Stuck in the 1930s

Rode my bike today for the first time in eight days. Rode Wednesday of last week, overslept Thursday, broke the bike on Friday, got it back Tuesday, was rainish Wednesday and here we are.

So we set out and I pedaled on for about three miles. Hit a stop sign to wait for The Yankee — and make adjustments to my saddle — when a fine little wave of nausea rolled over me. The sun is shining, the heat is blaring and I’m hunched over like the guy who might have had the bad borscht. Oh I was fine, it was just the dizzies and the light headedness that got me. I’m blaming the eight days off.

Figuring the last thing anyone needed was an embarrassing blackout incident I called it a ride and, slowly, pedaled my way back home. So, after watched three days of wonderful Tour de France coverage, my triumphant return was just shy of nine miles. That’s just disappointing.

But I’m fine, thanks.

Spent a little bit of time tracking this guy down:


That’s Earle Smith, Alabama Polytechnic class of 1930. He’s a 2nd lieutenant in the University’s ROTC in this photograph. He was also a baseball player, the football team manager, a member of the literary society and other things during his time in school.

He’s important because The War Eagle Reader was running a feature on him. Seems that just before the war came to him in North Africa, he took a tour of the deserts of Egypt. His guide walked him up to the Sphinx and, as the story was retold goes, he paid the guide to look away and hand over a chisel. Smith (no relation) chiseled War Eagle into the old monument.

And then he got his nose bloodied by Rommel before ultimately defeating Hitler.

What happened to the army captain after his sandy vandalism is a modern mystery. The story made its way into the student paper in 1944, so one presumes he came home from the war. He’d majored in secondary education so I assume he taught for 10 years or so before the war got in his way. Maybe he came home and was able to easily get back to the business of raising his kids and wondering how his students got such wacky thoughts in their heads. He would have been teaching right up until the mid-1960s, after all.

But that’s just speculation. The Internet doesn’t know what became of the man.

I’ve been having this conversation with a guy out west about a relative he had who fought, and died, in the Pacific. Maj. Adam Hallmark is the modern military man. His fourth cousin was Dean Hallmark, who I wrote about earlier this year. Interesting little story.

Anyway, Adam has come across big stores of new information since we first talked and he sent me some pictures this week.

This is thought to be Auburn, possibly campus, in 1936:


Dean Hallmark would recognize just 15 buildings on campus today, not counting the president’s mansion and the chapel.

This is Glenn Avenue:


I haven’t driven the length of it yet for the express purpose of comparing it to this photograph, but I’m betting nothing in this picture remains. And it is a shame about that motorcycle.

UPDATE (Sept 13, 2011): Adam just forwarded along pictures of the ticket books athletes received to attend sporting events back in the 1930s. This is his fourth-cousin’s and, as you can see, is in excellent condition:


It was also never used:


Before magnetic strips and photo IDs they had a funny way of making sure you weren’t stealing someone else’s ticket:


General appearance? I bet you couldn’t say that today.

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