The Cullman Comet

15 Oct

This weekend, my friends and I drove to Starkville, Mississippi to watch the University of Tennessee play Mississippi State University in football. The best way to get there from here is to go through Alabama. Yes, Mississippi borders Tennessee but going through another bordering state is the fastest route. Weird, I know.

It is also the best route because it allows us to stop in Cullman, Alabama and eat at the All Steak Restaurant, home of the world-famous orange marmalade rolls.

Passion on a Plate

We got a lot of looks as we walked in because we were wearing the colors of our team, and that’s not something seen very often in Alabama. An elderly man wearing a crimson University of Alabama shirt took special notice and walked to our table when he was finished eating. He was a nice man who asked us where we were from and what we thought about our team. After a few minutes, we offered him a seat.

He introduced himself as Tom Drake, and we spent the lunch hearing the story of his life – one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard.

Mr. Drake was born in Cullman County and found his way from there to Chattanooga, where he played football and wrestled in college. After college, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the army drafted him, as well. In those days, the federal government was more powerful that the NFL, so off to the army he went.

After being honorably discharged, Mr. Drake was hired by Bear Bryant to coach wrestling and football for the Crimson Tide. When we asked who was the best player he ever coached, he did not hesitate to say Joe Willie Namath. However, coaching was not his calling, and Mr. Drake went to law school.

Bear Bryant and Joe Willie Namath

While still enrolled in school, he won a seat in the state legislature and continued to be elected for 32 years.  During that time, Mr. Drake served as Speaker of the House and worked closely with infamous governor, George Wallace.

In Birmingham, they love the governor.

Now, that is an event filled life, but there was more. Mr. Drake spent his spare time as a professional wrestler. Fighting under the name “The Cullman Comet”, Mr. Drake fought against some of the most famous wrestlers of the era. He was later inducted into the International Wrestlers Hall of Fame.

The Cullman Comet

With such a wide array of talents and experiences, Mr. Drake made a perfect contestant for What’s My Line?, and he appeared on that show in the 1970s.

We barely had time to ask questions as he told story after story. However, his most important story was about his wife. They did everything together, but she died a year ago from brain cancer. He said that he still hasn’t recovered from the loss, and I got the feeling that he just needed someone to talk to. He needed to talk about his life and his memories, and I felt honored that he picked three strangers who were wearing the wrong colors.

Mr. Drake said that he is writing a book, and I hope that he finishes it. The book would chronicle a man’s life but also a piece of our history. I was reminded during lunch that history can be found anywhere. It can be found in old documents, but it can also be found in a conversation at the All Steak Restaurant in Cullman, Alabama.

16 Responses to “The Cullman Comet”

  1. Sarah October 15, 2012 at 03:07 #

    He sounds awesome. Glad you got to visit with him.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 15, 2012 at 03:38 #

      It was awesome. Everyone has an interesting story, but his was more interesting than most.

  2. javaj240 October 15, 2012 at 04:02 #

    Wow! That was a serendipitous stop!

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 15, 2012 at 04:15 #

      Supremely serendipitous.

  3. winnwords1 October 15, 2012 at 11:39 #

    A wonderful anecdote! Sometimes the most thought-provoking moments in a day are the completely unexpected ones…

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 15, 2012 at 14:12 #

      It was a great experience. We can learn much by just talking to people. Thank you for reading my post and taking time to comment.

  4. Mark R. Cheathem October 16, 2012 at 01:00 #

    There’s actually a quicker way to Starkville that requires taking the back roads in West TN, but it shaves off about 40 minutes.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 16, 2012 at 02:32 #

      I’ve been that way, too. We just couldn’t pass up the orange marmalade rolls.

  5. DLF February 8, 2013 at 15:15 #

    Mr. Drake was a guest on the 70’s show “What’s My Line?” He was a lawyer, farmer and politician and they had to guess his other occupation: wrestling.

    • Rick February 8, 2013 at 18:22 #

      I read that when I was researching Mr. Drake. I thought about putting that in the post but decided to stick with the things that we actually talked about. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever met.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Renaissance Man « Surrounded By Imbeciles - November 2, 2012

    […] have qualified for such a distinction. Many, like Howard Hughes, are famous, but many more, like Tom Drake, are not. However, I believe that one man, who gained fame in the mid-decades of the 20th Century […]

  2. A Post About Posts | Surrounded By Imbeciles - June 10, 2013

    […] the best experiences of my life was meeting a man named Tom Drake, and I wrote about it in “The Cullman Comet“. This is a post that I would like everyone to read. Truly, he is an interesting […]

  3. Let’s Talk About Hawthorne (and a few other things, too) | Surrounded By Imbeciles - August 27, 2013

    […] had traveled some distance. A student from Alabama, who is here to play basketball, had been to All Steak. Another student from Lawrence, Kansas is here to be on the cycling team. I told them that I had […]

  4. Tennessee, Alabama and Me | Surrounded By Imbeciles - October 24, 2013

    […] where Alabama used to play all of their home games. If the timing was right, then we would eat the All Steak in Cullman. Once in Birmingham, we would park in someone’s yard and walk to the stadium, […]

  5. I Can’t Believe It’s Been Two Years | Surrounded By Imbeciles - November 1, 2013

    […] The Cullman Comet – One of my favorite posts, this is about my meeting with Tom Drake, who has lived a very interesting life. […]

  6. Tennessee, Alabama and Me | SBI: A Thinning Crowd - October 19, 2018

    […] where Alabama used to play all of their home games. If the timing was right, then we would eat the All Steak in Cullman. Once in Birmingham, we would park in someone’s yard and walk to the stadium, […]

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