Archive for the ‘Phenix City’ Category

“The Phenix City Story” Packs the Springer

July 30, 2011

Why did the Springer almost sell-out for last night’s showing of the 56-year-old movie The Phenix City Story?  No doubt the front-page Ledger-Enquirer story about Rachel and Becca Wiggens, the twin babies in the picture, now adult women, being at the showing had something to do with it.  But, I think it was more than that, even more than the fact that the movie is about the murder of attorney Albert Patterson by the Phenix City mob, and how his son John and the good people of the city overcame the crime bosses.  Probably the chance to see the “film classic” on the big screen in a theater had a lot to do with it. The first time I saw the movie was in 1955 at a U.S. Army theater at McGraw Kasern in Munich, Germany.  What an impression Phenix City and  Columbus made on my Army buddies!

Now, I can watch movies on my HDTV, and do, but I still enjoy going to movie theaters.  It’s a different dynamic when you are a part of an audience, sharing the same experience with hundreds of others – well, some of the time, since the last time I went to the Screening Room at the Ritz 13 there were two of us in the theater –  who are  reacting to what they are seeing on the screen.

And last night at the Springer, the audience reaction was the strongest I have seen in a long,  long time.  No doubt the old black- and-white 1955 movie had strong camp appeal, with people laughing at some of the corny over-acting in some serious scenes not meant to be funny. Still, the story, with its heroes and villains, pulled everyone into it, and the audience broke into enthusiastic applause when the good guys overcame the bad guys. It was really loud when Richard Kiley, portraying future Alabama Attorney  General and Governor John Patterson,  decked some mob goons, and loudest when Albert Patterson finally gave in and decided to run for Attorney General.  That decision was probably the thing that eventually brought down the crime bosses.

And the audience enthusiastically applauded the movie when it was over.  Rachel and Becca Wiggins, the twins in the movie, along with Columbus-Phenix City historian Fred Fussell, took the stage after the movie.  The charming ladies were immediate hits.  They were witty. Although, too young when in the movie to remember anything about it, they learned about it from their parents.

The movie was unique for its time, opening with interviews with some of those involved in the Phenix City clean-up.  It wasn’t totally accurate, for instance,  as clean-up leader Hugh Bentley’s son Truman told me after the movie,  the part about the little African-American girl being run down by a mob car and thrown in the Patterson’s yard was “Hollywood.”  It never happened. Nor were any real names of the gang’s bosses used.  However, overall, in essence, it did, with a little of Hollywood’s coloring,  tell the true story.

Thanks to the folks who run the Springer for keeping alive the Springer as a live performance center, but also for remembering that the grand old opera house was also a movie theater for a while.   The Film Classics series will continue with a showing of Jaws next month.

The Witch at Work on Victory Drive

July 21, 2008

  Things are looking up for Port Columbus, the National Civil War Naval Museum. Business is better and is expected to get a lot better, maybe double attendance, which was 22,000 in 2007. And it’s all because of a witch and another museum.

 

  When construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum was started 8 years ago, Columbus business leader Bill Turner advised the museum’s board to put some sort of attraction in front of the museum to catch the public’s attention on Victory Drive. Otherwise, he said, “All people are going to see when they drive by is a brick building.” The advertising potential for the museum is substantial since 30,000 cars a day pass by on Victory Drive. 

 

  Museum Director Bruce Smith said drawings were made for a focus group to react to different attention getters. First of all, a replica of the ironclad CSS Jackson was shown, but people really didn’t know what it was. “But, when we showed them a drawing of the Water Witch, they recognized it as a boat. We knew what we were going to have to do.”

 

Bruce Smith, Port Columbus Director and Water Witch

 

  It took a while, but now it’s getting done. The U.S.S. Water Witch, which is under construction, is far enough along to catch the eye of riders in vehicles on Victory Drive now. The 50 foot smoke stack is up, as well as the masts for the sails and it’s already making a difference. Visitations are up 14 percent over last year.

 

  “When it’s finished and we put the sails up, and smoke starts coming out of the smokestack, and the side paddlewheels turn, they are really going to take notice, and it’s going to dramatically increase attendance. When you add to that the traffic generated by the National Infantry Museum, we believe our attendance will double.”  The Infantry Museum plans to open on March 20, 2009 

 

 

Bruce Smith and Tom Gates

 

  Tom Gates, who was president of the old Confederate Naval Museum for 16 years, and a big supporter of Port Columbus, pointed out that all of the big tourist attractions in this part of Georgia and Alabama are working together with the Columbus Visitors Bureau to promote tours of the area. It will be a matter of all of the attractions cross plugging each other.

