MENTONE, Ala. (WBRC) - Cynthia Stinson’s life was not going well. So, she left her native Greenville home in South Alabama and headed north looking for a change. She found it on Lookout Mountain. The story of how she went from broke, broken-hearted and homeless to happiness at an old inn is a story of the changing seasons of life. She found those in a spot which is Absolutely Alabama.
“Moved up here on my birthday, and lived in a tent, homeless, with my dog. I had a truck and worked here as a housekeeper. Then, in 2009 Mike Campbell, the owner, approached me and said, ‘Would you take over?’ And I did and I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Here is the historic Mentone Inn, a place Cynthia says has a history of its own. “In 1926 a man named Hal Howe bought this property, and it opened for business in 1928, and he and his wife Nelda ran this place from 1928 until 1954.”
Cynthia is the lady of the house, and she has a philosophy: “I’d rather be lost in the woods than found in the city.”
Cynthia explains, “People always say, ‘What’s it like at The Mentone Inn?’ If you can imagine when you were a kid lucky enough to have a grandmother, you’d go visit and you would go to her house, and she’d have these big comfortable beds with quilts on them, and you’d go to sleep and you’d wake up to coffee brewing and sausage cooking and biscuits baking.”
“That’s your grandma’s house. I’m your grandma.”
“We put on concerts starting in May through October, once a month and we have different genres come in. We just had a reggae band last weekend. We have old time rock and roll, bluegrass, and it’s just a free concert venue for people to come and bring their families. It’s a family affair. Just kick off your shoes and dance under the stars, and I tell people all the time, Mentone has been Alabama’s best kept secret for a long time. The beach is wonderful. I think we have the most beautiful beaches in the world in Alabama, but we also have some of the most beautiful mountain areas here, and this is one of them.”
Now, like a lot of us, Cynthia is looking forward to what happens next. “The colors here, I’ve never seen anything like it. When October rolls around and that crispness in the air when you walk outside. You can smell it. You can feel it. Smells like football.”
“It smells like pumpkin pie. It just smells like earth. When I come up the mountain, there’s a sense of peace that comes over me, a sense of home, a sense of - I belong.”
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