Monument Monday

26 Nov

My friends and I were driving to Chattanooga from a dive trip in Gulf Shores, AL last summer when we came across a sign for Fort Payne, AL, a town that sounded strangely familiar.  I requested that we get off the interstate at the next exit so I could Google why I wanted to go there and I realized it was because the country band hugely popular in the 80’s and 90’s, Alabama, have a monument there.

It’s not directly off the interstate so you have to wind through the town, which actually ended up being more interesting than the original purpose of our pit stop.  As you drive toward Union Park on Fourth Avenue, the town is eerily empty.  And not in an, everything’s closed on a Sunday kind of way, but in a real ghost town kind of way.

As my friend continued to drive, I continued to research and we found that Fort Payne in it’s prime was “Sock Capital of the World,” named so because of the many, and large sock manufacturing plants in the town.

In the late 1800’s iron and coal were discovered, prompting large amounts of Northerners to  move in to the area, building factories and modernizing the town with a beautiful theater,  opera house and train station.  Turns out there was not as much iron and coal in the area as expected and that is when the town turned toward manufacturing.  The first plant, W.B. Davis, opened in 1907 and is still standing as an antique mall.  Very few are still hanging on.


As many jobs are being outsourced and sent overseas, these American run, family owned factories are being forced to close their doors.  People are moving out in droves, leaving the peaceful main-street life for cities in search of work.  The whole town is a sad reminder, a kind of Southern Detroit, of the very real problems the middle class families continue to face in this country.

Where does your wanderlust take you?

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Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

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