Tsukasa Kiyono was one of the earliest Japanese immigrants to settle in Alabama. He came to Semmes in 1914 purchasing farm land and began growing Satsuma’s and Pecans. In 1921 he returned to Japan for a visit, marrying Tomoe and returning to Semmes.
Tsukasa and Tomoe had two daughters, Mary born in 1926 and Marion born in 1928 while living in Semmes.
Hard freezes destroyed the fruit crops and the farming changed to grow nursery plants. In the beginning years, all work was done by Tsukasa and Tomoe. With years of hard work, Kiyono Nursery became very successful; employees were hired to do the labor.
Tsukasa was always interested in the development of new plants and methods of growing plants, traveling back to Japan and over the world to see plants that might be grown here. He became known as a renowned horticulturist. He was featured in Life Magazine in 1939. The Nursery industry was growing in Semmes.
The Kiyono’s are fondly remembered for their kindness, friendship and generosity to the community. Semmes was a rural community with a rural school with limited teaching resources. Tsukasa purchases a Victrola and records for Semmes School. The Victrola was rolled from room to room every Friday and classical music played according to Tom Dodd, Jr.
In 1939 Semmes First Baptist Church had built a new church but did not have money for pews. Tsukasa purchased and donated all the pews for the main auditorium in honor of his two daughters, Marion and Mary, who had become Christians.
While the Kiyono Family was on a visit to Japan 1941, World War II broke out preventing their return to the United States. Kiyono Nursery was sold at auction to Clint McDade and renamed Semmes Nursery.
Melba & Buddy Martin
The Martin Family Philosophy still rings true today!
John and Essie Martin
“BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE, BUT NEVER BE ASHAMED OF, NOR FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM. NEVER FORGET YOUR ROOTS—IT’S WHAT KEEPS YOU GROUNDED. GOD PLACES YOU WHERE HE WANTS YOU IN THIS LIFE—MAKE THE MOST OF IT. DON’T SIT AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. EARN YOUR KEEP. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE WITHIN YOUR CIRCLE. AND NEVER FORGET THE PEOPLE WHO EXTEND TO YOU A HELPING HAND ALONG THE WAY.”
(Donna Martin Turk)
John and Essie Martin and their children Sara Elizabeth, Edna Earle, Johnnie Ruth and Jack moved to Semmes on Snow Road in 1935. James Rufus, Betty Ann, and Thomas E. (Buddy) were born in Semmes.
Semmes was a very rural area, sparsely populated with small farms, and a few nurseries. It was a period of time when neighbors knew all their neighbors and willing to share a helping hand to one another when needed.
The Martin Family farmed the land and sold produce, cut and sold firewood, odd jobs, plowed for neighbors, mowed lawns at schools and other locations around Mobile.From Produce farming, John decided to go into Dairy farming. His father and grandfather had been dairy farmers. Semmes was becoming a large dairy farming community.
Early dairy farming was hands on farming that was very hard work, beginning before daylight and lasting till after dark, seven days a week. Cows were fed and milked by hand. The dairy farmer had to grow food for his cows, Hay and Silage. Hay was grown cut, and dried then gathered for storage in the barn. Silage, annual green crops, usually corn and sorghum were planted and gathered green, chopped, stored in a silo where fermentation took place. (Silage had a pleasant sweet smell.)
The beginning of a turning point in the Martin Family from Dairy Farming to the Nursery Industry happened when Buddy stopped to help a neighbor Delano Ikner, whose horse was in a ditch. Delano managed a Nursery in Semmes. Delano and Buddy became friends.
Not only did Buddy become interested in the nursery business, by simply stopping to help a neighbor, but he later met Melba who was to become his wife. Melba was the sister of Delano’s wife Gloria.
Buddy and Melba and their families continue to uphold the family philosophy that was passed down from John and Essie Martin, not forgetting their roots, working hard, and making a difference in the lives of those around them, and contributing to the people of Semmes. The Martin Family Farm that began with 40 acres has grown to 400 acre Nursery which is known worldwide.
