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Shades Cahaba Oral History Project

Storytelling Podcasts

Shades Cahaba High School started classes in 1920 and has served students in Homewood and other over-the-mountain communities for 100 years. This project was started to record the memories of those that attended and worked at Shades Cahaba and those that just have a great story to tell. This project will continue to the end of 2020.

Shades Cahaba High School started classes in 1920 and has served students in Homewood and other over-the-mountain communities for 100 years. This project was started to record the memories of those that attended and worked at Shades Cahaba and those that just have a great story to tell. This project will continue to the end of 2020.


United States


Shades Cahaba High School started classes in 1920 and has served students in Homewood and other over-the-mountain communities for 100 years. This project was started to record the memories of those that attended and worked at Shades Cahaba and those that just have a great story to tell. This project will continue to the end of 2020.








Social Distancing in Homewood

When I recorded this episode, it was the second day that Shades Cahaba and other schools around the state had been shut down due to the state of emergency declared by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. Coronavirus COVID-19 has been quickly spreading around the world and is now in our community. To help slow the spread of the coronavirus we have been asked to actively participate in social distancing. Staying at home, not visiting with other people or being in large crowds. The idea being that if we...


Homewood Elementary Schools

We talk about Shades Cahaba a lot on this podcast for obvious reasons. With a school that taught grades 1-12 you get a little tunnel vision and start to think this is all there was in Homewood. Not true. There were other schools and we are going to talk about a few of those on this episode of the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project. A special thanks to author Sheryl Summe for doing all the hard work in her book “Homewood: Life of a City.” I really leaned on the information in the book for...


The Building

This episode is about the Shades Cahaba building. How it grew over the years. What changed and why. This podcast is audio-only but there is a version with pictures and an overhead view of the building to better illustrate what I am talking about. You can watch it on my YouTube page. Support the show (


The Underpass Show

This episode is about the Shades Cahaba Underpass. Some of you may call it the tunnel but from the time it was conceived in the early 1950s and for the next 40 or 50 years it was called the underpass. I had actually forgotten it was called the underpass until a school mate of mine reminded me of a social media post. No matter what you call it, it has been a favorite of Shades Cahaba students for close to 70 years. In this episode, we talk about the growth along Montgomery Highway which was...


Michael Gross and Homewood High Athletics

This is the second episode of my conversation with former Homewood High School Principal and Superintendent Michael Gross. In the first episode we talked about the beginning of the school system, opening of the high school and the unique challenges he faced. We had a long conversation so I took out all the mentions of athletics and have produced an episode with those outtakes. We talked about the first coach and were Homewood played their first football games. Money was tight but there...


Michael Gross and the beginnings of the Homewood School System

We have talked a lot about the beginnings of Shades Cahaba High School and the beginnings of Shades Valley High School but now I want to talk more about the beginnings of other schools in Homewood and the beginning of the Homewood School System. The Board of Education was established on December 22, 1969, but they assumed authority on July 1, 1970, making 2020 the 50th anniversary of the Homewood School System. A lot went into establishing the school system including working out ownership...


Wade Kirkpatrick, Fighting Patriots - Special Edition

This episode is a Special Edition of the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project. We talk with Homewood High School Alumnus Wade Kirkpatrick. Wade played on the first Homewood Football team to win a state championship in 1974. He wrote a book about it called “Fighting Patriots, The First Three Years of Homewood High School Football" which should be out this spring. Proceeds of the book go to a great cause. I’ll let Wade fill us in the book as we discuss that special football team. Support the...


The 2019 Year In Review

If you have been a listener to the podcast then you know this is the 100th Anniversary of Shades Cahaba as a school. The first day of school was September 19, 1920. There was a dedication held a few days before and It was on that day that the two large bronze plaques were unveiled by the auditorium. We talked about that on our Veteran’s Day episode. I had a great time interviewing people in 2019 and sharing their stories. Before I get into the new year, I wanted to look back at the 13...


All About The Shades Cahaba Owl

The Shades Cahaba Owl has had a very interesting life. It first appeared when Shades Cahaba High School was built in 1920. It stood watch over the front entrance as “a symbol of learning to all who enter here.” It stayed there until the end of high school in 1949 and then it disappeared. No one seemed to know where it was. It wasn’t until almost 30 years later that the owl appeared again to take its place on top of the roof to look over all the elementary students who entered its doors. Why...


