Clay City Tile, Fairhope Living, and Valentino

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My new book is out! Clay City Tile: Frank Brown and the Company that Built Fairhope, is a local history book. It’s about the Brown Family and how their company Clay Products Inc., and their clay building block is built into Fairhope’s history. It’s technically not a new book, but I used the Safer at Home order to update and rewrite the introduction. It’s heavily footnoted and illustrated, which means fans of local history,  historic buildings, and people just curious about how Clay City Tile was made and used will find the details fascinating. P&PsignZeke

Please join me for a signing at Page and Palette on Saturday August 8, at 1 PM. Books are $9.99. Stop by and say hi. If you have a Clay City Tile home or story, I’d enjoy hearing about it.

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The book is for sale at Tom Jones Pottery, the only retailer at Clay City, and through Amazon. If you’d like to purchase my book in person but can’t make it Saturday, there is a third option.

I’ll be at the Safe Trade Zone in front of the Fairhope Police Department on Saturday August 22, at 11 AM.

Also, look for a short video of me pitching the book on a Fairhope Public Library book talk later in August. I’ve shared some Clay City Tile history that is not in the book.

If you want more information about the book or Clay City, visit my website, Clay City Tile.

Fairhope Living

I’m thrilled to be part of a new Fairhope publication! Fairhope Living magazine is the brainchild of Fairhoper Alodia Arnold. She successfully launched the first N2 Publishing magazine in Pensacola, Florida. The first issue will be published in October! Check out our Facebook page for updates.  

Valentino the Goat

Click on the photo to read Valentino’s Alabama leg-end by Michelle Matthews at AL.com.

Valentino is currently getting acclimated to his new prosthetic leg. (Photos courtesy Serenity Animal Farm)

What Have You Been Doing?

Whether it’s an entry into a journal, a note about a book I’m reading, or revision, revision, revision, writing is my passion, hobby, profession, and most important these days, a distraction.

With that in mind I want to share some writerly news.

I’ve recently completed two eBooks, well eBooklets really, and they are available for free through links in Internet Archive. Architectural Studies is my undergraduate work on building surveys for Montgomery Hill Baptist Church and the Bayside Academy Administration Building. Those projects are combined in one book.

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The second book, The Cape Cod House, An Architectural Study, traces the origins of the Cape Cod style house dating back to the late 1600s to it’s proliferation in the 1950s. CapeCodCover

I’m proud of my scholarship. The books are for fans of local history, architectural history, and historic preservation. You can read them online and download them for free through Internet Archive. Yes, FREE. They will also be available to borrow soon from the Fairhope Public Library. If you prefer your own print copy, I’m selling them myself for the low, low, direct-from-the-author’s hatchback price of $5. For distant fans, or if you prefer the speed of Print-on-Demand, the books are available for purchase on Amazon for $9.99. Readers, not sales, make me rich! So write a review to let me know how your heart raced a little when you skipped down the page toward those tantalizing…footnotes.

Another Book (not free, but very reasonable)

Have you ever wondered about the orange block structures and houses around Fairhope? Or perhaps you know about them but want to learn more. Well, soon you will wonder no more.

My book Clay City Tile: Frank Brown and the Company that Built Fairhope will be out in July! People have called me the “Clay City Tile guy” for a while, so I’m finally getting around to publishing it. It’s local history, which I enjoy. I’ve posted a few photographs (not in the book) on the book’s website Clay City Tile.

Stay tuned for updates about the Clay City Tile book on the above website and right here at Stump the Librarian!

Research

Of course, I’m always doing research. Lately, I’ve gone down the letterhead rabbit hole. I’ve found all kinds of great Fairhope letterhead at the Fairhope Single Tax Online Archive. Of course, anything can be used as letterhead these days. I’ve been using the Bank of Fairhope. It’s kind of cool, and it surprises me that with all the banks in Fairhope (26?), no one thought to resurrect one, the best one in fact, from Fairhope’s past.

