Phil moved to Montevallo with his wife and daughter in 1993. After retiring in 2008, he opened Blue Phrog art gallery and later Falcon Art Supplies. Most afternoons, you can find him sitting on the porch of Eclipse talking about life with other Montevallo locals in a group lovingly referred to as "The Old Men's Club".
On moving from birmingham to a university town
"It's wonderful. Our daughter went to the university, and we are affiliated with the university in several ways. The president is a friend of ours through the city, and the students are always fun. It’s nice to meet young people. Friends that have sent their children here, we’re sort of caretakers, if you will. We try to take them under our wing and help them out. I think that being in a small town allows you the opportunity to get to know people better. It’s just… it’s closeness. The neighbors [in Homewood]… not that they were bad, but they were too close for my liking. Here, we got a big piece of property. I got critters- deer, turkey, all kinds of stuff on the property. Homewood is convenient, but since we quit all that rowdiness, we’re fine right here. We’ve got grocery stores and we got pharmacies and we have people that we do business with locally, which is another big thing: to be able to deal with people that you know."
the origin of the "old men's club"
"It really got started at Barnstormer’s. That was, oh lord, 20-something years ago or more. Adam owned Barnstormers, and one afternoon we were talking to him about how we’re in here everyday, so what are the chances that we can get specials on beers? He looked at Ronnie and said, ‘How old are you’? Ronnie said, ‘I’m 57’. He said, ‘Alright, if you’re 57 or older, your beer is a buck’. When Barnstormers closed we went to another place, and then it moved, and we ended up at Eclipse. Paul Boyd just graduated with a master’s degree. He made buttons for us, because he was an honorary member. We’re here every day at 3 o’clock, drink beer, and talk. We don’t solve a problem anywhere- we don’t allow politics, they come up very very rarely. We don’t let religion come up. Not that either one are bad, but in most cases, one or the other’s gonna cause an argument. We don’t wanna argue."
"The diversity in this town is incredible. There are all sorts of lifestyles going on in Montevallo and most people don’t care. Some people are offended by things that go on, but they’re not allowed to deal with it. You deal with it personally, on your own. We don’t care. Enjoy yourself. I think that part of Montevallo is one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand- a lot of the old people. I’m 71 years old, and we’ve got friends that are in the OMC that are 87. They don’t like any of the renovation. They think the university is taking over the town. So what? I mean, I don’t want to end up like Wilton, not that there’s anything wrong with Wilton. [Wilton is a very sleepy town neighboring Montevallo.] In Montevallo, everybody is just what they want to be.
We own a motor home club. We go all over camping. We meet people all over the place- by campfires, in restaurants, in places all over the Southeast. I tell people that the one thing is if you visit Montevallo, you’re not gonna want to leave. There are people like Steve, who just walked by- came here for school in ’89 and never left. He’s the executive director of the chamber of commerce. Never left. It’s a little piece of peacefulness. The word ‘diversity' is just incredible describing Montevallo. There’s second amendment people and there’s non second amendment people. There are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, ‘I Don’t Give A Craps’, everything- right here."
"This new project that we’re working on with the main street renovation is going to be incredible. From here to city hall- it’s gonna be a ball. There’s gonna be sidewalks, a new park down by UMOM, and everybody’s on board. New people in town are getting involved. The old people think they don’t want it to change. Well, they didn’t want the old Ford dealership to go away, and it became a McDonald’s instead. But a lot of the older people meet there every morning for breakfast, so they’ve accepted that change. We are going to become- I would like to think, being involved in the arts council [Phil’s wife is the president]- for this to become an art community. It can’t be as big as Fairhope, because Fairhope has the climate and it’s established, but we’d like it to happen. That’s why we opened the gallery. We’re trying our best. [Montevallo is at its worst] is when lot of the old, established thoughts get together and circle the wagons to stop new thoughts and new things from occurring. We were hoping to establish an entertainment district. That was so misunderstood by a lot of the establishment, thinking it would become a Bourbon Street. That was brought up in City Council! Someone stood up and said, ‘We don’t want it to be like Bourbon Street, we don’t want gunfights in the street’. I mean, please. That’s when it’s at its worst- when people think the things we’re trying to establish and accomplish are all bad."
On coming together
"Montevallo is at its best when there is a reason to rally, like parades. We have a lot of parades. I’ve played Santa Claus in the Christmas parade. We have an MLK parade, we have a fire parade. Everybody’s there. We have big art shows, art walks, all of the artists line up and down the street and show their wares or do their crafts. It’s amazing. We get students involved in that. We have a lot of volunteers in Montevallo. If something happens, those volunteers are there. We don’t want any recognition, we just want to help people. Montevallo comes together. It doesn’t have to be a specific event or time or happening, but it occurs. There was a recent housefire, and there’s a GoFundMe site. Well, we’ve all contributed to that site. Cheryl, who owns Eclipse, gave each of those girls $50 food gifts. The University is putting them up in housing. You wouldn’t find that most places. We’re that way- we’re tight, we’re close knit, we’re protective of our own, We also have a situation where we try to address the needs of others. People that are living in poverty within 3 miles of the city, we do our best to try to help them when they need something. The young lady sitting with the OMC right now had her car shut down on the interstate last week. She picked up the phone, boom, somebody went and got her. It’s just like that- happens all the time."