Rison-Dallas Community

Rison-Dallas History
Note: You may go directly to Page 2 of our Rison-Dallas History by clicking here.
         You may go directly to Page 3 of our Rison-Dallas History by clicking here.
         You may go directly to Page 4 of our Rison-Dallas History by clicking here, where you can read stories by and about the life of the mill workers.

Be sure to also visit our Memories page, where you'll find personal remembrances and history by folks from the Rison-Dallas village.

(NOTE: Click here to read a very interesting article by Collins Wynn about how the roads and area names in Huntsville have changed over the years)

(NOTE: Click here to read another interesting article from Collins Wynn about a Union Army encampment in the Oakwood Avenue and Maysville Road area around 1875.

History – Just what does it mean when we talk about history? To paraphrase Webster’s Dictionary, history means to record past events – an account of what has or might have happened in the development of people and places; in other words, all recorded events of the past, usually in chronological order.

Because it seemed that we had no alternative way in which to preserve our history of Rison School and Dallas Village, this website was created.

In the process of collecting material for the site, a suggestion was made that a visit to the Heritage Room of the Huntsville-Madison County Library would be a good resource for material. A visit to the Heritage Room was made. Do you know how much material was available? How much you say? One could hold the material in one hand! Please keep in mind that this material represents all past and present events covering a time span from the 1890s to the present time, 2004, or 114 years. It would be hard to estimate the number of people represented during these 114 years. What we do know is that these people, for the most part, were the salt of the earth, hard-working, good-to-the bone, whose value is certainly worth more than just a handful of documents!

Even though the school, the Y, the mill, and many of the mill-village homes have either burned or become casualties of I-565 or other progress, some of the homes still exist and succeeding generations may live in some of them today. As evidenced by the sharing of stories at each of our reunions, we’re happy to celebrate the fact that our memories of experiences in those buildings, homes, and days gone by are alive and well!!

So, the responsibility is ours to record our history. Please share with us your history and memories – no matter how insignificant you may think them to be. Please call your relatives and anyone you know who has a connection to either Rison or Dallas, or both, to get their help in uncovering and providing history, memories, documents, and artifacts that can be used in this website.

The historical significance of this website is dependent upon each and every one of us!

The map below appeared in the December 19, 2005, issue of The Huntsville Times. (Click the image for a larger version). The map shows that both Rison School and Dallas Mill and its village were originally in the county, and not within the city limits of Huntsville. As you can see, in 1952 the Huntsville city limits covered a very small area, about a one mile radius. We know that the Rison-Dallas areas were incorporated into the city in 1955. The map shows the city’s progressive growth to its present size in 2005. In our growing-up days in Dallas Village, could we ever have envisioned such growth?

Huntsville City Limits - Click for a Larger Version


Rison School, 1940s:
Rison School, 1940s

Rison School, 1978:
Rison School, 1978

Rison School, 1978

Rison School, 1978

A Sketch of Rison School by Joyce Gay
A Sketch of Rison School by Joyce Gay

Rison School: Built by the Dallas Manufacturing Company, a cotton mill, Rison School opened its doors in 1921. The school was built to educate the children of the cotton mill workers. Rison School was named for mill general manager Archie L. Rison. Collins Wynn has compiled a very interesting article on the history of the Rison family in Madison county. It is available in PDF format by clicking here. A photograph of the old Rison Family Home is shown below:
Rison Family Home
Photo Courtesy of Huntsville Public Library
314 W. Holmes Avenue
Huntsville, Alabama
(demolished in 1967)

Rison Historic Marker: The school, named for mill general manager Archie L. Rison, was the hub of village social life. Cecil Fain, Rison High School principal for 32 years, taught ''Discipline Comes From Within''. The school, which served educational and social needs of Dallas village for four generations, was located on this site.

(Click here for a brief history of Bradley, Rison, and Lee High Schools by Cecil V. Fain)

Education in the Dallas Village area was first offered in a residence on O'Shaughnessy Avenue and in the Moore residence behind the Rison School building. The school grew from an elementary school to include junior high and then to also include senior high. Hundreds of boys and girls graduated from the senior high school and have gone out in life to become outstanding citizens.