We lived our teenage years during a time of peace and We grew up during the greatest possible era. There has never been a better time to be a teenager.
We never worried about peer pressure. All the boys wore their jeans the same way with a turned up cuff. The girls all wore dresses and skirts.
Only boys had flat tops and only girls wore ear rings, and three was too many.
We participated in the birth of "Rock and Roll" music. We did the Twist and the Mash Potato. It is said Elvis Presley actually appeared at the Mobile Fair before he went on Ed Sullivan.
We swam in Carre Lake, Miller's Park, and Johnson's Lake.
We played "Kick the Can" and "Spin the Bottle"
We enjoyed "Dew Drop Inn" hotdogs.
We went to Drive-In's, Air Show, Auto Show, Bama, and the Do Drive in on highway 45. After the drive in double features, and kissing our dates, who watched the movies? We drove our Muscle cars through "Ossie's", "Dick Russell's" and "Johnny's" to see and be seen.
But best of all in Forest Hill and Moffat Rd. we had "Dub's".
We did have drag races all over the place. Was not legal but we had fun, winning or losing.
You could drive down the beach at Gulf Shores to Alabama Point, there was no Bridge across to Florida. Private homes were spaced sometimes a half a mile or more apart. There was no high rises. Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island were ours to enjoy.
There were no K Marts or Walmarts. No Shopping Malls. When Bella Hess opened up we were all amazed, a one stop shopping place. You could buy clothes and groceries and whatever. They drained Ragg Swamp and then built Sprindale Plaza.
There were no Dollar General or Dollar Stores. We had five and dime, Woolworth, Kresses, Neisner's and Grant's. You could sit and get a milk shake or a sandwich. We had Planter's peanuts on Dauphin Street.
By Kenny & Brenda Michael, Class of 61
Photo - Kenny MIchael-Semmes High Class 1961 Blog
The class of 1961 was a unique and wonderful class with a blend of students from various backgrounds, from the rural country to the suburbs of Mobile. It was a period of time of consolidations of Mobile County Public Schools in order to meet the need of population growth.
Forest Hill Elementary, Wilmer Elementary and Tanner Williams Elementary and Semmes Elementary all attended Semmes High School. The class of 61 was the largest class (159) to graduate since the founding of Semmes School in 1887. This was the beginning of Semmes having the largest Schools, Elementary and High, in the Mobile County Public School system, (In 1965, Mary G. Montgomery High School was built to replace Semmes High School.)
The class of 1961 was not only unique in the blending of students from the city and rural areas, but had a loving caring spirit for one another. This is exemplified in the fact that the class after graduation had class reunion regularly and anyone who had been a part of the class was welcome to attend, not being forgotten.
This class has had people working in all professions: farmers, school teachers, college professors, nurses, eye surgeons, attorneys, a judge, an actor- film producer, missionary, pastors, business leaders, homemakers, tradesmen, industry workers, artists, and military careers.
And yet the most important quality of this class is the love, kindness and respect shown to one another. It made no matter where you came from, what your accomplishments or station of life. I am proud to be a member of the class of 61. Jeanette
Larry’s Career in the entertainment world began as a DJ at WABB, Mobile’s top 40 station after graduation from Semmes High.
His radio career included his own radio show, The Larry Black Show which aired on 125 radio stations.
His acting career was launched after appearing in ‘Earnest Goes to Camp’ with the part of the camp counselor, Mr. Tipton. This led to more than 40 roles in TV shows, made for TV movies and future films.Some of the films he has appeared in are Ernest Scared Stupid, October Sky, Pure Country 2: The Gift, TV series I'll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night.
He is the founder of Gabriel Communications, specializing in the production of “Reunion Video’s.” He is the TV producer of Country Family Reunions, and Larry’s Country Diner, (his own show) as well as other Reunion Video’s.
Larry’s Country Diner is a country variety show that may be seen on RFD TV and is recorded as it is performed at Ray Steven’s CabaRay Dinner Theater in Nashville.
