Take a trip back in time

University of Montevallo Upward Bound students recently participated in community service by assisting Aldrich Coal Mine Museum owner and curator Henry Emfinger with projects on the property. (Contributed)

University of Montevallo Upward Bound students recently participated in community service by assisting Aldrich Coal Mine Museum owner and curator Henry Emfinger with projects on the property. (Contributed)

By MICHELLE ADAMS / Community Columnist

Take a walk back in time at the Aldrich Coal Mine Museum. With owner and curator Henry Emfinger, visitors can experience the harsh, confined conditions of a coal mine and explore the history of Montevallo’s coal mining camp.

During a recent community service project, students from the University of Montevallo’s Upward Bound program assisted Emfinger with clean-up and exhibit changes.

While at the museum, students received the benefits of Emfinger’s historical explanation during a tour, including traversing the coal mine replica.

“It’s important for students from this area to know the history of Montevallo and that there was an economic impact from the coal industry here,” Student Development Coordinator for Upward Bound Melissa Nixon said. “I hope by committing through service our willingness to help maintain this property, students will appreciate their heritage, and be able to pass on the oral history that Mr. Emfinger shares.”

Emfinger’s family moved to the mining camp in 1942, and as a young boy, he walked through the camp, taking pictures of the entire Aldrich community. Today, many of those photographs are on display at the museum, which once stood as the Montevallo Coal Mine Company Store.

“A lot of the original materials from the company store have found their way back here,” Emfinger said. “Local citizens will discover items on their properties or in their businesses that once belonged here, and they have been kind enough to return them for use at the museum.”

Emfinger continues to honor this aspect of Montevallo’s history through the maintenance and tours of the company store as well as Farrington Hall, the recreation hall of the Aldrich family, named so after the death of their adopted son Farrington. The hall impresses visitors with artifacts from the Aldrich family, including murals painted by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti, the creator of Vulcan statue in Birmingham. Emfinger enlightens and entertains visitors with Aldrich family history and takes time to spice up his presentation with tales of ghosts roaming the property.

“This is his life’s work,” Nixon said. “He is obviously passionate for what he does here and to promote Montevallo’s history to his community.”