However, operating twelve grades on a "shoestring" and an ever-increasing attendance caused the need to release the three senior high grades to the Butler Consolidated School. Rison School then became an elementary and middle school with grades 1 through 9. In 1967, the students in these classes were dispersed to three different schools, Chapman, Lincoln and Colonial Hills, depending upon the area in which they lived.

Memory fails us as to the activities at Rison School during the interim between 1967 and the mid-70s. If you remember, please let us know.

Note: Jon Edmonds wrote us and said, "I believe for a time Rison was used as a HALMA (Huntsville Art League) facility - that may be part of the missing history." So, that could account for all or a portion of that time period; thanks Jon. (Please see Jon's complete message at the "Notes from Friends" page.)

Note: In April, 2010, Jim Zielinski wrote to say: "When the old West Clinton School was slated for demolition, The Arts Council, Inc. (TAC) and a number of its member organizations were compelled to look for a new—albeit temporary—home. They found it at the old Rison School, moving in during August 1973. During this period, performances for the groups were typically held at Lee High School, Huntsville High School, the Russell Erskine Hotel, and various churches.

As it aged, Rison was deemed both uninhabitable and too costly to renovate. The arts were on the move again; in 1975 TAC relocated to a suite of offices in the new Von Braun Civic Center where it remains to this day, while four member organizations temporarily relocated to Annie C. Merts Center on Randolph Avenue. Thanks Jim. (Please see Jim's complete message at the "Notes from Friends" page.)

In the mid-70s the Rison School building then became a facility for the Daycare Association of Huntsville and Madison County, a United Way Agency. Community Ballet classes were also conducted there.

Alas, our dear old Rison School was torn down in the early 90s to make way for progress. An elevated portion of Highway I-565 was constructed over the site where the school once sat. An area City Fire Station was built on a portion of the school site.

Mr. Fain once stated that it was politics that caused the demise of Rison School, and that the path for I-565 could have taken a different route thus saving our beloved school.

The following pictures were made before they tore the school down to make way for the fire station.

Rison School
Please notice the railings to the right beside which there were steps leading to the basement that housed the school's furnace. The basement was also the janitors' "office!"

Rison School

Rison School in its Twilight Years

(Picture furnished by Cecilia [SIS] Watson)

If you look at the picture of Rison School, it's as if you can see that it's dying - deserted and lifeless. Notice too in the above picture that the Rison plaque is gone (it’s on display on the grounds at the Coca-Cola plant on Meridian Street), water fountains are down, the window coverings are either askew or missing (it appears that some of the windows may be missing), some trees are missing, the dome is missing from the roof, and the flagpole is gone. To the left in front of the school, there appears to be a waste bin awaiting the school's debris - a sad picture.

Oh that the Association had been prepared at that time to receive and store the artifacts from the school. But, the fact is, we weren’t and it’s easy to understand - we had neither the funds nor the facility in, or on, which to place the artifacts.

We are indebted to Bobby Wilkinson of the Coca-Cola Company for obtaining and preserving, in a 24 hour secure and well kept location, some of the key artifacts from the school. Except for a business interest that his company has with Huntsville, Bobby had no tie with Rison other than his wife, Elizabeth, was a graduate of the school. We sincerely thank you Bobby for doing for us at that time what we weren’t prepared or able to do for ourselves.

Editor's Update, July 26, 2005: We've learned from Bobby Wilkinson that he did have a tie with Rison as well as to Dallas Mill and to the village. Bobby's father, John Lee, attended Rison School. Bobby's grandfather, Lee Wilkinson, was a supervisor at Dallas Mill. Our friend, Sara Ann Certain Hymer, remembered when Mr. Lee Wilkinson lived at #1 North Dallas (now Lee High Drive) and Sara Ann lived at #13 North Dallas. When a little girl, Sara Ann said that the senior Mr. Wilkinson gave her a gold coin that she treasured. She now feels that he probably gave her the coin because of the close relationship that his son, John Lee, had with her father, Lionel Certain. Sadly, the coin has been missing for several years and Sara Ann has no hope of finding it.

So, while we could dwell on those things that we lost, we prefer to concentrate instead on those things that we found - and kept – like pride, determination, and a sense of belonging. As has been said, in part, we are who we are by the experiences we had at Rison School.

