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

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 19, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noticed the first daffodil of the season, bending its yellow face to the sun. The happy bloom brought to mind William Wordsworth’s famous poem about the daffodils, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Wordsworth, an English poet, wrote his poem in an upstairs room of Dove Cottage in Grasmere, Northern England. It has been my joy to visit that room and see the couch mentioned in the poem “and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.”

In the Sunday-School lesson last Sunday in Baraca Class at First Baptist here in Andalusia, the teacher, Richard Pass, asked a profound question, “Do you have to tell someone you’re a Christian or can he tell it by your life?”

Mr. Pass also mentioned three famous sermons, R. G. Lee’s “Pay Day, Some Day,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s “Turn or Burn,” and Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Have you read these, gentle reader?

Last week I enjoyed the Valentine’s dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes, the restaurant in the old Pop’s location along Highway 84 between Andalusia and Opp, which has been open since last July. Fried Green Tomatoes was formerly located in Elba.

The setting was romantic with red cloths, rose petals, and candlelight. A bottle of carbonated grape juice came with each meal – ribeye steak, potatoes, garden salad, dessert. Each lady was presented a red rose at table. Romantic music played in the background.

For an extra I enjoyed the specialty of the house, fried green tomatoes.

Two features of the eatery that especially impressed me were the rocking chairs for the front porch and a banquet room, large enough for 90 or more.

The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday – Sunday at 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and for supper Thursday – Saturday, at 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m..

Managers are Wayne and Angie (Duke) Gatlin, who offer up with their good cooking a heaping helping of hospitality.

Andalusia Ballet presented about 45, mainly solo, performances last Sunday afternoon in the Dixon Center of our local college, to raise money to renovate the old Church Street School (once the Andalusia High School location) for current usage.

Students of Meryane Martin-Murphy, artistic director, danced, mainly, individual routines to modern music, under the heading, “Valentine Dances.”

Dances included elements of ballet, tumbling, and cheerleading, mainly performed to recorded music.

The next generations of young ladies in our town displayed remarkable talent and promise.

Acting as master of ceremonies was Cameron Morgan, whose emerging personality amused a rapt audience. Cameron, a junior being schooled at home, also played the piano from memory as his sister, Savannah Claire, danced. I am told he sings, too, as well as dances.

Seen at the hospital cafeteria last Sunday for lunch were David and Carol Moore, Rayford and Carolyn Davis, A.G. and Pat Palmore, Hazel Griffin, John and Nancy Smith, Ed and Judy Buck, Betty Bass, Janette Carroll, Dan and Virginia Frasher, Judy Weant, Lamar and Katie (Watson) Maddox, John and Mary Lee Howard, Don and Sharlene Hester, and Diane Branum.

Well wishes go out to sweet Gertrude Nelson.

The senior adults of First Baptist here enjoyed their monthly luncheon in their Fellowship Hall last Tuesday.

The speaker was Susan (Jones) Short, executive director of the Covington County Children’s Policy Council, under the county control of Judge “Trippy” McGuire.

The Council was begun by Governor Riley in his first term in every Alabama county.

Mrs. Short, whose parents, Fletcher and Jean Jones, were present, told of her work in writing grants to bring programs for local children, birth to 19, who may need a particular service.

Mrs. Short said that Covington County, sadly, ranks second in Alabama, percentage-wise, for use and abuse of alcohol and drugs among youth.

She spoke, too, of Imagination Library, a program in which each child is given a book a month to read for his first five years. She said this is to help develop the brain, which has its greatest growth the first three years of life.

Mrs. Short delivered her informative subject excellently well, especially in volume and speed. She is the wife of Judge Lex Short and mother of Sara Catherine, Alex, and Ada. They are members of First Baptist, Andalusia. She is a graduate of Andalusia High School (1979) and the University of Alabama (1983), earning a master’s in child development from Auburn (1985) and another master’s there, in early childhood education (1987).

Married in 1984, Mrs. Short, prior to having children, worked three years as the education coordinator for the Council on Substance Abuse in Montgomery.