Sheryl Summe - Author of "Homewood: A Life of a City"

When I decided to start an oral history of Shades Cahaba I knew it would be difficult. Luckily I was able to find people that I could interview and I have others who have become valuable resources for me. What really turned things around for me and helped me launch a podcast was coming across the book, “Homewood: A Life of a City.” When it comes to the history of Homewood, everything is spelled out for me in this book. I am able to use the book to ask questions of the people I am...


A Thanksgiving story with Principal Sue Grogan

I spoke with former Shades Cahaba Principal Sue Grogan in episode 5 of the podcast. She shared with me a Thanksgiving story that I saved to share with you during this Thanksgiving season. Support the show (


Veterans Day

In this episode we learn about the origins of Veterans Day, and its connection to Birmingham. When Shades Cahaba High School was built, honoring veterans was a high priority. Shades Cahaba was dedicated on Labor Day, Monday, September 6, 1920. That afternoon, after the formal addresses and a picnic dinner on the grounds, Mrs. Floribel Brown Ohme, unveiled the “bronze tablets to the soldier boys of Shades-Cahaba.” These are two large bronze plaques that were mounted on both sides of the...


Herman Maxwell - Integrating Shades Cahaba in the 1960s

Herman Maxwell has a special place in the history of Shades Cahaba. He was one of the first children to integrate Shades Cahaba Elementary School during the 1967-1968 school year. This didn't just happen overnight and Herman tells the story about how his parents prepared him for that day. Herman moved on to junior high and then high school where he played on the first state championship football team at Homewood High School in 1974. He went from a championship team to a not so successful...


Lunchroom Ladies Special Edition

Today's edition of the podcast is dedicated to the school lunchroom and to everyone who has worked there. I have known my guest, Ken Kirk, for many years. We attended the same church, junior high and high school and both were members of Troop 97 in Homewood. We have both lived in Homewood our entire lives. Ken attended Edgewood Elementary but he has a family connection to Shades Cahaba High School. His great-grandmother, Ida Hamlin Tyler was the second manager of the Shades Cahaba...


Laura Estes - Kindergarten Teacher

Today’s episode features former Shades Cahaba teacher Laure Estes. She started her career as a first-grade teacher but quickly switched to kindergarten, where she spent the rest of her career. If you went to Shades Cahaba when she taught there, you would know her as Laura Matthews. I initially reached out to her about a connection I heard that she had to the owl that is on the top of the school. She may or may not have had the owl as a neighbor. You will have to tune into that episode when...


Herb Griffin - Class of 1948

I have probably known Herb Griffin for most of my life. We attend the same church and I am around the same age as his children. If you have spent any time in Homewood you probably heard about his accident with a streetcar when he was in 8th grade. He was featured in the Birmingham News and the story even made the national news. When it comes to Homewood history, there are not many better sources. His family settled this area and Herb still lives close to the original homestead in...


Principal Sue Grogan and a visit to the 1940s

Sue Grogan was principal at Shades Cahaba from 2000 until her retirement in 2013. She is the first person I met when my oldest son started Shades Cahaba in 2008 and she made a big impression on me and my family. Sue is probably best known for helping establish the "Shades Cahaba Way" which children hear about every day at Shades Cahaba. We talk about her time at Shades Cahaba and the legacy that was left by alumni such as Helen Cockrell who was in the 1923 graduating class of Shades Cahaba....


Bill Cleveland - Homewood City Schools Superintendent and Alumni

Dr. Bill Cleveland is the Superintendent of the Homewood City School system and he has been in this role since 2008. But more importantly, Bill is a homegrown student and was a Shades Cahaba student before moving on to the middle school and high school where he graduated in the class of 1985. It’s always humbling to realize that the superintendent of your children’s school graduated with your little brothe We talk about the Homewood school system today, what it is like coming back and...


Don Harbor - Alumni

On this episode of the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project, I interview with alumni Don Harbor who attended elementary school at Shades Cahaba starting in 1948 in the second grade. He was in the last 8th-grade class at Shades Cahaba before they moved that grade to Homewood Junior High School. He grew up on Poinciana Drive and got to watch the building of Shades Valley High School where he eventually attended high school. Don worked with my father at Luckie & Forney Advertising here in...


Alexa McElroy and the 1920s

On this episode we talk with current Shades Cahaba PTO President Alexa McElroy. We talk about what the PTO is currently doing at Shades Cahaba. We also talk about how Shades Cahaba grew during it’s first decade in existence, the 1920s. Shades Cahaba would not have been the school it is today without the volunteers who stepped up to help the school grow. The Shades Cahaba School Improvement Association was instrumental in helping the school expand and growing the volume of the school library...