Here is a photograph of a class at Rison School from 1933-1934 (click the photo for a larger version):
Rison School Class Photo 1933-1934
First row, seated, left to right:??
Second row, left to right: ??
Third row, left to right: Mrs. W. P. Nicholson (Teacher), ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, Clarice Certain, ??, ??
Fourth row, left to right:??
Fifth row, left to right:??, ??, ??, Gordon L. Starr, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??

The 1932 Pilot yearbook shows Mrs. Nicholson’s picture and says she was a 6th grade teacher. It appears that there may be more than one class of 6th graders in this picture and possibly more than one teacher.

Do you know the missing names?

Rison had two literary societies, AD ASTRA (that means: through rough ways to the stars; through suffering to renown) and RHETT (in honor of Colonel H.M Rhett, a Dallas Mill owner); these societies were jointly created by Mrs. Steger and Miss Monroe. Here's a picture of the AD ASTRA group in 1934.
Ad Astra Society, 1934
Front row, seated, left to right: ??, Elizabeth Fanning, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??
Second row, seated, left to right: Elizabeth Primm, ??, Kittie Primm, ??, ??, ??, ??
Third row, left to right: ??, ??, ??, Joy Fanning, ??, ??, ??
Fourth row, left to right: ??, Ewell Starr, ??, ??, Wilbia Lee Starr, Clara Mae Brazelton, ??, ??, ??
Fifth row, left to right: ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, Leonard Williams, ??, ??, J.D. Primm
Do you know the missing names?

1932 - Here's another picture of the AD ASTRA Literary Society as well as one of the RHETT Literary Society
Ad Astra 1932
Center, front: Bob Englebert
Left of center, front to back: Rice Schrimsher, Icie Renegar, J.D. Primm, Mary Ealy, Kitty Primm, Mildred Routt, Ester Tolen, Mildred Routt, Rex Carter, Margaret Wakefield, Wilbia Lee Starr, Charlie Steger, Mary Worley, Earlene Reese
Right of center, front to back: Dorothy Cope, Vernon Davenport, ??, Walter Cullom, Katie Sue Cobb, Clezelle Schrimsher, Lillie Ella Fitch, Rellalee Wharton, Joy Fanning, Mertice Steger
Back row, right to left: ??, Ozella Curry, Earlene Reese, J.J. Berryhill
Sign holders, left to right: Shirley Steger, Hubert Widner, Roy Hale, Perry Chisam

Rhett Society 1932
Front row, left to right: Helen Williams, Vesta Lee Renegar, Mable Sue Curry, Katrina Westbrook, Willie Pearl Meeks, Flora Parker, Doris Stewart, Mildred Curry, Charlie Gentry, Marie Anderton
Second row, left to right: Grace Hollaway, Maxie Baucom, Helen Rhodes
Third row, left to right: ??, Illa Counts, ??
Fourth row, left to right: Curtis Schrimsher, James Stoltz

November 29, 1947 - Alabama Delegation to the Allied Youth National Convention at Atlantic City, NJ
1947 Alabama Delegation to the Allied Youth National Convention at Buck Hill Falls, PA
Front row, left to right: Jack Hucks, (?)Anderson, Mrs. Carpenter, Bud Adcock, ??, ??
Second row, left to right: Mona King, Ophelia Millsap, Betty Schrimsher, Lillian McGehee, Elizabeth Eaton, Norma Headrick, ??, Myrtic Locke
Third row, left to right: Mrs. Dubose, Bertha Payne, ??, Edsel Webb, Ruby McKinney, Albert McDonald
Fourth row, left to right: Ray Vandiver, ??, ??, Bobby Hughes, ??, ??
Back row, left to right: Jimmy Monroe, Nancy Brown, *Vernon Ivy, ??, ??, ??
Do you know the missing names?

*Son of P.R. Ivy, the first principal of Rison School.

Coach Hub Myhand standing in the rear of his class in Lee Junior High School in 1958:
Hub Myhand, 1958, Rison Jr. High School
This is the only known photo of Coach Myhand in the classroom and was taken in the final few years of his teaching and coaching career.