 

  The Water Witch went into service in 1852 as a survey boat for the United States Navy. It was used to survey rivers in South America, but became a mail boat, supply ship and blockader in the Civil War. It was captured by Southern sailors, but was later burned to prevent it from falling back into Union hands. Now, you can see a full-sized replica of it under construction in front of Port Columbus on Victory Drive.  

 

  So far, $800,000 has been raised to build the boat, but that’s not enough. To put on finishing touches, like rigging and sails, which will make it a major attraction, another $250,000 has to be raised. Target date for finishing construction is November 11, Veterans Day.

 

  If you would like to see construction progress, click this link. The live video cam is featured on the Port Columbus website.

Comparing the Cost of Driving to Using Mass Transit

July 19, 2008

 Hey! The price of gasoline has dropped below $4 a gallon. Who can resist such a bargain?

 

 

But diesel is still way up there. What if you had to fill up this baby?

 

There is one good answer to this, public transit. Let’s take a look at the difference in cost.

 

Right after I took the shot of the pickup, the driver and his young son came out of the gas station’s convenience store. After mutual greetings, the conversation with the young daddy, a friendly man, went something like this.

 

  “Do you use this truck for work?”

 

  “Oh, no. It’s my play thing, but I do drive it to work.”

 

  “Any idea what gas mileage it gets?”

 

  “Not enough,” he answered with a smile.

 

  “How much?”

 

  “Oh, on the highway, about 18 miles to the gallon.”

 

 “That’s pretty good for a truck that size.”

 

  “Yeah, not bad. In town it’s about 13.”

 

  “What does it cost you to fill it up?”

 

   “About a hundred dollars.”

 

   “How often?”

 

   “Once a week.”

 

   “That means you are paying $400 a month for gas.”

 

   “Well, actually, 500.”

 

   “Do you plan to switch to a smaller vehicle?”

 

   “No. This one is paid for.”

 

   “What you are paying a month for gas amounts to a good car payment.”

 

    “That’s true, but this one is paid for, and even if I wanted to switch, I couldn’t get much of a trade-in for it now. The capital expense would mean I wouldn’t save by switching.”

 

  Just think, if he were still making payments on it, and paying for maintenance and repairs, it would be close to a thousand dollars a month.  

 

    Well, what if he used public transportation? In Columbus, at $2.50 a day for round trips to work, it would run him something like $55 dollars a month. That’s $55 compared to $500. In Atlanta, it would run him about $77. In New York, $88.

 

  Even if he considered taking a bus, he probably couldn’t because he probably lives in a suburb which has no public transportation.  I didn’t think to ask him, but the chances are high he does live in a suburb because so many people do. And that’s another big problem. It’s called sprawl and it’s all over America.

 

 

  

 

    

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

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MONDAY IS FOR-SURE POSTING DAY – THIS MONDAY: COLUMBUS NOW HAS ITS “IT”

July 10, 2008

  It would nice to able to post something everyday on Dick’s World, but, alas, I don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. That’s why I promise a fresh post every Monday, though I will post some things on other days.  Please plan to join me on Monday, but if you miss, it’s okay to tune in later in the week. The post will still be on the site, along with possibly some new ones.  

 

Thanks for visiting,

 

Dick McMichael  

Dee’s Goodbye Party at the Bennett’s

June 30, 2008

  It was an afternoon and evening for sharing memories in the backyard of Wayne and Betty Bennett’s Harris County home. They, with the help of WTVM anchor-reporter Semone Doughton, held a farewell party for departing anchor Dee Armstrong.  About 55 co-workers, former co-workers and family and friends came to the barbeque. 

  

 

Wayne Bennett and Dee Armstrong

 Wayne Bennett and Dee Armstrong

 

  Her contract with the station expires at the end of the year. She has filed a civil rights suit against the station. Her last broadcast was on the 6 p.m. Monday news.  That was not the main subject of conversation. It was an evening of fun and laughter, and as I said, for remembering.

