The Faces of Reed Books

Reed Books is a bookstore in downtown Birmingham. With a residency of several decades, it has become a staple of the community. While people come from all over the world to view the thousands of books that line the shelves and the floors, there is much more to this bookstore than just the books. While Mr. Jim Reed, owner of Reed Books, will want to greet you with a smile, there are more faces that will welcome you into the store. Take a look…

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Earth Day Purpose and Celebrations

Earth Day comes around every year on April 22 but the history and idea behind the day is not commonly discussed. The concept for Earth Day was for the nation to focus on the environment for one day. Founder Gaylord Nelson was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. After seeing the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and being ruled by the student anti-war movement, he related the public needed to be aware of the air and water pollution they were contributing.  Nelson worked until the next year

Earth Day Network states that “on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.” Learn more about Earth Day.

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Q&A about “Cultural Shock.”

Q & A with Ruth Blackburn

  1. Can you introduce yourself? What’s your name? Hometown? Major?

My name is Ruth Blackburn. I am a junior from Birmingham, Alabama. My major is Foods and Nutrition with an Art minor.

  1. When people mention Asia or Asian, what is your first thought?

I think of the cultural differences between Asia and America. My best friend went to China for 6 weeks and I think of the stories of squatty potties and riding bikes all around the cities. I once read that middle-aged men in Asia are at a very high risk of suicide because of pressure to succeed and do well in the workplace.

  1. What makes you most proud to be an American?

The kindness that people show to each other even when they are strangers and do not know each other.

  1. What do you think about “Culture Shock”?

I have never been affected by culture shock very much when I go to different countries. I think I am very easy going so the differences between countries do not shock me or bother me that much and it takes a lot of effort for me to pick out the differences and things that bother me or that I like better about one country.

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Colorful Seasons of Kelly Ingram Park

May 1963, Kelly Ingram Park held organized protests and boycotts as a part of the Children’s Crusade of Birmingham. In response to these protests, law enforcement officers used fire hoses and dogs to stop the protesters. This event in history was broadcasted internationally, turning people’s attention to the endless fight for racial equality. Kelly Ingram Park holds the hearts, blood and lives of many who took a stand for justice everywhere that day. The park historically stands across the street from the Civil Rights Institute with statues and memorials decorating the acre. It’s spring colors are as vibrant today as they were then in a field of black, white, and red.

 

String Theory

An unconventional & groove-worthy ensemble

A musician guides his bow across the strings of a cello. He is tucked away behind a conductor stand, embracing the cello as if it is a beloved friend. Just a few measures into the song, he thrusts the bow with vigor. The instrument delivers a melody reminiscent of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen’s chart-topping, pop-rock anthem. Have your ears deceived you, or is a conservatoire-trained musician performing rock ‘n’ roll hits on a cello?

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Three Inexpensive Nights Out In Birmingham

You deserve a night out. If you are a college student like me, you are probably juggling six or more classes, an internship for academic credit and a paid full-time job just to pay your rent. Because of all these things, you have the right to treat yourself every once and a while. The issue often tends to be that, though you may want a night out, you cannot afford to spend a lot of money. That is where I come in. Having lived in the city of Birmingham my whole life, I knew quite a few spots that can help you save a few bucks while enjoying what the city has to offer. Here is a short list of three different locations in Birmingham on the cheap. You can find directions to each location by clicking on the venue name in the list.

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Top 5 Places to Hike in Birmingham

DSC_0178Birmingham is located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, providing adventuring souls with hundreds of acres of trails to explore. Whether you want a short, easy walk or a steep climb, there is a hiking trail just for you.

Oak Moutain State Park
What to do: hiking, biking, geocaching, boating, fishing
Best Hiking Trails: Peavine Falls
Location: 200 Terrace Drive, Pelham, AL 35124
Hours: 7 AM – 7 PM
Admission: $4/person

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
What to do: hiking, Visitors’ Center exhibits
Best Hiking Trails: Crusher Trail, Overlook Trail
Location: 1214 81st Street South, Birmingham, AL 35206
Hours:9 AM – 5 PM
Admission: Free
Things to know: No exit after 5 PM, closed on Mondays, opens at 1 PM on Sundays
Tech tip: Go to Ruffner’s website to access a trail map that can track your current location

Moss Rock Preserve
What to do: Hiking, bouldering
Best Hiking Trails: Orange Trail
Location: 617 Preserve Way, Hoover, AL 35226
Hours: Daylight
Admission: Free
Note: Be sure to go to the boulder fields!

