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Posts Tagged ‘Marion’

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Seven

In Marion on August 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm

marion quilt 1A Quilt is More than a Blanket:  A Labor of Love

By Catherine Tabor

Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., women from all over Perry County gather at the Lincoln Normal School in Marion to discuss the latest town gossip and theirmarion quilt 10 families, to spend time with beloved friends and to quilt beautiful pieces of artwork. Summertime is the time for vacations and relaxation from the business of everyday life. But for this group of women the way to relaxation is through the eye of a needle.

The West Perry Arts and Crafts Club, as it is formally known, owes its existence to Mattie Atkins who founded the club seven years ago. The recipient ofMarion quilt 6 several grants from the Black Belt Arts Initiative, the club has been able to survive and flourish over the last few years.

The atmosphere in the room where the ladies meet Tuesday mornings is relaxed and friendly. This is not a place to be stoic but a place to have fun. The morning is started with a round of hugs. After everyone is greeted properly, a small television is set up at the front of the room, and the “Price is Right” is put on in the background.

With three different quilt frames, one small, one large and one electric, there are plenty of spaces for the women to sit and sew. The electric frame has been having some problems, but that did not slow the members of the quilting group from setting themselves up at the other two stations with projects already half finished.

Visitors are welcome to come and observe the ladies at work. They are also more than welcome to take a seat andMarion quilt 11 make a stitch or two on one of the many quilting projects laid out. “If you want to learn how to sew, you can make a stitch,” is a repeated phrase heard in the sewing room when visitors are present.

This particular Tuesday, there was some exciting news. Someone donated a laptop to the sewing club. But even with this new hi-tech addition, one the ladies in the room were very grateful for, it did not deter the quilters from hand-stitching their quilts.

Sewing and quilting are skills passed down from mothers and grandmothers and the ladies of the West Perry-Marion Arts & Crafts Training Center knowmarion quilt 9 how important tradition is. They occasionally host youth from the Marion community to teach them about their craft. This particular day, two young people in attendance were put to work threading needles and learning to stitch.

Mattie Atkins reminisced about how her mother first taught her to quilt. “She would let us make a stitch on the corner of the quilt,” Atkins said. “But not in the middle, no, never in the middle.” Atkins laughed at the memory of learning how to quilt from her mother as she skillfully stitched the part of the quilt she was working on.

The room was quiet, but it was the kind of comfortable silence shared by a group of people who are completely at ease with themselves and each other. There was no need for chatter, although occasionally a joke or two was shared or an observation made. Yet there was no urgency for conversation in this group of women who knew each other so well.

Marion quilt 12Phylicia Rashad once stated, “Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” And magic can certainly be found in the room of the Lincoln Normal School where the sewing group meets once a week, on Tuesday mornings.

Evidence of the magic can be seen in the beautiful projects they quilt and sew. But the stronger sign ofmarion quilt 8 magic is in the love the ladies of the club possess because they love with all their hearts. They love their hometown of Marion. They love to quilt and sew. They love each other. And they love to teach visitors to love the same.

Quilting is an art that takes decades to master, but the ability to love has taken mankind millennia to learn. And one group of women in Marion, Ala., has the exceptional talent of being able to do both with extraordinary skill.

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Six

In Marion on July 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm
Marion 3

Health care professional checks blood pressure at weekly hypertension clinic in Marion.

Living Democracy Collaboration Award

By Catherine Tabor

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Community is the focus of Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts’ Living Democracy program. What makes a community? How can a community be either good or bad? How can communities improve? These are just some of the many questions seven Auburn University students have been asking themselves over the last few months. From Collinsville to Selma to Bayou La Batre, these students have learned valuable lessons about how communities work in Alabama.

During my time as a Living Democracy Fellow in Marion, I have learned that community is not defined by how many buildings hold thriving businesses on the courthouse square or by the city limits. For Marion, community is the people. The people in the churches, schools and workplaces are all the foundations of community.

A few local organizations recognize that Marion needs healthy citizens to have a healthy community. This is where Sowing Seeds of Hope, the Perry County Health Department, and Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy come in.

Samford University, the Perry County Health Department and Sowing Seeds of Hope all possess missions to help. Samford helps its students cultivateMarion 5 their talents by connecting them with professors and faculty who can pass along grains of wisdom gathered from years of experience in a demanding and often challenging world. The Perry County Health Department “offers clinical and environmental services to the public.” And Sowing Seeds of Hope provides many services to the community, ranging from housing to healthcare.

