Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama, Heart of Dixie, the Cotton State – and one veritable treasure trove of really weird place names. So, here we go …  Roll ‘em, Tide (did I get that right?)! 

10. Phil Campbell

Phil Campbell was named after the lead guitarist for the British heavy metal band Motorhead.  Oops, wrong Phil Campbell. According to the town’s website:

In the 1880s, a railroad work crew leader and engineer by the name of Phillip Campbell (originally from England) established a work camp near the location of modern Phil Campbell. Mel Allen, a prominent local businessman, told Mr. Campbell if he would construct a railroad depot and add a side track to the stretch of railroad going through the area, he would name the subsequent town after Campbell.

I’m not totally sure I’m buyin’ it (and wasn’t Mel Allen a famous baseball announcer?). My guess is it was named after Phil, but probably in not such a story-worthy way.  

PC is in the far northwest part of the state, and has over 1,000 people. It was almost wiped out by a tornado in 2011.

By the way, Alabama also features a Susan Moore. Sorry, I have no idea if Phil and Susan ever got together.

Just that kind of guy, I guess

9. Arab

A little Al Qaeda enclave right in the middle of the Deep South, eh? 

The story associated with this one is of the classic mistake-by-the-Post-Office genre. Supposedly, the first postmaster of the brand new town wanted it named after his son, who so happened to be named “Arad.” (C’mon, who’s named “Arad”?) I gotta tell ya, based on the number of stories I’ve heard along these lines over the years, I figure the Post Office back then never hired anyone who actually made it through the second grade.

A fair-sized town, Arab has over 6,000 people. It’s basically a suburb of Huntsville. Some great business names from the C of C there include Arab Church of Christ, Arab Meat Market, Arab Optimist Club, Arab Tractor and Parts, and Arab Water Works.


Also see #6.


8. Gu-Win

Once you realize that this place is halfway between Guin and Windsor, it all becomes so obvious. That said, you shouldn’t be surprised there’s an even better story about it out there. According to the Birmingham News:

In its pre-incorporation days, it was known as Ear Gap. Incorporation came in 1956. That's when Guin seemed keen on annexing Ear Gap. In response … the owner of the local drive-in theater, George Thornton, led a drive to form a new town. The new town got the name Gu-Win from Thornton's drive-in because he did not want to spend any money to change his sign.

Maybe … You know what’s funny though? I think if they simply kept Ear Gap, they would have made it to this blog anyway.

Gu-Win / Ear Gap has a population of 200. It's in the northwest corner of the state, not too far from our old buddy Phil.


7. Opp

Straightforward. To the point. Short, sweet. And just really, incredibly weird. That’s Opp for you.

Opp’s another metropolis, with over 6,000 people. It's in the south central part of Alabama, near the border with Florida.

It’s named after Henry Opp, a lawyer for the L&N railroad, who basically got the town going. That’s a German name, by the way. 

Opp the town is home to the Rattlesnake Rodeo, with 2013 marking the event’s 53rd anniversary. Oh, almost forgot … Would you believe that the city slogan is “The Land of OPPortunity”? Groan …

Yes, that’s a snake.  And, yes, she is peeing her pants.

6. Scant City

Not sure exactly what they’re missing or how in the world this name came about, but if it can result in great headlines like the following, I’m all for it:

Yup, Scant City is right next to Arab (see #9). Wouldn’t you know.


5. Vinegar Bend

According to hometownusa.com:

There are two different stories on how Vinegar Bend, Alabama got its name.  One goes that a train was coming around the bend and the car carrying vinegar dumped over.  Then the other is when a train was coming through and just one jug fell off and supposedly that's how it got its name.

I ain’t buying either of these. Let’s just leave this one as “unknown.” 

BTW, VB started out life as the totally innoccuous Lumbertown. Hey, if it ain't broke ...

Vinegar Bend is in the far southwest part of the state, not too far from Mobile and right next to the Mississippi border. It's got 200 people.

If you’ve heard of Vinegar Bend before, you’re probably a baseball fan.  Native son Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizzel was a pitching star in the ‘50s.  

Famous son and big-time country 
hick Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell

Hey, Mizell made my funny baseball cards blog.


4. Burnt Corn

According to what I could find, you’ve got your pick of four competing explanations for this one:

  1. White settlers burn Indian cornfields.
  2. Indians burn white settlers’ corn cribs.
  3. Indians leave burnt corn at campsite which white settlers later discover.
  4. Local restaurant comes up with new hit recipe by accident, southern Alabama goes wild.
Okay, I made that last one up. Suffice it to say, it all somehow involved maize and fire.  

This one's in the southern part of the state, again - between Opp and Vinegar Bend. Looks like there's about 300 Burnt Cornerers.

The town has a great website, www.burntcorn.com, by the way – one that includes seizure-inducing flashing, missing links, animated parrots, and lots of centered text in bright colors. One of the pages – which I particularly liked out of context – is called “The Legacy of Burnt Corn.” No recipes, I’m afraid.

Cutting the cheese, at the Burnt Corn 
Post Office and General Store

3. Eastaboga

Just to the right of Westaboga, a tad down from Northaboga, but not so far as to go all the way to Southaboga.  

You've got your choice of two name origin stories for this one. It either:
  • Means "where the people reside," or
  • Comes from Muscogee, and is a combination of three words, “person,” “in water,” and “dead” (in other’s words, it’s the Native American version of "Dead Man’s Creek.")

Eastaboga's not too far from the Talladega Speedway, a little west of Birmingham. Haven't a clue how many people it has, but it can't be too many.

Would you believe this place is on the National Register of Historic Places?   
The Jemison House, Eastaboga, AL.  Make your reservations today!