Considering the rows to run from the front of the classroom to the rear and starting with the row nearest the camera as Row 1 and ending with Row 5 as the one farthest away, the names are:
Row 1: ??, ??, ??, ??
Row 2: ??; Bugs (Larry?) Owen, Gary Broadway, ??, ??, ??
Row 3: Mike Johnson, ??, Butch Adcock, Dale Thompson, J.R. Brooks, ??, ??
Row 4: ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, ??, Clinton Anderson
Row 5: ??, ??, Tommy Thompson, ??, ??, ??

1948 - This picture appeared on the front page of The Huntsville times and shows Santa giving candy to children.
Santa (click for larger version)
The boy in foreground is Tony Campbell; the tall boy to his right is Bill Starr. Do you know the names of the other children?

Bill said: "I don't remember much about that day except that it was cold and there was a parade. Santa was set up on the square across the street from the old Montgomery Ward store. We were really surprised when the picture turned up on the front page of the newspaper!"

1st Grade Choir, 1948
1st Grade Choir, 1948
1st row, left to right: Tony Campbell (4th boy from right)
2nd row, left to right:
3rd row, left to right: Miss Esslinger, teacher
Do you know the missing names?

Dallas Manufacturing Company: Chartered in 1890 by T.B. Dallas, Dallas Mills began operation in 1892 as Alabama's largest cotton mill, manufacturing sheeting. The mill village extended from Oakwood Ave, South to O'Shaughnessy Avenue, and West to Dallas Ave. Employees were provided homes, medical care, churches, library, lodge building, YMCA, concerts, a kindergarten, and schools. The mill closed in 1949. Dallas Village was incorporated into Huntsville in 1955. Genesco Shoe Company used the mill building for their distribution operations until 1985 at which time it became vacant. The building was destroyed by fire in 1991.
A brick from the Dallas Mill
The brass plates in the center of the brick states, "From the Dallas Mill."
Dallas Mill Historic Marker

Grocery Stores in and around Dallas Village

  • Baltimore's Store on England Street between McKinley and Halsey Avenues
  • Mr. Baltimore later moved his store to the east side of Fifth Street about a half block south of Oakwood Avenue
  • Barnes’ Grocery Store on Fifth Street
  • Cagle's Grocery on Humes Avenue
  • Carroll's Grocery Store on Fifth Street
  • Cowley's Grocery Store on Fifth Street
  • Goodson's Grocery Store on Fifth Street
  • Leffle Green's Grocery Store on Fifth Street
  • J.J. Kettle's Store, exact location unknown, assumed to be South Dallas Street
  • Gordon Loftin's Grocery Store at the corner of Fifth Street and Humes Avenue
  • Prince’s Grocery Store on the west side of Maysville Road in the curve near the Big Ditch
  • Snipes’ Grocery Store on South Dallas Street
  • G.W. Stofle’s Grocery Store at the corner of Oakwood Avenue and Davidson Street on the Lincoln side of the railroad track
  • Tom Towery’s Grocery Store on McKinley Avenue
  • Union Store on Fifth Street
  • A grocery store (name not remembered) at the SE corner of Oakwood Avenue and England Street

Editor's note: If you either know of other grocery stores or know the missing name, please send an email to risondallas@bellsouth.net and the list will be updated. Sometime in the future, one of our friends will create a map of these stores.

From Old Huntsville Trivia in the Old Huntsville Magazine:
Used by permission.

1891 - The announcement that Dallas Cotton mills will be located in Huntsville is greeted with wide-spread jubilation. Huntsville has a population of 1,327 citizens.

Also seen in the Papers in 1891 (Used by permission from Old Huntsville Magazine)

The roof is now placed upon the great Dallas Mills. Thus it is that this immense structure is rapidly nearing completion. The wing now nearly completed is three hundred and fifty feet long, one hundred and fifteen feet wide, five stories high. It will require eighteen hundred operatives to run this mill.