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Incidentally, The Bank of Fairhope’s second location, which became the Press-Register building and is currently Christmas Around the Corner, was built in 1927. It is scored stucco over…you guessed it, Clay City Tile.

Odds and ends

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New Typewriter, it’s a sickness really, but at least I’ve got the ten fingers for it. Er, well, that’s five per typewriter now.

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People have been taking photos of themselves in book covers. How could I resist!

Oh, I almost forgot Summer Camp. I’m leading a Creative Writing workshop for writers ages 10 and up at the Eastern Shore Art Center. My Creative Writing Summer Bash takes place July 13-17! Join me if you can. It’s going to be super fun!

 

The Perils of Spring

Around 8:00 AM Sunday, I got on my bike. Normally, I ride for exercise, but today was a slow bike ride. I said hello to Paul, my next-door neighbor who was gearing up for a go-fast ride.

No cars passed me in either direction on Morphy Avenue.

Cruising down Bancroft, I saw a few cars in the Greer’s parking lot and a man walking to the store. A few people were in their cars on cell phones, perhaps connected to the city or library WIFI.

I stopped at Wells Fargo. They have pictures of historic Fairhope in their windows. One I didn’t recognize. It turned out that they cropped an image that I was familiar with from the Brown/Dealy Collection.

The Welcome Center was closed, a product of the “essential” only, I guess. Given our toilet paper hording, I guess Fairhope’s public comfort station is no longer essential.

A woman walking shouted to a family she recognized in a red golf cart at the center of Fairhope, by the clock. They talked through the change of light. There was no one waiting behind the cart. I turned onto Fairhope Ave towards the pier. There were no cars along this stretch, unusual, even for a Sunday. Another Broken Egg is typically open. Not anymore.

Turned right on Church Street where my friend Phyllis told me, during the book launch party for the second edition of The Original Fairhope Guidebook, that there are “no churches on Church Street anymore.”

I heard a conversation. It turns out it was ‘a voice.’

A sermon was on the outdoor speaker at 1480 AM WABF Radio. I wave to Mark, the producer, who was framed in the center of the studio window with a pair of headphones on. I went by quickly, but I don’t think he was giving the sermon.

I rode through the University of South Alabama Campus and stopped at the head of Stack’s Gully, near the community garden. I straddled the bike looking down the gully, enjoying the view, and just watching, and listening. I saw a raptor in a pine tree that bends over the gully. Her routine hasn’t changed. She’s looking for breakfast.

I stay a few moments watching her like a hawk, waiting for her to take flight, when I hear, “Hey Alan.”

I turn around, “Hi Wayne.”

He’s walking his dog, like he does every day. We talked about the latest closings and the Single Tax Newsletter that we are working on, family updates, and what we’ve been doing. He’s a woodworker.

“I’m trying not to go to the store every day,” He said about his typical routine. Spoken like a retiree, I thought.

“Yeah, we keep a list, try to go once a week. We’re shopping for Sue’s parents too.” The whole time we shuffled around, aware of our distance, me straddling the bike, his dog sprawled on the hot top.

“That’s nice.”

I told him about the bird. “See the big pine growing over the gully…It dog legs right. She’s below the top canopy of needles.”

Wayne said, “I see it.” We stopped talking for a minute.

“How’d you see it?” I didn’t answer.

“This is a nice quiet spot,” Wayne said.

“It sure is.”

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He gave me a book recommendation, Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank and I jotted down the title.

Wayne and I talked for 20 minutes, I guess. I don’t know because when your talking to a friend time is meaningless. Moments matter.

One of the best places on my ride is Knoll Park. It’s usually quiet up there, very few people. Joe, a man I’d met on a previous ride, was walking up the hill, walker stretched out in front of him as he climbed the hill.  If that wasn’t enough, he was leashed to a small white dog. I wish I’d noticed if the leash was attached to the walker or to Joe’s hand. Either way, when I approached only the dog heard me. They were several yards away and headed in the same direction, so I stopped to guzzle some water. On the way down the hill, he said hello to another man walking his dog. I’ve seen them both in the park many times.

