Ice cream, old hymns; it must be heaven

Published 12:04am Saturday, August 16, 2014

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I kept looking across to Covington Hall for Miss Cora. I had invited her over for some pear cobbler, served with vanilla ice cream, at my little teacart.

While I waited, I reviewed in my mind the news I wanted to share with her.

Our community was invited for Tuesday, August 5, to a sing-a-long of favorite hymns, sponsored by St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Presiding at the 6:30 p.m. singing was “Mother Cindy” Howard, rector of St. Mary’s.

Organist for the hour-long, informal sing was St. Mary’s choirmaster, John A. Beasley, former math instructor at the Andalusia High School. Beasley also plays at First Methodist Church and First Baptist Church., both on East Three-Notch Street.

Some 26 hymns, mostly old standards, were sung.

One was “I’ll Fly Away.”

Mother Cindy, who has a beautiful voice, said that she wants “I’ll Fly Away” sung at her funeral.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see Baptist hymnals available for the sing-a-long, along with music from the Episcopal Church, Church of Christ, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Pieces from the old Cokesbury hymnal and the old Broadman were also used.

I thought, “This is what Heaven must be like, people of different congregations, gathered to sing God’s praises.”

As we sang, tears filled my eyes and words caught in my throat.

In my mind, moved by the beauty and memories of old hymns, I could see Ann (Long) Albritton, who loved music so, outlined against a window through which the afternoon sunlight flooded. I could see her husband, the ethereal William Albritton, outlined against stained glass. Oh, sweet hour of song! Sweet hour of song!

Afterwards, refreshments were served in the parish (fellowship) hall.

Congratulations to Abby C. Bracewell of Andalusia and Lauren Kay Donaldson of Opp. Both were recently graduated from the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University. Both earned a Juris Doctor in Law.

I have mentioned in a previous column that this past July four of our own went on a golf holiday in Scotland, Mike Wells, his son John, Steve Wiggins, and Richard Jones. I want to add a list of the impressive golf courses the men played – St. Andrews New (100 years old), Old (600 years old), Eden Courses, Carnoustie Championship, Royal Troon, Troon Portland, and Turnberry Ailsa. These names may not mean much to most readers, but they are top of the list!

The Covington Rifles Camp 1586 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans met August 7 in the Dixon Memorial of the Andalusia Public Library, along with local members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The SCV is the men’s division and the UDC is the women’s division of these two Confederate groups, dedicated to keeping the memories of their ancestors alive.

Randy “R” Kelley, the new SCV commander, presided for his first time, welcoming guests.

Jimmy Cobb led pledges to the flags.

Margie (Jacques) Thomasson, member of the UDC, played “Dixie” on the piano as all stood to sing.

John Allen Gantt reported that there is still one woman alive who is still drawing a Union pension from the Veterans Administration because of the War Between the States. Remarkable!

Commander Kelley recognized all SCV officers who served last year and those elected to serve this year.

One guest, Joe Clark, representing the SCV camp in Enterprise, donated 96 Confederate flags to the Covington Rifles Camp. Clark, who lives in Elba, is brigade (district) commander of the camps in Southeast Alabama as well as commander of the Coffee County Rangers Camp 911 in Enterprise.

Clark’s wife, Donna, who is president of the Alabama Division of the UDC, installed UDC officers for the Andalusia area — Brandi Evans, president and chaplain; Tammie Evans, treasurer; Eleanor Williamson, second vice-president and recorder; and Linda Castleberry, vice-president, secretary, and historian of military records.

Attending were Curtis and Margie Thomasson, Randy and Sherry Kelley, Joe Wingard, Derick Davis, Larry Shaw, Joe and Donna Clark of Elba, Linda Castleberry of Red Level and her granddaughters, Taylor Lawson and Laken Steele; Sandy Pochert, Morris Mullen, John Allen Gantt, Jimmy Cobb, Brandi Evans, her mother, Tammie Evans, Tammie’s mother, Eleanor Williamson; Irene Butler, Hank Roberts, who worded the prayers; Pinder Davis, and Vaughn Bowers.

The Portly Gentleman will now tell us of his trip July 11 – 13 to the Alabama Writers’ Conclave in Fairhope, Alabama.

The AWC is an organization that encourages creative writing. The annual conference features successfully published authors and workshops to improve writing skills.

“On my way to the AWC conference I ate lunch at Ed’s Shed on the Causeway between Spanish Fort and Mobile. From my table I ‘took in’ Mobile Bay, I-10, and the Mobile horizon. My meal consisted of crab bisque, slaw, white fish almondine, green beans, and rice pilaf.

“I motored along Scenic 98 to Fairhope, arriving at the site of our conference, the Fairhope campus of the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

“Arriving early to register, I ran into Jeanie Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum in Montgomery, another writers’ group.

“As we talked, we found we both knew the late Stephanie Morgan, who died all too young. She was a former student of mine and a best friend to Jeanie. We both recounted Stephanie’s love of flowers.

“I checked in at the nearby Hampton Inn, changed, and drove down the street to the Venue Restaurant for a buffet supper and a speech by the keynote speaker of the conference.

