The Birmingham Gun Club, c. 1914, at the old Alabama Fairgrounds, with special guest John Philip Sousa (seated at lady's right). In addition to conducting the USMC Band and writing hundreds of march tunes, Sousa was an early proponent of trap shooting in the U.S.A.
THE UNOFFICIAL (but perhaps the only) EARLY HISTORY
of SOUTHERN SKEET & TRAP CLUB IN THE 1960s
Written by Janie Strickland Montgomery
with help from her sisters,
Becky Strickland Eatmon and Leila Strickland Rice
Written in loving memory of our father, Raymond E. Strickland, Jr., known as "Mr. Trapshooter of Alabama," and the ATA Delegate for over 20 years. He is also partly responsible for moving the old gun field to its current location.
My retina physician and friend, Dr. Robert Morris, recently discovered that I used to shoot trap many years ago. I had seen a segment of "Absolutely Alabama" on Fox 6 News, and he and his granddaughter were featured shooting skeet at the Southern Skeet & Trap Club. That brought back so many memories!
I could hardly wait for my next check-up. Dr. Morris looked astonished when I told him that I was once the Alabama State Handicap Champion in trapshooting. I showed him a picture of me (many years ago!) which was posted in the Birmingham News with my 12-gauge Krieghoff shotgun over my shoulder. Perhaps he didn't recognize me since I was over 50 years younger, but he went along with my story until he finally realized that YES, it was true!
He asked me if I would compile a history of the club when I was actively shooting to give to the Board of Directors of SSTC. My two sisters helped. Becky was a much better shot than I was, and she shot skeet so we wouldn't have to compete against each other. She started by being a Junior All-American, and then was an All-American every year until she quit shooting. My younger sister, Leila, never competed. Being the baby, she was forced every summer weekend to go to either a skeet or trap shoot all around the south. She had her fill of shooting!
I now admit that I am a bit over 70 years old. Not many people know that, but I can't lie to Dr. Morris, and besides, who cares anymore? As I was compiling memories, it occurred to me that all the famous shooters I knew in those days had passed away! However, I have one long-time friend, Steve Williams from Nashville, who, with his wife, Louise, remain close friends. Steve and I are the same age and went to most of the trap shoots (with our parents) together. Steve is still competing and indeed, has continued to go to the Grand America every year. He gave me a great deal of input on this project. He keeps every Trap & Field Magazine and mailed me some interesting articles regarding Southern Skeet and Trap Club from when I was an active member. I have included copies of those.
One of the older Trap & Field magazines listed the directions to the original club. Basically it said to drive to the end of Oxmoor Road until it ran into the Silver Spur Ranch (where I kept my horse), take a hard right and follow the signs. Steve had actual color pictures of the old club, and I've included them in this article.
The original location was fairly primitive. I've talked to Steve and my sisters, and we all remember it as a three-sided wooden building, opening to face the four skeet/trap fields. True, as the photos prove! It was on the top of a hill and was reached by a gravel road. There were two outhouses behind the clubhouse. However, the club hosted several state championships there, many thanks to the efforts of my father, and it had a loyal and active membership.
I recall the excitement about building a new clubhouse at a different location. As a matter of fact, my uncle, Edward M Paul, Jr., was the architect. Becky and I particularly liked the fact of indoor restrooms! "Back in the day" Daddy, Becky, and I had several photographs of each of us hanging on the walls at your new location. I'm sure those are long gone!
We girls (sorry, but we still call ourselves that) cannot remember whether the land for the club was donated or leased. Your board of directors probably knows. I think that one of the large Birmingham companies leased the land to the club for a specified length of time. There are a couple of names of prominent businessmen at that time that come to mind, but since I'm not sure, I'll not mention them. They are deceased, however.
One of the members, Tom Jones, was a skeet shooter of much renown. He held the nation's record for highest average in the 12-gauge for several years. In one year he only missed 13 birds out of 2600 registered targets!! Bill Ireland (of Vulcan Materials) was a well-known skeet shooter. His son, Bud, and I were particularly close friends. Many weekends throughout the South, there was both a skeet and a trap shoot. Mother would drive Becky (and Leila) to the skeet shoot. Mr. Ireland and his wife would take care of them, Mr. Ireland making sure Becky was entered. Daddy and I would be off to a trap shoot together.
We traveled to many shoots N Florence, Decatur, Natchez, Tupelo, Jackson, Atlanta, Louisville, West Palm Beach, Rochester, NY, Vandalia, Ohio, to name a few. We either went to a competition or to the club every summer weekend. Since there were three of us, Daddy reloaded all of our practice ammunition. We calculated that Becky's 20-gauge had at least 10,000 rounds shot through it!
Might I mention that at that time there were no young lady trap shooters? I was a semi-celebrity because I was young (my teens), and fairly cute. There were quite a few young men around my age who shot, and we formed a very fun group wherever we went. The Grand American was absolutely "Grand" every year because we all were together and had a fabulous time. Even the editors of Trap & Field Magazine wrote an article about "Janie's Group."
As far as professionals were concerned, J.S. Stone (Remington) was a huge help to our small Alabama club. He and our father organized the very first trap shoot held at the original location. Both Becky and I became great friends with all the professionals, and they showered us with lots of paraphernalia.
As an ending to this article, just for laughs, I warn you that I might dust off my trusty Kreighoff, and drive out to the club in my Maserati (I am a sassy old lady) to see if I can still hit a few clay pigeons!
Good Shooting to you all!
4695 Gun Club Road, Birmingham, AL 35210