I thought our book club could meet up here at Knoll Park. Drinkers with a Reading Problem meets once a month. It’s a great name, and it’s an interesting bunch I’ve been a part of since 2009. Our April book, American Nations by Colin Woodard talks about American regionalism.

The meeting’s a week away and is likely to be yet another lost liberty.

I waved and yelled “hello” to Chris, a fellow Eastern Shore Slow Biker who was sitting in his side yard.

A family was on bikes heading south and we exchanged hellos. Mom and dad had bikes and Dad was towing his two young sons, possibly twins, but too small for their own bikes or trikes.

I stopped along Bayview to get a photo.

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The bench and the swing on the bluff are usually empty on my bike rides. Nothing different today. I suspect they’re full for most sunsets.

After I took the photo a mockingbird landed just over my left shoulder on a “No Parking in Park” sign. For several beats of stillness between us, we did not have the required social distancing. When his eyes met mine, he’d seen enough, and flew south.

On Saturday, Sue and I saw two other book clubbers during our walk around town. Sometimes I forget that this time of year people can spot me and the exposed prosthesis from a few blocks away. We met them separately but in between a visit to Dr. Music. Wade said I was too late. He’d sold out of the new Pearl Jam album. Book Clubber Irene pedaled by in the other direction with a friend. The doctor in our club told us about Mr. Gaston’s death. There is no more prominent name in Fairhope. It’s the same as our Founding Father, though I cannot say if the two men separated by generations are even related.

On my ride home I saw Paul again and his wife Stephanie. On Friday, we had a socially responsible gathering, with adult beverages, in their driveway. It was fun! We talked about what everyone on the planet was taking about. Then we talked about everything else. It was mostly small talk. We know each other well, but not that well.

Later Sunday, one of our neighbors texted that next week’s gathering was off.

Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. “Closed until further notice” is on every non-essential business door. Outside, nature continues and this should comfort us. In our distant world without human touch we’re all grieving, but words still matter, and voices carry.

Stump’s 2019 Picks

In Waves, AJ Dungo

In Waves

This graphic novel memoir had three things of interest to me: memoir, an amputee, and surfing. Occasionally, a graphic novel rises to literary excellence. Dungo’s part memoir part surfing history is smartly tonal in his artistry, lines and language. Like My Friend Dahmer and El Deafo, In Waves rises above its subjects. Dungo reveals the vulnerability of identity, illness, and loss. Ultimately, it’s a genuine story about surfing, the sea, love and loss. I’m happy to recommend it, and glad that Dungo followed through on his promise and wrote and illustrated such an eloquent and lyrical tribute to Kristen Carreon Tuason. I’ve dreamed of catching a wave for decades. I took some lessons, but alas the ride still eludes me.

The Typewriter Revolution, Richard Polt

The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century

I have joined the revolution!

If you want to know about typewriters Polt’s book is a must. History, parts, what kind to buy, The Typosphere, an online world for typers and so much more is all here to inform and inspire you. After contemplating a typewriter purchase for years and browsing typewriters to purchase online, Polt’s passion has rubbed off. I’ve adopted the manifesto and joined the insurgency!

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Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six

If you love the rock and roll interview or oral history or tell-all biographies this is a novel for you! I’m reminded of No One Here Gets Out Alive, and ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, two fantastic biographies I read back in the 1980s about Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, respectively. Though her book is fiction, its super character driven because the rock stars are telling their versions of events. It feels immediate, unreliable, and real. If you are interested in the 1970s rock scene, read this novel. Both main characters are compelling, complicated, and you’ll know someone in your life or in rock and roll that’s just like them. Yes, some of it is clichéd rock and roll, but it’s more about relationships, collaboration, and drama. The book, As Daisy says on Page 213,” is about how it felt, not the facts.”