These three distinct entities unite to help the citizens of Marion and Perry County in a free hypertension clinic offered every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. Dr. Charles Sands of Samford University and Sowing Seeds of Hope’s Executive Director Frances Ford started the cardiovascular risk reduction clinic, which is known locally as the hypertension clinic. However, blood pressure checks are not the only things going on every Wednesday afternoon at the Perry County Health Department. The clinic also checks blood sugar, weight, cholesterol and educates patients on use of medications and a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Pilar Murphy, an assistant professor at Samford University who originally hails from Arkansas, states that she has seen the positive effects the clinic is having in the community. For example, the Friendship Baptist Church now has a partnership with Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy. The pharmacy students come to Marion once a month to host a health fair and a healthy dinner.

Dr. Sands, who recently retired, told everyone at his his tear-filled retirement party attended by family, friends and beloved patients, that this was not the last time Perry County would see him. After taking a year off to serve as a missionary, Dr. Sands said he plans to be back in Marion helping in any way he can. Explaining the partnership between Samford and Sewing Seeds of Hope, Dr. Sands said, “Samford originally started in Marion as Howard University and this is our way of saying thanks and paying tribute to our home.”

Samford sends two pharmacy students who intern in Marion for one month as part of their Senior Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience. Dr. Murphy said the interns from Samford benefit by working at the clinic in Marion because  they live in the community five days a week. The experience also gives them a new perspective on rural health. The interns are able to see the conditions that impoverished citizens face. Murphy said, “A lot of our students haven’t actually had to deal with people who are dealing with a lot of the things our patients are dealing with.”

Marion 4The hypertension clinic is widely publicized so that Marion residents are aware of the free services offered. Along with a newspaper ad that runs every week in The Marion Times Standard, the clinic also contacts various local churches and hosts a radio program called “Body Love” that airs on WJUS 1310 AM and 94.3 FM every Wednesday morning. Each week’s volume of patients varies, which is usual, especially for a small town. This summer, the clinic has averaged about 10 to 12 patients but some days up to 24 people were in the waiting room ready to be seen.

Epictetus once said, “It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.” Maybe Marion doesn’t have the prettiest body in Alabama. But despite every hardship, Marion always gets up and tries again. The Samford students and I, through the Living Democracy experience, are learning that it does have a big heart and bright soul.

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Five

In Marion on July 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Judson College is one of few remaining all female colleges in the U.S. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

By Catherine Tabor

“Wisdom sits in places.” ~ Apache proverb

Every community has a special place it regards as sacred. It doesn’t have to possess a religious affiliation or hundreds of years of history. It can be the local library, the courthouse, a favorite restaurant or a cherished schoolyard.

Marion is able to claim ownership to all of these special spaces. There is the much loved Marion-Perry County Library, where people come to visit with friends, participate in arts and crafts days, use the library computers and check out books and movies. Then there is the historic Perry County Courthouse, where much official business takes place. The Kalico Kitchen is a favorite eatery of the community, especially Sundays after church. And the historic Lincoln Normal School is a cherished piece of history where members of Marion still gather to quilt, to host social functions and to pay respect to the past.

Marion sacred 1

Plaque pays tribute to Ann Hasseltine Judson. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Yet Marion has two other larger places it holds sacred. Judson College and Marion Military Institute are both well-respected and well-known entities in the West Alabama community. And the two schools are well known outside of the community as well.  A chapel designated a national landmark stands tall at MMI. And, the Judson College website boasts: “The woman who directs the smart weapons lab for the US Military…a renowned opera singer…the Mississippi Educator of the Year…the Georgia Science Teacher of the Year…the woman who made the highest score in the nation on the OBGYN written exam…the woman who established the first shelter for battered women in Alabama…the first woman ever to sit on the Alabama State Supreme Court…All JUDSON women.”

People travel near and far to attend these educational facilities. Judson College is one of the few remaining all female colleges in the nation, and Marion Military Institute was ranked #16 in the United States among community colleges, according to TheBestSchools.org.

Located virtually across the street from each other, Judson and MMI have a long standing tradition of working together. The two schools have a rich history.   With a great working relationship, it is no wonder that Judson College and Marion Military Institute share the title of “sacred space” in Marion. Every fresh-faced individual is automatically asked about any association with either of the two colleges. Each new tourist is pointed in the direction of each historic school.


Historic landmark stands tall at Marion Military Institute. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Not only do the two schools possess a great connection within the Marion community, but they each also hold a special honor within the state. Judson College is the home of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. And Marion Military Institute houses the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.  Some notable members of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame are Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King and Zelda Fitzgerald. And the Alabama Military Hall of Honor continuously honors members of the military.

