentimental journey that helps us understand ourselves and others. 

Tina Marie and members of her band have promised a mix of familiar hymns, country, western, blues, pop and gospel—something for everyone. She plays guitar and has a powerful and beautiful voice, and she is well-known for her tribute shows to the Late Great Patsy Cline. Her performances include “Always Patsy Cline” at the Red Door Theater; “Remember Patsy Cline” as well as “Elvis and Patsy Cline” at the Millbrook Theater. Tina has sung the National Anthem at the Alabama ProRodeo and God Bless the USA for an Atlanta Braves game. She has opened shows for the late Billy Joe Royal, Confederate Railroad, Molly Hatchet, John Conley and Mickey Gilley. Tina has been a Sitting Judge for seven years for Kowaliga Idol and for Kowaliga Country Radio. Join us to bring back old memories and create new ones through beloved and familiar songs from the past. 

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023 – Ruth Cook

“Gantts Quarry: Memories of Community”

Journey back with us to Gantt’s Quarry through words and cherished photos of those who worked in and around “the hole” and those who grew up along its edge during the early years of the Alabama Marble Company and Moretti-Harrah. We will hear the quarry whistle that gave cadence to everyday life, visit the tiny post office that was a focal point of village life, and watch the Dinky engine chug back and forth with train car loads of world-class marble. You will learn about the terrible tornado, the loan sharks lined up on payday, school life, barbecues and baseball, fish fries, the quarry pond, and more. As one childhood resident phrased the memories, “Gantt’s Quarry was a community, a family, and when that whistle blew for lunch, I knew I could eat at anyone’s place.”

Ruth Beaumont Cook is the author of “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story” as well as two other books of narrative southern history and numerous feature articles for local, regional, and national publications. Her second book, “Guests Behind Barbed Wire”, the story of the German POW camp in Aliceville, AL during WWII, was awarded a bronze medal for outstanding history writing. A native of Ohio and a graduate of the Ohio State University, Ruth has lived most of her adult life in Alabama. She has served on the planning committee of the Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College and on the board of directors of the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

Friday, October 27th, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. – Wayne Flynt

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives:  Alabama History From the Bottom Up!”

Dr. Wayne Flynt’s keynote address for the Friday evening’s activities of the Alabama Historical Association’s Fall Pilgrimage to Sylacauga will reflect his immense knowledge of the historical, economic and social fabric of Alabama. His study of the distinctive culture of Alabama and the South invite respect for a people who have suffered from widespread and continuing stereotyping. While the renowned author/scholar acknowledges the imperfections of struggling human beings, he elicits admiration for many who chose to bear their troubles with dignity and self-respect, striving to lift themselves out of poverty. Dr. Flynt said, “In America we have a bad habit of categorizing people as rich, middle class and poor. I prefer to define people as educated, sophisticated, and inclined to buy what they need, and those who were poor or near-poor and made what they needed. Using Alabama, especially Sylacauga, folkways as an example, I will emphasize how creative and entertaining Alabama folkways can be.” 

Wayne Flynt graduated from Anniston High School and Howard College (now Samford University) and took his doctorate at Florida State University. Dr. Flynt taught at Samford for twelve years and then became head of the history department at Auburn University where he retired as Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 2005. He has received numerous teaching awards and has written fourteen books that focus largely on the historical, economic and social fabric of Alabama, including “Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites”; “Alabama in the Twentieth Century”, and he co-authored “Alabama: The History of a Deep SouthState”. Flynt’s friendship with Harper Lee is reflected in his book, “Mockingbird Songs”, and then again in his last book, “Evenings with Harper Lee”. He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor and was named Alabamian of the Year by the Mobile Register. 

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023Dolores Hydock

Pilgrimage to Sacred Places”

The 2023 Winter Brown Bag series focused on stories that paved the way for the wonderful Alabama Historical Association’s pilgrimage to Sylacauga in October. Dolores will close out the series with stories about personal pilgrimages. She said, “Certain places hold special meaning for us, and sometimes, we need to see them one more time — or for the first time — before they disappear. A food festival in Georgia, the registry hall at Ellis Island, a now-shuttered high school, and a quiet hillside are some of the destinations that, in these stories, lead to deeper journeys.” Join Dolores in this unforgettable trip down memory lane.

Dolores Hydock is an actress and storyteller whose one-woman shows and stories have been featured at conferences, concerts, and special events throughout the United States. She was a Featured Teller for the 6th time at the 50th Anniversary of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Over the years, Dolores has shared her talent in generous and creative ways collaborating with the Birmingham Museum of Art to blend stories with special exhibits, sharing her Christmas story special, and performing with Bobby Horton during the holiday season on NPR-affiliate WBHM in Birmingham. Originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Reading Railroad and Luden’s Cough Drops, Dolores now lives in Irondale, just four blocks from the Whistle Stop Cafe. If the wind is just right, she can stand on her front porch and smell the aroma of fried green tomatoes.