|History of the Tally Ho|
For more than 60 years, the Tally Ho has been in the business of serving food in an exceptional way. Although the actual date of construction has never been firmly established, the current owner, Bob Kelley, who purchased the property in 1980, has made some effort to establish the historical timeline of the Tally Ho Restaurant.
The Tally Ho is located on two lots on Mangum Avenue in Buena Vista Heights. This subdivision was first registered on April 22, 1926, but the area was originally defended by Rebel forces during the Civil War. Those troops, mainly young boys and old men, were scattered when Federal forces, led by General Wilson, arrived in the area. After that, the ridge above the Mangum Avenue was armed with cannon and used to bombard the areas of downtown Selma where the Confederate aresenal was located, along the Alabama River.
Later, the property was purchased some time in the 1920's by Eugene and Wilhelmena Thrash, who initially develped the property. They erected their primary house on Lot 1 of the property, but decided to build a summer cabin on adjacent lots. Initially built as a basic one room cabin , with room for the Trash's to sleep in the main room, and the kids in an upper attic space, with little room for much more than the bed itself, and no windows or ventilation, the cabin wouldn't pass muster today as a livable space.
Initially the cabin was laid out with two fireplaces, one for the family area, and another for the back porch/cooking area, having a large hood to catch the smoke and soot residue. A gas stove was also installed, having an old bulldozer blade covering the stove top to serve as a surface for boiling and frying foods. The kitchen's crowning achievement was the General Electric, compressor driven refrigerator next to the cook stove, that remained in service through 1957.
The initial floor of the cabin was poured in sections, which were uneven at best. Surrounding this, cedar logs, cut from the woodland around the cabin, were used to erect the walls around the floor and foundation. The first lighting was an electricly wired wheel from an old Selma Fire engine. This structure still hangs today in what is now the Entry Room of the Tally Ho.
Many of the features of the construction are based on Mrs Thrash's demanding requirements. As a woman of somewhat diminuative stature, she felt she should not be inconvenienced by standards of construction. Both windows and door handles were designed 24 inches from the floor. These are some of the most noticed qualities of the construction.
When the Thrash children moved away, the cabin fell into lesser use. Friends of the Thrash's, the Mangolds, suggested they convert the cabin into a 'Tea Room.' which was accepted right away. Ideas for names were thrown into a hat, and the name Tally Ho was first chosen then.
Some of the first occasions held at the Tally Ho Tea Room, were equestrian demonstrations, feature quarter horses and Tennessee Walkers. Often the horses shown were also placed up for sale afterwards. Some reports indicate the horses were sometimes brought indoors to be evaluated by customers while seated enjoying coffee, tea, and sandwiches. At one point, a golf driving range was set up behind the cabin for patrons to enjoy. Occasionally, golf balls with the Tally Ho imprint still turn up.
Sometime after the horseshows began, a second house was built down the lot from the original cabin. This house was somewhat less comfortable, and slightly smaller than the Tally Ho, but if you were in the mood for a little 'game', it was the perfect spot. There was a narrow gated lane behind the Tally Ho, and if the gate was left open, it meant there was 'action tonight.' Many of the wealthier and influential citizens of Selma were known to frequent the little gaming house. Often rumors of prostitution circulated as well, but the size and nature of the house was such that it would have made it difficult to provide such services amongst the dice throwers and card shufflers.
Some say the FBI got wind of the subsidiary enterprises going down the block from the Tally Ho and began an investigation. At any rate, Mr. Thrash divested himself of the operation by signing all of his holdings over to Wilhelmena, who promply divorced him and leased the operations out to the Mangolds from 1953 to 1957. During this time, the Tally Ho begain to thrive as a dinner club. The width of the porch kitchen was increased and a 'secret' bar was installed. Customers would enter through the kitchen to perch upon one of 6 stools available. Even though the Tally Ho only had a license to sell beer, liquor was an option, if you knew how to order it. Word always seemed to make the way around when an inspector was due and it was time to 'get the whiskey out!'
During this time, the Tally Ho became the unofficial off-base 'Officers Club' for members of nearby Craig Air Force Base. Membership cards were issued for as much as $25, in order to gain entrance into the restaurant. Members could purchase their on mug, with name embossed, which sat on shelves above the mantle made to hold the extra numbers as they grew. Historic photos show proof of many dozens of these glasses. Today, the shelves remain in place, but no mugs have ever turned up.
Later, the first addition to the Tally Ho was a dancing room, known as the Bamboo Room, lined with 4 inch bamboo from a local farm in nearby Perry County. In addition, four 'stalls' were added by the Mangolds and Capt. Henry (Willie) Lacy, USAF, in the original cabin room, currently known as the Entry Room. The concept for the stalls came from a restaurant in Memphis. Chains with a numbered brass plates, taken from the bulls at the State Fair. Often steaks from these prize animals were served at the Tally Ho.
Soon the Tally Ho became well established as 'The eating place' and the horseshows and golf went by the wayside. The neighborhood began to develop as well, with streets being widened and houses being built. The Tally Ho replaced the dance porch with a main dining area, and added a full bar. This original bar actually had a tree growing up through the middle of it. When the tree finally died, it was cut off and the roof sealed over. In later years, the stump was deemed a hazard and removed. The kitchen area was also expanded to include a walk-in refrigerator.
Later additions to the Tally Ho included the Cahaba room, and the New room. The former was named for the marble flooring which actually came from the site of the original State of Alabama Capitol in the town of Cahaba. The former was added to expand the main dining area, and originally didn't have as much atmosphere as the Cahaba. Donna Kelley, wife of the current ower, Bob Kelley, added the perfect touch of interior decorating style, and it is now often preferred over the Cahaba room, which Donna has also touched up a bit as well.