County long on Southern hospitality

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2005

As the latest addition to the Reporter news staff and a newcomer to the area, I have to admit that I have been misguided in my definition of &uot;Southern hospitality.&uot;

Living in larger cities has been the way my family has always done things. From my birthplace in Dallas, Texas, to where my family now calls home in Colorado Springs, Colo., I’ve been used to the bustling activity and close quarters you encounter in some of our nation’s larger cities.

Even attending school at Samford University, in the relatively small city of Homewood

(estimated population, 25,000) has kept me close to the fast-paced and often stressful lifestyle associated with the city of Birmingham.

To be honest, when I came to the South I didn’t see much difference in the hospitable nature of its residents compared to the other areas of the country I have lived in.

I still felt unwelcome in restaurants and stores from time-to-time, and I’ve seen my share of obscene gestures on the highways in my four years as an Alabama resident.

Frankly, I was disappointed with this idea of &uot;Southern hospitality.&uot;

Birmingham made me believe that the South was no different from the North, East or West regions of the country.

All my opinions of the South changed, however, when I turned onto County Road 47 and headed down to Columbiana.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since first making that trip, it’s that when you’re talking about hospitality, Shelby County is a whole new ballgame.

From the way the buildings look down Main Street in Columbiana to the historical flashbacks at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera and The American Village in Montevallo, I feel like my eyes have finally been opened to what the South can really be like.

Since I came to Alabama, I’ve never really understood what people where talking about when they referred to &uot;Southern comfort&uot; and &uot;Southern hospitality.&uot;

Thanks to the people and places I’ve seen since coming to Shelby County, I now have my answer.

It’s the way complete strangers greet you when you’re walking down the street. It’s the way you have to literally get out of your car and force the other driver at a four-way stop to go first.

It’s the way everyone remembers your name, but it’s OK if you don’t remember their’s next time you see them. And above all, it’s the way you can drive into any one of the cities or towns in the county and immediately feel like you’re home.

From the perspective of an outsider who, before coming here, had little faith in &uot;Southern hospitality,&uot; Shelby County represents everything good the South is known for.

Brandon Gresham serves as staff writer at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at