Larry is married, has three sons and lives in Nashville, TN, after having traveled to many cities in his DJ career.
The place where it all Began- Semmes High School
“I didn’t grow up in Semmes School like so many of my class mates, but I never felt like an outcast or like I didn’t belong; when my dad became the pastor of the Moffett Road Assemblies of God Church, I was half way through the 11th grade. Normally that would have been rough to come into a new school, but that was not so at Semmes.
All of my high school days I’d tried out for every play that rolled around, but never got a part. At Semmes, I took Mr. Cole’s Speech Class and the Jr. Class was in the middle of rehearsal for their play.
Buddy Porter had the lead in “The Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.” It was (as I recall) about 2 weeks before the play was to open when Buddy decided he didn’t want to stay in the play. Mr. Cole asked me if I would like the part. It was something I’d always wanted to do and here it was being handed to me, of course, I said yes.
The success of the play was great, it enabled me to show-off in front of the whole school and by the end of the play everyone knew me. This laid the ground work for what was to come.
Mr. Posey, the band director asked me to announce the half-time show at the football game. It was a themed event and scripted. I did and the next day my Algebra teacher, Mr. Gossett, complimented me on the half time show and said “have you ever considered radio and entertainment as a future vocation?” I think he knew from my Algebra Grades that I wasn’t going to be going into mathematics. That statement stuck with me and I became a DJ actor and producer.
And to think it all started with a lead role in the Junior Class play at Semmes High School.
Mr. Cole and Semmes High School, Thank you!
Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc. /aka Semmes Heritage Park is in the process of revising and updating the original Scrapbook of Memories that was published in the fall of 1996, now out of print.
The goal is to have the new book, Semmes Scrapbook of Memories 2019 Legacy for the Future published and ready for sale by December, 2019. Great Christmas Present!
This new book contains stories from the Past of Semmes, those now in the present, and gives a glimpse into the future. Just imagine what you see today, will become tomorrow’s history!
Thank You to those who have been willing to share stories, and donate items making it possible for museum displays and our archives to continue to grow for future generations.
New Members are welcome! Check out our Face book page-Semmes Heritage Park. Just a reminder, we are all volunteers!
This is the new book cover that was created by
Dr. Philippe Oszuscik
Rusty Glover-Teacher-Leader- Senator, Legislator
Rusty (Benjamin Nash Glover III) was born April 17, 1966 in Mobile. He graduated from B.C. Rain High School. He attended Faulkner State Community College and The University of South Alabama earning a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, M.A. in History and a M. Ed. in Secondary Education.
He is a retired high school teacher, having taught history for twenty five years at Mary G. Montgomery High School located in Semmes.
He has written a book, “A Treasure Chest of Hidden History.” This book was born out of the love of history and the desire to ignite curiosity and a love of history in his students. The book is a collection of, “Fun Facts and Serious Episodes That You May Have Missed In Your American History Class.” The presentation style is unique in that after each entry, credit is given to the source making it possible for the reader to do further research. It truly is a treasure that will peak your interest in history.
Here is just one of those tidbits: The world’s first completely electric streetcar was running the streets of Montgomery in 1886.
Salmond, John A., The Conscience of a lawyer: Clifford J. Durr and American Civil Liberties, 1899-1975. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1990, p5.
A man of Character committed to promoting family values, education, and freedom for the betterment of all.
The first City of Semmes Park, Semmes Honor Park, is a park to honor all veterans, was founded under the leadership of Mayor Judy Hale. Mayor Hale was the first mayor of the City of Semmes.
The beautiful landscaped Park is located south of Moffett Road at 4100 Wulff Road East, in the heart of Semmes. The park has an Amphitheater that is used for memorial services and other community activities. Comfortable benches provide a peaceful quiet place to sit and reflect upon the great freedoms we enjoy.
American Patriotism has always been an important part of life in Semmes. There are numerous active and retired military that call Semmes home. Mary G. Montgomery High School has an excellent ROTC program.