So “Wisdom sits in places” as the Apache proverb noted above, and Judson and MMI certainly fit the bill. Each place possesses hundreds of years’ worth of interesting history. Judson dates its origin to 1838, and MMI claims 1842 as the year of its founding. Both World Wars and the Civil Rights Movement are just some of the major historical events of the United States that both of the colleges witnessed.

The colleges hold wisdom that has been gained from each student who journeys through the campuses. Both school libraries are full of books written by the greatest playwrights, philosophers and scientists. But Judson and MMI also owe their wisdom to Marion. Marion is a small, rural community. And while much has changed since the founding of each of these colleges, other things have remained the same. There is still an air of the past that lingers in the town. You can still buy a piece of candy at College City Drugs for 5 cents if you’d like. People still smile and say hello as you walk down the street even if you have never met them before.

Marion pic 4Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” A lot has happened in Marion over the years. Most of the residents, however, are not bitter about the bad things that have occurred. Neither are they haughty about the good things. There is something wise about the humility that can be found in Marion. And that wisdom is also demonstrated by Judson College and Marion Military Institute. A quote attributed to the philosopher Socrates is, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Marion, its citizens, its colleges all know something, but they are all more than happy to step back, observe and learn.

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Four

In Marion on July 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Charles E. Flaherty in front of his business.

Charles E. Flaherty in front of his business.

Living Democracy Citizen Award: Charles E. Flaherty

By Catherine Tabor

Veritable treasures can be found in bookstores. From long-forgotten dramas read in high school to tales never heard of that become cherished tomes, all can be found within the four walls of a bookstore. Inside of a little bookstore in Marion, another treasure can be found. His name is Charles E. Flaherty and he is 62 years old. Mr. Charlie, as he is referred to by members of the Marion community, owns and operates As Time Goes By.

Born in Rutherford, N.J., Flaherty was the youngest of seven children. The love of reading was introduced to him at an early age and he continues to build his collection of books. It was his love of books that eventually led him to opening his own store.

However, before opening As Time Goes By, Charles Flaherty had a couple other business ventures and odd jobs. In New Orleans, he owned a balloon and novelty shop. And at another point in time, he previously owned a dart business. Eventually, both of those stores closed and he moved on. He worked for the circus for about 13 years and was also was a truck driver, a manager of a Dollar General store in Uniontown and a field representative for Book Market for 5 years.

It was his job at Book Market, once the United States’ 4th largest book chain, which really set the idea of As Time Goes by in motion. With the inexpensive prices that Book Market sold their books for and his employee discount, Flaherty built up quite the collection of books and soon his house appeared to be getting smaller each time he set foot in it. He decided it was time for him to get a bigger house, one that had enough space for a library.

The 1960s corner features an antique Coke machine that still sells glass bottles of Coke for 50 cents.

The 1960s corner features an antique Coke machine that still sells bottles of Coke for 50 cents.

His job at Book Market allowed him to travel and he searched seven states for his new residence. Eventually, he settled in Greensboro, in a nice, old house that he was able to fill with his books and antique collections. But his job at Book Market did not last and ultimately he sold his house. He worked a year at Carson & Barnes, a big tent circus, as the “24 hour man” who travels one day ahead of the show and helps lay out the route, deals with supplies and sponsors, and helps lay out the tent.

He moved back to Alabama after the year on the road and he settled down in Marion. He was able to obtain a job at Judson College as a maintenance worker and he has worked there ever since. He mostly does painting and repair work. And while the money isn’t as good as he is used to, he acknowledges that jobs are hard to come by in Marion. Two businesses in Marion, Bonnie’s Bakery and Polka Dots, have even closed down within the last week.

The idea for As Time Goes By was in the back of his mind for 10 years and he was able to finally open it in 2011. He found an uninhabited business ruined by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that had been left vacant until 2011 when he decided to open As Time Goes By. After borrowing some money from the bank and his brother, he was able to renovate the store and in September he was open for business.

When asked about the name of the store, As Time Goes By, Charles Flaherty remarked, “I wanted the store to be like a little time capsule of sorts, a history lesson. And it’s something everybody can relate to. People don’t realize how much the world changes just during their lifetime.” And the store is something he is very passionate about. He loves history, music, books, and pies and As Time Goes By combines all four things.

Patrons of As Time Goes By can enjoy a slice of pie or some homemade cheesecake and coffee as well as a large variety of books. And each booth is set up to represent a decade from the 1900s with keepsakes and antiques from that decade displayed on the wall behind the table. For the 1960s, Mr. Charlie has a working coke machine in which he sells small bottles of soda for 50 cents each.

