Candlelight Walking Tour provides Cullman history highlights

Michael Sullins and Julie Burks guide the Oktoberfest Candlelight Walking Tour Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Julie Burks and Michael Sullins hosted the Oktoberfest Candlelight Walking Tour on Thursday evening beginning under the statue of Cullman founder John G. Cullmann. With well over 100 walkers hungry for local history joining the pair along the path, the tour guides weaved tales from the 1930s along Second Avenue Northeast and U.S. Highway 278. 

Traffic lights are coming to Cullman 

In April of 1931, six traffics lights, similar in type to those in the big city of Birmingham, are reported to be on their way to Cullman. The lights were placed at the intersection of Bee Line Highway and Second Avenue West and along east/west roadways. The lights were operational day and night until 11 p.m. 

Filled with the spirit or with the spirits 

In August 1934, church service was underway in west Cullman when a parishioner shouted an “Amen” from a back pew at the beginning of the sermon. As the pastor continued his sermons, the shouts of “Amen” grew louder. Church members investigated and found the lively member was intoxicated. Law enforcement was notified, and the spirited churchgoer was escorted to jail while still exclaiming, “Amen” as taken downtown. 

All Steak Café opens 

In April 1938, the All Steak Café opened under the leadership of local businessman Millard Buchmann. The restaurant was designed in compliance with the new state laws at the time which regulated sanitation and cleanliness. On the menu was the specialty Kansas City steaks, the finest to be found. 

Cullman’s second bank robbery 

Cullman’s first bank robbery occurred in 1932 by a local man named Willie Peek who was apprehended and served time for his offense. 

With four banks in business by 1936 – Parker Bank and Trust Company, Leeth National Bank, Merchants Bank of Hanceville and Tennessee Valley Bank – it was a matter of time before another crime happened. In December 1936, Cullman’s second bank robbery also ended in an arrest, but this time, a victim was shot at Tennessee Valley Bank.  

23-year-old Roy Lee Crawford from the Berlin area was already familiar with a life of crime at his young age. On Dec. 10, 1936, Crawford surveyed the bank, and, when noting only one occupant, entered the building and pulled out his pistol. He shouted for the teller, 22-year-old Catherine Clark Voss, to enter the vault.  

Voss, the daughter of the bank’s head cashier Rene Clark, defiantly refused to cooperate with Crawford’s demands. As Crawford made his second request for Voss to enter the vault, Voss put her hands on her hips and shouted, “No!” 

The bank robber struck Voss over the head with the butt of the gun and a struggle ensued. Crawford dropped the gun, and both scrambled to retrieve it. Crawford snatched the gun and scooped money from the cash drawer stuffing it into the pockets of his overcoat. He ordered Voss into the vault once more and again she refused.  

Crawford fired his weapon at Voss and the bullet pierced her shoulder, passing through her body and ended up in the ceiling. As Crawford ran for the door, Voss screamed for help. Crawford made his way through the streets of Cullman on foot with business proprietors and citizens in pursuit. 

In the meantime, Voss’ father returned from lunch and found his daughter on the floor of the bank bleeding. Voss was rushed to Cullman Hospital by Scheuing’s ambulance. She was examined, bandaged and remained in the hospital under observation for a week. 

Crawford was apprehended after hiding in the basement of a local home and the money was later found in the shed of the home and returned to Tennessee Valley Bank. Once released from the hospital, Voss identified her assailant from a police lineup and wished to return to work at the bank when the doctor released her. 

Two months later, Voss was awarded a Gold Medal of Valor for bravery and service. The award was presented by a National Surety Corporation of Atlanta representative and Tennessee Valley Bank of Decatur President Clyde Hendrix attended along with many Cullman citizens. 

Crawford was sentenced to 75 years in prison by Judge W.W. Callahan. He died on Dec. 31, 1979, and is buried near his parents at the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church Cemetery. 

Voss lived a full life and passed on March 24, 1979. She is buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery. 

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