Here are two photographs of Dallas Mill:
Photo of Dallas Mill

Dallas Mill Back Side View

Dallas Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The information provided about Dallas Mill is shown below:

Dallas Mill (added 1978 - Building - #78000496)
701 Dallas Ave., Huntsville
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Architect, builder, or engineer: Lockwood & Greene
Architectural Style: Italianate
Area of Significance: Architecture, Industry
Period of Significance: 1875-1899
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Industry/Processing/Extraction
Historic Sub-function: Manufacturing Facility
Current Function: Other

Here is a drawing of Cambron Covered Bridge on Green Mountain by Jerry Brewer

Cambron Covered Bridge

Let's Play Cards!
A Poker Game, Circa 1920
A Poker Game, Circa 1920
The second man, slightly behind the gentleman on the far left, is Sherman Swindell, Sara Ann Certain Hymer's grandfather, who lived in Tennessee at the time; he moved to Huntsville in the early 1920s. The other men are unidentified. Note that the man standing far left appears to be either the winner of a bike and pocket watch or perhaps this picture was staged to advertise poker games with the bike and watch to be door "prizes."
Editor's note: When growing up in Dallas Village, many children, both girls and boys, learned to play poker at an early age, not necessarily to gamble, but for the fun of it and perhaps because cards were cheap and available. Kids of today have so many other games and distractions that playing poker is probably not as appealing. However, with the popularity of poker games now on TV, kids may have become more interested. This picture also makes one think that the players were very brave to be photographed in a gambling set with what appears to be alcoholic beverages, but gambling and drinking may not have been unlawful in the state of Tennessee at that time. Please note the man with the "Charlie Chaplin-type" hat.

Speaking of gambling, Dallas Village had a few well-known gamblers, with Charles Esslinger probably being the most famous. Please click here to read a story (courtesy of the Old Huntsville Magazine), titled, "The Gambler"

The Dallas Mill site is apparently haunted, as described in this article in Old Tennessee Valley Magazine. It tells of a mill worker who met a fiery death in one of the mill's massive coal burners and who perhaps continues to walk the empty field, looking to finish the job that cost him his life that day so long ago.

There is also a rumor of the ghost of a homeless man who wanders the site. Have you ever heard these stories? Have you seen either the ghost of the mill worker or the homeless wanderer? If so, send us a message using the email link at the bottom of this page.

Collins Wynn has discovered some interesting information on an old Dallas Mill neighborhood cemetery. Click here to read this interesting article.

CEMETERY UPDATE, JUNE 16, 2006: Here's the cemetery marker that has been added to the Dallas Mill cemetery. Over time, additional upgrades will also be made to the cemetery. We're grateful to our councilman, Mark Russell, who made the marker and upgrades happen.

Dallas Mills Cemetery Marker, Circa 1900

Here is another interesting article from a 1905 Huntsville newspaper concerning a fire in Dallas Village:
(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

Big Fire in Dallas Village
A very destructive fire raged in Dallas village from 1-3 o'clock this morning and destroyed three of the principal businesses of the village and one residence. The list follows:

Geo. W. Wise merchandise store and store house, loss $1000, insurance $3300.
Richard Rousseau's grocery and general merchandise, loss $1000, no insurance.
Joseph Ward's meat market, loss $500, no insurance.
Joseph Ward's residence, loss $500, no insurance.

The blaze originated somewhere in the building occupied by Wise's store and hardly before the alarm had been given the whole building was enveloped in flames. The house was full of merchandise from top to bottom and the blaze was fiercely hot against the sides of all buildings in the locality.

There was little water to be had and the people of the village could offer practically no resistance to the spread of the flames except by dashing buckets of water against the sides of their houses. Another store across the street from Wise's, that of Holland, was on fire at one time but was saved.

And here is a similar story:
(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

“Heard On The Street in 1904.”
“After going several weeks without a fire or fire alarm, three fires occurred in this city within the space of eight hours. The first was in Dallas at 1 a.m., the next was in south Huntsville at 9 a.m. … The third occurred yesterday morning at 10 a.m.

“Huntsville has been singularly free from fires for the past two months and Dallas has had the most remarkable record of any village its size in the country. Until Saturday morning there had never been a fire in the village proper for thirteen years.”

And Another Story:
(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

"J.L. Phillips and a Young Dallas Lady have Vanished"
"Thought to be in St. Louis"

"The disappearance of J. L. Phillips, a well-known employee of the Dallas Mills and Miss Ada Horton of Dallas village, have led their families to believe that they have eloped and are now in St. Louis. Phillips is a married man and has 3 children.