 

   I first met Dee in 1977 when I hired her as a reporter and weekend anchor for WRBL-TV. I was news director as well as the evening news anchor. She was just out of high school. She knew the basics of reporting, having had a good teacher, my old friend Ed Wilson. He had hired her as a reporter for WDAK radio when she was still in high school.  What she didn’t know was reporting with pictures. We were using 16mm film at the time.  She learned how to do that rapidly.

 

  She worked at WRBL for a few years, and then got a job with at a Green Bay, Wisconsin station.  Her executive producer there was Steve Faust, the first news director I worked with at WTVM. (I worked with a lot of news directors at WTVM.  Every time the station would change ownership, it would change news directors, and sometimes in between.  The station changed ownership four different times during the 15 years I worked there.) She got a leave of absence to come home to Columbus when her father was dying, and, instead of going back to Green Bay, ended up in Atlanta, where she got married and went to Georgia State University. Tragically, she lost her first husband to a high-rise building construction accident.

 

  However, she ended up working for Steve Faust again when he hired her as a reporter right after I switched stations in 1986.  She was only there a short time before my co-anchor Rebecca Todd left. That’s when the station decided to make her my co-anchor. Wayne Daughtery, manager at the time, asked me what I thought about the idea. I told him I thought it was a good idea and would work.

 

  It did. Our ratings, which were already quite high – we were the undisputed ratings leader – got even higher over time.  At one point we got a fifty share, which is almost unheard of, especially considering that so many choices had become available on cable TV. No station in Columbus – or probably anywhere else – comes near that now.

 

 

Dick McMichael and Dee Armstrong

 Dick McMichael and Dee Armstrong

 

  When I retired from anchoring in 2000, we were still on top by a good margin. After that, I continued for a year in a public affairs capacity. In what was called  a corporate-wide layoff – Raycom owns almost 50 stations – I was laid off after that year, but asked to come back shortly afterwards to do some special news projects and documentaries, which I did.

 

 Now, after 22 years on top at WTVM, her broadcasting career closes. She told me she will become more immersed in her financial services career and has some other projects in mind. She started learning the financial services business when, as she told me, “I saw the handwriting on the wall.”

 

  Welcome to life after TV, Dee. It’s not bad – a lot slower, but not bad. .

 

 

Paul, Bob,Dick,Dee,Dave

 

Left to right:  Paul Therrien, WTVM pohotographer; Bob Jeswald, WRBL (former WTVM) weathercaster; Dick McMichael, retired WTVM (former WRBL) news anchor; Dee Armstrong, departing WTVM anchor; Dave Platta, WTVM sports director and anchor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

Impact of the BRAC Impact Hearing

June 23, 2008

  Last Tuesday evening I got the feeling that most people are still in denial about the huge way our world is changing and how they are going to have to change with it.

 

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  BRAC hearing at Columbus Public Library

 

  At the BRAC impact hearing at the Columbus Public Library, we all were given the opportunity of saying which of our transportation needs should have the top priority when 30,000 new folks with their thousands of cars and trucks move into the area.

 

 

                                          Voting Remote

Casting my vote

 

 

  When five options were listed on the screen, we used our voter remotes to register our choices. After all of the clicking was done, not to my surprise, the vast majority, 53 per cent, clicked on “minimize congestion.”  

 

                                         

 

 

“Add new sidewalks and bike trails” came in second at 22 percent.

 

 The one I clicked, “improve transit service” came in 4th at ten percent, beat out by “repair existing roads” at 12 percent.

 

  Last, and a big surprise to the folks who were conducting the hearing, was “improve access to Fort Benning,” at only 4 percent.  After all, the growth at Fort Benning is the reason for the big influx of people to our area.

 

  One man in the back of the room said he was surprised that “improve transit service” got such a low vote. I joined him in that opinion and said, “Considering the energy future, you have to wonder why people are still talking cars and roads and not mass transit and rails.”

 

  The man sitting next to me joined in with, “When gasoline hits $12 a gallon you are not going to have to worry about traffic congestion. People won’t be driving their cars.” 

 

  Retiring Deputy Superintendent of the Muscogee County School District Dr. Robin Pennock, said, “Solving the traffic congestion problem will take a combination of all of the options on that list.”

 

 

                                          

  Dr. Robin Pennock, Deputy Superintendent MCSD

 

  She was right, in my view.

 

  The BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) issue is bringing out a lot of other issues that are important to our community. They would be important, even if the

area wasn’t about to grow by about 30,000 people in the next few years.  I’ll be discussing them in future posts.