A day for contemplation
As we went to bed last night, the results of the referendum were coming in and it didn’t look as though it was going the way we hoped. When I woke and took a quick look at my tablet at 4am, the die was cast. The results were in and the outcome was most certainly not what we voted for. I didn’t sleep much more and by breakfast time both of us were feeling despondent.
We were ready to hit the road though and with Mary’s good humour to ease us from our gloom, we set out along the Old Selma Road to follow the route of the march we’d read so much about yesterday.
At least we’d had a vote and been able to use it.
Before long, we were in the Visitor Centre reading about those who fought so hard to achieve that valuable status. Yet again, we read new details of the story and learned a little more about the struggle.
I’m sorry for the poor photo, but imagine having to answer a series of questions like this in order to register to vote. Shocking, isn’t it? I didn’t take a photo of the instructions for registration, which included the opening times of the office (every second Monday unless it was some person’s day off…between some uncertain hours too) It was quite clear that as many barriers were put in place to prevent anyone actually succeeding.
Here was that iconic photograph of the encounter on the bridge in Selma with John Lewis amongst others and the police, about to push forward. There was a video of the encounter, shocking in its brutality, together with a few first hand accounts of the day known as Bloody Sunday.
What was new to us was the story of the Tent City. After the march, many of the black workers returned to find themselves unemployed and, since they usually lived in homes provided by their employer, homeless too. This Visitor Centre had been built on land formerly occupied by the Tent city, where people lived for up to two years after that march, until they found alternative means.
From here, we drove further along the highway to Selma itself.
After a little struggle and one or two attempts, I snapped a photo of the Historic Route sign too.
Before long we were in Selma, where there was one last visitor centre. Was there yet more to learn?
It was situated right by the bridge – the bridge upon which the Bloody Sunday events unfolded and where earlier this year a commemorative event marked the 51st anniversary of the march.
We were the only visitors to the centre this morning and our arrival prompted the three youngsters on duty to spring into action and offer a warm welcome.
Though it was interesting, by now we were feeling a little Selma-ed out. It was time to move on. Move on we did, past package stores (anyone know what those are? I’ll leave the answer at the foot of this post!) and suburban retail parks before we were back on the tree lined, rural roads again.
Our next stop was Demopolis where we’d identified an Antebellum Mansion to visit. Gaineswood is a stunning example of its kind, though arriving at an unmanned gate and strolling across the grass in search of the front door, we felt like intruders!
Actually, we’d approached by the wrong entrance, but never mind, we found our way in and were greeted warmly by Paige, who was about to begin a tour of the house with another couple. We tagged along!
The house had been built as a small home by General Whitworth and subsequently extended and embellished until it reached the sizeable and elegant proportions as it stands today. The General appeared to have a wealth of skills and seems to have excelled at everything he turned his hand to and in touring his home, we learned as much about the man as we did about the house.
Paige was an excellent guide too and kept it all interesting and to the point.
Here was the curiosity of the day, in the General’s wife’s bathroom. It’s a “hat bath” and would have been used by stepping into the middle and sitting on the towel covered seat (soap in the little niche created by the flannel there) and then stand to have a jug of water poured over by whoever was in attendance. I could only imagine sitting on that towel and finding the whole thing tipped up leaving me flat on my back in an uncompromising position, because there was no support for that rim at all!
Upstairs were family bedrooms and for all this appeared to be a large and spacious home, all five daughters had to share this room (and these two beds).
Next door was a small workroom with sewing machine, loom and spinning wheels. The girls were probably kept busy.
As we left the house, Paige pointed out a design feature on the wall and stairs. A wave pattern created by the General symbolised eternal life and the negative space, a horn of plenty. The General hoped for eternal abundance, it seemed, and judging from what we saw here, he and his family were more than satisfied.
With little choice for a bite to eat in this part of deepest Alabama, we had to settle for gourmet…
The rest of the drive to Jackson was straightforward and when my hero says the driving isn’t difficult, you’ll know what he means.
We stopped just inside Mississippi to visit the welcome centre and pick up a brochure or two. Chatting with the friendly staff, who immediately offered us coffee, we noted the warmth and Southern charm yet again. Delightful!
Oh, and our first visit to Mississippi so logging up our US State #45! Ker-ching!
So here we are in Jackson for a couple of nights, where the Iron Horse Grill came highly recommended and fulfilled our every expectation! We’ve slipped up in not realising the Mississippi State Capitol is closed at the weekend so can’t add that one to our collection, but we will surely find some fun somewhere.
Oh, and the soundtrack? This of course!
(ooops! nearly forgot the answer to the Package Store question. Here, a Package Store is what we would call a beer-off, an off-licence or a liquor store. We’d not heard the term until we arrived in this part of the world)