Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Sweet Home Alabama" Glassware

Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and beautiful southern glassware - what could be better than that?  Sweet Home Alabama is a 2002 American romantic comedy, that opens on an Alabama beach with two children chasing each other: Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry. The two discuss their future together. They kiss, and Jake says they will be married one day.

Flash forward to their grown-up lives, she as a New York fashion designer and he as something mysterious whereby he has lots of cash and drives a water-plane.  Hmmmmmm?  What does he do for a living?  Hmmmmmmm?  Then we see Melanie looking at "Deep South Glassware."  Low and behold, Jake has discovered a way to turn sand struck by lightning, into the most exquisite glassware in the world!
What a great premise but is it true?  Where do I buy those beautiful glasses?

A little research reveals that while it isn't exactly as presented in this little gem of a movie, you can purchase some things made from lit-up sand.

 Starrs Mill.jpg (33427 bytes)
Jake barn shop was filmed at Starr's Mill in Fayette County Georgia. The exterior was repainted and the porch was rebuilt for the movie. The bridges were later washed away in a flood.

Starr's Mill, circa 1907. The property that became Starr's Mill was owned by Hannaniah Gilcoat who built the first mill here before his death in 1825. This site, on Whitewater Creek, was less than a mile from the boundary between Creek Indian lands and the state of Georgia. Various owners lent numerous names to the mill between 1827 and 1866. In 1866, Hillard M. Starr bought the mill and this name stuck.

William T. Glower built the current building in 1907. The Starr's Mill site also included a cotton gin and a dynamo that produced electricity for the nearby town of Senoia. The turbine mill ran up until 1959, and although not operating today, it is now restored and owned by the Fayette County Water System.

Starr's Mill

During the movie's filming at Starr's Mill in Fayette County, Georgia, the Starr's Mill High School marching band was asked not to practice outdoors due to the sound carrying all the way to the Mill.
Despite the movie's title, Sweet Home Alabama, the house Melanie pretends is her home is really at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia. This house, called Oak Hill, is a Georgia historic landmark and was the original home of the college founder, Martha Berry. The downtown scenes were filmed in Crawfordville (pop 572), seat of Taliaferro County (pronounced "Tolliver"), the least populated county in Georgia. 
The glassware shown in the movie is for sale in Vermont by the company Simon Pearce who originated from Waterford, Ireland. You can find the products at
Simon Pearce Gift Registry

So what happens when lightning hits sand?  This is what it really looks like…FULGURITE
 Click to enlargeFulgurite "Lightning Sand" Jewelry  GoldLightning Sand Wind Chime Lightning Sand Pendant - Silver Open Cosmic Design
 Authentic Fulgurite Lightning Sand Jewelry and samples make great Science Gifts! Fulgurite is a natural glass sculpture whose shape mimics the path taken underground by the lightning bolt as it dissipates in the Earth. The hollow center of the fulgurite is a record of the fact that the sand touched by the very core of the lightning bolt was not just melted, but vaporized.

Oak Hill, the real name of the house Melanie pretends belongs to her family, is difficult to get to, as the interstate is approximately 45 minutes away. To direct cast and crew members to the site, yellow signs simply saying "SWA" with arrows pointed out the correct route. Some Berry College students stole these signs as movie mementos.
Oak hill new

The coon dog cemetery featured in the film is a real place in Tuscumbia, Alabama (a north Alabama town just south of Florence and childhood home of Helen Keller whose story was told in The Miracle Worker (1962).

Key Underwood
In a small, grassy meadow, deep in the rich, thick wilderness of Freedom Hills, Key Underwood sadly buried his faithful coondog, Troop. They had hunted together for more than 15 years. They had been close friends.

The burial spot was a popular hunting camp where coon hunters from miles around gathered to plot their hunting strategies, tell tall tales, chew tobacco and compare coon hounds. Those comparisons usually began and ended with Troop...he was the best around.

Underwood knew there was no place in the world Troop loved more than that camp. It was only fitting, he decided, that Troop spend eternity there. On that dreary Labor Day of 1937, Underwood said good-bye to his legendary coonhound. He wrapped Troop in a cotton pick sack, buried him three feet down, and marked the grave with a rock from a nearby old chimney. On the rock, with a hammer and a screwdriver he had chiseled out Troop's name and the date. A special marker was erected in his memory.

Troop, who was half redbone coonhound and half birdsong, was known through out the region as the best. He was "cold nosed," meaning he could follow cold coon tracks until they grew fresh, and he never left the trail until he had treed the coon.

Out of one hunter's devotion to his faithfull coonhound was born the "Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard," which has became a popular tourist attraction and is the only cemetery of its kind in the world.

Other hunters started doing the same when their favorite coon dogs died. Today more than 185 coon dogs from all across the United States are buried in this spot in Northwest Alabama.

"When I buried Troop, I had no intention of establishing a coon dog cemetery," says Underwood. "I merely wanted to do something special for a special coon dog." Coon Dog Cemetery

Jake's plane lands on Lake Peachtree in Peachtree City, Georgia. It is illegal to land a plane on Lake Peachtree, and the Peachtree City Police issued the movie company a $300 ticket.

And of course, Melanie and Jake end up together at the end of the movie, again kissing on the beach.  It wouldn't be a romantic comedy if they didn't.  Once again, united by their love of glassware!
It's no King's Speech, but it is a lovely gem of a movie.  Happy Oscar Night!

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