A Garden of Eden

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Carlton Rice is a native of Monroeville, but his family moved to Huntsville when he was young.

Robert Jones, Jr. grew up in California, but returned to the South Alabama community take over the family’s funeral home business.

Then fate destined their paths to intersect in the community known as The Literary Capital of Alabama. It’s certainly not the first story to originate in this small town.

“My mom always told me about the story. She grew up with Harper Lee and so many others. She told me the story about Truman Capote and Harper Lee. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee is there,” recalls Carlton. “So, I’m proud of the heritage that we’ve had born out of this community and even my neighborhood just across the way in Airport Heights.”

In this Literary Capital of Alabama, there is a backyard near downtown all about creation and peace and gardens.

“I always had a dream, because I had a lot of antique things, that I wanted to have a Country-Western scenery in the backyard,” explains Robert. “And I just kept going from there. I’ll write it out on a piece of paper when I see how I wanted it and I’ll just start building. Sometimes I’ll tear it down and start again. And then friends and everyone come over, relatives, and it helps the passion grow. We don’t rent it out. We just call friends and family and relatives. And we just share it with them.”

Which is how an effort by Carlton Rice to reunite his old neighborhood brought him to Robert Jones’ backyard.

“I started a neighborhood reunion, says Carlton. “And one year when it got too hot for us to have it in the property, Robert graciously offered for us to have it over here and we haven’t been sorry since.”

It’s easy to make yourself at home with The Jones family, which is how Robert wants it. “My wife continued to get tired. We entertain a lot. Everyone had to go inside and use the restroom and she said, You need to get a porta potty, and I didn’t want no porta potty, so that’s when the Outhouse came about. We put the little moon and at nighttime the blue is stars. And air conditioned. All the comforts of home.”

And for Carlton, Monroeville will always feel like home. “When it’s your hometown, it’s still home.”


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Fred Hunter

Fred Hunter

WBRC First Alert Meteorologist Fred Hunter was born in Alabama in the historic town of Ft. Payne. He has lived, attended school, raised his family and worked in the South all his life.