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Partial to Home: The glow of Christmas


Birney Imes



One evening this past week, at the urging of James "H.D." Taylor, the subject of last week's column, Beth and I headed east toward Mac Davis Road to see the herd of plywood cows in a pasture next to Mitzi and Tom Green's home. 


H.D. allowed he had made the cows for the Greens and even made a set for a woman from Tennessee who saw them and had to have some of her own. 


It's a pretty zany concept, a bunch of white cows with black spots -- 20 of them -- propped up all lit and glowing in a field. A large plywood sign recounts a legend recorded on an Assyrian tablet about how animals are able to talk to each other at midnight on Christmas Eve to praise the birth of "our Redeemer" and how all people are equal in the eyes of animals. 


On the way to the Greens, we stopped by Glenn Baldwin's barbecue stand in east Columbus and enjoyed Brunswick stew and a pulled-pork sandwich. Located in the old Wonder Bread store, Glenn does a lively business. Along with restaurant fare, he's got shelled Georgia pecans and an array of fresh greens -- collard, turnip and mustard.  


Savvy to point-of-purchase marketing, Glenn tempts diners at the cash register with ziplok bags of pork cracklings, the essential ingredient of cracklin cornbread. He also cooks pork skins.  


Don Harris was there and we reminisced about the follies of our youth and the downtown businesses that have come and gone. Neither of us could remember the name of the nightclub located on what is now a parking lot behind The Dispatch on College Street. The club, run by Don Stafford, was in a building sandwiched between Big Star and the old Coca-Cola bottling company. Used to bring Motown acts, Harris said. The place burned. 


Mauldin's Furniture occupied the space until 1965. Jim couldn't remember the name of Stafford's club, either, but he did remember the ice cream shop facing Sixth Street behind Big Star. Less than a block away on College was Brookshire's, a classic dairy bar, replete with soda jerks and a jukebox. 


But, we stray. 


To get to Mitzi and Tom's, turn right off Highway 182 onto Mac Davis Road -- pass the "Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama" sign and you've missed the turn. 


Just after Mac Davis bends to the right -- after a long, dark, straight stretch -- you'll see the cows on the right. 


Continue on; as Mac Davis becomes Ben Christopher, you will see the glow of Jimmy and Jay Cook's Christmas extravaganza. Behold; this is what 80,000 lights -- most of them red -- look like. There are inflatables, figurines and, on Friday night, hot chocolate and a 6-foot-7-inch tall Santa Claus, otherwise known as Ross Tingle. Ross, also the voice of Magnolia Speedway, is married to Jimmy's daughter, Cindy, who in October begins helping her dad put up the lights. 


Jimmy's lighting habit has spawned what has become a family after-Christmas ritual. During the week after Christmas, he and his wife Charlene, head to Tuscaloosa, Tupelo and Columbus in search of Christmas lights on sale. 


Continue on Ben Christopher and take a left when you get to New Hope Road. Go right on Yorkville Road, cross Highway 69 and make your way back to town via Pickensville Road. On the east side of the Luxapalila just before the Green Hill Bridge, slow down for the home of Fannie and Rufus Harris on the right. Note the variety of lighting along the driveway. 


Rufus is the decorator, Fannie said. "He says it makes him happy and gets him into the spirit. He insists we put out lights," she said. 


Back in town, go right on 15th Street South where in a largely undecorated neighborhood, you'll find the homes of Roosevelt Edmonds (1112 15th St. S.) and Linda Gabriel, his across-the-street competitor in the battle of the Christmas lights. 


Linda, who happens to be Roosevelt's sister, uses a red-and-white color scheme, while Roosevelt's is mostly blue. Not to pick sides, but, despite Linda's claim she's "winning," Roosevelt's multi-hued blues are wonderful. The patriotic color scheme is fitting; Roosevelt is a retired veteran (20 years and five months in the U.S. Army). 


"We just decorate for us," Linda said. "We just love Christmas." 


Two blocks west at 1108 13th St. S., you'll find the home of Janice Smith, who for most of her 25 years in this location, has decorated her small wood-frame house with a distinct exuberance. The house is small so Janice has her tree on the front porch. Friday evening Janice was taking care of her nephews, Kamryn, 9, and Brian, 5. 


I asked Janice what Santa was bringing her. 


She answered without hesitation: "Hopefully, my grandchildren will come by."


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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