|Friend and I looked at each other in confusion as the old man repeated, "Have you seen the White Elephant?"
"I'm not sure," I said. "Is it sitting in this room?"
"What? I'm not talking about Harvey. Oh, wait. That was a white rabbit. Hehehe-you 'bout had me there. I loved Jimmy Stewart. No, I'm talking about the antique store called the White Elephant behind the closed down hotel. It's a big old place--take you half a day to get through it."
"Nope. Haven't been there yet. We'll check it out on the way to Ft. Payne. Well, we better get going, there's a lot more stuff to see." We walked outside and hopped into the car, anxious to continue on in our exploration of Mentone. We took the road leading down the mountain and searched for the White Elephant as we left town. Sure enough, it was just as the man had described--very big and what we could see through the windows overflowing with antiques. "Maybe, we can come back tomorrow when we have more time," I said.
It didn't take very long before we arrived in Ft. Payne. The town was an important site for the Cherokee Nation until their forced removal to Oklahoma along what became known as The Trail Of Tears. Later in the 1800s, the town experienced a "Boom Period" when most of the still standing historic buildings were built. It was thought that large coal and iron deposits were abundant, but after only a few short years they had all but dried up.
It wasn't until early into the 20th century that Ft. Payne rebounded with a new industry: hosiery. And that was one of the reasons that I wanted to go. Not for hose, but for socks. Before NAFTA, Ft. Payne was the largest sock producer in the world. After NAFTA--not so much. If you check your socks, you'll see what I'm talking about. What used to say, "Made in America" now says, "Made in China."
I was lucky to secure several dozen pairs of diabetic socks for the family, at wholesale, mind you, and plan to return whenever I need more.
The other reason that I wanted to go to Ft. Payne was to go searching for my favorite man, Randy Owens, from the group Alabama. After asking several locals if they knew where he lived, all had pointed me to the park in the center of town and I found this beautiful tribute.
After a relaxing meal at the Old Family Buffet complete with live entertainment. (It was a hole-in-the-wall place and I walked in the door to see if they were open and was met with the smell of the seafood buffet and a guy singing C.W. McCall's Convoy. It was quite the combination, so we decided to stay and see what he would sing next...)