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Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I looked down the road, spotting along its edges, pink primroses, yellow coreopsis, and purple verbena, all reminders to me of May and graduation time, a time of senior parties, “sweet girl graduates,” gifts, baccalaureates and extra credit!

On my way to Montgomery this past weekend, I noted that the hillsides along I-65 were swept with primroses, Queen Anne’s lace, daisy fleabane, and English daisies. I saw, too, roses, honeysuckle, grancy greybeards, iris, magnolias, deutzia (the perfect buttonhole), chinaberry blooms, pyracantha blooms, and Seven Sisters roses (Jim and Eva Maloy gave me mine).

Since Confederate Memorial Day was on my mind, I began to see the asphalt highway as a Confederate-grey uniform with white and yellow stripes.

At the foot of McKenzie Hill, I could see much progress in the new four-lane.

At Georgiana, I noticed that the new sidewalk has almost reached the new magnet school.

At Greenville, I admired the profusion of Knock Out roses at the I-65 intersection. In this month’s Southern Living was a nice article about Knock Out roses. They come now in red, dark pink, light pink, yellow and varied.

In Montgomery, I hoped again for the completion of the intersection of I-65 and I-85. It is still not finished.

Seen, enjoying lunch at Off the Square Cafe, were Marie Pierce and two of her three daughters, Virginia Manley from Chattanooga, Tenn., and Ellen Lamar from Montgomery, in town for a visit. A pleasant conversation yielded some interesting facts. The daughters of Marie’s third daughter, Mary Lynn (Mrs. Steve Edgar), Emily and Mary Morgan, recently served as pages for Rep. Seth Hammett at the State House in Montgomery. Mary Morgan proudly had her picture made with Governor Riley. Emily and Mary Morgan are scheduled, too, for a week at Auburn, looking over the engineering and veterinary departments for the future. Virginia, by-the-way, is the grandmother of our own Jay and Sarah Brabner.

When I was dining at Off the Square Cafe Wednesday, I was saddened to learn that Fri., April 30, would be the restaurant’s last day, a victim of the economic times. The eatery that featured home-cooked lunches Monday-Friday opened Jan. 7, 2008.

Confederate Memorial Day in Alabama was this past Monday, April 26. It was also the birth date of Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), the English author of the most famous book of history ever written, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Today is the birth date of Joseph Addison, an English essayist. It is said of Addison that he wrote so well that for 100 years after his death, other authors used him as their supreme example of how to write. I know that Addison has been a major influence upon my own style.

I hope we have some May flowers despite the scarcity of April showers. The opening lines of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales cannot but come to mind. The ever modern, English poet opened his most famous work with talk of April showers, lines that thousands upon thousands of students have memorized.

When I hear a politician say, “to be honest,” I wonder if he has been lying till that point.

Beware a man who presses his hand against his chest and spreads his fingers. Beware. Beware. Beware.

I attended two Confederate memorial services this past weekend, both at the Confederate Monument on the Capitol grounds (Goat Hill) in Montgomery. The first was Sat., April 24, sponsored by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; the second, Mon., April 26, sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The SCV service opened with four songs sung by Brendan Young, a young man with an excellent voice, who accompanied himself with a guitar, “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” “The Rose of Alabama,” “Riding the Raid,” and “Dixie.” Brendan is the son of Jackie and Robert Reames, commander of the Alabama SCV, who presided. Brendan’s younger siblings, Matthew and Alaina, wore period dress like their older brother. The family resides in Birmingham.

The Tuscumbia Guard posted the colors.

Commander Reames in his welcome stated that there was “nothing civil about the Civil War.” He mentioned the upcoming Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the War, 2010 – 2015.

Dr. Charles Baker, state SCV chaplain, worded both invocation and benediction, as well as delivered the principal oration.

A gun salute by the Alabama Infantry and “Taps” by David Lee Currey were followed by the retiring of the colors and “Dixie,” sung by the attendees as they stood.

The bugle used was one that played automatically, without the bugler actually blowing notes. I was amazed at it. I learned that such bugles are becoming widely used because of a lack of actual buglers to play at ceremonies.