Furious Hours Murder Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, Casey Cep.
Harper Lee is an enigma. This book, while well-written, doesn’t change that fact. Try as we might to understand her, we will probably never know her complete writerly story. As a writer myself, that’s maddening. Cep kept me reading in the hope that there was more to know. Alas, and disappointingly, there was not much new about Lee.
Also, I really didn’t think the parts made a book. They could have been published separately, or as a longer article. And perhaps they were.

However, as a librarian and historian, I want to know who controls the estate? Are there any plans to hand over her papers, letters etc. as part of a collection to a university? Other than in the acknowledgements, Cep is very quiet about Lee’s estate and what if any writings it contains.

Killers of the Flower Moon, David Gran
I thought there was nothing more heartbreaking than the plight of Native Americans. Then I read David Grann’s book and realized how egregious man’s inhumanity to man can reach new lows. These kinds of stories always lead to the question, why haven’t we heard this story before? Impossible to answer that but, thankfully Grann’s made another generation aware of colossal injustices.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brené Brown

“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.”

“You belong everyplace and no place, it’s a paradox.”

“Being ourselves sometimes means finding the courage to stand alone.”

Being ourselves sometimes means finding the courage to stand down.

Oliver Jeffers: The Working Mind and Drawing Hand, Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers has illustrated many children’s books, including one of my favorites and possibly yours, The Day the Crayons Quit. This book is a look inside who Jeffers is as a person and artist.

“My dad raised me to believe that the surest sign of intelligence in another human being is curiosity and imagination,” Jeffers writes, and I wholeheartedly agree.

I Heard You Paint Houses, Charles Brandt

I read this before Frank Sheeran’s story became a movie directed by Martin Scorsese called The Irishman (highly recommend  by the way, just not my favorite). The book is really an oral history, an as told to story collected from interviews with Sheeran and Charles Brandt. From his life in Philly, to his harrowing experience in World War II to his role as a hit man for the Mob and the Teamsters, Frank Sheeran tells the reader in conversational language and graphic detail about his “exacting” life.

Movie:

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Dir. Quentin Tarantino

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An alternative ending to the 1960s. It’s a fantastic movie with characters, and costumes, cars combining for some compelling storytelling. The stars are at their best in this homage to Hollywood film-making of the late sixties. The stunts are real but the ending is well…a Tarantino fairy tale. Violent, of course, yet surprisingly satisfying.  

Thanks for reading. Stay Curious! Happy 2020!

 

Where you been Stump?

Well, after the career change from the Fairhope Public Library to the Fairhope Museum of History, it’s been a little challenging to carve out writing time. That hasn’t changed much, so it’s a picture heavy post about our letterpress class at Charlotte Mason Printing.

Some steps in the process.

  1. Create your design
  2. Find type
  3. Set type (Caitlyn helped with this, thank goodness)
  4. Block type into press. For our card we used the flat press.
  5. Print

Photos of the our progress.

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Caitlyn is Charlotte Mason Printing!

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Pulling a Print

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Thanks to Charlotte Mason Printing, I’m a printer!

Later, they fired up the Chandler and Price press. It’s similar to the one at the Fairhope museum that was used to print The Fairhope Courier.

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Tim with the Chandler and Price press, circa 1938

Head over to my Instagram to see the press in action.

 

Do You Create Outside?

Sometimes when the world is moving too fast, I like to take a class. The best kind are outside. I headed to Blakeley State Park for a nature journal-keeping class with Nancy Milford.

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Nancy gave a wonderful overview on the history, science, and art of field sketching. She also included several handouts with fantastic tips for how to get started, including some simple sketching techniques. As a journal-keeper, the idea of adding drawings to my journals fascinated me. It was also intimidating. That is until Nancy said, “Don’t judge yourself on your drawing.” For some reason, that set me free to experiment.

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I found myself in the zone, that place where you’re creating and time slips by quickly. I started with some words, location, date, then I started drawing. When I was sketching, I tried to enter the landscape. The drawing is my interpretation of the experience.

As you can see below, I was joined by some very talented people.

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I’ll continue to be a journal keeper because that’s what I do. I bring a journal with me wherever I go. Thanks to Nancy, I’ll be drawing some field sketches too.