Miss Horton left here last Saturday and went to Stevenson. Phillips departed that night and it is said that he joined Miss Horton at Stevenson. Nothing has been heard from them since then. It is not believed that Mrs. Phillips will have her husband arrested. According to one report she has expressed relief that he is gone and prevented her brothers from taking up pursuit."

from 1904 newspaper

And here is a humorous article from a 1907 Huntsville Newspaper concerning a new cow law (although at the time I'm sure this was serious business indeed):
(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

“Dallas Village up in Arms over New Cow Law”
“Since Mayor Smith gave instructions for the strict enforcement of the ordinance, there have been about fifteen or more cows belonging to residents of Dallas taken up. Several of the owners have been placed under arrest when they appeared to pay the fine for impounding and they have been fined in the city court.

The residents of the village allow their cows to graze on the common and they claim that the animals ought not to be taken up because of this.

Some of the people of the village have set about to make up a purse with which to employ a lawyer and take the question into court. ”

Doctor Thrown in Jail for Threatening Dallas Residents
From 1907 newspaper

(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

“Dr. D.J. Duckett, a practicing physician of Dallas Village, was arrested today and lodged in jail on warrants charging him with threatening the lives of two residents of Dallas and resisting arrest. His trial will come up this afternoon.

Complaints against Dr. Duckett were made by John Taylor and Robert Nichols, who charge that he had threatened to kill them. Papers were made out and it was the intention of the court to have the doctor brought in on peace proceedings. The papers were placed in the hands of Deputy Sheriff Robinson. The deputy saw the man he was seeking driving along Washington Street today and when he started toward him, Dr. Duckett whipped up his horse. There was a lively chase up the street and Deputy Miller joined in on the square. The prisoner offered resistance and the scene attracted a large crowd on the street. ”

The History of Mullins Restaurant
(used by permission)

Most of us don't remember when there wasn't a Mullins. There were three different locations, under different names, all of which were within a couple blocks of each other. The menu for the present Mullins Restaurant gives Mullins' history as follows:

Mullins RestaurantThe South is well known for its friendly people, hospitality and, of course, its food. For over 75 years, Mullins Restaurant has been serving home-style cooking, and outside of its friendly and warm atmosphere, you may see neighbors, city officials, attorneys, doctors and state and national dignitaries. It is a restaurant that is known for its delectable favorites such as chilidogs, hamburgers and hot plate lunches.

In April, 1929, just prior to the Great Depression, the Mullins family opened the Fifth Street Cafe. In 1949, the restaurant moved to a new location under the name Mullins Drive-ln. Then in 1978, Larry and Brenda Mullins purchased the restaurant from his father, James P. Mullins. Larry can remember selling hamburgers twelve for a dollar and breakfast for thirty-five cents.

In 1966, the restaurant moved to its present location and has become the largest independent buyer of food in the northern part of Alabama. The addition includes a 2,100 square foot kitchen with a cooler and freezer unit that can hold four trailer loads of food.

Mullins Restaurant donates two college or university scholarships a year, in the names of Larry and Brenda's parents, to local high school students.

To enjoy a tasty and charming part of Alabama's oldest family-owned restaurants, visit Mullins Restaurant and take the time to view the pictures on the walls to see the changes that have been made in Huntsville since the 1920s.

Optimist Park Historic MarkerDallas (Optimist) Park 1928-1949: Built in 1928, Dallas Park served as the baseball field for the Dallas Mill teams coached by H.E. "Hub" Myhand, who came to Huntsville in 1927 as physical director for Dallas Manufacturing Co.

Until the 1940s, he was Mr. Baseball in Huntsville. During these years, semi-pro baseball featuring local mill teams drew loyal crowds of up to 6,000 fans. In 1935, the Lincoln and Dallas Mill teams merged to form the Redcaps. The Huntsville Dr. Peppers (1937-1943), a women's semi-pro softball team coached by Cecil Fain, also played here. Students from Rison School played competitive football, baseball, and softball at the park.

