Pig Iron, Dr Seuss and Willy Wonka. “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

Road trips are fun to plan. Where to spend the night, what to see while there, how long it will take to drive from point A to point B, etc.

Stopping in Birmingham, Alabama, to spend the night on our way to Memphis, Tenn. allowed us a few hours to explore this city.  Beforehand, I went on Trip Advisor and discovered Sloss Furnaces, a National Historical Landmark that was recommended by photographers and history buffs. This experience would give us a glimpse into our Southern Industrial past, something we could learn more about.

Birmingham and iron making were made for each other. The raw materials for producing pig iron such as iron ore, limestone, and coal are abundant in this area. Capitalizing on these raw goods, railroad magnate James Withers Sloss began the production of pig iron in 1892 and continued for 90 years. At the heart of this operation is a pair of large blast furnaces.

As we drove up to the factory we got no further than the railroad tracks and had to wait for twenty minutes for the train to move. We knew the furnaces closed at 4:00 and it was beginning to drizzle.

Sloss Furnace

Once in the compound, we discovered we had the place to ourselves.

We were in another world. A world of machines, blowers to pump the blast of air, stoves to heat the air, boilers to produce steam to drive equipment, and a network of pipes that carries steam, water, and gas.

I marveled at the minds behind the technology, creation, and vision for what Sloss Furnaces could do and did for Birmingham, Alabama. I avidly read all the educational markers explaining the processes for creating pig iron.

Sloss Furnace-2

On premises is a museum which included  an educational slideshow of how the furnaces worked. It also touched on the days of racial inequality and the affect it had on the workers. One of the old brick buildings has been turned into a Metal Arts Studio with Resident Artists creating metal sculpture.

Sloss Furnace

As I walked around clicking away, I left the world of industry and entered Willy Wonka’s world of imagination. I wished for chocolate to ooze out of the rusty pipes.

Sloss Furnace

And then I thought of Dr. Seuss and began imagining him sitting on top of one of the smoke stacks with pen and crayons in hand writing and illustrating some of his books from this very place.

Sloss Furnace

What better way to present these pictures than to use Dr. Seuss’s quotes from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. but mostly they’re darked.
But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind maker-upper to make up his mind”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace-22

“And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

“Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: Yellow Back Book

Sloss Furnace

“And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Sloss Furnace

***As you can see, we there around Halloween and the premises were being rented for Fright Night. There is no way I could have done that place at night with a bunch of screaming teenagers. But I had to hand it to the group putting it on; they must have had fun creating the ghoulish scenes, putting up all the props and probably profited well from this yearly event.

What ever path or journey life takes you during 2014, I hope it is filled with new discoveries, creativeness, inspiration and personal fulfillment. I look forward to reading your blogs and discovering new ones along the way.

About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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22 Responses to Pig Iron, Dr Seuss and Willy Wonka. “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

  1. vbholmes says:

    What a wonderful post, Lynne. You’ve married perfectly Dr. Seuss’s fantastical tale with your futuristic photos of pipes, tubes, tanks, machines, thingamabobs, doohickeys and whatchamacallits. Thoroughly enjoyed this–including the side trip into the macabre.

  2. I just love your reply. You have used Seuss language to the max. The ghoulish side trip was a bizarre experience for us and definitely not the yellow brick road, but we had a lot of laughs. Thanks for your comment, VB.

  3. lynnsarda says:

    Really enjoyed this, and your blend of…well…

  4. Am glad you enjoyed it, Lynn. Looks like a field trip for Hot Shots. :)

  5. Letizia says:

    Hee hee, what a wonderful imagination you have! The photos are beautiful in their own way, whether magical, fantastical or even in a modern art, sculptural way. I hope you had some chocolate after your visit!

  6. Hello Letzia and welcome to this wacky world. Your comment covered many of the facets. I thought of this place as not only magical but sculptural, too…besides the industrial. Sorry. No chocolate at the end. In fact, we almost got locked in. The security guard didn’t know we were there. :)

  7. Wow….what a phantasmagorical post, Lynne. I so enjoyed your interesting pics, interspersed with the great Dr. Seuss verses. You obviously have a very creative imagination, and really deserved lots of chocolate after your delightful post. :)

  8. Unfortunately there was no reward of chocolate at the end; just a leftover granola bar in the car. :) Ron and I really enjoyed this “phantasmagorical” place, enough to go back the next morning. Thanks for you comment, Sylvia. Dr. Seuss just seemed to fit.

  9. What good fun you made of an old iron foundry! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Oh, those ghoulish scenes took me by surprise. I wish there was chocolate flowing out of those pipes, too. Great post, Lynne.

    • I hope I didn’t freak you out. I almost left them out but the Seuss verses that matched the pictures sealed it for me. Yes, I wished for chocolate but I guess Willy Wonka was out of it.

  11. restlessjo says:

    Brilliant coupling of Dr. Seuss with the machinery, Lynne. Too many years since I read Seuss! He can still make me smile. :) My husband would have been in seventh heaven in that place!

  12. Thanks, Jo. We just didn’t have enough time to do it justice that afternoon, so we went back the next morning. We really enjoyed this place, except the ghouls were a little disconcerting, to say the least. :)

  13. Fun post Lynne! Were you expecting the ghoulish scenes or just came upon them?

  14. It was a surprise from the beginning. At least it was contained in a couple of areas and not spread out all over the place. It would have saddened Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka, two gentle souls. :)

  15. Marko says:

    Hello! I wish you a happy and successful new week.

  16. Madhu says:

    Love, Love, Love this post Lynne!!! :-) Your photos are the perfect accompaniment to the imagery of the brilliant Dr. Seuss. Amazing how a bunch of abandoned factory equipment can hold so much appeal! Great job.

  17. You’re making me grin from ear to ear, Madhu. :) This was a fun post to write and to take liberties with the all the visual thingamabobs, doohickeys and whatchamacallits and of course, my friend, Dr. Seuss.

  18. Oh, wow. I hadn’t seen this! Your pics really convey the atmosphere and imagination of Dr Seuss… I could easily get lost in such a place. Where I live, there are lots of oil refineries and factories. I know most people think them ugly, but I always feel like I’m living in some sort of future dystopia… like a Mad Max film. Something surreal about it, which I love.

  19. I think these places are so cool. It was the hi-lite of our southern trip. We came back the next morning because we enjoyed it so much…ghouls and all. Thanks for commenting. :)

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