“Sue Walker, past poet laureate of Alabama and president of the AWC, a teacher of English at the University of South Alabama’s main campus in Mobile, called the meeting to order.

“Jeanie Thompson introduced the keynote speaker, Rick Bragg, a successful and popular Alabama author.

“Born in Piedmont, Alabama, and known to many for his essays at the end of Southern Living, as well as two novels, Ava’s Man and All Over but the Shouting, Bragg has written a new book on Jerry Lee Lewis, the musical entertainer.

“Wearing a dark suit and long hair, bearded, hunch-shouldered , the uninhibited Bragg spoke in his tenor voice about life, using anecdotes and abundant humor.

“His talk was peppered with appreciative laughter from the audience.

“Bragg recently won the prestigious Harper Lee Award as Alabama’s outstanding writer. He afterwards dutifully paid the much respected Miss Lee a visit. Bragg found Dr. and Mrs. Wayne Flyntt already at her side. Flyntt is one of Alabama’s most respected historians. Not long after the Flyntts had left, Miss Lee said to Bragg, ‘There go the only two people from Auburn I could ever stand.’

“Bragg had the Harper Lee Award with him. Miss Lee wanted to see it. Taking it, she uttered ‘Oh, my!’ at its heaviness.

“About Jerry Lee Lewis, Bragg said Lewis thought of Elvis as ‘weak.’

“Bragg said, too, that Lewis was ‘utterly unapologetic of his life’; and that if he lived to be 78, like Lewis, that he’d live on Jim Bean and sausage biscuits.

“Bragg said that he hated writing; and when he no longer has to write, then he’ll fish, shoot water moccasins, and drink. Currently, he’s 54.

“Bragg doesn’t think much of ‘texting.’ He thinks people ought to use sentences, capitals, punctuation. He said that one cannot ‘text elegantly.’

“At my table I enjoyed a conversation with James Victor Herod, a former professor who has retired to Grove Hill, Alabama. He knows my friend, the beloved Miss Marion Bumpers, 88, a retired schoolteacher who also retired to Grove Hill.

“The next day I attended writing classes at the Fairhope campus of the University of South Alabama, once the campus of the St. James Episcopal Church.

“To start the day Jeanie Thompson delivered Alabama’s Literary State of the State.

“In the second session Jim Murphy, a teacher at the University of Montevallo, spoke on poetry. Each attendee was asked to try his hand at a poem. In only a few minutes Sue Walker, former poet laureate of Alabama, composed ‘By George.’

“In the third session Katharine Sands, a literary agent from New York City, spoke on publishing. This session was attended in what was once the church sanctuary and is now an autitorium.

“For lunch I dined elegantly in the Fairhope Inn with white cloth napkins, white table cloths, and bread plates. My meal was tomato bisque and snapper over mixed vegetables and sauce, served in a large, rimmed bowl. For dessert I enjoyed bread pudding with blueberries and white chocolate under a brandy sauce, plus coffee.

“Nearby dined Chervis Isom, a writer from Birmingham, and five ladies, all to himself.

Back at the Fairhope campus classrooms of the USA, I attended three more sessions – Linda Busby Parker’s class on fiction, Katharine Sands’s additional advice on being published, and Jim Murphy’s, again on poetry.

“I took supper next door to the Hampton Inn at Master Joe’s Sushi, eating Chinese food. A heavy rain fell.

“I spent part of the evening reading a little booklet of 24 poems, Poems in Your Pocket, given me by Betty (Smith) Spence, a Mobile poet. Her booklet is small enough to fit into one’s shirt pocket. I enjoyed her short poems, especially ‘Miss Flora’s in the Garden’ and ‘Mother Teresa on Prayer.’

“Sunday morning the conference ended with the following sessions: a poetry panel, a workshop by Barry Marks on how to make one’s work more appealing, and a business session.

“The panel included Rob Gray, poet and teacher at USA; Susan Luther, Huntsville poet; Barry Marks, a Birmingham attorney and president of the Alabama State Poetry Society; and P. T. Paul, a Mobile poet and vice-president of the AWC.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman.

The celebration of the War of 1812 (1812 – 1815) continues.

Again, I ask the citizens of Andalusia to join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box 1582, Andalusia, Alabama 36420. Include your e-mail address if you wish to be reminded of upcoming meetings.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week 150 years ago.

The Confederate crusier Tallahassee defeated 23 Federal ships. The Battle of Atlanta continued.

For those who collect stamps, consider those associated with the War of 1812 and the Sesquicentennial of “the War.”

The mysterian is the answer to a riddle, “I am half, yet I am whole.”

Birthdays this week are those of Carrie Jacobs Bond, American writer of songs, and Sir Walter Scott, Scottish novelist and poet, second perhaps in greatness to Charles Dickens.

Miss Bond wrote sentimental songs such as “I Love You Truly” and “When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day.”

The great Scott first earned fame and fortune as a poet; then, as a novelist of such successes as Ivanhoe. His castle-like home is open to the public. He was influential upon the Old South with his glorification of the feudal system (plantation system). The American version of Scott is William Gilmore Simms, the greatest writer of the Old South, whose plantation, Woodlands, still exists.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to join Buffalo Bob Smith in encouraging each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing.

Fare thee well.

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