Red Mountain Park
What to do: hiking, biking, zip line, geocaching, dog park
Best Hiking Trails: SkyHy Treehouse (via Smythe)
Overlooks: Ishkooda Overlook, Grace’s Gap Overlook
Location: 2011 Frankfurt Drive, Birmingham, AL 35211
Hours: 7 AM – 7 PM
Admission: Free

Jemison Park
What to do: Walking/Running, Picnicking
Location: Shades Creek Parkway/Lakeshore Drive near Mountain Brook
Hours: Daylight
Admission: Free

 

Signs make a city: Birmingham’s history of neon

They blink in storefront windows, illuminate historic theaters and glow in the corners of basement man-caves.  From the first experiments in the early 1900s to their use as road-signs in the mid 20th century and now as a revitalization tool for historic buildings, neon lights are a central part of Americana.DSC_0229

For Birmingham native Tim Hollis, neon signs are more than an indication of whether or not a store is open.  In his book “Vintage Birmingham Signs,” Hollis gathers decades of old photos of iconic Birmingham locations and the decorative neon signs that made them famous.

“In the memories of people who are still alive, neon probably plays a really big part in it,” Hollis said.

Many of Birmingham’s most iconic locations have a place in neon history, such as the Alabama Theatre, the City Federal building and others.

Even the Vulcan statue’s torch was wrapped in neon from 1946 to 1999. As what Hollis deems the most visible use of neon  in the city, the statue’s torch was used by the Jefferson County Safety Committee to encourage traffic safety around the city. Vulcan’s torch glowed green, except in the case of a traffic fatality, in which case it would glow red for 24 hours. The lights were removed in the restoration process started in 1999.

Neon, Hollis said, has not always been a fashionable nod to Americana, but was for decades considered to be “road-side blight” or an industrial necessity, not an art form.

“For a long time, people considered neon signs to be ugly,” he said.

For some of these historic lights, the photos in Hollis’ book are all that remain. When signs would wear out or get damaged by the elements, they would simply be taken down, taken apart and recycled.DSC_0325

“Over the last 10 or 20 years, people have discovered how pretty they really were, but unfortunately it was too late to save a lot of the older ones,” Hollis said.

Because of the fragile nature of the components of neon signs, those that have been restored, such as the Paramount sign on 20th St. N., are actually recreations of the originals.DSC_0300

Still, Hollis said he thinks that neon “seems like something that is coming back” because of a new outlook on the medium.

“Now, neon is considered an art, whereas in the old days it was strictly just an industrial project,” he said.

Neon signs still face strict zoning laws, which were the cause of the initial removal of vintage signs in decades past. Now, for businesses to install large vertical signs such as those outside of Paramount or The Alabama Theatre, there has to be a historic use of neon on that building to get past most modern zoning regulations.

Hollis thinks, however, that the “retro” appeal neon has to younger generations and the nostalgic appeal it has to older ones will keep it around for a long time.

“I think neon is being used more by businesses and by people that appreciate it as the art that it was,” Hollis said.

 

Hollis’ “Vintage Birmingham Signs” can be found at local Books-a-Million and Barnes & Noble locations, as well as online.

 

There is more to Melt than grilled cheese

Melt's fried Oreos

Melt’s fried Oreos

Melt has been bringing decadent and unique grilled cheeses to the streets of Birmingham since 2011. Recently, the popular food truck decided to open a brick-and-mortar establishment in the Avondale community. The restaurant serves all of your food-truck favorites and much more, including desserts.

Any fan of fair food must add Melt’s fried Oreos to their list of top Birmingham eats. The crispy batter mixes with the warm Oreo to create an indulgent treat. Five to an order, they’re perfect to share!

 

Melt’s restaurant is located at 4105 4th Ave. S. in the Avondale community. They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The food truck, also known as Matilda, is available for private parties, events and catering. Find more information at meltbham.com.

Sweet tooth still not satisfied? Keep an eye out for more Birmingham desserts featured in the next print publication of Exodus.