Among those I saw were Philip Davis, former commander of a SCV camp in Montgomery, and Leonard Wilson, former SCV state commander.

The UDC service opened Mon., April 26, with ante-bellum songs, sung by Kim Shannon and her son, Kasey. Kim accompanied them with a guitar.

Connie Mori presided before the Confederate Monument, donated by the Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery. President Jefferson Davis himself laid its cornerstone.

Faye Gaston, state chaplain, worded both the invocation and benediction.

The colors were presented by the 4th Alabama Infantry and 31st Alabama Infantry.

Following a salute to the Confederate flag, Jeannette Taylor read the essay, “I Am Their Flag.”

Ellen Williams sang “God Save the South,” a cappella, a song often sung in Southern churches during the War. Kim Shannon led in “Dixie.”

Ann King, president of the Alabama UDC, dedicated the day, followed by a message by Tom Strain, lieutenant commander of the state SCV.

The most moving part of the ceremony was when all present were given the chance to mention their Confederate ancestors, their rank and burial place. The sacrifice and deaths became a reality when I heard people speak by name of “my grandfather” and “my great-grandfather,” of prison camps and faraway burials. Tears filled my eyes, and I bowed my head.

A wreath was placed, donated by Ann Ball.

A gun salute by the 4th and 31st Alabama Infantry echoed down Dexter Avenue and around the Capitol complex. A cannon salute by the First Confederate Legion, directed by Col. Bill Rambo, startled passers-by.

Edwin Camp blew “Taps.”

The ladies of the UDC were dressed “fit to kill,” as my mother used to say. I saw more hats than I see all year long at the Baptist church.

One of my former students, Mike Williams, came up and introduced himself. (That’s the proper way; don’t go up to a poor, old teacher and ask, “Do you know who I am?”) Mike took seventh and eighth grades at the Andalusia High School before moving on to Straughn, Class of l974. Mike was in retail for 33 years; he retired to become a professional photographer. He was there to take pictures, as the state web master for the SCV.

Others I ran into were Philip Davis, a cousin to Jefferson Davis; Joe Clark, the commander of the Southeast Alabama Brigade of the SCV; and Henry Howard, once the manager of Capt. D’s in “the Dimple of Dixie.”

I must mention for the sake of others who know no better that one man talked away on his cell phone during one of the solos. He didn’t realize how loudly he spoke; most, I have noticed, do talk much louder, for some reason, when using a cell phone. The man disturbed those around him. They kept giving him “looks,” but he was oblivious. Don’t follow his example; it was rude. Few people are so important as to need to talk on a cell phone during a ceremony. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.

While on Goat Hill, I took a stroll. Our capitol and its grounds are beautiful. The George Tabor azaleas were in full bloom, reminding me of Southern belles, sitting about in ante-bellum gowns, spreading their skirts over the shady, green lawns. The Capitol itself is stately, the site of important Southern history. The statues, memorials, historic trees and flags are like badges of honor worn on an old soldier’s uniform. Among the lovely gardens is one of exquisite roses. One could spend a day easily, ambling about the Capitol, inside and out.

Within sight was old St. Margaret’s Hospital where I was born. Then it was a handsome, brick structure atop its own grassy hill, a Catholic child of mercy. Today it is greatly expanded, resembling a vast, modern battleship, its beautiful hillside lawn, long gone. It is no longer a hospital; but now, office space.

I long sometimes for Montgomery to look as it did in the 1800s, as far as the architecture is concerned, especially the homes. I am grateful that some of the old style are left. I wish there were more. Bless those who have saved buildings like those in Old Alabama Town. What beauty!

While in Montgomery, I was able to attend two plays at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

The first was The Fall of the House. I assume the title came from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe was a character in the play, but not the main one. The play was confusing, jumping about from one age to another, a politically correct metaphor, peppered with profanity. It had much about the relationships between the races, including mulattoes and miscegenation, especially the conjectured love between Poe’s father and a slave. The “house” may have been a metaphor for the America of yesterday and the changes in black status over the years.

