Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mentone Revisited

        Next to Gulf Shores, the former resort town of Mentone is my favorite place to visit in Alabama. So when my high school buddy Annette Vining came down from Chicago for our 50th (ouch!) high school reunion, it was a no-brainer to take her there.
This is all that remains of the Mentone Springs Hotel.
Mentone began its existence as a health spa with mineral springs on Lookout Mountain. The Great Depression ended the initial glory days of the community. It rebounded, however, and continues as a fun place to explore bed and breakfast inns, shops, cafes, and natural wonders such as DeSoto Falls and the nearby Little River Falls. While it snoozes during the week, it comes alive on weekends. During the summer, there’s a farmer’s market under tents on Saturday mornings, where you can buy locally-made jams, jellies, bread and sweet treats.
Annette and I had a wonderfully lazy day eating at the Wildflower Cafe, shopping in the Log Cabin Village and taking pictures from an overlook on the brow of the mountain. We capped off our adventure by driving down U.S. 11 part of the way home, winding past verdant pastures with horses and cows grazing lazily in the afternoon sun. We went through Fort Payne, where we visited the Alabama Fan Club store, took pictures of the statues of the band members on a corner of Main Street, and noted with surprise the signs proclaiming that the infamous Trail of Tears went through that area. I had no idea.
At the Spinning Wheel, a Log Cabin Village shop in Mentone, I couldn’t resist a cloth apron emblazoned with cowboy boots, spurs, hats and words like, “rodeo,” “giddyup” and “ride ’em cowgirl.” The purple ruffled hemline only added to the appeal, purple being my favorite color. The apron has nothing to do with the store’s name, which comes from the fact that owner Mildred Lowry spins yarn from her own sheep, alpaca, llama and angora goats. She and daughter Wendy weave and crochet vests, shawls and other clothing accessories, and sell some of the yarn in small batches.
Jeff Rymer makes doors, too.
In the same village, I bought some homemade lemongrass soap at Daisy May’s, owned by Steve & Ashley Sisco. ( Its lemony smell wafts up every time I open my bathroom dresser. I need to finish off the olive oil soap I bought in Greece, though, before actually using it.
We stopped by Jeff Rymer’s shop, Southern Style Log Furniture (, because I wanted to see the beds he fashions out of cedar and pine. His one-of-a-kind headboards had enticed me last year when I saw them. He gets his lumber from Georgia, but when I asked whether he could use the two cedar trees from my front yard, he offered to cut them down himself. “You just have to be willing to wait for them to dry,” he said. I’ll need to sell the
manufactured log bed I own, but that’s what eBay is for.
Tony Goggians
Our lunch at the Wildflower Cafe ( was a sensory experience for the ears as well as the taste buds. We ate the Brunch Sampler of quiche, tomato pie, a fruit cup and a strawberry crepe. We added a side of sweet potato biscuits. While we munched on these mouthwatering treats, Tony Goggians (sic) entertained us with voice and guitar numbers that spanned several genres. “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Walk The Line,” “Wooly Bully,” and “Kingston Town” were all part of his repertoire. Cafe owner Laura Catherine Moon, who goes by “Moon,” joined him on “Baby Face” for a couple celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary. Moon, who came to Mentone from Birmingham via California, has owned the Cafe for eight years, and features live music every weekend.
It was sad to view the ruins of the old Mentone Springs Hotel. A fixture in the town since 1884, the massive structure burned down in 2014. Although I never stayed there, I had been inside the historic structure a couple of times. I first saw its charred remains in July of 2014, when my grandson and I took Highway 11 from Chattanooga to Mentone before getting on I-59 South to Ashville.
        All-in-all, it was a great way to spend the day with a good friend.