Archive for the ‘Huntsville Times community columnist’ Category

civil rights book signing/ rock & roll show was a big hit

March 23, 2010

"Ivy Joe would sing and the white guys would back him up." 

Jane DeNeefe March 20, 2010 Flying Monkey Theater

Ivy Joe Milan

Frye Gaillard


Ivy Joe and the Snowballs Integrate Huntsville

February 6, 2010

Tommy Graham, Ivy Joe Milan and Chris Couchois, Huntsville Alabama, 1968

“Ivy Joe and the Snowballs Integrate Huntsville”

Everybody knows the 1960s were turbulent in Alabama. The general facts have been established: Huntsville managed to accomplish racial integration with less violence than Birmingham or Montgomery.

Back then, just like now, Huntsville’s business community was motivated by its special relationship to the federal government. To maintain our image as a forward-looking “space capital” or “rocket city” we really had no choice but to desegregate public facilities. Faced with local civil rights demonstrations, Police Chief Chris Spurlock did everything he could to keep Huntsville’s civic life civil.

Teenage musician Ivy Joe Milan also did his part to integrate Huntsville. As part of the first big wave of black students to attend Huntsville High School, he was looking for a way to shine.

So Ivy Joe was delighted when Tommy Graham, Chris Couchois, Billy Brown and Mike Byrum asked him to front their new band. Ivy Joe would sing, and the white guys would back him up.

Ivy Joe had always managed to find his own way. As an experienced “shoeshine boy” downtown, he was already an independent businessman. And he knew all the rock and soul classics.

So “Ivy Joe and the Snowballs” assumed their role in Huntsville’s social history. They played for white kids at the country club. They played black social clubs, a white country and western bar, high school dances and family barbecues. They played at teenage dance clubs like the Epic on Andrew Jackson Way, and television’s “Hullabaloo.”

Effective social change rarely occurs by administrative decree. Social change starts with individual acts of courage. As teenage musicians, “Ivy Joe and His Snowballs” helped Huntsville integrate peacefully.

Ivy Joe recalls, “It was all going fine until the night Martin Luther King got shot. That night, the people outside the Night Life Club on Holmes were so frustrated.

Some of them just turned on the Snowballs, just for being white. Ernest Jones and I just barely got the guys into the car and out of there! Then I got kicked out of Huntsville High for socializing with white girls in the corridors.”

When he says that, my sense of injustice flares, and I demand a better explanation.

But Ivy Joe says “Now, hold it!” He smiles at me, his dreadlocks animated. Then he explains, “I’m a historic figure. I’ve got to save some stories for my book!”

Legends of the Kaffeeklatsch

January 2, 2010

This podcast from WLRH’s Writer’s Corner about the 30th anniversary of the Kaffeeklatsch started out as a column in the Huntsville Times.  At the end of the podcast WLRH producer Judy Watters has added music Microwave Dave Gallaher recorded live at the Kaffeeklatsch.

Alabama is haunted by the mean spirit that created the Constitution of 1901.

January 2, 2010

First ran in the Huntsville Times in October 2006, then re-ran in the statewide constitution reform newsletter (where an ellipsis turned into a character I've never seen.)

Biodiversity/ E.O. Wilson

January 2, 2010

Please let me know if this is not legible.

Thirteen Alabama Essays (2006)

January 2, 2010

Thirteen Alabama Essays


1. Huntsville’s Big Spring and the cave under the courthouse
Have you ever drunk water from a natural spring in the woods?
December 29, 2005 Valley Planet, with cave map
January 6, 2006 Writer’s Corner on WLRH public radio, Huntsville

2. Scientist, band help city in struggle for civil rights
The 1960s were turbulent in Alabama.
January 29, 2006 Huntsville Times

3. Bringing History Back to Television
In February 2005 I participated in a nationwide grassroots movement called
“Eyes on the Screen.”
February 19, 2006 Huntsville Times

4. Positive Chi
Someone we know has gone into the feng shui business.
March 26, 2006 Huntsville Times
June 27, 2006 WLRH Writer’s Corner

5. Lessons taught by ancestor still relevant to citizens today
On an easy drive down Interstate 65 I thought about how hard it was to get to
the capital in the days of the Mississippi Territory.
April 30, 2006 Huntsville Times

6. City coffee bar keeps history a-brewing
The green gargoyles of the Terry-Hutchens building were icons to my sister’s kids.
May 21, 2006 Huntsville Times
May 25, 2006 WLRH Writer’s Corner

7. Its okay to be sassy about cultural ties
Would you know a conga line if you saw one? Have you ever eaten fried chicken?
African influences like these permeate American culture.
June 19, 2006 Huntsville Times

8. Ex-hometown takes civic responsibility seriously
After eight summers in Vermont, I celebrated July 4th in Alabama this year.
July 30, 2006 Huntsville Times

9. Alabama: a true gem for naturalists
For a budding naturalist, growing up in Alabama is good fortune. Few places
on Earth offer the variety of ecosystems contained within our borders.
August 20, 2006 Huntsville Times

10. Geologists have a field day with Alabama history
I’ve always wondered why Alabama is like it is… How far back in time do you have
to go to understand how things got this way?
September 17, 2006 Huntsville Times
July 27, 2006 WLRH Writer’s Corner

11. This document frightens folks who care about state’s future
Alabama is haunted… by the mean spirit that created the Constitution of 1901.
October 29, 2006 Huntsville Times
December 4, 2006 The Voice of Alabama, newsletter of Alabama Citizens for
Constitutional Reform

12. A hidden picture of a medical miracle
When I heard that the painting “Medical Giants of Alabama” had been
removed from public view, I wanted to see it for myself.
November 19, 2006 Huntsville Times

13. Dave Gallaher and his band take the blues to far corners
In a wooden chair at Shaver’s bookstore, with eyes closed and head tilted back in the
streaming sunlight, Dave Gallaher plays guitar.
December 31, 2006 Huntsville Times
May 18, 2007 WLRH Writer’s Corner

BONUS: Please don’t throw me in the kudzu patch
I may seem yankified now, but no one in Vermont ever mistook me for a New Englander.
February 22, 2007, Valley Planet
April 20, 2007 WLRH Writer’s Corner

Related sources


Microwave Dave Gallaher takes the blues to far corners

January 1, 2010

Dave Gallaher playing cigarbox guitar at Lewter's Hardware Store, photo by Ellen DeNeefe

Listen to the story here:

For the longer print version look here:

“Why is Alabama like it is? And how far back do you have to go to understand how things got this way?”

January 1, 2010

Listen here:

Fossil of a tree fern stalk in Little River Canyon.