When I heard it was to be 19 degrees in Montgomery, my first thought was of mountains of quilts stacked atop cast iron beds in grandpa Lee’s little frame house near Red Level in Covington County.  Except for one fireplace in the small living room, there was no heat.  So on really cold nights, you crawled under so many quilts that it was almost impossible for a 10-year old to roll over.

The house was built in 1935.  Daddy told me it took five days to build it.  Considering that there was no pluming or wiring, this was easy to understand.  In fact, daddy said they built the barn before the house and his family lived in the barn until the house was ready.  Of course there was no insulation and the house was on pillars several feet from the ground.  A cardboard box would have been as warm.

Things weren’t much better at our own small concrete block house near Mobile. Except instead of a fireplace, we had a couple of small gas-fired heaters.  I don’t know the proper name for them.  But the fire warmed some ceramic blocks that reflected heat.  They were better than a fire place, but not by a lot.  I would stand in front of one getting a towel good and toasty, then jump in bed and wrap my feet with the towel.  They were turned off at night, so getting out of bed in the morning was always great fun.

There are other “cold” memories.  Daddy was in the Air Force and stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska about 1950.  At one point we lived in a little shotgun house.  It got to minus 63 one night.  We had a Hudson.  Daddy dug a trench under the car and would slide a kerosene heater in there to get the car’s motor warm enough to try and crank it.

The Cheena River ran near where we lived and a road ran down to its edge.  But there was no bridge.  When the river iced over, people drove across the ice and onto the road on the other side.  The same river went through the middle of town.  There was a bridge there.  But when the river froze cars were diverted across the ice to save wear and tear on the bridge.

One January night in 1978, I was driving along the interstate in Des Moines, IA.  Thankfully there was little traffic and i was not speeding.  Suddenly I hit a patch of ice and away we went.  I tried to steer, but the car wasn’t having anything of it.  When I realized I was about to go down an embankment, I just turned loose of the steering wheel and lay down in the front seat–not wanting to watch what might be about to happen.

Fortunately, we just slid down the embankment and did not flip.  I was very thankful..

Now I have central heat and air conditioning and as long as the lights are on, I’m OK.  And I feel for the thousands without power at this Dixie deep freeze makes it’s way across the region.

We often hear folks talk about the “good old days.”  I don’t recall much good about dashing to bed with a warm towel.


Covid Follow-Up

My last post concerned my son in Mobile who has a severe respiratory issue and his frustration at trying to get a Covid-19 vaccine shot.

I am happy to report that he now has an appointment at a west Mobile Wal-Mart this coming Wednesday.  Let’s hope this happens..

And I certainly want to thank all the readers of this blog who got in touch with suggestions.  You were great and your help was very welcomed.  One thing I learned  is that it seems that shots  may be easier obtained in rural locations than urban ones.  I heard from folks mentioning Union Springs, Bayou La Batre and others.  Several also suggested that he try in Florida and Mississippi since they seem to have their act together better than Alabama.

I got my first shot in Montgomery on Friday at a first-come, first-served drive in clinic.  This ran Monday through Friday last week at the location of old Montgomery Mall.  A tip of the hat to all involved.  And there were a LOT of folks involved from what I saw.

I got in a long line of cars that snaked back and forth through the parking lot. Had no idea how many cars were there when I took my place.  Would guess 100 or more. Probably more.  And as we inched along, I figured it would take me at least two hours or more to be done.

However, I am glad to support that from the time I got in line until I got my shot was only 75 minutes.  We were held an additional 15 minutes to see if we had any reaction.  I did not.  In fact, to me it was just another shot.  No side effects t all.

I go back on March 5 to get my second dose.

Again, thanks so much to all who offered thoughts and suggestions..

Kevin & Covid

My son Kevin is 57 and lives in Mobile.  He has a severe respiratory condition known as alpha 1-antitrypsin related emphysema.  This means his liver does not produce a certain enzyme needed for the lungs to retain elasticity.  A very rare condition.

He has been hospitalized seven times in the last 16 years with respiratory issues and is on oxygen most of the time.

