“Lost Attractions” details the places you can no longer visit
“Lost Attractions” is a particular book with a contradiction at first glance. Tim Hollis talks about dozens of interesting and bizarre places in Alabama, but he’s not a guide. You cannot go and visit these places because they are no longer there, at least not in their original form.
Nonetheless, I found myself turning the pages, enjoying dozens and dozens of photos of old motels, theme parks, natural wonders, monuments and more.
Hollis divides the state into thirds and begins with the northern third. Natural “wonders” seem to be the most common here.
We have Canyon Land Park, Hurricane Creek Park and a park that was advertised but never built: “Space City USA”.
There are a number of campgrounds, many of which have strived to be mini theme parks, like Yogi Bear Jellystone Park near Guntersville.
Hollis reminds the reader that for a time America was infatuated with the Old West. The craze for western parks and western TV shows is definitely over.
Several natural wonders, such as caves and caverns, were once privately owned – Cathedral Caverns, Manitou Cave – and many have become state parks.
There are many photos of missing food franchises and motels, including the Motel Playground of the South near Guntersville Lake, which Hollis considers very suggestive.
Across the state of Alabama, we are seeing reminders of the unintended but perfectly predictable effects of the interstate system. Many of 331 and 231 businesses were killed when tourists heading to Florida took the highways, and there is a photo of downtown Luverne with “businesses now lost” and two from Carbon Hill.
Central Alabama, primarily Birmingham, features places that are still flourishing, but have changed, such as the Birmingham Zoo and the Botanic Gardens.
There is a wonderful sequence of photos of Vulcan. It appears to have been taken apart, moved and reassembled in various places and arrangements. A photo shows his hand posed upside down.
Hollis offers a mural of Horseshoe Bend as the most cheesy of all time, and he might be right. It combines a horse, a horseshoe, a thermometer and a “foggy-looking chef”.
There are a number of photos from Moundville and other Native American related sites that demonstrate that Native American representation has become more respectful over the past 70 years. We can no longer see the natives actually buried as we once could. It is clear that this is a kind of progress, but the “in situ” bodies were truly an incredible experience.
On a less controversial note, it would be fun to spend a night in a cement tipi at the Wigwam Village Motel in Bessemer.
In southern Alabama, there are many defunct motels, azalea-camellia gardens, and restaurants, including, unfortunately, Rousso’s original location.
Like Rousso, many of Dauphin Island’s attractions were destroyed by Hurricane Frederick in 1979.
And I learned that the restaurants in Stuckey were placed on the right side of the road, heading north, as tourists were stopping to buy pecan candies and souvenirs on the way back.
The aerial photos of Gulf Shores before Hurricane Frederick generated the most nostalgia, not because of the destruction of the hurricane, but because of the frenzied and uncontrolled construction that Frederick made possible.
I really felt a pang in my heart looking at all the little cottages, the go-cart track, the cheesy mini-golf course, the Lighthouse Motel and the original Holiday Inn, which Hollis describes: “With his four (count them, four) storeys, it towered over its little cinder-block motel neighbors.
Don Noble’s latest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson and eleven other Alabama authors.
“Lost Attractions of Alabama”
Author: Tim Hollis
Publisher: The History Press
Price: $ 23.99 (Paper)