Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anniston: Our Doorway to the World

March 2, 2013
Anniston, Alabama
Our African Safari Meet and Greet isn’t until 2 this afternoon, so we have some time to kill, and Dick has found the perfect diversion--a visit to the Berman Museum of World History, just a couple miles down the road.  The Museum houses an extensive and eclectic melange of stuff that Colonel Farley Berman and his wife Germaine picked up over several decades of world travel and intensive collecting in their areas of special interest. 
If you depended on this museum as your primary source of World History information, you would come to the conclusion that weapons, especially guns, are the focal element around which history unfolds, and the American West is the apex of historic development.  Come to think of it, he may be onto something there.
One of many Remington bronzes on display
Among the hundreds and hundreds of guns on exhibit, my favorites were the ones that you would think only existed in James Bond movies and old Get Smart episodes--one in a flute that really plays, and shoots a 22 caliber bullet when you hit one particular note; single shot guns in a match box and in a throat lozenge tin (complete with a foil pack of lozenges for camouflage on top of the gun); a gear shift knob gun used by members of the French Underground posing as taxi drivers; and one in a tobacco pipe with this label--“If one is not carful with this pipe--well, keep in mind the old saying about shooting your mouth off.”  (There were lots more, too--pens, belt buckles, a screw driver, a tire gauge . . .)

 The most awesome weaponry, though, was a Royal Persian Scimitar paid as tribute to Catherine the Great when she ruled Russia in the late 1700s.  It is encrusted with jewels embedded in three pounds of gold--1295 diamonds, 31 rubies totaling over 50 carats, and a ten carat emerald on the hilt.  How did Colonel Berman ever get his hands on this?

There are lots of other things that we wonder how he ever managed to acquire for his collection:  the coronation crown, orb and scepter of a Czech king crowned in 1346, at least ten large Chinese ceramic vessels in perfect condition dating back to the Han Dynasty (making them about 2000 years old), and Adolph Hitler’s monogrammed silver service, to name just a few.
Later we found an article about the Colonel and his museum from the Emery alumni magazine.  The article said experts had estimated the worth of the collection at over $100 million. The pieces on display here today are just a fraction of the works the Bermans amassed.  (We wondered where they got the money and time to travel the world collecting--the Colonel's family owned a department store in Anniston, and he was an attorney and real estate developer.)  

Given the obvious value of the items being exhibited, I couldn’t get over the lack of security--after we walked past the ticket seller at the front desk, we never saw another museum employee, and when we left, there was no sign even of anyone at the front desk.   

Antique puppets, from a collection of well over 100
Then there were the lady bugs in a bunch of the exhibit cases.  Dead ones on the bottom of the cases, and live ones crawling on the artifacts inside.  Lady bugs usually are a symbol of good luck--but not in this case.
We could go on and on about this odd little Museum, but let's just close with the recipe the museun offers for Buffalo Bill Cody’s favorite drink, the Stone Fence: add a shot of rye to a glass of cider and garnish with a lemon twist.

 After a quick lunch it was time to meet our future safari mates at Larry Martin’s Wren’s Nest Gallery.  We were impressed with the organization, thorough preparation, and unbridled enthusiasm of our tour leaders, Larry and Crystal, and we enjoyed meeting our fellow travelers, including some who have been on safari with Larry before and can't wait to travel with him again.  It was a long drive to Anniston just to attend this meeting, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  And so the excitement builds . . . .
 We are not the only ones excited now--the whole town of Anniston is in a tizzy, because we are experiencing "snow flurries."  The snow is very fine, barely visible in the air, and showing no signs of accumulating on the ground.  It wouldn't even be worthy of notice above the Mason Dixon Line, but we hear that the grocery stores hereabouts have sold out of milk and bread, as folks prepare to be snowed in.  We can't imaginie it will keep anyone from getting to church tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited too to see the words and pictures from Kenya!!