(Dallas) Optimist Park 1949: In 1949, the Optimist Club purchased Dallas Park from Dallas Mills, erected lights, and renamed it Optimist Park. The close of the cotton mills ended the mill-team era, though semi-pro baseball returned with Leroy McCollum's Huntsville Boosters (1950-53). Students from Rison School continued to play football, baseball, and softball here. The park, one of the few early ball parks open to all races, was used during the 1950s and 1960s for exhibition games by the Birmingham Black Barons and other Negro League teams. With the Park renovated and reopened (1994) by the City of Huntsville, baseball returned to Optimist Park, the self proclaimed "Friend of Youth."Optimist Park Historic Marker

Here is a photograph of the memorial plaque dedicated to Hub Myhand that was installed at the Optimist Park in December of 2009.

Hub Myhand Plaque

An interesting story about a "treasure hunt" at Optimist Park can be found at the Have Detector, Will Travel website by J.R. Hoff. The text of that article is reprinted here if you have trouble with the other link.

A 1920's Elementary Class?: This picture appears to be of elementary students, perhaps of two classes or grades. Do you know anyone in this picture? Is this building the old red schoolhouse? An unknown Elementary Class photo

Streetcar Works Circa 1915~1920 Streetcar Workers Circa 1915~1920: This photo is of two Dallas Mill workers who decided they could make more money by working on the old Huntsville Streetcar line. The one on left is Milton Gentry; on the right is my grandfather Homer Heard. Their little venture did not last too long as they went back to the mill. My grandfather worked there until it closed down. As did his brother Eugene. Thought someone might know Mr. Gentry and would like to see the photo.

Submitted by Rudy Strickland who thinks that the picture was made between 1915-1920.

The building of a streetcar system in 1888
The Streetcar Comes to Huntsville
Photo courtesy Huntsville A Pictorial History, by Dave and Sharon Dooling
We are unable to determine the exact location of this picture in downtown Huntsville.

Editor's update 04/10/06: While scanning through the website, I came upon this information about the streetcar from Mr. William (Willie) Lee's excerpt on our Memories page:

"There was a streetcar track right down the middle of Stevens Ave. to a point two blocks west of Fifth St. At this point the street car motorman would reverse the trolley pole and run the car back east on Stevens to a point one block east of Fifth St. where the track turned south toward downtown Huntsville to a point now known as Five Points then turning right for one block then turning slightly to the left down East Holmes St. to Washington St. where it turned left at the store known now as Belk Hudson.
I think the street car tracks continued up Washington Street up around the courthouse and back north on Jefferson St. to Clinton St. turned west and continued through West Huntsville on over to Merrimack Cotton Mill which is now known as Huntsville Mfg. Co. The people at Merrimack could ride the streetcar to town for five cents do their shopping in downtown Huntsville and ride back home for five cents. Or if you wanted to you could ride all the way from one end of the line to the other for five cents which was from near Dallas Mill on Stevens Ave. to Merrimack mill village."

This is the most definitive information that we have about the streetcar route.

Our friend, Glenn Hymer, remembers that his uncle, Leonard (Pont) Pinion, said that there was a wide place on Holmes Avenue where there was a side track. There were two streetcars and it was at this place where they passed each other. The first one there pulled over on the side track, waited for the other one to pass, and then returned to the main track where both continued on their journey. As a boy, Pont also remembered jumping on the back of the streetcar and riding from Dallas Village to West Huntsville without paying a fare.

Editor's update 04/21/06: According to an employee of the Huntsville Engineering Office, the side track was located at the intersection of East Holmes and White Street, about where the Tenders Restaurant is now located. A visit to the site revealed no evidence of the track's existence. When asked, the employee stated that the track is probably underneath the paving.

"The streetcar comes to Huntsville (east side of square)"
The streetcar comes to Huntsville (east side of square)
Photo courtesy Huntsville Alabama Sesquicentennial 1805-1955

This picture is assumed to be the first streetcar in Huntsville, presumably circa 1900 rather than circa 1920 as previously thought.
W. L. Starr, Streetcar Conductor
(click on the image for a larger version)
The Conductor is W.L. Starr, Bill Starr's grandfather. Do you know the passenger's names?
Bill was told that this picture was taken in Dallas Village, but he's doubtful because of the looks of the houses.

