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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noticed the rows of crape myrtle over at Covington Hall. When I was young, there seemed to be only one color for crape myrtles – watermelon red. Today, there are white, bright red and shades of pink and purple. I imagine someone is working on variations, as some have introduced a kaleidoscope of colors for the lilac up north. The crape myrtle is the lilac of the South. It is one’s best bet for a plant that blooms throughout the summer. The bark, which resembles marble, also recommends the plant.

Speaking of summer, I see by the calendar that summer is set to arrive Mon., June 21, officially. I look forward each year, when summer arrives, to singing “In the Good, Old Summertime.” The Colonel has invited some of us for a “sing-a-long” at Covington Hall. Miss Dora plays the piano, and we sing songs we have known since childhood. It was a better world when people sang around a piano.

Last week brought the anniversary of Magna Carta (great charter), one of the world’s early documents of freedom, assuring certain rights to certain men, a forerunner to American documents of freedom. The English forced the document upon King John (famous as an enemy of Robin Hood). John signed it at a place called Runnymede. When our President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the English donated an acre at Runnymede to President Kennedy’s memory.

There’s an old joke, “Where did King John sign the Magna Carta?” At the bottom.

Last week also brought the birth dates of William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet, and Charles Gounod, a French composer. Gounod is most famous for the opera Faust, based on the old story of a man who traded with the Devil to exchange his soul for youth. Two pieces in the opera are “Valentine’s Cavatina” and “The Trio” by Faust, Marguerite and Mephistopheles at the end. Both are inspiring. If you have not yet heard them, you are in for a treat.

Here in the middle of June a poem by James Whitcomb Riley of Indiana comes to mind, “Knee-Deep in June,” meaning in the middle of June. This is a poem I enjoy reading and re-reading each June, as well as Lowell’s “June” section of The Vision of Sir Launfal, which I mentioned last week, “And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days!”

Some have been eating all the oysters they can of late for fear of our running out of oysters because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I am reminded of the old saying, “It was a brave man what first ‘et’ an oyster!” That saying now has a new meaning because of the oil. Others have reminded me that oysters should be eaten only during months with an “r” in their spelling. Come September, though, we may have only “oilsters.”

Gordon Vickers told me an old saying about cows and fishing. If one sees cows, standing in a field, that indicates good fishing. On the other hand, if the cows are lying down, that indicates poor fishing.

Sir Francis McGowin mentioned to me recently three of his favorite American writers, all outdoorsmen, Nash Buckingham, Havilah Babcock and Robert Ruark. If you’re a sportsman – and a gentleman, check out their biographies and works.

I have been saving a paper given me by Sue (Bass) Wilson for just such a week as this. It follows in her words.

“Two former, college roommates at the University of Alabama (from the l960s) recently spent a few days together at Perdido Bay near Pensacola.

“’Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?’

“‘No way,’ says Sue (Bass) Wilson and Connie Zeanah Atkinson, who set out for Tuscaloosa in the summer of 1965, only a few days after their graduation from the Andalusia High School.

“We counted the days down on our calendars, anticipating the time when we would be on our own and living the lives of college freshmen! We definitely had a summer to remember with Joe Namath back on campus from New York with his blue eyes, black hair, green money and his red convertible that stayed parked at our ‘dorm’ each evening while he mixed and mingled with the girls in the snack bar! Also, we met the Greek girls on campus who introduced us to Alpha Delta Pi, the sorority we would both pledge in the fall. There were lots of fraternity parties that summer and opportunities for ‘creekbanking,’ which was the rage, along with styles such as culottes, Bass Weejuns, and madras! We also entertained the girls on our floor many nights, playing the guitar and singing folk songs such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ “If I Had a Hammer’ and ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’

“Connie and I had been in the A.H.S. Glee Club’s folk-singing group, The Singing Sisters, who performed at hootnannies all over south Alabama our senior year; so, we carried our act to college.

“We were, however, instructed by our parents not to go to any sit-ins or demonstrations, common at the time, and not to get our picture in Time or Look magazines; or we’d be back home in dear, ol’ Andy! Of course, we had no intention of such at the time; but we had a lot of fun, singing and getting others to join in the folk songs of the day.

“Sue was a guest of Connie, who invited her down to the bay house near Pirates’ Cove where they enjoyed the absentee hospitality of Connie’s sister Loye and her husband Kip Pine of Huntsville, both A.H.S. graduates. Kip is a dentist there, and they are the parents of three. Connie and Sue rode down to Foley and Orange Beach for a little shopping, dining, and a beach walk. Mostly, they enjoyed talking, getting into deep conversations into the wee hours of the morning, talks about education, politics, family, friends, old times, Great Britain (both are Anglophiles), music and, yes, history.

“Connie, who lived in England for six years, getting her Ph.D. in music history, is an associate professor of history at the University of New Orleans, where she has taught for the past 13 years. She moved to New Orleans right after college days, where she began copying/editing for a doctor, John Ochsner. She later moved to The Courier, a small, political paper that defended New Orleans culture, architecture and historic preservation. She began her dive into New Orleans music, which no one seemed to be writing about, and eventually founded Wavelength magazine, which circulated for 11 years.

“After more than a decade of interviewing hundreds of New Orleans musicians, Connie was given by the University of Liverpool the opportunity to analyze all the information she had been collecting and to research the impact of tourism and music on cities such as Liverpool and New Orleans.

“Only five days after achieving her Ph.D. in music, Connie was back in New Orleans, teaching history courses. Her specialized degree is held by only a handful of people in the world.

“’Journalism goes hand-in-hand with history,’ Connie states. ‘To be a good journalist, one has to know what has gone on before and what’s going on now. History – well, it’s just the news yesterday.’

“Connie presently teaches the courses, The History of New Orleans Music, Gathering Oral History, Researching New Orleans and American History to l877. Her hope in teaching is that the students of UNO today will one day be the policy makers of New Orleans and the ones who know the history of and will promote the future of the city.

“Connie’s father, the late Oscar Monroe Zeanah, was once superintendent of education in the Andalusia City Schools. Her mother Helen taught special education for a number of years in the same system. The Zeanah family moved to Andalusia from Enterprise the summer before Connie’s senior year. The city board of education building on Sixth Avenue (previously Andalusia’s library) is appropriately named for Mr. Zeanah. (I believe he served as our superintendent longer than anyone else thus far, some 22 years. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

“Will these two friends get together again in the near future? ‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind!’”

I want to thank “Miss Sue” for taking the time to write down and share her memories. She’s often teased about “being lost in the ‘60’s.” I think she enjoys life, nevertheless, no matter what decade it is. She is a multi-talented lady, a Christian by example to her children and grandchildren, pianist, music arranger, singer, business woman, friend, landscaper, writer, historian, member of a variety of clubs, loyal and enthusiastic citizen of the “Dimple of Dixie” and general do-gooder.

Yes, indeed, “Miss Sue – she runs this town; she do!”

Gentle reader, if you want to share some anecdotes about yourself, friends, family, or some person in this town’s history, please feel free to write your thoughts and take them by the newspaper office and leave them for me at the desk. For example, I’d like to hear more stories about Kate Head, Grace Larson and Uncle Aus Prestwood.

This afternoon and tomorrow’s and the afternoons of next Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be your last chance this year to visit Jasmine Hill Gardens between Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Gentle reader, let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend. Fare thee well.