Verna Gates lives, breathes and loves all things Birmingham.
Her delightful page-turning book 100 Things To Do in Birmingham Before You Die captures stories and moments that even lifelong residents of the Magic City have missed or forgotten.
Her new book is available online and at Books-A-Million stores.
For years, Gates has worked with Alabama Tourism to bring international, national and regional journalists to Birmingham as a contract press trip coordinator. She delights in showing people the famous, quirky and fascinating places from fine dining to hidden gems.
According to Gates Birmingham and the state of Alabama is authentic.
“One of the things I do is help the state of Alabama recruit journalists to write stories, to write nice things about us. I’m a native, and when I first started doing this five years ago, I could hardly get anyone to come. But I started slowly building it up, and now I have a waiting list of journalists who want to come to this state, because if you look at the way the world is going now, Alabama is a cool place, it has an authentic real culture.
People always say we don’t have any culture here, well name some cuisines you’ve invented? Name some musical genres you invented? Name types of art you’ve created? We have this authentic culture. We are still making great music. Alabama is an interesting place. It’s a place you can experience something as opposed to seeing something.”
On writing a book about your hometown
“When I started writing the book, to me it was easy, because I believe in being a tourist in your own town. Birmingham has so many interesting places to see. I’m amazed that people have never gone to the Vulcan museum, or gone to the Civil Rights Institute. People have never taken the tour of the Bethel Baptist Church, where they have got a historian who will lay out the Civil Rights movement for you. I always take people there first where they can hear the authentic voice about what it was like (during the civil rights movement).
Favorite and Surprising Stories
“Gip’s Place – a juke joint. Henry “Gip” Gibson a grave digger by day and bluesmen by night and for 60 years in his backyard he has held the best party you’ve ever gone to. It’s outside of Bessemer and you drive through working class neighborhood. You get to his place passing shotgun houses and rusted paint cans and lawn mowers and when you get down there it is magical. There are Christmas lights, recycled steel covering up a shack, the band is rocking and people are dancing and its so much fun.
My secret favorite food place – Butts To Go in Pell City. There is this guy who worked in the food industry in Paris and London for 21 years. He retired in Pell City, bought a Texaco Station, and when the price of gas went up his profits went down, so he started “smoking meat” in the back. It’s awesome. There is nothing more romantic than having a great meal sitting by a can of WD4o.”
These places are just a taste of the colorful community that is Birmingham. Stories abound in 100 Things about the Alabama Theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, Avondale Park’s Miss Fancy the elephant, Reed Books, the Magic City Classic and much, much more.
100 Things To Do in Birmingham Before You Die is a keepsake that you will use cherish with friends and family for years to come.
Thanks, Verna, for publishing this keepsake on Birmingham.