If you have been a listener to the podcast, then you know this is the 100th Anniversary of Shades Cahaba as a school. The first day of school was September 19, 1920. There was a dedication held a few days before and it was on that day that the two large bronze plaques were unveiled by the auditorium. We talked about that on our Veteran’s Day episode.

I had a great time interviewing people in 2019 and sharing their stories. Before I get into the new year, I wanted to look back at the 13 episodes we have produced so far.

Episode 1 featured current Shades Cahaba Elementary Principal John Lowry. He gave us an update on what Shades Cahaba is today. The size, what they are doing and how they are impacting the students that are there now. We finished the episode with a history of how the school started. It didn’t just magically appear, it took a community to build it.

Dr. Lowry has been big help to me and the podcast. I appreciate all the support he has given me so far.

In Episode 2 we talk about the 1920s at Shades Cahaba. Big things happened during this decade including the first graduating class, adding the elementary school students to the school, and expansion of the original building. So much of the growth of the school came because of the help of the Shades Cahaba School Improvement Association, the precursor to today’s PTO. 

My guest was current PTO President Alexa McElroy. Alexa shared with us what the PTO has been doing for the school and she announced the 100th Birthday Celebration at the school that kicked off the year-long Centennial Celebration. 

Despite the rain, the party was a great success. You can see images of the historical banners used at the event on the blog page at shadescahabahistory.com

Episode 3 introduced us to Don Harbor. I have known Don a long time and it was a pleasant surprise to find out he went to Shades Cahaba. Don was in Elementary school at the end of Shades Cahaba’s time as a high school and he shared his experiences with me.

Don had written his memories of his time growing up in Homewood well before I had contacted him. I will be sharing his Shades Cahaba stories on the blog so make sure you lookout for those

Bill Cleveland is an alumnus and the current Homewood Board of Education Superintendent. It was only a matter of time before he showed up on the pod. I interviewed him in Episode 4 and we talked about the Homewood school system today, what it is like coming back and leading a school system where they know all your history. We also take a look at what was going on at Shades Cahaba during the 1930s.

In episode 5 I talk with former principal Sue Grogan about her time at Shades Cahaba and what the school was like in the 1940s. I met her when my oldest son first started kindergarten. She is known for many things but helping establish the Shades Cahaba Way is a legacy that will last. 

If you want to know anything about the history of Homewood, you have to talk to Herb Griffin. Herb is a lifelong resident of the town and his family was one of the original settlers in this area. In episode 6 we talked about his time at Shades Cahaba High School and being a member of the class of 1948. 

From the beginning of the podcast, I was looking for the story of the owl on the building. Someone told me that I needed to contact Laura Estes. It seems that she grew up next to the owl on Wellington Road and might know the story. Episode 7 was planned on being about the owl but I had a great time talking with her about her time as a kindergarten teacher at Shades Cahaba Elementary. Not only did Laura teach there but her mother, Kernie Ardillo was a P.E. teacher in the 50s and her father, Nick Ardillo, was a 15-year member and chairman of the Homewood Board of Education. 

Episode 8 was a special episode in honor of Lunchroom Ladies everywhere. I have had the recipe for the Shades Cahaba Peanut Butter ball, or square, for years. I also had the chili recipe from Homewood High School and was looking for an excuse to share them. 

It’s funny, but when I start talking about future episodes or ideas that I have for episodes, people come out of the woodwork with stories. In this case, Ken Kirk tells me that his great-grandmother was the second lunchroom lady at Shades Cahaba.

This may be a great place to remind all you listeners that I am looking for stories. Ken Kirk just happened to mention his connection to Shades Cahaba. Laura Estes thought we were talking about the owl but we discovered so much more. If you think you have a story or a suggestion, find my link at shadescahabahistory.com and get in touch.

And that leads me to Episode 9 with Herman Maxwell. Out of the blue, I received an email from Herman. He had heard about the podcast, and he had a story to tell. Herman was one of the first black children to attend Shades Cahaba Elementary when the public schools finally integrated in 1967. This is one of my favorite episodes. In this clip, Herman talks about moving from Rosedale School to Shades Cahaba

Herman moved on to the Jr. High and then Homewood High School where he played on Homewood’s first state championship football team in 1974. 

