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Bay Cities Mobile and Pensacola

“We talked a bit about Mobile and thought about how it has never changed…”

then it was “I-95 down to Pensacola.”

 Under the flags of Spain, France, Britain, the Confederacy and the United States, both Mobile and Pensacola boast a colorful past that has centered on their ports. The old shanty tune “Homeward Bound” touches on the heartfelt goodbye of a sailor as he sings, “To Pensacola town we’ll bid adieu, to lovely Kate and pretty Sue. Our anchor’s weighed and our sails unfurled, we’re bound to plough this watery world.” Likewise, “Roll, Alabama, Roll” reflects on the Civil War battles as the lyrics remind us that “in eighteen-hundred and sixty-one…this ship’s building was begun…to fight the North, oh, roll, Alabama, roll.”

 Today, residents of both bay cities remain loyal to their histories. Jimmy Buffet, a native of the Mobile area, wrote about the relaxed feeling he enjoyed in his home town in his song “Turnabout.” Jimmy sings, “We talked a bit about Mobile and thought about how it has never changed.  In the George Jones/Merle Haggard rendition of “Mobile Bay,” the lyrics express a connection between magnolia blossoms and the past as they meet with a “bearded man in an army coat.”  Today the USS Alabama of 1945 rests in the Mobile Bay, open to tours, reunions, and other celebrations. Old-timers speak of the years when they were children and contributed their school milk money to the restoration effort that brought the USS Alabama “home” to Mobile.  Pensacola’s Naval Air Station invites the public to share in naval history unique to the northwest Florida port by tripping through time and space in the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Visitors can get close to the real experience of flying with a flight simulation ride or catch the Blue Angels in top form as they maneuver the famous Diamond Formation in aerobatic precision flight performance.  The recent television series Pensacola Wings of Gold is patterned after the United States Navy Air Station in Pensacola.

 Water, sand, history, and pride are key elements to both Mobile and Pensacola. From the Banana Docks Café to Giuseppi’s Wharf, sandy beaches offer the means for everything from family fun to a romantic night on the town. Cliff Bruner promises to settle down with “Lucille from Mobile” in a “house on the edge of town.” It must be the water. After all, sand and memories just seem to go together. In her song “Pensacola,” Joan Osborne weaves the story of the man “in Pensacola, in a trailer in the sand, the man from the picture creased and yellowed in (her) hand.” Throw in a few clouds and you’ve got Savoy Brown’s “Going Down to Mobile” where he promises to “bide (his) time, thinkin’ … staring at the clouds.” Soul Coughing reminds us in tongue-in-cheek fashion that “pride is not a sin” in the “Pensacola” song found on the El Oso album.

 But suppose you are inclined to sin. Sheryl Crow urges the listener to take a trip on “I-95 down to Pensacolawhere she found a “bunch of holy rollers.”  She must have visited the ongoing revival services at Pensacola’s Brownsville Assembly of God. Sheryl’s “Maybe Angels” song lyrics go on to say, “I swear they’re out there … maybe angels … oh, what a mystery.”  Mystery or not, people have been trucking into Brownsville to find out for themselves.

 Ports of Call, as they were historically dubbed, Pensacola and Mobile are submissive to the comings and goings of a modern generation. Jerry Reed, “Guitar Man,” suggests a “trip to the ocean … down around Mobile,” but Lost & Found sings lyrics that tell of a disgruntled lover who is “leavin’ … not stayin’ here and bein’ a fool forever.” The words of this Lost & Found piece from the Across the Blue Ridge Mountains album express a jilted man’s sentiments about love and Mobile as he says to his lover, “I’m leavin’ you and Mobile too.” Comings and goings – just like the tide.

 Whether the traveler is easing in or heading out, Mobile’s Bellingrath Gardens beckons a stop-by. Open to visitors since 1932, Bellingrath Gardens is the creation of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bellingrath with the aid of architect George B. Rogers. The Bellingrath home, which is situated amidst the gardens, was created from bricks salvaged from demolished antebellum houses and the flagstone walks came from the slate ballast used aboard English sailing ships. The gardens themselves abound in natural plant life as well as traditional flowering plants that are indigenous to the area. There’s no doubt about it – the Gardens are the epitome of that history and pride element so characteristic of the bay cities.

 But still, it’s the water that sweeps you in, dancing across your toes on a daytime excursion or sparkling in the moonbeams. Jimmy Buffett knew. “Stars on the Water” from his album Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads lets us in on the secret.

 “They come from miles around
 To dance the jukebox down.
 And dig the good time sounds they all play
And all across the harbor, night lights shinin’ in.”

 Put some mint julep in my tea and save me a spot at the Dew Drop Inn where Jimmy used to hang out … I feel a moonbeam calling me.

 It must be the water.



Southern Pecan Pie

You’ve heard of southern hospitality. It warms your heart and fills your insides with food as rich in tradition as the ingredients that make the dishes. Pecan trees are abundant in the south and have long been a source of dessert inspiration in southern homes. 

Assemble the following ingredients:
Pastry for 9” one-crust pie
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup pecan pieces

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare pastry. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, and margarine thoroughly. Stir in syrup. Add pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake 45-50 minutes. Check crust at 40 minutes. If crust edges appear to be browning too quickly, fashion a foil covering around the outer part of the pie dish for the last 10 minutes of baking. Allow pie to cool 30 minutes before serving so that filling may set.


Mr. Carver’s Peanut Brittle

George Washington Carver was left an orphan during the Civil War after his mother – a slave – was killed. He grew up with a love for the soil and, as an adult, was head of the Department of Agriculture at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. He is remembered throughout the state for his productivity with peanuts. Peanut Brittle and Mardi Gras just seem to go together.

Assemble the following ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup shelled, skinned peanuts
1 ½ cups sugar

Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch metal pie pan with foil. Wrap foil over the pan’s top edge and secure it. Grease the foil generously with butter. More than a tablespoon may be used if necessary. Lay peanuts on the foil and shake pan to spread them evenly over the bottom.

Melt sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Do not mix until sugar begins to melt (about 3 minutes). Reduce heat to medium. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Pour hot mixture over peanuts, using a wooden spoon to dispense it evenly. Cook to room temperature. Peel peanut brittle from foil and break into small pieces for serving.
 


Historical Trivia 

 
Azaleas – Azaleas reign supreme in Mobile! There are even Azalea Trail Maids. These teenager girls interview for the opportunity to become Azalea Trail Maids, submitting grade point averages and letters of recommendation. Once chosen, each girl designs her antebellum gown and commissions its making. The girls appear as guides and hostesses at various city functions, fully attired in antebellum costume.

Battle of Mobile Bay– 1864 Civil War battle in which the Union took Mobile Bay under the leadership of Admiral David Farragut, whose “Full speed ahead” cry is remembered in history. Visitors can stand at Fort Morgan and look out over the bay where the battle occurred.

Mardi Gras – A celebration prior to Lent. Mobile is famous for its Mardi Gras parades.


 
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