I had the great opportunity to meet LaVada a little while back through the internet and we have tried to arrange our schedules for a while now to get together for the shoot. Finally, last Thursday, our schedules and the weather all worked in our favor. LaVada graciously invited me over to her home to meet her husband and family and proceeded to entertain me with some great stories about her life in the Midtown area.
She has lived in the Midtown area for almost 20 years now and is definitely a neighbor that helps to make this area great.
She did a superb job in answering the Midtown questions, so I'll turn the rest of the writing over to her with some pictures mixed in.
Midtown portraits and questions for LaVada:
How long have you lived in the Midtown area?
I grew up in Oakleigh, and I lived on Church St until I left for college in 1981. I did not move back to Mobile until 1994 when my husband and I moved to our current house on Ann St. When I moved off to college there was no “Midtown” designation. So, I guess I have been living here for 19 years.
Do you like it? If yes or no, why?
I love living in Midtown. I cannot envision living in any other part of Mobile…well any other non-historic area. After living in old houses for the vast majority of my life, I find new construction to be generally speaking very limited. I also love the old trees and bushes. Apart from the physical structures, I also love the strange mix of young families, old Mobilians, street people, and urban youth.
Do you feel there are any benefits to a close knit community?
Of course there are benefits to a close knit community. I always think of the hurricane times when we lost power and everyone on the street was outside cleaning up or grilling or chatting. Then we have the truest sense of community. However, that community presents itself even in a day-to-day sense. We (my family) like the idea of seeing the same employees every time we go to the grocery store or the hardware store or the drug store. Also the neighborhood life is consistent and familiar: the guy at the end of my block is always sitting on his front porch with his yippy dog in the morning when I leave to take my daughter to school, and he always throws up a peace sign. My yardman/handyman/watch dog can be counted on to stop by during the week looking for a meal and asking me, “Mama, can I get my allowance for the week?” or sharing some neighborhood gossip or quoting a Bible verse or two. I look on these as positive attributes for a community.
How could the community as a whole make Midtown even better?
The biggest thing the community as a whole could do for Midtown is to stop using Dauphin St as a speedway. We would all be safer.
Do you have any memorable stories about Midtown?
I have a ton of memorable stories about Midtown and Oakleigh. Some of my stories are not great like the spate of robberies a couple of years ago. Or the two murders of people I knew and liked. Mostly though, I collect the oddities of Midtown life. When I was a teenager, there was an old man with a long gray beard who rode his bicycle around with a cat on his shoulder. My aunt used to tell me tales about the one- legged prostitute at the Circle K on Government and the prostitutes who drove around Washington Square in an old white hearse. I remember my daughter’s 6 year old curiosity about the drag queens that lived in the apartments down the street. The kids used to be slightly freaked out by the semi-homeless couple who walked in the middle of the street: the man pushing the woman in a wheelchair while pulling a shopping cart and with a dog on a leash…sometimes with a giant cross attached to the grocery cart. Then, there are my friends: one who used to take her pet chicken to the beach on vacation, and the other who befriended the prostitutes on her corner. She would give them a sandwich and some counseling then send them on their way…and she would worry about them even going so far as to watch the Metro lock-up website for them if they were missing for a couple of days. I think the beauty of Midtown is that it is not ordinary…these are all of our stories, and we probably figure into the stories of our neighbors.