Category Archives: Alabama

Kickstands and Football Fans-Roll Tide

On the day of college football’s national championship game, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about my recent trip to the Bear Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa.

I’m somewhat of an Alabama football fan. I default there when things aren’t going well for my Ole Miss Rebels, which was the case this year. Plus, I’m a huge fan of single-topic museums. I can absorb so much more of things like presidential libraries and, oh, places like the Barbed Wire Museum (McLean, TX) or the Museum of Musical Instruments (Phoenix) than the overwhelming Smithsonian, the Met or the Louvre.

And so it goes with the Paul W. “Bear Bryant” Museum on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

One topic.

It is well worth the $2 admission to spend an hour there learning how Alabama came to be the powerhouse it is today. I only paid $1. Turning 60 has its perks.

Actually, the museum’s focus is broader than the 25 years that Bryant spent at Alabama. It covers Alabama football history dating back to its first football team of 1892 and includes the lean years of Mike Dubose and Mike Shula that ultimately led to the hiring of Nick Saban.

The elephant became associated with Alabama in 1930 when a sports writer described the size of the team members to red elephants. Bama outscored its opponents 217-13 that year and won the Rose Bowl and national championship.

There’s even John David Crow’s 1957 Heisman Trophy, which may be more fitting at Texas A&M where Crow played for Bryant. But he was Bryant’s only player to win the Heisman.

A few things I learned:

1926 Rose Bowl: Alabama’s football dominance didn’t begin with Bear Bryant. In 1926, Alabama won its first bowl game and national championship when it defeated the heavily favored Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl. Before then, college football powerhouses were teams like Harvard, Notre Dame, even Vanderbilt. This was coined “The Game That Changed the South.”

The SEC’s First Year: The Crimson Tide took another big step in developing its reputation when the Southeastern Conference was formed in 1933. Alabama won the conference that year, finishing the season with 130 points to its opponents’ 17. Bama didn’t win every game that year. In its first SEC game ever, the Crimson Tide tied Ole Miss 0-0. Bama also lost to non-conference Fordham 0-2 in a game played in New York City.

The museum has a Waterford crystal replica of Bryant’s signature houndstooth hat, trophies and tickets from every major bowl, jerseys from iconic players like Stabler and Namath.

Bryant’s 1991 win over Auburn gave him 315 wins, at that time making him the winningest coach in college football ever.

For me, the museum has the added appeal because of the things I remember from my childhood — Golden Flake potato chips and bottled Cokes on the set of the Bear Bryant Show, which was carried by my  East Mississippi TV station. And memories of the 1969 game when Alabama beat Ole Miss in the quarterback duel between Scott Hunter and Archie Manning.

Exhibits include artifacts from the early days in the 19th century to current Nick Saban years.

Enjoy the game tonight whomever you’ll be rooting for tonight. As for me and my house: Roll Tide.



Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama

Big Bob Gibson sign

I’m slowly making my way around the barbecue shrines of the South.

Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que  in Memphis. Check

Louie Muellers in Taylor, Texas. (and most of the other noted central Texas barbecue joints) Check.

Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Check

McClard’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Check

Jack Stack Barbecue in Kansas City (is that considered the South?). Check.

And I had always heard of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama but had never eaten there until we stopped on the way back from Washington, DC earlier this month.

The real reputation stems from a tangy mayonnaise-based white barbecue sauce, definitely unique in barbecue circles. I had to show proof that they also served a traditional red sauce before my husband would agree to go.

You get the feeling this is the real deal when (a) the parking lot is packed and (b) inside walls are covered with framed articles from publications as diverse as the local daily Huntsville Times, trade publication National Barbecue News for the championship teams with the big rigs, and swanky Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. There are two locations in Decatur, and I can only assume both are packed with patrons and mementos.

The pork ribs and pulled pork were indeed tasty. Sorry, there are no photos because we devoured our food quickly after a tiring ride.  The ribs were some of the best we have ever tasted.

Unlike many barbecue joints, Big Bob has an extensive menu including huge barbecue-loaded baked potatoes (described by one publication “as big as a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier”). There are also pies.

Oh, and we did try the white sauce. It wasn’t bad, but we’ll stick to the familiar.

Sauces-Big Bob Gibson