2. Choccolocco

Without checking the Internet, I’m assuming this place was named after the killer dessert at the local Mexican restaurant. But I was wrong! The Internet is telling me this one comes from the Creek Indian language, and actually means “big shoals.” Not Muscle Shoals, mind you, but certainly big in their own way.

And, yes, Choccolocco is home to the Choccolocco Monster. I have to quote this one straight out of Wikipedia:

The community gained brief notoriety in 2001 when The Daily Show aired a piece on the "Choccolocco Monster," a part of local folklore concerning sightings of a mysterious creature in the area in the late 1960s. An October 2001 article in the Anniston Star newspaper revealed that the creature was, in fact, local resident Neal Williamson dressed in a cow skull and a sheet. As a teenager, Williamson would don his costume and gain the attention of passing cars by jumping out of the woods onto the roadside, often startling motorists.

Choccolocco's just a little east of Eastaboga, and probably's got even fewer people.


1. Smut Eye 

According to the Montgomery Advertiser:

"This old store was the center of things – where men would sit around and drink beer and smoke cigarettes and tell lies," Cox said.  And they did the same thing a century earlier just across the road at a blacksmith shop where the name, "Smuteye," was forged from fire and steel and a homemade ale that the local women called the devil's brew, he said.  Cox, who has a farm near this Bullock County town, said the blacksmith's shop became quite a gathering place for men to talk and drink. The area used to be called Welcome.  "The men folk would stand around the fire in the winter time and drink moonshine," Cox said.  As the story goes, staying close to the fire left their faces smudged with smut, covering everything except their eyes.  "When they got home, their wives would take one look at their smutty faces and know where they had been," Cox said. "The women came to call the blacksmith shop 'Smuteye,' and soon folks called the community 'Smuteye,"' he said.

I don’t know.  A Google search of this term brang up (“brung up”? – just writing about Alabama seems to affect my English skills) a fair amount of pornography. Also some stuff about mascara.  Maybe the name’s true origin involves one of these two topics.

Interestingly, Smut Eye started out as Welcome.Talk about leaving well enough alone.

SE's just a little southeast of Montgomery. It's basically just a crossroads in the middle of absolute nowhere.

The store in question.  Oddly, it is not on 
the National Register of Historic Places.

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Flat Rock, County Line, Valley, Center Point, Centreville, Centre, Our Town, New Home, Pleasant Site, New Site, Land
  • Short and sweet – Jeff, Ralph, Jack, Saco, Clio, Ider, Ino, Awin, Ada, Ai
  • Just a little off color – Beaverton, Beaver Town
  • Numerically oriented – Twin, Five Points, Three Notch, Six Mile, Six Way, Thirtynine
  • Native American mouthfuls – Eufaula, Opelika, Notasulga, Hightogy, Wedowee, Weogufka, Wetumpka, Tuscumbia (Helen Keller's birthplace), Tuscaloosa, Letohatchee, Clayhatchee, Loachapoka ("Turtle Sitting Place"), Arbacoochee, Hatchechubbee, Chunnenuggee, Pushmataha ("Messenger of Death"), Fakit Chipunta
  • Orthographically challenged – Jenifer, Suttle, Eutaw, Lake Purdy, Smelley, Margerum
  • Aytpical adjectives – Majestic, Royal, Gallant, Mobile, Eclectic, Pronto, Active, Allgood, Brilliant, Moody, Motley, Shorter (and Shorterville), Sulligent
  • Unconventional verbs – Chase, Harvest (Coke sign eaten by a tree), Excel, Reform, Veto, Echo, Bluff, Opine
  • Abnormal nouns – Wing, Canoe, Almond, Empire, Enterprise (Boll Weevill monument), Vocation, Magazine, Deposit, Fort Deposit, Intercourse, Ballplay (actually, I think I might have the last two out of order), Octagon, Section, Suspension, Strata, Sardine, Nectar, June Bug, The Bottle, Coal Fire, Shorts, Screamer (I sense a story in those last 3)
  • Fun to say – Uchee, Kymulga, Clopton, Trimble, Tumbleton, Sprott, Sipsey, Nauvoo, Praco, Flomaton, Fackler, Tharptown, Hackleburg
  • Just plain weird – Sunny South, Society Hill, Mellow Valley, Nitrate City, Center Star, Rainbow City, Red Level, Oak Bowery, Pine Apple, Half Acre, Little Hope, Needmore, Muscle Shoals, Parasol West, Blues Old Stand, Yelling Settlement, Blow Gourd, Pumpkin Center, Possum Trot, Gnatville, Rodentown, Frog Eye, Pigeye, Boar Tush, Hog Jaw, Bucksnort, Pulltight, Zip City, Remlap (Palmer backwards), Graball, Trickem, Lickskillet, Scarce Grease, Muck City, Scratch Ankle, Sky Ball, Slapout … and, of course, Hot Coffee
  • Too many villes – Skipperville, Trussville, Forkville (but also Forkland), Selfville, Tattlersville, Hustleville
  • I'd like to introduce you to – Edna, Geraldine, Josephine, Daphne, Ralph, Howard, Elrod, Leroy, Floyd, Holly Pond, Hazel Green, Glen Allen, Tanner Williams, Rocky Head



2 comments:

  1. (“brung up”? – just writing about Alabama seems to affect my English skills)
    Brought up would work just fine. Please do not strain yourself attempting to be correct. Your grammatical errors speak for your ability and training.
    Most of your information is incorrect and poorly presented.
    Find someone else to make fun of. And if you ever get to Alabama - just keep going.

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  2. I've actually been to Alabama several times. Great state. Really liked it. As you may notice, the point of this whole blog is just to have a little fun. I make fun of pretty much every state, my own (NC) included. Most people seem to "get" that. Oh well.

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