In 2009, the Comer Library Foundation engaged Cook, a noted author from Birmingham, to conduct interviews and research the history of Sylacauga’s marble.
“Ruth interviewed people who remembered the quarries and she did an amazing amount of research in a short period of time,” said Dr Shirley Spears, director for Comer Library.
“We are so proud of the book that she wrote in commemoration of the first marble festival, “A Brief History of Sylacauga Marble.”
“Ruth has continued her research of Sylacauga marble, and now we are asking her to share new information with our audience,” Spears said. “She has talked with more quarry workers and with their descendants, and she has unearthed some interesting photographs depicting life in the Gantt’s Quarry and the Moretti-Harrah communities.”
The author has also researched the original papers of Giuseppe Moretti and his assistant, Geneva Mercer, Spears said.
March 17, Cook will present, “At Quarry’s Edge: Working the World-Class Marble and Building a Quality Community.”
Cook indicated that residents of the quarry villages had a world all their own, and while they might travel the two miles into Sylacauga for some of their needs, they enjoyed their own churches, stores and even a schoolhouse within walking distance.
This program will bring to life the sights and sounds of quarry work, from the blast whistle to the finishing shop, from the Dinky to the 80-ton diesel. It will also share more personal memories of many whose everyday family life at the edge of “the hole” included getting their mail from Regina Harris, shopping at the commissary or Ezekiel’s, and swimming at the Quarry Pond.
March 24, 2010, Cook will present a second program, “More on Moretti and the Marble: Love of Art and Dreams of Business.”
Cook has learned more about Moretti’s artistic endeavors, but she also found documentation of his attempts at being a businessman. “Giuseppe Moretti believed his ‘Head of Christ’ expressed the spiritual resources of Alabama just as his cast iron statue of Vulcan represented the state’s industrial resources,” she said.
Everyone’s invited to learn more about Moretti’s internationally recognized works of art, especially those created from the high quality marble of Talladega County.
This program will also explore Moretti’s desire to succeed as a businessman and the fact that his charm and enthusiasm were often not enough to bring his quarry investments to success.
Comer Library is just one of several organizations celebrating Sylacauga’s abundant supply of pure white marble.
“We are excited about the festival and the opportunity to participate by having programs and displays for the public to enjoy,” Spears said.
“Product displays from OMYA and IMERYS will be in the lobby and on the first floor of the library,” she said.
“It’s just incredible that marble dust can be found in so many household and industrial products. Last year, we had many visitors who came by to see these colorful and informative displays.”
Alabama Marble Company will have samples of the marble in the local history center. This company lifts and sells the stone.
They will bring samples of their tiles, window sills, door thresholds and more for the event. “The fact that dimensional stone is now available puts Sylacauga marble back in the sculpting market and Alabama marble fills orders from all over for the country,” Spears said.
“We invite everyone to come to the library on the next two Wednesdays to learn more about Sylacauga marble and a way of life that lives on in the memories of the people who lived and worked at the quarries,” she said.
The “Magic of Marble” Lecture Series is sponsored by Architectural Stone Imports and supported in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The programs are free and open to the public. The Hightower Room opens at 11 a.m.
Participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.
Working people are invited to stop by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium.