A “Bloody Bucket”, Horse-Racing, a Swimming Pool, and Ducks

 By: Carl Brackin Jr.Image

Written for “The Tuscumbian”

Look back almost 130 years at the late 19th century, early 20th century heyday of a thriving railroad town that after a few changes in name had become “Tuscumbia” once and for all. Many things of that town’s past are in dim memory or on some stored, written pages with accompanying photographs of family, homes, and life in general. Small things that have flavored our present are little realized until retold. This is part of what this blog is about: Talking and sharing about what we know as “children” of this town, on “paper”: Whether it is actual or electronic, we should be ready to share that history, among ourselves and others, for the sake of those who, in life, follow after us, making their own history.


Life was busy in the town and among the occasional feuds in its citizenry, there was, as always, found a need for more distant, even if not safer place, to take peoples minds off of their problems or “take it outside”.

Located on the south outskirts of town, sitting below a bluff, there was the every present spring and creek, source of the town’s water. Here cattle could be watered, people could fish, and people could live a life a little bit more rough and free than in the town above.

My grandmother, who had always, from youth, lived a life of a Southern “Lady”, shared with me, smiles that I did not understand for some time, and stories of how there were “places” near this then and now beautiful area, before and during prohibition, that people would go at night to “drink and party”. They even adding to their “sins” by dancing to music and gambling. I remember one place she described as being called the (“Bloody Bucket”?). Tales of drinking, dancing, shooting, and “blood” prevailed occasional evenings as she related the events to those adults in the “parlor” and children in the next room who would and could listen. She was, by then, to me and my siblings, a staunch Methodist, who “looked down on those things”, asking, at the same time, that we remained “Godly”. Now to a young child, in my time, these were as good as any scary stories, religious mythologies, or fairy tales as could be told.  Who needed ghost stories? My grandmother’s “reality” stories were always better.

Then there were stories, from her and others, of the spring area being used as the annual fairgrounds and assembly places for political rallies, speeches, and for general public use for strolls and picnics. I only found out, within the last few years, that there was a horse-racing track located on the fair grounds that was apparently quite an event to attend.Image

Then there was the infamous swimming pool that was there in my living memory. I always wanted to go swimming in the summers that we visited my grandmother in the late 50’s, early 60’s, but were denied access to it by both her and my parent’s. They would relate stories of snakes being found in the pool and people drowning because they did not wait an hour before swimming: The latter being told, not in humor, but as a warning that food and swimming do not mix, the former being a particularly good reason not to go swimming there in the first place. I always wondered why anyone would ever go their at all. One summer I returned and the pool was no longer there, not even a big hole in the ground.

Other than that information and a couple of recently found photos of the horse track, I remember little else. These stories, though, were far less interesting than shooting and gambling, but I do know that except for those stories, along with Memorial Day, 4th of July picnics, or the occasional political rally, those days have long past.

I now, occasionally, get to accompany my grandchildren to this same area to picnic and feed the ducks: The ducks that have always eternally, to me, seemed to be there since I was a young child. I think of what amazing stories left among those that I remember, the grandchildren could be told about, both scaring and enlightening them at the same time, as I was. There were, in hind-sight, life lessons in those stories that did make me a better person, even if just knowing about them, but my life was enriched by them none the less.

Carl Brackin Jr.

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7 Responses to A “Bloody Bucket”, Horse-Racing, a Swimming Pool, and Ducks

  1. jampooh says:

    The Tuscumbia swimming pool was famous for the temperature of the water. It never got warm. It was filled from Spring creek and just slightly above maybe 50 degrees on the hottest days. There was no reason for parents to be concerned about their children’s health from going swinning there. GERMS could not live in water that cold. It was fun place to go. The Red Cross gave swimming lessons there every year and i will bet the farm that a lot of people learned to swim there. In order to pass, you had to swim all the way across the pool and back without stopping. After I took lessons there, my mother declared that it wa safe for me to swimming in the river with adults along. The hardest part of going swimming there was the long walk or bike ride back up the hill to 6th Street. The tales of snakes were probably very exagerated. There were some accidents there. Some tragic that I will not mention because of concern for family and friends. It was another of the great things that Tuscumbia had to offer.

  2. Pride Tompkins says:

    Yes i remember the swimming pool at the park. It was very cold. The water came out of Spring Creek. I never saw or heard of snakes in the pool. The pool had a lower and high diving board. When polio came along it was thought you could catch it at the pool. I quit going. Percy Hoskins son drowned there one day. One day it was torn down and convered up.

  3. I hear that you can still see the outline of the race track from the air. Has anyone flown over it and seen it?
    I remember the swans in the pond and all the seaweed..

  4. cbrackinblog says:

    Was the track about where the golf course is now?

  5. Thomas A. Bowen says:

    There was also a Bowing Alley at the southeast corner of the park.. I think only two lanes, My friend Archey Burton and his family lived in the, no longer active, Bowling Alley building in the 1940’s and 1950’s. We played all the time in the park and along Spring Creek all the way to the Tennessee River. We did sometime swim in the pool, but most often in a “Swimmen Hole” up the creek that runs into Spring Creek just. west of the park. No bathing suit required.

    Also, the old Bloody Bucket building is where the County Schools played their basketball games. Nobody had a gym in those days. Even though I lived in Tuscumbia I went to school at Howell & Graves in Muscle Shoals because my mother taught out there. We practiced shooting baskets in a little biddy cellar room in the school. Lots of fond memories.

    Tom Bowen
    Formally of 301 S. Jefferson St.
    Now of Atlanta

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