Drive until you smell it
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
Back in the 1960's, you could tell when you arrived in Tuscaloosa.
Not because of the red and white, or because of The University of Alabama campus. Nope, it was because of the smell.
The smell was courtesy of the local paper mill, a paper mill that employed hundreds from the Tuscaloosa and Northport area. But it had a bad habit of putting out a rather disgusting odor.
Its smell was described as what one would think the inside of a sewer would smell, or of rotting flesh.
Many travelers unaware of this problem would suddenly check the baby's diaper as they neared the Alberta City exit.
On predawn August mornings, the fog that often forms would mix with this smell and intensify its effect. This smelly fog, or foggy smell, hung in the air as thick as soup.
There were times I would wake to the thick, stinky vapor hanging in the air of my room. It got in your clothes and stayed there.
It would cling to the bed sheets so you could smell it as you drifted off to sleep.
It even seemed to get in the food you ate and water you drank. It was horrible.
These foggy mornings would coincide with the times the Alabama football team would be coming out on to Thomas Field for pre-season practice. Going through the tunnel on these mornings was a pleasure, for it seemed it was the only place without the soupy fog.
It made you want to stay in the tunnel, and often players would be seen just standing around in there waiting for the last possible moment to go out onto the field.
It just so happened that the weather conditions were just right for this fog and smell mixture on the morning of my first practice as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I was a nervous, 17-year old kid that did not know what to do or what to expect.
I certainly did not expect what I smelled as I trotted out onto the field.
The fog was so thick, I could hardly see the guy next to me, and it smelled like an open sewer line.
The impact of this fog and smell was so strong, even today, while traveling with my family through the area, I get flashbacks to that first practice.
Practice was tough enough without this horrible odor being in every breath. It often made people physically sick.
Fortunately the heat of the day, which came early on those August mornings, burned off the fog and the smell, leaving in its place the terrible heat of the Tuscaloosa area.
Ironically, the heat would leave one yearning for the cooler, but foggy and stinky conditions.