It was great to get to come back home last Friday and cover the LCHS Prom. We all had a great time. Good to see you all!
Leadout Pictures can be purchased here; http://gregbrooksphotography.zenfolio.com/prom
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Witnessed my first Mardi Gras parade ever yesterday in downtown Pensacola.
I've covered the Moulton Christmas parade and the LCHS Homecoming parade for the last 13 years, but I got to say, these folks have got it figured out!
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I don’t know much about the boilers, and I’m not as emotionally attached to the boilers as the paper machines. But I do know, (and the operators on the boilers will remind you right quick), that you can’t run a paper machine without steam.
On November 24th I went over and talked with boiler operator Tony Evans about the shut down of the #2 Recovery Boiler. Shutting down a boiler is not like a paper machine where there’s a siren and the sheet breaks and the dryer cans come to a halt. There’s a lot more involved in shutting down a boiler.
Tony has worked on the boilers since 1990. He showed me on the reports when the first liqour gun was taken out at 11:20pm on the 23rd, then the second, the third, and then the last liqour gun was removed at 12:03 am on November 24th, (that was 12:03 on the 23rd in papermill time. The new day starts at 6am).
Tony explained, after the liqour guns are removed, the boiler is fed natural gas until the bed burns out. Then the gas guns are pulled out one by one, the last was pulled at 8am on Sunday the 24th. The boiler was officailly “off-line”. Tony showed me a trend graph on the computer where a green line fell straight to zero. It was no longer producing steam. It was in effect, dead.
The #2 recovery boiler was first fired on Oct 4th 1979. I heard a great story while talking to Tony on Nov 25th 2013, I heard that when the #2 Recovery Boiler was to start up, the ignitors wouldn’t fire, so the gas guns were turned on and a mop was set on fire and threw into the boiler and “Whoosh”! A dragon was born.
While early on in my career I learned paper machines were refered to as ladies, like ships, boilers were generally refered to as “Dragons”. Living , lava spewing, sulfer spitting, firebreathing dragons.
For a lot of years, after starting at the mill, I just heard the word ‘Powerhouse”. I didn’t know what that meant. When our machine was forced to shut down unexpectantly, I heard the old hands say “the powerhouse shut us down” or, as I remember one day, standing in the control room of the #31 machine I heard someone ask our machine manager LaRue Amos, “Why can’t we start up Abe?”, and he pointed at the red phone on the wall (a direct hotline to the powerhouse) and impatiently screamed, “I’ma waiting on ‘em to give me some steam!”
In 2000, when IP announced the shut down of the #31 machine and that all of us the #31 department would be displaced and have to “bump” to other departments, somebody said we needed to try and go to the powerhouse, “they made more money.”. So I went with a friend “across the tracks” and checked it out one night. As we entered the building, the walls were literally shaking, and ground was rumbling. We walked up the stairs to the second floor and watched workers dressed in full flame retardent gear dodge smelt flung from the spouts with a vengence. Sulfer burned our noses. Somebody said, if you feel something drip on you, that’s green liqour and it will eat you up, wash it off with vinegar. Fast.
I left that night and thought “I don’t care how much they pay them, it’s not enough.”
While talking to Tony on November 24th I heard another story from one of the original #2 start up team members Morris Williams, he told, ‘Hell, they nearly burnt this boiler down before it ever started up.” He said, “well, while it was still under construction, they had a turpentine leak and it was leaking into the drain system. A contractor lit a acetylene torch and threw his match into the drain. And it all went “Whoosh”. He pointed to the ceiling and said, “Donnie Garth was on the 13th floor and was trapped. There was so much black smoke billowing up he couldn’t get down. A crane operator ran his headache ball up there and Donnie jumped on it like a flea on a dog and rode it all the way to the ground.”
I had to follow up on that story, so I called Donnie up on the phone. I said, “Donnie, I want to hear the real story about this fire and you riding that headache ball down.”
Donnie laughed for a full 30 seconds. He said, “man, I always tell everybody that I jumped out on that ball and waved at the people on the ground as I was riding down. But to tell the truth. Man they sent a basket up there, about 2 foot wide, and it was swinging around and I was afriad to grab on to it. They Finally lowered it back down and then sent it up with a guy in it and he grabbed on to the beams and told me to get in.” He laughed some more, he said, “Brooks, I latched onto that thing so tight my knuckles were white and when that operator dropped it my eyes were squinced so tight that when we got to the ground I didn’t even know it. They was saying ‘let go Donnie, you on the ground now. Let go’.”
We laughed across the phone connection together. He said, “man that was back in ‘bout 78 I think.”
Tony told me that the #2 Recovery was a “sweet” running boiler. (If there is such a thing). “As long as you kept it clean, it would sit here and make 450 pound steam all day, day in and day out.” He added, “a boiler is just like a human, it’s got to have air to breathe.”