Yet, even with this condition, he is having great difficulty in finding a way to receive the covid vaccine.

Here is how he describes his situation:

Well, it’s pretty much a given I’m not going to be getting a COVID-19 vaccination for a while. We have exhausted all the avenues given to us, registered with all the sites, called all the phone numbers and it appears to be all for naught. Local supplies are basically exhausted. 

Compounding the frustration of this is that we have seen a wealth of social media announcements from individuals who got vaccinated but they are in far better health than I am. Some don’t meet any of the criteria for getting vaccinated now, not in age, risk category or profession. 

Finally, I wrote someone I know through the newspaper who is a public information officer at the Mobile County Health Department and asking how I could get vaccinated like all the other line-jumpers I have seen. 

His answer was “the federal government won’t give us what we request.” He added that they had hoped to move on to the group of those with pre-existing conditions by this point but don’t have enough vaccine to do so. 

In order to receive vaccine, we have to follow the guidelines on who is eligible. If we deviate from the list, there is always the possibility future shipments would be diverted to another health agency.

This is who is currently eligible in Alabama as of February 8:   

Individuals 65 years of age and older
First responders
Health care workers
Hospital based-occupations with high risk of exposure.
Frontline workers – Frontline workers include those in cybersecurity and infrastructure, first responders, corrections officers and support staff, food and agriculture workers, U.S. postal service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, educators (including support staff), judiciary, clergy, and State of Alabama government officials.
Those living in group homes or settings

He avoided my question. It was no answer to how all these people I’ve seen — librarians, mayoral staff, writers, reporters, p.r. specialists — gained access when there was supposedly a vast shortage. In fact, the vaccinations of some of those people isn’t covered under the guidelines he cited. 

The staffer told me MCHD is counting on the circulation of another vaccine like the Johnson & Johnson version to make available to “those with medical issues such as [myself].” 

Here’s the sticking point with that: the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s effectivity rate is just over 60 percent, not in the 90 percent range like Pfizer and Moderna. Yet the higher-risk people like me would get that? So the “important” people get the good stuff and the rest of us should be grateful for whatever they deem fit for us. 

I don’t even know if that is worth bothering over because I wouldn’t feel any safer with that vaccine. I would still be stuck in the house. I am also waiting on a vaccine before I go to the dentist to fix the tooth I cracked during Hurricane Sally, almost five months ago. I just don’t feel safe enough without it. 

I guess that’s what I get for not being Mardi Gras royalty. Looks like Mobile is still the last great plantation. 

He is very frustrated.  As am I.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.




Larry Lee334-787-0410  (blog)

Education Is Everyone’s Business

Remembering Elvis

It was Tuesday, August 16, 1977.  I was somewhere in Illinois moving to Des Moines, IA when news came on the radio that Elvis Presley had died.  I was shocked.

Truth is that I am a bigger fan of his today than I was back then  Over the years I have come to realize that he was absolutely one of the best entertainers we’ve ever seen.  I love YouTube and have watched many Elvis performances on there.

He loved gospel music and right now there is an Elvis CD in my car.  My favorite is Amazing Grace.  Sometimes I hit repeat and listen to it four or five times in a row.  I’ve watched dozens of impersonators.  Some are really good.  The best I’ve ever seen is Ben Portsmith.  Here he is doing American Trilogy on the David Letterman show.  Take a look..

I have been in the little shotgun house in Tupelo, MS where Elvis lived as a child.  It’s hard to imagine that a kid came from those beginnings to be one of the most well-known people in the world.

My best Elvis story is from my friend, Hope Zeanah, an assistant superintendent of the Baldwin County school system.  She spent many years as principal of Elberta elementary and was a good one.  In fact, one year was named as Alabama’s elementary principal of the year.

I was at her school one day about the end of the school year.  I was poking around in her office when I noticed a note from one of her students saying that he enjoyed the year and learned a lot about Elvis.

Of course, the mention of Elvis got my attention and I asked Hope to explain what he was referring to.

She explained that she was a huge Elvis fan and that for years friends and colleagues had given her Elvis trinkets.  She had a private bathroom as part of her office and the walls were lined with dozens of these gifts.  She called it “the Elvis museum.”