Flaherty and his book shop were mentioned on The Official Travel Site of Alabama as an interesting person and place to visit in Marion: “Down the street is the town’s bookstore and coffee house, As Time Goes By (418 Washington St.; 334–683–6757; map). Here you will find Charles Flaherty, who will sell you a book, pour you a cup of coffee, serve you a piece of pie and even spin records from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s depending on the time of day on his music clock. Flaherty opens the store on selected days and the hours are limited, so call ahead.”

Visitors can even play board games while they read or enjoy a slice of pie.

Visitors can even play board games while they read or enjoy a slice of pie.

As Time Goes By can be found on Facebook. Browsers are more than welcomed and buyers are even more appreciated. And with an I.D., visitors are able to play board games while in the store.

Marion may be a small town, but it has a lot of heart and passion and Charles Flaherty possesses a fair share of it. With a personal collection of books that includes literature from all over the world and a record collection and past just as varied, Flaherty is certainly a man to know and a wonderful citizen of Marion.

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Three

In Marion on June 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Tabor 1Historic Marion Church Stands on Foundation of Love

By Catherine Tabor

A church isn’t just four walls and a steeple. It’s the people inside, and worshippers at Zion United Methodist Church in Marion stand on a strong history and a foundation of love. Zion played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. On the night of February 18, 1965, nearly 500 people left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful march to the Perry County Jail about a half a block away. This jail was where young Civil Rights worker James Orange was imprisoned. The participants of the march had planned to sing hymns and return to the church, but the short march was not as peaceful as some might have hoped. The marchers were met by the Marion police, sheriff’s deputies, and even Alabama state troopers. There was a standoff, and violence soon erupted. Jimmie Lee Jackson became a casualty of what began as a peaceful protest march. This event inspired the famous Selma to Montgomery march, which occurred a few days later, a significant event in the Civil Rights movement.

Looking at it now, it’s hard for people to imagine such an historic moment being associated with the brick structure at 310 Pickens St. Located adjacent to theTabor 3 town square, Zion is an easy church to get to. I was able to attend a service on Father’s Day, June 16. When the church doors opened at 11 a.m., church members come flooding in to take their seats for the service. Everyone exchanges friendly greetings, happy to be alive and able to praise God. All of the youth in attendance file to the front and take their place on stage as the choir, where they soon join together in beautiful, soulful songs of worship. Fairest Cureton is the pastor at Zion, and Velma England is the assistant pastor. Both did an impeccable job with this Father’s Day service.

Zion is, as I previously stated, a Methodist church. I have only been to a few Methodist church services.  I was raised as a Protestant without a particular denomination, but my family mostly frequented Southern Baptist churches. However, the denomination was not the only striking difference between Zion and other churches I have been to. The congregation of Zion United Methodist Church consists of mostly, if not all, African-Americans. Most of the churches I’ve been to had Caucasian majorities.  I was approaching a culture of faith different from my own. So with the differences in mind, I was a little nervous about walking into the church, but I was truly blown away by how open and friendly everyone was. The service in and of itself was exceptionally different from anything I had previously experienced. Usually, church services I attend last approximately one hour, and they generally lag after the first 30 minutes. The service at Zion not only lasted two hours, but I was captivated for the full two hours.

Since it was Father’s Day, the sermon was obviously about fathers. The main scripture was Luke 15:11-32, which is the story of the prodigal son. Many know this story, but assistant pastor Velma England at Zion told it in a different way than I have always heard it. Instead of focusing on the prodigal son and his wrongdoing and straying from the path of righteousness only to return home to beg forgiveness, she focused on the perspective of the father. She discussed how hard it must be for God to watch His children stray from the path and fall to the absolute bottom. She spoke of how much God loves us and wants us only to do our best and how happy He is when we succeed or, if we act like the prodigal son, how ecstatic He is when we return back to Him.

catherine pic 5I thought that was a really neat way to approach the story. Even though that youngest son got into all sorts of trouble, his father accepted him and welcomed him back home with open arms because that’s how powerful love is. And that’s really what I am most impressed by in Marion. Despite being one of the poorest areas in Alabama, its citizens love it so much that they accept its history, good and bad. They accept its flaws and embrace its assets. The residents of Marion love their small town, and it shows in all of the good restaurants and small businesses. It shows in the smiles and waves of citizens passing each other on the street. Marion is a town that has survived on love.

The thought of the week of Father’s Day was: “Sometimes, God has to break us to make us. It’s just a bend; it’s not the end. We’re all like glow sticks; no matter how much we’re bent and broken, our light still shines.” Marion is a lot like the prodigal son. It’s been beaten and broken in the past, but it has also been healed by love and caring citizens. The members of Zion United Methodist Church believe God is blessing Marion today. And they are truly a part of that blessing.