Barbara Burns' home on Tremont Street is one of the homes featured on this year's Selma Pilgrimage. -- Jean Martin

Pilgrimage home has plenty to see

Published 7:33pm Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pilgrimage visitors to the pretty pink Victorian cottage, the Burns House, will be greeted by owner Barbara Burns as well as by several well-known figures prominent in national politics. Life-size cardboard cutouts Bill and Hillary Clinton, George and Barbara Bush as well as “W” appear ready to step forward from their arranged settings – appropriate and historically correct.

And in the entrance hall George W. Bush is waiting in an interesting scene, adjacent to an ancient wooden wall telephone and near an antique barber chair.

Barbara Burns, a native of Pittsburgh, came to Selma in 1978, a move made due to the closure of Craig Air Base and her presence on Warren Rhoades Federal Grant Team, organized to ease the economic problems due to the loss of Craig. After being part of the team for almost 10 years she entered employment at the then People’s Bank and Trust Company, remaining there for “a long time. I enjoyed being part of this true community bank,” she said.

Burns left the bank to work with ADECA, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and commutes daily to Montgomery. Weekends, however, she has time for her favorite activities: bicycle riding, volunteering at First Presbyterian Church, getting her house ready to put on Pilgrimage – “anything that gets me outside,” she admits.

She also finds time to enjoy her hobby, technically known as “collecting” although she says “I don’t view it as such. I enjoy flea markets. I enjoy pulling off to the side of the road if I pass an interesting sale along my way. But I don’t view it as collecting, it’s just holding on to a piece of Americana.”

Her pieces of Americana are varied and interesting. In one room a neighborhood of television character dolls smile down from a shelf. Easily recognized are Fred Flintstone, Jeff Foxworthy (currently on TV screens) and Peewee Herman.

Her first collection piece was a metal lunch box (now obsolete). The reason? “Mother kept my original Beatles lunch box I used in grammar school. I brought it here when I came, started looking for other metal lunch boxes and I’ve found quite a few,” she said, waving toward to tops of the built-in kitchen cabinets which are stacked almost ceiling height with the collected lunch boxes.

How many? Barbara Burns says she truly doesn’t know.

The Game Room, “strictly for amusement purposes,” she admits, has a slot machine, a pinball machine, a Pachinko machine, and sports, sports, sports equipment and memorabilia. Presiding over it all is a costumed football player, sports photographs and posters. Favorite team? She doesn’t say.

Burns’ spare bedroom has been decorated as a music and movie room, again with suitable posters, dozens of 78 record albums, film posters, photographs and musical instruments. “Music is a big part of my family,” she explains.

In the hallway just outside early newspapers, receipts and bills of sale are preserved under glass.

Earlier collection favorites for Burns were glass insulators, now difficult to find, she says; arrowheads, also grown scarce with fewer plowed fields. “Insulators were my first collection as a junior high student but the last Old Town insulators have been gone a couple of years. And once plowed fields are now growing pine trees or have cattle grazing on them,” she said.

The rooms of the pretty pink Victorian cottage also offer family antiques and a collection of beautiful oil, watercolor paintings and charcoal sketches, the work of family member Lucille Breswick “who spent her life in San Francisco,” Burns says.

A favorite room is to the right of the entrance hall, where a corner is filled with a magnificent handmade chess set. The work of Selma artist Edye Birch, the figures are Civil War Union and Confederate opponents with the blue-clad and gray-clad figures facing against each other. Set in a corner, background to the grouping, is other Civil War memorabilia.

“This is a favorite,” Burns says, gently touching one of the miniature figures.

She says she is looking forward to Pilgrimage and, standing in the midst of pieces to be added to the various collections, comments “I enjoy finding these things, placing them in the right places and, especially, having them part of my life here. I hope our guests will enjoy seeing them during Pilgrimage this year.”

Pilgrimage is March 18-19. Organized by the Selma-Dallas County Preservation Society it offers an interesting variety of history and “Americana” this year.

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