Editor's note: If the streetcar ran on Oakwood Avenue it could well be that the streetcar is in front of the bosses row of houses on the north side of Oakwood Avenue between N. Dallas Avenue and the RR tracks. For a period of time, Mr. and Mrs. Fain lived in the house at the corner of Oakwood and N. Dallas; my paternal grandparents lived in the second house from the RR and these houses looked much like the picture. I don't remember the cobblestone street though, but then it's unknown what year the streetcar ended and the cobblestone streets were either removed or covered. Maybe most of us hadn't yet been born! As one analyzes the picture, you see that the seats were probably very uncomfortable. While the conductor's seat has a back pad, the other seats may or may not have them, but there's no pad on the seat bottom. Although there seems to be curtains that could be lowered, imagine how cold it would be in the wintertime and miserable it could be in a downpour or a blowing rain. Maybe the streetcar just didn't run in extreme weather. But, all in all, it was probably exciting to those using it. I also wonder if the picture was staged or if it represents the passengers at that particular time; it appears that there could be one female passenger. 'Wonder how the passenger alerted the conductor when the streetcar reached his/her stop. There may have been regular stops from which a passenger would select, something like the bus system was when I was a young girl. The bus didn't stop at McKinley Avenue on which I lived, so I had a choice of getting off at either the corner of Oakwood and Fifth Street or at the corner of Halsey Avenue and Fifth Street. Please notice the ads.

Local News from 1911

(Reprinted by permission from The Old Huntsville Magazine.)

Serious Street Car Accident today – About 9 this morning Street Car No. 5, east bound with Dick Hatcher, motorman, collided with a two-horse wagon belonging to Hon. D.I. White and injured the two Negro men drivers, Jack Parham, slightly and Jim Fields, seriously.

The following streetcar pictures are presumed to be two different streetcars.
Huntsville Streetcar

Huntsville Streetcar
Photos courtesy Huntsville A Pictorial History, by Dave and Sharon Dooling
Note that these streetcars have windshields! Also note the advertisement banner on streetcar #12:

The motorman is John McClure, who worked on the "Electric System and its predecessors" for fifty years. (Editor's note: There is some confusion as to dates; records show that the streetcar system began in February 1901 and ended February 23, 1931.)

Mayor Tom Smith, the Board of Aldermen, and D.C. Monroe's band are aboard the third streetcar, upon dedication of the Huntsville Railway Company system in February 1901. Joy Fanning Daniel said that she rode the latter style streetcar many times and just loved it.

Streetcar - Clinton Avenue - Circa 1920s
Streetcar, Clinton Ave, 1920s

The photograph below was made prior to August 21, 1895:
(Contributed by Judith Gunn Crawford)
Picture of the Gunn Family made prior to 1885
Left to right: Ida Chandler (Judith's grandmother), John Elery Gunn (Judith's grandfather), Perilee St. John, John Chandler (Perilee was John's first wife), Cora Smoot and John Smoot (brother and sister to Ida Chandler)

The family of John Elery Gunn made on the front porch at #7 North Dallas - circa 1923
Gunn Family Picture 1923
Front, seated on step: Marguerite Gunn holding Raymond Falkenberry
Second row, left to right: John Gunn, Jr., Frank Falkenberry, Jr.
Third row, left to right: Carrie Gunn, Bettie Gunn Falkenberry, Lillian Gunn, Ida Gunn, Florence Hutto, holding son, Ernest Hutto, Lorena Gunn
Fourth row, left to right: Frank Falkenberry, Raymond Gunn, John Elery Gunn, Grady Hutto

Editor's Note: The above photos are provided for historical interest to show the clothing style in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (please notice the background) as well as the village house on N. Dallas.

The pictures below are added to the website for the historical interest in the mode of dress. On the back of the picture in the lower left-hand corner is written, "Mrs. Etta Barton." The remaining pictures are unidentified. At first glance, the gentleman in the straw hat appears to be wearing a monocle. In a closer look, one can see that he actually is wearing a pair of glasses. Most of the pictures appear to have been taken in the early 1900s; the picture of the sailors was most likely made around World War II.

Sally Certain Hymer provided this picture that shows clothing styles circa 1951:
Sally Certain Hymer Picture
Left to right: Estelle Swindell Pinion, Leonard (Pont) Pinion and Ursula Swindell Fitch, strolling downtown in either Youngstown or Akron, Ohio. Estelle and Ursula were sisters and Ursula was Sally's mother.

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