2022 Oktoberfest Candlelight Walking Tour this Thursday

The Great Depression hits Cullman

Parker Bank, the site of a Depression era bank robbery in Cullman (Cullman County Museum)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The popular Oktoberfest Candlelight Walking Tour makes its return to Cullman on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. led by local historians Julie Burks and former Burgermeister Michael Sullins. Participants are encouraged to arrive at 6:30 to enjoy 1930s music from Glenn Miller, Judy Garland and Gene Autry in front of the Cullman County Museum. In its 13th year, the tour will proceed down Second Avenue Southeast, ending near the intersection of Fourth Street and First Avenue Southeast. 

Set in the Great Depression, the walk’s backdrop will be the 1929 stock market drop of approximately $25 million which equates to more than $1 trillion in modern times. Nationally and locally, faith in banks plummets as people dash to withdraw their savings. Unsecured at the time, many banks were unable to fulfill the withdrawal requests by citizens and many banks fail. Jobs are lost. Unemployment soars and families in Cullman are unable to support themselves, leading to many placing notices in newspapers seeking new homes for their young children.  

Yet not all hope is lost in Cullman, according to Sullins. 

“The good news is that the 1930s in Cullman is not all gloom and doom. Many things we take for granted today had their beginnings in the 1930s,” he said. “For instance, local farmers coming together with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) creating what is today the Cullman Electric Cooperative, the Southern Bell Telephone Company locating in what is today the Mary Carter Paint Store and the community need and desire to build a local hospital (today Cullman Regional) have their roots in the decade of the 1930s.” 

Cullman Hospital (Cullman County Museum)

The tour will highlight two robberies that occurred in Cullman during the Great Depression as the decade of the 1930s saw an increase in such crimes. The first bank robbery occurred in 1932 on Second Avenue Southeast near the current location of Fairview Florist.   

“This year,” said Sullins, “the tour will concentrate on Cullman’s first two bank robberies at gunpoint. The first one near Fairview Florist is an interesting tale to share because it is obvious there was quite a bit of planning that went into devising the robbery; however, it didn’t quite go as smoothly for the robber as he had planned. 

“The second bank robbery occurred down Fourth Street at the old location of the Tennessee Valley Bank in 1936. This is another great tale to share because a young lady features prominently in the story as a local heroine,” continued Sullins.  “Gunshots were fired, and people were wounded.”  

Brother Joseph Zoettl (Cullman County Museum)

The tour will also include stories of Brother Joseph Zoettl and his side project at Ave Maria Grotto. His “Little Jerusalem” was a hobby when not monitoring St. Bernard’s power plant. Zoettl meticulously created miniatures of famous sites in his workshop, crafting them out of items found locally, upcycling well before its popularity. 

The free walk is open to all and a truly unique Oktoberfest experience. 

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