Making the Grade: On the Road to Alexander City

PHOTOS BY Mike Wallace / for the observer


In 1980-81, my senior year at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City (“Eleck” City to the locals), I was in the radio show class. Fortunately, my best friends Amelia and Leigh Ann were in there as well, along with 12 other classmates. Now, I’d like to say that we were chosen for our abilities and talents. Nope; our names were drawn out of a hat.

  Still, that was one of my favorite classes at BRHS. On Monday through Wednesday, we would seek out newsworthy items at school and write them up under the guidance of Ms. Melba Turner, our teacher. Then on Thursday and Friday, we’d drive ourselves (Remember, this was when the world was a much safer place.), to our then- local radio station, WRFS AM/FM (“Radio’s Friendliest Station”). There, we would read our stories aloud and have them taped.

  After the taping of the show, which was called, “The 10:15 Express from BRHS,” we’d walk across the street to Carlisle’s Drugs to have a refreshing treat at their wonderful soda fountain, or we’d drive to the then- Piggly Wiggly to buy lunch at their delicious deli. Ah, those were the days. Although Carlisle’s Drugs no longer has a pharmacy, the soda fountain still serves up delicious sandwiches and ice cream treats. A soda fountain in the 21st century is quite rare. Unfortunately, the Piggly Wiggly hasn’t had a deli in quite a number of years.

  On Saturdays, “The 10:15 Express from BRHS” was broadcast at, you guessed it, 10:15 a.m. It was so much fun to hear our voices over the air waves.

  However, since I didn’t have a smooth-sounding radio voice, being a DJ was not in my future. Instead, after graduating from Auburn with a B.A. in 1985, I sold advertising air time at WRFS and at another radio station in Sylacauga. Once at the Sylacauga station, a young female DJ, who had an amazing radio voice, didn’t want to be the recorded witch’s cackle for a Halloween promo, which we were running. Therefore, I stepped forward and cackled, thus ending my on-air radio career forever.

  However, Mike Lewis, a former classmate and fellow 10:15 Express crew member, certainly has a commanding voice for radio. As a result, Lewis (I’m referring to him by his last name per AP style and so that I won’t mix him up with my husband Mike.), worked as a DJ for WRFS during college and currently works as a weekend DJ for WSGN AM/FM.

  My husband Mike and I chatted with Lewis back at our belated 40th class reunion this past April. It was great catching up with Lewis, and last week, Mike and I met him for supper in Alex City.

  Lewis has had an impressive career in communications. For 25 years, he worked as press secretary in Washington, D.C., for three different U.S. congressmen. Now, Lewis works in Montgomery as the communications director for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

  Mike and I went to meet Lewis for supper at Jake’s Restaurant at 16 Broad St. in downtown Alex City. Jake Mixon, the owner, opened the restaurant in 2010; we met him, and he made us feel very welcome. Also, right away I admired the building’s cozy, comfortable atmosphere.

  Tammy, our server, was wonderful, helpful and patient. For his entrée, Mike chose an 8-ounce beef filet, cooked medium well, with a baked potato and garden salad. I chose the exact same order; however, my steak had to be well done, of course.

  Lewis chose the 10-ounce sirloin, garden salad and broccoli with cheese. Everything was perfectly prepared. The salad was fresh and delicious, consisting of Romaine lettuce (Those dark, green leaves have a lot of nutrients.), cucumber, Cheddar-Jack cheese, croutons and dressing.

  Also, our steaks were terrific, being mouthwateringly tender and juicy. Run and do not walk to Jake’s Restaurant, especially if you are visiting Lake Martin, the most beautiful lake in Sweet Home Alabama.

  Jake’s offers diners some tempting appetizers. These include: crab claws, Southwest eggrolls, fried mushrooms, cheese sticks, loaded potato skins, fried Wickles pickles and loaded fries.

  Besides our excellent entrees, Jake’s also serves diners: a 16-ounce ribeye, the round about hamburger steak, chicken dishes, fish and seafood, pasta, burgers and sandwiches. Believe me, you’ll have a lot of delicious choices when you dine at Jake’s.

PHOTOS BY Mike Wallace / for the observer

  Jake’s Restaurant is open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; is closed on Monday; is open on Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; and is closed on Saturday.

  Mike Lewis, this review was for you. It was great dining with you in our hometown.

  Jake’s Restaurant makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

  Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at


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