November 1953: Hitchhiker runs afoul of sheriff, forest fires end hunting season


Readers of the Walker County Times were surely amused by this item from the Nov. 12, 1953, edition.

Walker County Sheriff Charles Harbison told the Times that he had been on his way to Cullman to pick up a prisoner on Monday, Nov. 9, when he picked up a hitchhiker. 

Jim Aderholt, 19, told Harbison that he was heading to Chicago.

"I remembered that name from somewhere, and finally after we rode awhile I remembered I had two warrants for his arrest," Harbison said. "We went on to Cullman and stopped at the jail. Aderholt started to get out of the car, but I told him he better stay in, that I was taking him back to Jasper."

Harbison made the return trip to Jasper with two prisoners instead of the one he had expected. 

Aderholt was charged with two counts of issuing worthless checks and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The Times editors tagged this little gem with the headline "Thumbs sheriff, rides wrong way."

The most pressing issue facing the county in November 1953 was forest fires. 

"Choking smoke hung like a pall over Walker County this week as woodlands fell to the worst outbreak of forest fires in recent history," the Times reported.

The Division of Forestry's Jasper office received reports of 224 new fires between Nov. 9 and Nov. 11. Officials estimated that about 25 or 30 fires were burning at once in the county.

The Times ran a large photo of a fire burning up fields and woods west of 10th Avenue in North Jasper. The blaze, which was believed to have been started by sparks from a train, destroyed lumber on the lot of Construction Engineers, Inc.

Two bulldozers from south Alabama arrived in the county on Nov. 9 to help combat the blazes.

As an added measure, Earl McGowin, director of the Department of Conservation, closed hunting season on Nov. 10 in Walker and 25 other counties. He promised to lift the ban and extend hunting season as soon as rains brought some relief.

The fires were stretching the resources of the city of Jasper's fire department. 

City Manager James S. Freeman said the department had received 12 fire calls in the first 10 days of November, compared to 18 fire calls in the whole month of October.

At the time, the city's annual budget for the volunteer-based fire department was $3,600.

"It costs us $45 per fire to pay our volunteer firemen," Freeman said. 

Freeman asked landowners in the city limits to call if they were planning a controlled burn and a fireman would be dispatched at no cost. 

Back to lighter news, the Times also reported on Nov. 12 that the Carbon Hill Bulldogs and Dora Bulldogs were preparing to face off at Ki-Ro Field on Thanksgiving Day in the annual Turkey Day classic sponsored by the Jasper Rotary Club.

Carbon Hill, which had not lost a county game during the season, had already been deemed the county champ.

The game was played both for bragging rights and a good cause.

The Rotary Club's share of proceeds would be used for the maintenance and operation of an audiometer that the club had given to the Walker County Health Department the previous year.

The machine was being used to test the hearing of all the county's schoolchildren. 

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.