From day 1, Shades Cahaba has celebrated our Veterans. Every child who has attended the school has seen the large bronze plaques by the auditorium. Too often we have walked past them and not really considered what they were. In Episode 10, we celebrated Veterans Day by reflecting on those who are listed on the plaques. 

Both plaques say, “In honor of the boys and girls of this school district who served in the army or navy of the United States of America in the World War 1917-1919.” At the bottom of the plaques, it says, “This tablet is dedicated by the residents of Shades Cahaba High School District 1-A 1919.” The names of the individuals are split between the two plaques, and those who lost their lives have a star by their names.

Visit the episode page at shadescahabahistory.com to see the plaques and read the names. Listed as well are the names of Shades Cahaba students who gave their lives in World War II.

During my talk with principal Sue Grogan in episode 5, she told me a story about how they decided to invite the community helpers in Homewood to the school to celebrate Thanksgiving. These are the policemen, firemen, sanitation workers, and others to come to Shades Cahaba and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with the students. I decided to save that for Episode 11 which came out right before Thanksgiving. It’s a short episode so I encourage you to go listen to it. 

Not long after the episode came out, I was happy to read that the school had just hosted its Community Helpers Luncheon. A great tradition that continues to this day.

In 2001, a book about Homewood was published. It was called “Homewood: The Life of a City” by Sheryl Spradling Summe, and it was published to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Homewood. If it wasn’t for this book I would have had a really hard time putting this podcast together. It is a really wonderful collection of stories and timelines that spells out the history of Homewood. I knew I had to track Sheryl down and have her on the podcast. Luckily for me, she still lives in Homewood, and we spoke on Episode 12.

As I was interviewing people for the podcast I was always asking about the owl. I was a little obsessed with it because when I attended Shades Cahaba in the early 1970s, there was no owl on the building. I always had questions.  Why was it removed? Where did it go? How did it come back? Everyone I talked to had a theory, and no two were the same. It’s been a while since the owl was returned, and memories are fading. Everyone had heard stories but I could not put it all together until I heard from Dale Turnbough. She had written an article about the owl back in 1978 as a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald when the owl was returned to the top of the school. I had enough information to tell the story in Episode 13, All About The Owl. 

13 episodes have been published, and we still have more Shades Cahaba stories to tell. 

The 2020s is a huge decade in Homewood History, and we are going to branch out with more special episodes to recognize these upcoming events. 

This year, 2020 

  • Shades Cahaba’s 100th anniversary
  • 100th Anniversary of the Town of Edgewood incorporated on June 12, 1920


  • 100th Anniversary of Edgewood Elementary School
  • City of Homewood 100-Year Anniversary, but it may be in 2027. More on that later. State Legislature voted to rename the city Homewood and include Grove Park and Rosedale on February 11, 1927


  • 100th Anniversary of Hall Kent Elementary School

We also have some upcoming 50th Anniversary celebrations:


  • On July 1, 2020, the Homewood City Board of Education’s 50th Anniversary (July 1, 1970)


  • 50th anniversary of the Homewood School System starting (1971)

January 2023 – is the 50th Anniversary of Homewood High School Opening (January 1973)

The Homewood High School class of 2023 is the 50th class

But the class of 2021 is the 100th Homewood class to graduate. If you count Homewood students graduating from Shades Cahaba High School, then Shades Valley HS, and finally Homewood HS, it’s 100 years of graduating classes. It may be a stretch to count it, but it is something for my son, who is part of that 2021 graduating class.

Thanks again for your support of the Shades Cahaba Oral History Podcast. Thank you for sharing it with your friends, for sending me story ideas and those of you on various Facebook groups who answer my questions when I am trying to figure out timelines and such. 

If you frequent Facebook, like our page so you can see the stories and images posted on our blog. You can also go directly to shadescahabhistory.com/blog to see them there.

And thanks to those of you who have ordered merchandise or donated to the podcast. These purchases go to help pay for publishing and production costs. Every purchase helps.

Stay tuned for new episodes coming soon. They will be posted on Tuesdays, and we may start publishing every other week as long as we have stories to tell. 

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Shades Cahaba Oral History Podcast.