Twice a year, on the anniversary of his death and birth, she announced on he intercom that the museum was open for field trips.  So teachers brought their classes throughout the day.  Obviously the writer of the note was on one of these trips.

I thought it was a wonderful idea.  And certainly in keeping with the culture of this great little rural school.  And I’m sure Elvis would have liked it just like I did.

Census Shows Major Changes

Editor’s note:  We all remember the major push by elected officials at all levels in 2020 to get people to fill out their census forms.  The reason being that voting jurisdictions and Federal funding are greatly impacted by census data.  However, many feared that the
Covid-19 pandemic, along with a frantic presidential election, shoved the census aside and led to an undercount.

One thing is certain, the U.S. is becoming much more diverse and the white population is shrinking.

Here is an excellent article from The Hill publication that goes into detail on what the final census data will show.  It is long, but very revealing:

When the Census Bureau releases its decennial study of the American public this year, it is likely to show a population getting much older and much more diverse — and much less mobile.

Government statisticians are finalizing census counts that will be used to apportion both seats in the House of Representatives and billions of dollars in federal programs over the next 10 years. They will roll out formal census data, from state-level population estimates to block-by-block counts of residents, throughout 2021.

But many of the trends that will emerge are already evident, according to demographers. In interviews, half a dozen experts highlighted the trends they expect to see in the census figures and the concerns they have about the data currently being finalized. The post-war decades of explosive growth are over, and America’s population is expanding at the slowest rate since the first census was conducted in 1790. The nation’s population grew by just 0.35 percent between July 2019 and July 2020 — the slowest year-over-year rate since the Census Bureau began keeping track in 1900.

Population change over the last decade has been defined by reverberations from the Great Recession, which caused a sharp drop-off in birthrates, and by the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, a source of population growth in the past. At the same time, members of the baby boom generation are starting to die.

“The entire 2010s decade was one of fewer births, more deaths and uneven immigration,” wrote William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

What little population growth is happening is coming from older residents. The population of those over the age of 55 grew 27 percent in the last decade, compared to just 1.3 percent for everyone else.

The slowing trend is likely to continue over the next few decades. Based on current growth patterns, the U.S. population is likely to rise to 404 million by 2060 — half the growth rate that occurred over the last 40 years. If immigration continues at the pace it has for the last few years, the U.S. would have just 376 million residents by 2060.

Year-over-year population figures show there were about 16,000 fewer non-Hispanic white Americans in 2019 than there were in 2010. That number equates to a rounding error in a country of about 328 million people — but it’s the first time in U.S. history when the white population has decreased. Compare that to the decade between 1970 and 1980, when the white population increased by 11.2 million.

“In the last several years, more whites have died than been born in the U.S., and this was before the impact of the pandemic,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

The average white American is 43.7 years old. The average Latino or Hispanic American is 29.8 years old, while the average Black American is 34.6 — meaning that, as a percentage of the overall population, there are more Hispanic and Black women who are at the right stage of life to have children than there are white women.

In the last decade, the United States likely added about 19.5 million people, according to year-over-year data. Because the white population declined, all of the overall increase is attributable to minorities.

About half of that growth, 10 million, came among Hispanic or Latino Americans. Nearly a quarter, 4.3 million, came among Asian Americans. There are 3.2 million more Black Americans today than there were in 2010.

The growth among Hispanics and Latinos is especially notable, Frey said, because it is now fueled by natural growth — people who are already in the country having children — rather than by immigration. From the 1980s through the 2000s, the number of Hispanics in the United States swelled because of immigration; today, the community is large enough and young enough to grow naturally.

Trends suggest the nation is likely to become more diverse as a younger generation grows up. The as-yet-unnamed post-Z generation — those born after 2013 — is America’s first majority-minority generation. Just under half of those children, who start turning 8 years old this year, are non-Hispanic white. By contrast, the aging baby boom generation is 71.6 percent white.