He showed me on the computer screens that day where they were in the process of a “water-wash”, and he told me it would be pumped full of a mixture of water and a perservative. “
I asked him, “what are we perserving it for?”
Tony just shook his head no, he didn’t know. But we both knew this dragon would never breathe fire again.
The #3 Recovery boiler
The #3 Recovery boiler was first fired in 1991, it was about the tallest building on the mill site, and it was in essence, alive. The first time I ever entered the building was in 2008 when I went to work in the High Pressure Powerhouse Maintenance crew.
The first day I was assigned a job in the building, myself and a couple of other maintenance workers approached the building, and the walls were violently shaking. Somebody said it was “alittle upset”. I could feel the ground rumbling underneath my steel-toe workboots. It sounded like a war was going on inside. Explosions boomed one right after the other. I asked my co workers if it was safe to go in there. One of them pointed at a red beacon on the wall and told me if that light started flashing and a bunch of sirens went off to get the hell out and run as fast as I could. I ask him which way I should run and he said, just AWAY, any direction would be good.
The second floor of the #3 Recovery boiler, (where the smelt spouts ooze melted lava into the dissolving tank) is the only place in the whole paper mill where I saw grown men scream like little girls and run blind through sulfer smoke for the exits.
One day me and Grassy were on the top of the recovery boiler and I was welding down some grating on a catwalk. I stopped my weld and raised my hood and told him “its awful hard to weld on something that’s moving.” The whole building was swaying. We could hear and feel the explosions below.
He pointed out across the bluish green Tennesse river and said, “Brooks, they say if this thing blows up, it would take a week for the river to fill up the hole it’s gonna leave.”
I looked up and followed the steam vapors from the stacks into the blue sky, “Reckon where that would put us?”
He held on to his hardhat and leaned his head back, craning his neck as far as it would go and said, “well, they say the stratosphere starts about 5 miles up,” he lowered his head and brushed some ash off his sleeve, “ I figure whats left of us would end up somewhere up there.”
I lowered my hood and tried to weave my weld back and forth with the buildings sway.
I worked in the High Pressure crew for 3 years and noticed that almost every worker in the powerhouse crews carried a visible burn scar, whether it be on an arm, neck or face, that somewhere in the past, a glob of fire had somehow found its way behind a face shield or through a gap in protective clothing, or simply burned its way through to find flesh. .
As I sit and write this now, I know each one of those brave men and women in the powerhouse crews bears a new scar, one that’s not visible on the outside, its located right in the middle of their hearts.
On Feb 4th, 2014 at 9:35 am the #3 Recovery boiler went off line for good. Its high pressure steam no longer needed in a mill with 5 dead paper machines..
It’s quite there now. A dragon sleeps.
To all those that have tended these boilers all the years, my hat’s off to you. You were a brave, determined and dedicated employee to come in everyday and do what you did for a living. There can never be enough thank yous said.
Good luck to you all, and God bless.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Back a long time ago, when I was just starting out, there was a little skinny outfielder named Denton Bowling that played for the LCHS Red Devils Baseball team. His momma said, "If he gets in the game, take his picture for me."
Now Denton is all grown up and is the Head Coach of the 2014 LCHS Red Devils Baseball team.
Last Saturday we enjoyed a nice warm day and I took the team portraits and shot some of the Red vs White game. Good luck Denton and the LCHS Red Devils. Have a great season.
It was nice and warm, but windy. Which made it tuff to photograph the lovely but long haired LCHS Diamond Dolls. But we got it done. Have a fun year ladies.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
I was visited today by 4 of my former LCHS Seniors, All in the US Navy now!
Caitlin and Cassie Currier, Skyler Bennett and Brittany Rutherford. Caitlin is in for the holidays from Virginia, Cassie from Pensacola, Skyler from Hawaii and Brittany from San Diego.
Cassie and Skyler are married now, and Caitlin is engaged to Thomas Talbot, who is from Virginia. I asked Brittany if she was engaged or married and she said, "I'm working on it."
I told them all how proud I was of them. "Moulton's own little Navy division." God Bless ya'll. Thank you for serving our country.
Also visiting this week from Virginia is Stephen Williams. He is a senior at Forest Park HS in Virginia. His mom, LCHS graudate Tammy Steele Williams brought him by for portraits this morning. What a fine looking young man he as grown to be.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Monday night was the first LCHS Basketball game I was able to cover this year and what a festive night it was! It was great to see all the LCHS Band, Red Hots, Cheerleaders, students decked out in Christmas attire, enjoying the Red Devils victories.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I kept waiting to hear the phones ring. A last minute call of reprieve, a pardon, somebody saying it was all a bad dream. But it never came, and at 7:01 this morning Machine Tender David Heron signaled the backtender he was about to blow the sheet down for the last time. We all looked on. There was nothing we could do to stop it.
