West Asheville. Hank Williams, Jr., David Allen Coe and Waylon Jennings.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Führer & The Bear

Probably my very first research paper was on Adolf Hitler.  I had to be very, very young.  Let's just say middle school.  I spent the night at Dot's home on Mitchell Street and used her encyclopedias for ideas.  She had this complete encyclopedia set next to her chair in the den and would use it like we use Google today.  Her knowledge on subjects was very extensive, and it served her very well when it came to her daily crosswords and TV quiz shows.  And you could have intelligent conversations with her, as I learned when I got a lot older.  So, when I had my paper due, I went straight for those encyclopedias.  I grabbed the A or the H, and eventually ended up on Adolf Hitler.  I was sitting at the kitchen table, notebook in hand, Dot walking around.  I read about Hitler's early life, and how he rose to power, and the horrors that eventually happened.  I remember being intrigued by the subject, and I remember Dot saying a few things about that time period, because WWII affected so many lives.  Victor's nephew, Charles Hayes, had been a paratrooper in the war - one of distinction, in fact.  At my age, I knew little about the war and even less about how to properly do a research paper!  But I had mastered one thing:  the art of procrastination.  The paper might have been due to the very next day.  Using Dot's electric typewriter, which then was ahead of its time, I basically read paragraph after paragraph, taking the text and putting it into my own words.  I used no other sources, and don't even know that I properly cited the one I did use.  But I finished it in time, and likely got a pretty good grade.  Don't know what that says about the school system!   In the end, probably the biggest thing I gained from that experience was an interest in World War Two (and Hitler, and Stalin and the Big Three) that has lasted to this day.

In 2008, when I was flipping through a World War Two pictorial that once belonged to Uncle Watty, I found a very unique picture.  Lo and behold, a Dinah Grace with the Führer!  I immediately copied it, and sent it to Mother.  She got a laugh out of it, and even thought I had photo-shopped that in somehow.  Nope.

Dot loved Bear Bryant and the Alabama football team.  She was as equally as passionate for the Tide as I was for Auburn.  Luckily, Auburn had the upper hand during the eighties, and thus I had an upper hand on my grandmother.  We teased one another and talked sports a lot.  On our "road trips" to Dothan, Dot always liked to get her groceries at Food World on the way back to Headland.  Once, in the checkout line, she saw this Bear Bryant commemorative edition magazine.  And she bought it, of course!  Many years after Dot had died, while in Headland visiting Mother, I was rummaging through a closet in Dot's bedroom and I found the magazine.  I took this image of it.

In the late 90s, I went to Tuscaloosa to meet a friend and see the law school.  I got to the town a bit early, and to kill time, visited the Bear Bryant Museum.  It was very interesting.  Dot was with me, in spirit. 

During my travels, when I would meet other Americans, especially older ones, and they'd find out I was from Alabama, the name Bear Bryant most often came up.   Probably second was George Wallace, but for more of a negative vibe.


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