The Birmingham Grotto meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 PM, at the room above Matthews Bar and Grill (except when this conflicts with a holiday or the TAG Fall Cave-In. Contact us for specific dates.)
Annual dues are collected at the October monthly meeting in the amount of $15 per indivdual or $20 per family. Members receive our monthly newletter and have access to periodicals and films in our Grotto Library. Membership in the NSS is strongly recommended.
The Birmingham Grotto received a charter from the NSS in 1958 through the efforts of Walter Anderton, our first president. The most important stipulation made at the initial meeting, was that to ban girls from the club! In the early years members only learned of caves from discussions with the locals, and concentrated their caving efforts in the Blount County area. They visited Guffey, Anderson, Miles, Dixons, Cathedral, Goat, and other nearby caves and worked at mapping some of them. There were even vertical training sessions as early as 1960--led by Jim Davis.
Our first publication was the Cavea Novea (edited by Steve Blackwelder and Jim Davis), which ran from November, 1960 until roughly March of the following year. The Confederate Caver (compiled by Herb Klein) followed next as a quarterly publication, and ran for part of 1963 until Herb was transferred from the area. No other publications are known from 1963 until 1970 when the Birmingham Grotto News appeared.
Through the 60's the Grotto continued to search for new caves in central and north Alabama. Memorable events from this era include: The Little Oak Mountain Limestone Project, the Guffy movie project, and the hosting of the 1961 Cave Carnival. The Grotto even decided to let females attend caving trips in 1962 (if they were accompanied by their husbands!), and later that year agreed to let them become members. The efforts of Charles Snider and Rob Turner were key to keeping the group together in these early "lean" years.
In 1970 the Grotto began publishing again under the name Birmingham Grotto News, which included many revealing trip reports. Noteable entries include: notes on discoveries in Bloodstone by Jim McDowell, rescue efforts from Tom Chamblee, and vertical trip reports from Milo Washington (three members we are blessed to still count among our membership!). At this time, the Grotto was meeting at the Alabama Gas Company and dues were $4 yearly.
In 1974, Kathy Holland-Spencer (our first female president) began an ambitious project--that of finding and mapping all the caves in the William B Bankhed Forest. Fortunately, this was never completed, and still entices our members to the area today! Other activities included the mapping of Fallen Spring Cave (under the direction of Lin Guy), assisting with a movie made in War Eagle, and the connection of Anderson Cave to Polecat Cave. Birmingham also hosted the SERA Cave Carnival again in 1976. Grotto membership remained steady between 40 - 50 cavers during this period, and the newsletter was taken over by Dave and Valerie Howell in 1977.
1980 saw the election of our second female president--Valerie Howell--and our meetings were being held at UAB. The Grotto hosted the SERA Cave Carnival again in 1981 (as well as 1985), and oversaw the printing of T-shirts for the TAG Fall Cave-In in '81 as well. Noteable projects from this time would include the mapping of Three Sisters Pit and Bootlegger Cave (by Jimmy Harrison and John Meadows), and multiple clean-up trips to Bangor Cave. Dave Howell also began leading Annual Grotto Ridgewalking trips--a tradition that continues to this day!
Membership remained steady through the 80's, and the Grotto won three awards at the 1987 NSS Graphics Arts Salon for newsletter covers. 1989 saw the introduction of another Grotto tradition-- the annual Guntersville Get-a-way, as well as the discovery of Big Hammer Cave (which is still surrounded by much controversy!)
Unfortunately, 1990 found the Birmingham Grotto Newsletter out of production until November, when Edna Caudle took over the responsibility. During this time survey efforts continued in Blowing Saltpeter Cave, Gene Lamberts Cave, and Dan Morton Cave. The Grotto was also allowed entered the closed Anderson-Polecat System to remove trash. The Adopt-A-Mile Program was popular among members for several years druing this time, and trash was removed from the side of Hwy 79 in Jefferson County.
The job of newsletter editor was handed off to Scott Fee in 1994. In addition, Danny Cobb prepared a number of newsletter covers which subsequently won some awards in the NSS's annual Graphic Arts Salon.
In 1995 the Grotto set its sites on the next big milestone - The hosting of the '96 SERA Cave Carnival at Camp Jackson. Under the direction of Dave Howell, this annual event was a huge success for the Grotto thanks to the efforts of many volunteers.
Julie Morgan took over editorship of the Birmingham Grotto Newsletter in June 2002. In October 2004 Scott Parvin took over editorship and made even more improvements. He turned it over to the present editor, Toby Kemp, who has been able to provide the grotto with a full-color newsletter (the first ever!)since taking the reins in January 2006.
The grotto developed a case of Speleo Politics and hosted the NSS Board of Governors meeting on November 4, 2004. At this time Scott Fee was serving as NSS President while Martha Mills was serving as an NSS Board Member. After the meeting, the grotto hosted a cool evening cookout at Alabama Caverns. Not yet feeling burdened, the grotto hosted the 2005 SERA Winter Business Meeting in Stevenson, Alabama.
In 2005 the Grotto once again took on the arduous job of hosting the SERA Summer Cave Carnival. Scott Fee and Joel McGuire chaired the event, which was held at Camp Comer in Mentone, Alabama. Once again the grotto membership rallied together to host a fantastic caving event complete with a 1200 acre lake, war canoe races, rappelling tower, 3-D slideshow, and an on-site, catered banquet.
We include a diverse group of people from archeologists and surveyors to ridgewalkers and recreational cavers- all joined together in order to protect and preserve our natural underground wilderness.
Please send written correspondences to:
© 2010 Birmingham Grotto
P.O. Box 59607
Birmingham, Al 35259