Keep Smiling… Memories of Noccalula Falls


By Rosie Preston

I hold many dear memories of Noccalula Falls, the first being that I grew up on Lay Springs Road in Gadsden, about two miles from the falls. When I was barely able to walk, my dad and I would follow Black Creek until we reached the falls. It was quite a walk for my small legs, but I would have followed my daddy to the moon!

When we arrived at the falls, it depended on safety as to whether we would continue to walk behind the falling water. Daddy would only go if it was not dangerous. On the days that we did walk behind the falls, the rocks were slippery and I held onto my daddy’s hands, knowing he wouldn’t let me slip.

Thinking back, I can only wonder how many hundreds of snakes we passed during all those years we walked the trial. I know the snakes saw us, but we never saw but one. Just about the time you think you’re safe, you find out you’re not!

Because my daddy was a local brick mason, he had built all of the first bar-b-que pits located around the area of the falls. My dad later built the gold fish pond and fountain at the falls. It made me feel proud to know my daddy had used his talent and career choice to build these things. We used the fire pits when we picnicked and cooked meat on the grills.

Another memory I have of Noccalula Falls is of when I was involved in the Brownies. Our group of girls would cross the street and go to the one picnic table and have a good time playing in the woods. Who would have ever thought back then when I was a third grader in Mitchell Elementary School that the falls would someday be a huge tourist attraction?

I was in the sixth grade on the top floor of the school as we watched the Princess Noccalula statue being built! Our teacher had a hard time getting us to pay attention to our lessons. One thing we always kidded about was the size of  her feet. We came to the conclusion that she must at least wear a size 22 shoe. All my life, I had heard the story of Princess Noccalula and imagined her to be beautiful and petite!

I know I’m changing gears, but a few years ago I took my granddaughter, Wynter Rose, to play at the park. She was jumping up and down when I opened the door and was already running towards the playground. I managed to stop her when I told her that I would like an ice cream cone from Jack’s.

I bought a cone for each of us. I sat comfortably on a bench and watched as she played.  During this time, both ice cream cones began to melt, so I did what any grandmother who loves ice cream would do – I kept licking both of them. After all, I couldn’t let it spill onto my hands and clothes!

My granddaughter soon returned, and I started telling her the story of how the Princess Noccalula jumped over the falls to keep from marrying a man from another Indian tribe, and that was how the waterfall became known as Noccalula Falls.

“But Nana, Noccalula is not real,” she pointed out.

I knew it had taken a lot of courage on her part to inform me of this fact as she looked at me with pity and sadness in her eyes. She had broken the news to me gently. What she saw was a statue and she could not be fooled. So, I didn’t disagree with her!

The park was closing in a few minutes, and it was time to leave. I sat patiently waiting as my mind dwelt upon to the fact that me, my younger sisters, my children, my grandchildren and now my great-grandchildren have been blessed to enjoy this wonderful tourist attraction in our city.

As Wynter Rose and I were getting into my car, I bent over to buckle her car seat, only to hear the astonishment in her voice.

“Nana – You ate my ice cream cone!”

It was true. The weather was hot and I had become distracted reminiscing about old times as I sat comfortably and licked her ice cream.

It was another crash course in Nana 101. I was guilty and gladly bought her another cone.

What a wonderful, beautiful day that I would not have missed it for all the ice cream in the world!  Every day that I get to share with my great-grandchildren is a blessing. My prayer is that even though they are young, they will remember me and the bond and the love we have shared!

Keep smiling, Rosie

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