Saturday, October 31, 2015


When I arrived on Earth, on my one and only "birth"day, I had ZERO control over my arrival. I mean, I played absolutely no part in being born in Birmingham, AL. None. Further, I had the same zero influence on where I would spend my formative years. My world at the time consisted of being shuttled between my parent's residence in East Lake and both (yes both) grandparent's residences in Collegeville.

"Collegeville" deserves some elaboration.

First, it isn't remotely connected in any manner whatsoever with a college. Its not a college town and never has been.

As a child, I never gave this much consideration. I never asked, where is the college?

I have only recently learned that there once was an elementary school in the neighborhood that people referred to as "the college", hence the name Collegeville. Pretty revealing really, elementary = college, but then, not all that surprising, given the history.

Collegeville developed as an industrial area with worker's housing built adjacent to factories and mills...Isolated by industrial tracts and railyards, it was one of the few neighborhoods reserved for black residents under Birmingham's segregation laws./source/

According to recent census data, "overall, the median household income for Collegeville is $15,887, which is 67% lower than that of Birmingham Metro ($48,642)." /source/


"The average home price in Collegeville is $23,700, which is 216% higher than the average sold price in Collegeville ($7,500)."  /source/

Average house price, in Collegeville, in 2015, $7500.

My point is that the residents of Collegeville are about as impoverished today as they were when I spent my childhood years there some 30-odd years ago.

The funny thing about this, and the point I'm attempting to make is that, as a child, I simply didn't fully appreciate the significance of the time and place in which I popped into existence.

It just didn't seem all that unusual.  The poverty. The housing projects across the street. The train tracks. The soot. That polluting, sulfur-like smell in the air, and now, confirmed "Superfund" site. The pot-holed streets. The dilapidated "shotgun" houses. The crime. Granddad's shopping cart. My alcoholic uncle.

Again, at the time, none of this seemed that unusual. Matter of fact, with no other frame of reference, it seemed quite normal....

Eric Spann (copyright 2015) 

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