15 Things You Might Not Know About Alabama
By Julia Davis
1. Two Revolutionary War battles were fought in Mobile, Alabama (which was called West Florida at the time). The first was the 1780 Battle of Fort Charlotte, during which Spanish supporters of colonial independence attacked and seized a British Fort near Mobile. The second standoff, known as the Battle of Mobile, occurred a year later when the British attempted to recapture Fort Charlotte but were quickly defeated.
2. Mobile was settled by the French in 1702. Six flags have flown over the city: France, Spain, Britain, the Republic of Alabama, the Confederacy, and the United States.
3. Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1836.
4. Alabama is the only state to have an alcoholic beverage as its official drink: Conecuh Ridge Whiskey.
5. Alabama’s official state song is creatively titled “Alabama.” Written by Julia Tutwiler, the only female president of Livingston Normal College (now the University of West Alabama) and composed by Edna Gockel-Gussen, it was adopted in 1931.
6. In Alabama, it’s illegal to dress up as a priest or other religious clergy member for Halloween. According to Section 13A-14-4 of the Alabama Code, "Whoever, being in a public place, fraudulently pretends by garb or outward array to be a minister of any religion, or nun, priest, rabbi or other member of the clergy, is guilty of a misdemeanor." Breaking the law could earn you a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.
7. Bear wrestling is a Class-B felony in Alabama. In fact, the state legal code has an entire section that outlines different forms of “unlawful bear exploitation.”
8. The visitors' locker room at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium is named "The Fail Room" in honor of James M. Fail, class of '49.
9. Although New Orleans is the modern-day hub of Mardi Gras festivities, the first Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. actually took place in Mobile, Alabama, in 1703. Today, Mobile still has a sizeable Mardi Gras carnival with parades and parties. And as a local twist on a religious tradition, people on floats throw MoonPies into the crowd.
10. Mardi Gras isn't the only holiday to star MoonPies. Mobile also rings in the New Year by lighting a 12-foot tall, 600-lb mechanical MoonPie.
11. The first 9-1-1 call was placed in Haleyville, Alabama. To test the new system, Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite went to City Hall and called U.S. Representative Tom Bevill at the local police station. Accounts of the call report that Bevill answered with “Hello.” Then the two men exchanged greetings, hung up, and went to “have coffee and doughnuts.”
12. Alabama is home to the Deep-Sea Fishing Rodeo, the largest fishing tournament in the world. The three-day event attracts over 75,000 spectators and features 30 categories, including “Most Unusual Catch.”
13. A store in Scottsboro, Alabama, sells luggage that has been lost by airlines. Not to worry—your suitcase won’t get snatched up the next time you fly. The Unclaimed Baggage Center sells items that remain unclaimed after the airlines have completed an extensive three-month tracing process to locate the owners. After that, bags are shipped to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where half the items are sold and half are donated to charity.
14. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is located in Huntsville, Alabama. Marshall contains laboratories and testing facilities, as well as one of the greatest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world. The Saturn V rocket, which was used to launch the Apollo 11 spacecraft that first landed on the moon, was designed at the Marshall Space Flight Center. It is also home of the U.S. Space Camp for kids.
15. In Magnolia Springs, Alabama, the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail by boat. It is the only year-round water delivery mail route in the country.