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170828 August 28, 2017


The Old Armory
Collins (CE) Wynn
LHS '64

    (Note:  I wrote this article 15-20 years ago for the entertainment of my friends from Lee High School.  I hope you enjoy it again along with the few memories it may restore. I have read several articles Tommy has written concerning dancing the nights away there. - CE)

    My Dad (Gene Wynn) was a Huntsville Police Officer and as such he often worked security type jobs after his normal duty hours.  In the mid-1950s one of his extra jobs was at the “rasling” matches held at the National Guard Armory on Dallas Street.  Does the name Gorgeous George ring a bell?  This was true southern showmanship in its most basic form.  Oddly enough the thing I remember most is the thick blue cloud of cigarette smoke that hung over the entire auditorium – everyone in the room was smoking something in amongst all the hollering and screaming – it was a real circus and a true cash cow.  Believe me, they had police protection present for good reason.  As a side note and piece of meaningless trivia, some years later I worked as the Ring Announcer for a couple of ‘rasling’ events there at the Dallas Street Armory and had a minor business relationship with the promoters – Gulas/Welch Enterprises of Nashville, 

    From memory, I can recall bits of information about the armory that some may find interesting.  Some of the Old Huntsville websites probably have more.  For instance:

The armory was built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration?) in the mid and late 1930s and was located on what was then the outskirts of Huntsville.  It was the original home of the Headquarters of the 1169th Engineer Group.  Although there were National Guard units in Huntsville from about 1909 onward, I don’t know where they met before the Dallas Street Armory was constructed.

In 1959 or so the 1169th moved to a “new” facility on the west side of South Parkway a mile or so north of Airport Road.  The armory was named Fort Raymond T. Jones after a former commander who also happened to be a part of the Jones engineering family of Huntsville and Jones Valley. They remained there until, maybe, 1990 when they moved to another “new” facility farther south still on the west side of the Parkway near Green Mountain Road (?).

After the 1169th moved out in 1959, the Dallas Street Armory was occupied by two units, the 279th Signal Battalion and Company A, 20th Special Forces Group.  Late one night in 1968 a fire broke out in the rear portion of the building where some electrical maintenance work had been going on and totally destroyed it.  Because it was small and had little equipment, the Special Forces unit was allowed to remain in the front, undamaged portion of the building and everyone else was scattered to temporary facilities within a 50 mile radius of Huntsville.

Over the next few years a new armory was designed and constructed on south Lehman Ferry Road on the west side of the main runway of the by then inactive Huntsville-Madison County Airport.  Eventually the scattered units were drawn back into Huntsville and along with the Special Forces unit, relocated to the “new” armory.  The Special Forces unit (now Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group - a decorated veteran unit of the war on terrorism after spending a year and a half in Afghanistan and, I suspect, with plans for other adventures in the near future as well) was later moved into the armory on south Parkway vacated by the 1169th Engineer Group as described above.

After all these moves and relocations settled down, the City of Huntsville gained title to the then Dallas Street Armory and rehabilitated the facility to serve as a recreational center.  I understand it is still in use today – which proves that not everything has to be new to have value.  Maintenance dollars and labor hours expended on old buildings are often well spent.

    As the manager of the Dallas Street Armory in 1967 and 1968 I unknowingly watched a scam as it was perpetrated on many of my friends in the Huntsville area – I suspect some of you reading this may have been victims as well. One day this guy blew into town who presented himself as a rock and roll show promoter who wanted to rent the armory.   Hey, fine with me, just sign the contract and cough up the cash and you can have whatever kind of show you want.  I mean, it was just business, you pay you play.  So, the guy paid up (in advance – which is always a good policy) and started advertising and selling tickets to the big show.  His lead act was supposedly one of the hottest bands of the day whose name I cannot now quite pull out of the fog – not the Beach Boys or the Monkees but something close, perhaps the Turtles.  Ticket sales were dynamite and the cash was rolling in.  The day of the show the facility was set up and the stage was erected and ready to go by 2 pm.  In hindsight, the fact that nothing else happened (no roadies, no equipment, no light guy, no sound guy, etc) should have tipped us off to what was happening but, besides being young, stupid, and gullible, we weren’t paying close enough attention.   