Before the Great Recession, women were already having children at a later age. After the economic downturn, millions more delayed having children. And early signs show birthrates plunging even further during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I suspect a lot of women or couples decided nine months ago that maybe this wasn’t a good time to have a baby, with hospitals jammed with COVID patients, elective procedures being limited and risks of getting the disease growing,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there are 3 million more childless women in prime child-bearing years than demographers would have expected prior to the 2007-2009 recession.

Those women may have delayed having children in their 20s, but now they are in their mid-to-late 30s, a time when fewer women opt to have children at all.

Part of the reason women are having children later is because more young adults — men and women — are living with their parents longer, rather than with a partner.

A long slow recovery after the Great Recession coupled with rising housing and education costs have created a generation of “boomerang children” who return to their parents’ home during their first years in the workforce.

“So-called boomerang children have become more common over time as college debt has increased and adult children may return home after college to save on expenses,” said Jennifer Van Hook, a demographer at Penn State’s Population Research Institute.

Van Hook said that trend, too, has likely been exacerbated by a pandemic that canceled college classes, closed campuses or moved school online.

Blame higher housing prices for more millennials either living with their parents or renting. Blame the echoes of the housing bubble that burst in the Great Recession. Blame, in a lot of places, the lack of new construction and a dearth of affordable housing.

Whatever the cause, fewer Americans are moving than ever before. Just 9.3 percent of the population changed their official residence in the last year, the lowest figure since the Census Bureau started measuring moving trends in 1947, and about half the rate of what was typical in the 1980s and 1990s. And the 2020 figure was measured before the pandemic took hold.

“The nation is in the midst of unprecedented demographic stagnation,” Frey wrote.

Those who are moving are mainly younger, and they are largely moving to Sun Belt and Western states. Thirty-one states, most notably in the Northeast, the Rust Belt and the inland South, lost youth population in the last decade, while 19 states and the District of Columbia gained residents.

That trend, coupled with the rising number of aging seniors, means trouble for states losing younger residents. Fewer young people means a smaller workforce, and fewer workers to support older Americans who are drawing on the social safety net.

But it’s good news for states adding lots of young people — places like Utah and Texas, where booming populations are likely to contribute to growing economies.

Most demographers are concerned that the 2020 census is likely to be marred by serious undercounts, especially among what the Bureau calls hard-to-reach populations.

Undercounts happen during every census, but they are especially acute for the 2020 tally. The Trump administration’s early efforts to include a question about citizenship on the census form, later struck down by the courts, sowed distrust in communities where some undocumented immigrants live. The pandemic limited the Bureau’s ability to conduct in-person follow-ups. And then the Trump administration tried to end follow-up counting prematurely, another effort blocked by the courts.

“The pandemic threw a loop-de-loop curve ball at the census effort. They’ve been planning this for over a decade and with thousands of temporary staff being on and off again, local get-out-the-count organizations running out of money and steam, and the deadline for ending data collection kept moving,” said Lloyd Potter, Texas’s state demographer and a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Add to that the issue of the citizenship question being proposed, the effort to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the apportionment file, and the compressed time frame to conduct very complex post-enumeration processing and quality control efforts and you have the making of a demographer’s nightmare come true.”

States spent millions of dollars — sometimes hundreds of millions — on campaigns to convince people to participate in the Census. But at least one study of hard-to-count populations in California found that even reassuring messages were not enough to overcome skepticism, especially in Hispanic communities.

Making matters worse, the pandemic hit hard-to-count and minority communities the hardest. Anything less than a complete count puts at risk billions of dollars in federal program funding that the census itself helps allocate.

“It means that fewer financial resources are sent to your district, and so that means less money for your kid’s school, less money for infrastructure. It has real negative consequences for these populations,” said Melissa Michelson, a political scientist at Menlo College. “There is an overlap between communities that are hardest to count and communities that need financial resources.”

Editor’s note:  Like it or not, this data has tremendous political ramifications.  When President Trump cried, Make America Great Again, some interpreted this to mean let’s roll back time to an age that no longer exists.  When I watched the mob that stormed  the nation’s capitol on Jan. 6, one thing jumped out at me.  Where were the people of color?  The strategy of hanging your political future on angry white people is doomed for failure in many locations.