1000 Small Towns


FOLEY ALABAMA – This rapidly growing community reached the century mark this year. At last count (2013) the population was estimated to be 15,818.For those of us who lived in New England it is hard to image a rapidly growing community that young. For example, little Otisfield, Maine, with a population of less than 2,000 has been around since James Otis arrived in 1771. Otis field is where the “Seeds of Peace” group sends young people from areas where there is conflict around the world to get to know one another. The goal is to train future leaders that will be able to get along.The well known coastal villages of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine date back to the 1620s, according to their official historian, Joyce Butler. Kennebunkport is where the family of our 41st president, George H. W. Bush, has a summer home.

This is not designed to criticize or demean Foley in any way. Rather it is just the fact it is. Foley is just now celebrating its first hundred years that caught our attention.

Foley knows how to celebrate. It spent $600,000 on its centennial plaza, where it has erected a 52 foot tall clock tower with 32 brass bells.

It is planning to build a $27 million “Sports Tourism Complex” on 89 acres that cost more than $2 million. It will include a 104,000 square foot events center and 16 multi-use athletic fields.

Foley’s massive post office could serve a city of four or five times its current population. The lobby is large enough to park an 18-wheeler inside.Across the street one finds the popular Foley Coffee Shop, with a busy luncheon crowd. It reminded me of the mythical Chatterbox Cafe on Garrison Keillor’s popular Public Radio show, Prairie Home Companion. Yet it doesn’t rank very high on the 101 restaurants in Foley.There is a statewide brochure that lists “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die.” Foley makes that list more often them many communities.

The Gift Horse is known for its Apple Cheese casserole; Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain offers a Key Lime milkshake; the Fish River grill is known for its OMG seafood feast; Wolf Bay Lodge makes the list with its seafood platter and gumbo; while Lambert’s Cafe is recognized for large portions and “Throwed rolls.”

Lamberts has three locations. The first restaurant opened in in Sikeston, Missouri and moved several times. A second cafe opened in Springfield, Missouri. The cafe in Foley was third to open.

So you ask, what is a “throwed roll?” Here is their explanation. “The first roll was thrown in 1976 by (thw late) Norman Lambert. At the original location, he would walk around and hand out the rolls. One day it was really busy when Norman couldn’t get through the crowd….one of the customers yelled to him “Throw the dang thing!” and with that the “Home of Throwed Rolls” was born. It also is known for what they call “pass arounds.”Pass-arounds are carried around the restaurant in buckets and given to any customer who wants them. The traditional Lambert’s pass-arounds include: Fried potatoes and onions, Macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas, fried okra, sorghum molasses, and apple butter. The Travel Channel named Lambert’s Cafe as the “World’s Best Place to Pig Out”.

Tanger’s Outlets has 120 stores in Foley, which makes shopping there popular.

It has an impressive visitor center, and railroad museum that includes a model train exhibit. Diagonally across the street is the Holmes Medical Museum, which once served as the county’s first hospital, until 1958.

Foley also has an art center that displays the work of local artists.

I will be interesting to visit Foley ten years from now to see how it has grown.

It is an impressive booming community with a population of less than 16,000.

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