James V. Sides: Busy Hands, Happy Hands

By: qwerty53

Jun 01 2008

Category: Father's Day, Helena, painting, Uncategorized

1 Comment

Aperture:f/5
Focal Length:26mm
ISO:400
Shutter:1/60 sec
Camera:NIKON D70

In 1960, James Sides and Marion Davidson tied the knot—having known one another since their first school years together at Helena Elementary School. Today, some 48 years, four daughters and eight grandchildren later, they enjoy their pristinely restored family home on Second Street, circa 1895, surrounded by a lovingly tended yard.

Over the past fifteen years, James has patiently refinished all the interior floors, some pine, some oak and some maple, uncovered and restored the interior transoms, found a hidden fireplace, smoothed and repainted walls and built new cabinets for the kitchen. From beneath multiple coats of paint, he rescued each of the ornately swirled original hinges on the entrance and parlor doors and the wainscoting in the kitchen. He designed and built a functional, drop leaf kitchen tabletop which rests atop a base made from Marion’s mother’s treadle Singer sewing machine.

Just inside the front door hangs one of James’ paintings, showing the original façade of the home prior to 1933 when the mansard roof and second story were demolished by tornado. Another of his canvases, depicting a street scene of early Helena, which is actually just around the corner from his house, is mounted over the fireplace in the poplar-paneled den.


In that same room, hangs a photograph of James back in his college days at Georgia Tech, where he played quarterback for Bobby Dodd. After volunteering for the draft while in high school, he found himself in Camp Zama, Japan with the Signal Corps and playing on the Army football team. Via this experience, he was recommended for a full football scholarship at Georgia Tech upon his return. Today, he counts himself an Auburn fan, with one grandson enrolled there, and attends most AU games.

His craftsmanship has spread out the back door onto a deck and now cascades into a series of brick-walled flowerbeds and patios. He “enjoys a bit of masonry work,” he confides. He most prefers bricks with an aged patina and has collected them from various demolition sites in Birmingham. The grandly-proportioned planters spanning the back drive and spilling with colorful annuals are also of his labor, poured from molds found and rescued from the Railroad Depot, which was moved from the side of the Davidson property in 1999 across to its present location.

His daughters and wife attest to his ability to carry out any project they conceive, whether it’s re-upholstering furniture, making draperies or carving and assembling the wooden rocking horse each grandchild has received. Large concrete pavers, each initialed with a letter that spells out ‘Pop’s Shop’ lead to his workshop, his space for woodworking projects. Under a grand 130 yr-old hackberry tree, he has surrounded his shop with native hydrangeas and ferns.

When taking a breather from his multiple creative outlets, James will gladly take up his favorite Shimano rod and reel and tackle box, of fine assortment, and enjoy the tranquility of the sport at Lay Lake or Lake Jordan. He says he’s pretty lucky with the Fire Tiger lure, but Marion attests, throws back everything he catches!

Below: Marion Sides’ childhood dolls
& doll house

Photos & Commentary

Copyright 2008
Laura Brookhart

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One comment on “James V. Sides: Busy Hands, Happy Hands”

  1. That’s really a good story!


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