Listed below is a small representation of the many veterans that have served beginning in the War of 1812.
War of 1812 -Indian Creek War in Florida
Samuel Vickers was born in 1792 and lived in the Lott Road and McCrary Rd. vicinity near Box Road and fought in the Indian Creek War in Florida, and the War of 1812.
American Civil War
Perry W. Allen joined Company 1, 21st Alabama Volunteers and was in the Battle of Corinth and Farmington, the Siege of Fort Morgan. He was taken prisoner and sent to New Orleans for two months when he was transferred to Elmira Prison for 9 months. He was paroled June 15, 1865 returning to Semmes (Albritton Precinct) and marrying Tempy Malinda Pierce on December 7, 1865. He died in Semmes on January 10, 1911 and was buried in his Confederate Gray to honor his old comrades in Allentown Cemetery.
World War I
Harry Felton Poole
John A. Lowery (Killed in Action)
Dr. Leonard T. Lane-Army Medical Corp.
Dual R. Tanner
World War II
Pollard Family -Five Sons
Air Force- James (Jack) Pollard
Army- Posey (Pete)
Navy-Hiram Pollard, Edward Pollard, Thad Pollard
Dodd Family-Five Sons
Air Force-Steve Dodd
Army- Bill Dodd, John Dodd
Scrapbook of Memories, 1996
Betsy Dodd-Dodd Family Nursery History
Tom Dodd Jr. May 4, 1915-May 7, 2009
Tom Dodd Jr. is known worldwide for his many contributions to the Nursery Industry. He developed new propagation methods and introduced new plants into the trade. Many of the plants commonly used in southern landscapes originated through the careful research and development by Tom.
He was especially fond of plants that were native to the southeast. However, Tom took many trips all over the world to other climates similar to the southeast in order to introduce something special to the industry. Many times the research plants would end up in the homes of friends, pastors or coaches homes all around the region.
A trip to Auburn University will reveal hundreds, if not thousands of plants all around the campus given to them by Tom Dodd Nurseries. Over the years the nursery generously donated countless plants to universities, schools, churches and gardens all over the United States. A great legacy of Tom Dodd Nursery is all the beautiful plants that were grown in Semmes and donated or sold far and wide.
Numerous honors have been bestowed on Tom Dodd, Jr. Among these are the Jackson Dawson Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Garden Club of America Medal of Honor, He was an Honorary Fellow of Mobile College, Received the D. Todd Gresham Award of the American Magnolia Society, and is in the American Nurserymen Hall of Fame.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Auburn University. During World War II five of his brothers were serving in the military and he was needed at home to work on the family nursery.
Another interesting story about his college education concerns that his first year of college was at Spring Hill College. Money was short, but the family being farmers had made plenty of cane syrup so he asked could he trade buckets of syrup for his tuition and so he did.
Tom Dodd nursery has been operated by four generations of the Dodd family until it was sold in 2004 to Jack/John Williams who kept the family name.
Elizabeth Betsy Dodd- Daughter,
Auburn University College of Agriculture Directory
Floating around in 1966 Raymond Byrd, a 1959 Semmes High School Graduate experiences weightless flight in a Zero-G flight, a parabolic flight experiment.
In 1961 the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy announced the goal to be the first nation to land a man on the moon and bring him safely home. The Space Race was on. Much research and development had to take place to accomplish this goal.
The Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI) in Pensacola Florida was doing research under the direction of Dr. Ashton Graybiel. Studies on the effects of weightlessness and acceleration on human balance, spatial orientation, physiology and performance helped prepare America's astronauts for manned space flights.
Raymond became a research team member under the team leader of Dr. Earl F. Miller II, Team leader of the Physiological Optics Branch, in 1966 through 1972 participating with parabolic flight experiments to create short periods of weightlessness.
Apollo 11 Astronauts, and many others; Such as Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins participated in these research projects in Pensacola prior to spaceflight.
Preserving our History