A little piece of history torn off to treasure.
What we did.
David washes her down one last time, while the reel drum is stopped for eternity.
I saw the #33 Machine for the first time in 1982,when I was a 18 year old construction worker working for the Brown and Root constuction company, building the #34 machine, (which would sit right beside her), I poked my head through a hole in the wall one day and saw her sitting there, just a rolling away, making paper; that's what she did.
The #33 Machine started up in 1975, and ran wide open until November 19th 2013.
38 years, she did what she was designed to do.
Today, I watched and photographed it's final shutdown.
I'm not gonna lie, it made me cry.
6 years of my 30 year career at the mill, I spent working in the 33 complex.
I saw three friends and co-workers lose thier lives on the floors of this machine.
I don't understand it. I never will.
She was a beauty. Rest in Peace #33 Machine.
And may God bless every soul she touched.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The LCHS Girls XC Team placed 2nd in the State of Alabama.
The LCHS Boys XC Team placed 3rd in the State of Alabama.
I know you all wanted to Win State; but your accomplishment is great. Great job, we are proud of you!
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Friday was portrait day for the always Fabulous Red Hots Dance Team. It was Yearbook make-up day, and we finished up Senior Portraits.
Then during 7th period, it was LCHS Basketball Portrait time. I always enjoy working with the Basketball teams. Good Luck Devils! Have a great season!
Saturday, November 02, 2013
after my gig. I called up my cousin Jarrod and Lacey and met them in the park with thier girls Hadley and Hunter for some fall portraits. My how they've grown.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Congratulations and Good Luck to Jake and Amanda Randolph. Married today at The Wedding Chapel on Monte Santo Mountain in Huntsville.
It was great to get to be a part of this beautiful wedding.
Friday, October 25, 2013
40 seniors were recognized tonight before the LC vs Athens game, Seniors from the Football team, cheerleaders, Band, Red Hots dance team and JROTC members. Good luck to each of you and bless you all.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I met the LCHS XC teams today at the Oakville Indian Mounds for team portraits. It was the NW Regional race.
I hired a young lady "on the spot" and gave her a five minute lesson in XC race shooting, turned her loose with $3ooo worth of camera equipment, and guess what? She did an excellent job.
Meanwhile, I had appointments at the studio, while I was taking senior portraits of Hillary, Blake and Janae.
She was busy doing what I asked her to do. Since she was a West Morgan XC fan, I told her it would be ok to cover them too; and she did a really great job. Dawn, thanks for your help.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
I got to meet, and photograph young Mr. Porter Dutton III. He's 6 weeks old and his dad had proclaimed him an Auburn fan. (to his mom's shegrin).
And then my friend Mitch Compton was able to get all his lovely family together, so we could get some great family portraits.
Another great day at GBP.
Friday, October 18, 2013
I had the wonderful oppurtunity to spend the evening with my kinfolks, Roger and Nancy Brooks, who are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this weekend. Thier sons, Will and Dale have came home, all the way from Birmingham and Arkansas to be with them. Bringing with them their lovely wifes and precious kids, Roger and Nancy's grandkids. It was nice to see them all together and be a part of this wonderful celebration.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Saturday, October 12, 2013
What a beautiful day it was for Homecoming 2013. A beautiful HC Court, beautiful cheerleaders, beautiful spirit. Beautiful Beautiful. Thanks Jessica and Tammy for your help covering this memorable day.
Sunday, October 06, 2013
I started Thursday morning with my 235 cute little friends at Speake School. (I also photographed their Junior High Volleyball team.) Friday it was on to LCHS to photograph my 400+ good looking underclassmen, and I also shot 35 Senior Portraits. Saturday morning, which was glorius, I shot the early races at the Jesse Owens XC race in Oakville.Then I finished up Saturday afternoon with a nice outdoor session with LCHS Senior Anna.
That's what I'm talking about.
Friday, September 06, 2013
It was a great night to shoot the action between LCHS and Hartselle. Great big crowds on both sides and I really enjoyed the Hartselle Band performance.
LCHS Band and LCHS Red Hots have a really great show this year. I enjoyed it very much.
Sunday, September 01, 2013
The LCHS XC teams took off into their 2013 season yesterday. Congratulaions Lexie for winning the girls large school race. That's awesome. Good Luck Devils.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I spent a wonderful evening ,on the Old Railroad Bridge in Florence,
photographing my cousin Jake and his lovely bride to be Amanda.
Wedding date is Oct 27.
Thanks Michael Brooks for your help.