I ran into Rex Everage and David Deal from Enterprise. Rex, who was reared in Andalusia, is a retired teacher and a first cousin of Dan Shehan.

The second play I saw was Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Carole Monferdini, who played the Countess of Rossillion, could have been our Jeanice Kirkland’s sister, considering mannerisms, facial expressions, and stage language; only, I think Mrs. Kirkland might have been even more successful in the part.

After the curtain call I ran into a former student from eighth-grade English, Karen Beasley, A.H.S. Class of 197l, and her husband, Tom Sellers, who have been married 33 years. They have twins, Jamie and Jennifer, and a son, Daniel.

Karen is executive director of the Family Sunshine Center of Montgomery, a crisis organization for family violence.

I asked Karen about her siblings. Wynn is in North Carolina; Wanda, Anchorage, Alaska; and Jeff, Atlanta.

What comes immediately to my mind about Karen is a meeting that our creative-writing club, the Philopadic Literary Society, had in her home some 44 years ago. Somehow talk turned to food and cucumber sandwiches. I had never heard of one, let alone, eaten one; so Karen’s mother went into her kitchen and made me one, bless her heart.

Several hundred of the older Baptists of Covington County attended their fifth annual Senior Adult Revival, April 27, in Oakey Ridge Baptist Church. Many went in church vans and buses. All were impressed with the spacious, new sanctuary.

Ron Patterson, minister of music at Southside Baptist in Andalusia, led in several congregational songs and played his trumpet, accompanied by the talented Byram Lambert at the piano, for the offertory.

Tommy Green, pastor at Oakey Ridge, presided and worded an invocation.

Larry Cummings, director of the Covington Baptist Association, introduced the speaker, Dr. Dale Huff, a state missionary who works with troubled churches. Dr. Huff spoke on using one’s time wisely before it is too late. He reminded those present of the popular saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Beth Dean of Southside Baptist in Andalusia, who has a professional voice, sang “Through the Fire” to taped music.

Charlie Lennard, pastor of First Baptist in Florala, worded the benediction.

Oakey Ridge was praised for donating 109 buckets of food to Haiti. Each bucket has enough food to feed a family for a week.

A meal, organized and served by the members of Oakey Ridge, followed the revival service. Each attendee was given a plate with a grilled hamburger, baked beans, potato salad, and pound cake, plus iced tea. All had been placed so that all a Baptist had to do was sit down and eat. It was efficiency itself!

A rhyme I heard once came to me, “Only one life – ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I believe that with my whole heart.

I heard a “funny” from some of the old folks present. One said that at her church the congregation had to stand so long during the song service that someone quipped it might be easier on old legs to stand during the sermon and sit during the singing; it wouldn’t be as long!

Those who know of Covington County writers, please tell Jan White, Karin Taylor of the public library, or Joe Wingard, all of whom are trying to compile a master list of local authors for the big town homecoming next Nov. 12.

Upcoming dates to remember include the following: Awards Day at A.H.S., May 21; the combined choral and band concerts at A.H.S., May 17 at 6 p.m.; Senior Class Night at A.H.S., this coming Mon., May 3; baccalaureate at A.H.S., May 23; graduation at A.H.S., May 28; three days of the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville, as I write, April 29, 30 and May l; a tea for retiring teachers of the Andalusia City Schools, 4 p.m., Hickory Lodge, May 6; Grease (the musical), at A.H.S., May 7-8; Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, now through May 22; and Jasmine Hill Gardens, now through June 27, weekends only, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays, noon – 5 p.m.

Also, for the sake of sentiment and keepsakes, please pass on to me notes on senior parties so that I can type them into my column. These parties are a tradition for Andalusia High School, perhaps unique to Andalusia, a popular, local activity for about 100 years now.

Well, gentle reader, May is here. Life goes on, ready or not. Let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend and remember to wear a red rose, or a white, for your precious mother, come Mother’s Day, May 9.

Fare thee well.