How many folks know that Mobile, Alabama holds the record for the rainiest city in the US? Huh! We all thought it was Seattle and surrounding area but they are way down on the list at #22. By the time we left mid-December, Mobile had already broken its record rainfall, having received 13.77 inches so far in December alone.
Rain and outdoor construction are not a good mix and are challenging to our work schedules. Some days we’d get an earlier start then only work until the rain became hazardous to workers and equipment. One day we helped out at another Habitat house, doing indoor work. Other days, we’d change our days off to take advantage of working on drier days. And a few days were just too wet and miserable to do anything but stay tucked in our home-on-wheels, nice and dry. One major problem we had with the 2nd house, to be owned by the Klossings, is that the rain from heavy downpours stayed contained within the short foundation walls, creating about a foot and more of water that had to be pumped out before we could even walk in there and only after putting pieces of scrap plywood down to keep from sinking in the mud. Our leader Mary’s first task when we’d get to the jobsite was to set out a sump pump and drain Lake ‘Klossing.’
Of course, it is December and almost winter so we had some pretty cold days. A second storage pod was delivered to the site (one pod per house). The first pod was filled with tools and supplies; the second one held all the ladders but during the daytime, we turned it into a ‘party pod’ in which we’d all huddle and stay warm during breaks and lunch. During lunch one day, thirteen of us huddled in there with the door closed and a small electric heater running – the warmth was quite welcome after a cold windy day working outdoors.
We alternated working on both houses – most of the time Lucille worked on the Klossing house with Ron, Jean, Sandy and occasionally Larry, taking our time installing the floor joists making sure they were plumb, straight, level and racked to correct the unevenness --when the concrete foundations were poured, they were not properly leveled. When needed, all hands would move over to the Childress house, especially the day the trusses were set and again when the roofing team was trying to get the roof sheeted to dry the house in before more rains came in. There was never a lack of work to do with two houses being built simultaneously.
We attended two more Habitat dedications during our stay. One was an interfaith build with the volunteer help and some of the funding provided by several churches in the area. Their respective pastors, priests, and a rabbi were there for the dedication. The 2nd dedication was part of a group of houses refurbished under the Neighborhood Support Program. The Mobile Habitat affiliate buys a foreclosed house in an established neighborhood, and then spruces up both the interior and exterior. The owner still puts in his or her sweat equity with the same program as those homeowners getting newly built homes. It’s a win-win situation for the new homeowner and for the neighborhood.
December wasn’t all work and no play. We did very little sightseeing because our days off usually ended up being rainy days but we’ve been to the area before and will return again. But we did enjoy dining out with our Habitat friends – pizza at Pintoli’s Italian Café in Saraland; lunch one afternoon and prime rib (out of this world!) one evening at Tea Spoons Café in Satsuma; wonderful seafood at the Original Oyster House in Mobile; an unbelievably large selection of tasty dishes at Ming’s (Japanese, Chinese and American buffet), also in Saraland; and great burgers at Butch Cassidy’s Café downtown Mobile.
Longtime friend Norlando lives in the area – we visited with her one afternoon, then returned one day after work to help repair a couple of rotted porch posts – it was a pleasure to help her and work with her those couple of hours.
One Saturday, Jean and Lucille did some last minute Christmas shopping in Fairhope, a small community on the eastern side of Mobile Bay. Originally set up in the late 1800s as a utopian single tax colony by twenty-eight members of the Fairhope Industrial Association, their goal was "to establish and conduct a model community or colony, free from all forms of private monopoly, and to secure to its members therein equality of opportunity, the full reward of individual efforts, and the benefits of co-operation in matters of general concern."
The corporation purchased a plot of land outside of Mobile and divided it into several long-term leaseholds, with the corporation paying the government tax from rents paid by the lessees. Today the Fairhope Single-Tax Association still exists with 1,800 leaseholds covering more than 4,000 acres in Fairhope and its surrounding area. Over time, Fairhope has transitioned from a pure utopian society to an artist and intellectual community to being an affluent suburb of Mobile.
Parking is free in and around the town square and shops – we easily found a convenient place right on the main street. We first visited the library on the next corner, finding some bargains in the bookstore run by Friends of the Library. Then on we went exploring the many shops along the main street, enjoying lunch at Andree’s Wine, Cheese and Things after trying some of the samples offered throughout the store; Jean located some beautifully sketched Christmas cards at the Christine Linson Gallery where we met Christine’s two cats, Toulouse Lautrec and Matisse, famous in their own right with all their ‘adventures’ Christine captured in their book series, Cat Tales I & II. After being greeted by the owners of The Village Shop (a kitchen store), four-legged Dulcie came up to have her ears scratched. Fairhope is an extremely warm and friendly town, whether we were welcomed by shop owners, cats or dogs….It was an enjoyable outing. It’s easy to see why Fairhope is such a popular town with visitors.
It was time to leave Mobile and our Habitat friends. We thoroughly enjoyed working with all those we met during our month’s stay there and feel we’ve made some new friends whom we look forward to working with again, sometime down the road. We headed back east for Camp Carr in Rincon, looking forward to spending time with our family over the holidays.
Pat and Yvette and Pat’s family put on a feast on Christmas Day, as they always do. We drove down earlier that day and picked Lucille’s father up from the nursing home so he could enjoy the holidays with family. Joining our family were Jim and Linda, friends we made while working with Habitat in Big Pine Key several years ago. They were passing through the area, so they not only got an invite for dinner but also a place to park their camper at Camp Carr while they were in town – wotta deal! Jim and Linda also joined us for Christmas Eve services at the Rincon United Methodist Church. They will eventually be working in Mobile with Mary and the rest of the Habitat gang in March – we talked about our work there, showing them pictures of the houses we had been working on.
Other than some last minute routine medical appointments, the rest of the month and our stay there were pretty laid back. 2009 quietly drew to a close.
Coming up: South to Florida where we spent a few days at Patrick Air Force Base; a week’s stay at Markham Park outside of Fort Lauderdale; hooking up with friends at Sabal Palms RV Park in Palmdale; then heading back north to Wakulla Springs State Park, south of Tallahassee, for our volunteer jobs there February and March.