    Around 7pm, after filling the building up with probably 2,000 16 to 20-year-old party animals and collecting all the cash he could carry, the guy tells me he is going to the airport to pick up the band and leaves abruptly through the front door, predictably, never to be seen again.  It turned out to be a bummer night – about an hour later after I made the announcement that we had all been taken, I had to call the police to get the building cleared.  For me it was a hard lesson well learned – I viewed everything from then on with a healthy dose of skepticism and still do.

    I was glad to see the Armory building still in use.  I had a chance to visit with a long time personal friend of mine, Dallas Fanning, the other day at a civic event in Anniston (unfortunately Dallas is now deceased-God rest his soul).  Since Dallas is a senior City of Huntsville official I inquired about the status of the old armory.  He mentioned to me that the City was installing a new facade over the original sandstone block to make the building more appealing but other than that it is still sound and the City intends to use it for years into the future. 

        Memphis, TN - Sue and I went to visit her daughter in White House, Tennessee for the solar eclipse last week. It was one of the places that enjoyed a 100% eclipse and I got the following pictures of the event. While the city was charging up to $20 per car to park in one of the city parks, her church had free parking and gave away hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn, bottled water, and free eclipse glasses. I counted cars from 18 different states and one from Canada and Mexico who took advantage of their generous offer.

Eclipse Highlights

    Click on the picture above to see my photos. The very colorful one was taken just as the sun began breaking from behind the moon and the lens flares created the colors.    
    I made my lens filter out of half of a pair of eclipse glasses taped to a styrofoam cup which I had cut the bottom out of. I used my Canon SX-60HD camera.

For You Readers

    I am working on a story for my creative writing class and the assignment was to write about odors in your life. I want to do one on after shaves, colones, and perfumes. Please send me a quick note and let me know what you used when you were in high school. I can remember a lot of the stuff we boys used, but am a little rusty on the female side. Thanks.


    Mike Acree and Mike Vaughn - I need you to send me your email addresses again. The ones I have keep bouncing back.

Althea Prestage Culps
Mother of Niles Prestage
LHS '65

    Althea Prestage Culps, 94, of Huntsville, passed away Tuesday. Mrs. Culps was preceded in death by her first husband, Niles A. Prestage Sr. and second husband, William Howard Culps, and sisters, Birdie K. Clanton, Pauline K. Lehman, Avis K. Chisam, and Mary Francis Knowles. She was born to Sam P. Knowles and Locia Foster Knowles, and was a lifelong resident of Huntsville. She was a long time member of Whitesburg Baptist Church, where she enjoyed teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, and working in the Homebound Ministry.

    Survivors include her children, Niles A. Prestage Jr. (Judy), Sherron P. Culpepper (Edward), and Mark A. Prestage; grandchildren, Amanda Franklin, Brittney Prestage, Tom Culpepper, of Denver, CO, and Dan Culpepper (Mary Kate) of Decatur; and five great-grandchildren.
    Burial was at Valhalla Memory Gardens. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Whitesburg Baptist Church, or a charity of your choice.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Haiku

Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly

LHS '64

    I sent you this haiku per your request but apparently you didn't get it.

Rainfull clouds above

Grass like soggy shredded wheat 

Sky’s manna: rainfood      

Subject:     Kudos to Jim McBride and the other Lee High School graduates for their contributions!

Chip Smoak 

LHS '66

    While I salute Jim McBride for his induction to the Nashville Songwriter's Association International Hall of Fame, I feel sure other classmates made significant contributions to our way of life and by way of helping others. 

    They may not have received recognition for their contributions, but they know what they did and what they accomplished.  I want to tell them that their accomplishments are appreciated too.  Thank you.

Subject:    Jim McBride

Richard Simmons

LHS 59-63

Congrats to Jim McBride for his selection to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. 



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