Recognized at the luncheon were Mrs. Short’s father, Fletcher, for his birthday this month, and John and Mary “the Belle of Excel” Hill and the alliterative Harry and Helen Hinson for their wedding anniversaries this month.

Tables, decorated by Trudy Vickers and Betty Bass, had Valentines as centerpieces, heart napkins, pink newsletters, and cups of Valentine-colored “candy corn.” Windows were lined with red-and-white “curtains.”

Dr. Morgan Moore worded the blessing; Judson Blackstock, the benediction.

Gordon Vickers, minister to senior adults, presided.

Green’s catered ham, cabbage, black-eyed peas, fried bread and red-velvet cake.

Another book about women who worked in jobs, traditionally held by men, during World War II while their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons were off at the front, has arrived in my mail from Mabel W. Myrick of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

Entitled Rosie Romances, the paperback book has almost l00 short stories of war memories. Any woman who was a “Rosie” may join this national organization, as may her descendants, female (rosebuds) or male (riveters).

I had forgotten the genius of Meredith Willson as seen in his musical, The Music Man, presented Valentine’s Day in the Dixon Center of Lurleen B. Wallace.

Every seat should have been filled. The music, costumes, sets, and lyrics were foottapping, heart-tugging, mind-boggling, eye-catching wonders!

I don’t see how the traveling company, brought here by Paula Harr and our arts council, made a dime, just considering numbers alone! What a cast! What a crew! What an orchestra!

What a bargain, too! Adult tickets were only $15. Cousin Jo in Lexington, South Carolina, saw this same production in Newberry Opera House last week and had to pay $35!

I guess this was the year for The Music Man. This same company has already appeared in Montgomery at the Davis Theater and in Greenville. Paula Sue Duebelt, choral director in our local schools, had wanted to present this same musical this year but dropped the idea when she heard The Music Man was already coming to town. She has directed it twice before in her years at A.H.S.

When I was in London once, I saw a production of another musical, Oliver. At the end the English audience began clapping along in rhythm with the music during the curtain call. It was stirring. I was very pleased with our local audience when it, too, Monday night, began to clap along in rhythm during the curtain call. It was quite a bonding between audience and performers. Way to go, Andalusia! I guess London has nothing on us!

Oh, yes, some of our local lads joined in the Boys’ Band on stage toward the end of the play – Will Adams, Jeremy Boyd, Hampton Glenn, John Reid McGlamory and Devin Phillips. Good job, fellows!

Our Murals Committee, chaired by Pat Palmore, met in City Hall Tuesday to discuss future murals on Hank Williams, agriculture, and trains, as well as finances, new committee members, and awarding certificates to student winners of posters drawn during Andalusia’s homecoming.

Also discussed was the tree that blocks the view of “Uncle Aus” on the town’s original mural.

Wes Harden, who has painted the four murals so far, is being considered again.

Attending were Nancy Robbins, Mary Lee Howard, Robert Anderson, Elaine Manning, Hazel Griffin and Joe Wingard.

Members of the Alabama Education Association, professional, support, active, and retired, met Tuesday night in the W.S. Neal Elementary School in East Brewton to discuss issues affecting education with representatives from House Districts 66 and 92. Only Mike Jones, “freshman” “rep” from Covington County, was able to meet with the educators.

Jones faced an audience of some 35 and answered questions for about an hour. This annual “face-off” between educators and representatives is sponsored by District 24 of AEA, made up of Covington, Conecuh, and Escambia counties.

Discussed were the following subjects: proration, teacher tenure, the Teachers’ Retirement System, privatizing the TRS, the DROP program, increasing the retirement age, increasing the individual retirement percentage, funding PEEHIP, the state’s purchasing liability insurance for public-education employees, diverting funds from the Education Trust Fund to finance non-education programs, vouchers, merit pay, privatizing jobs such as bus drivers and custodians, and additional revenue.

A catered buffet followed in the school’s cafetorium.

Those present included Vivian Jones, director of District 24, and Jimmy Ponds, president of District 24, in his second term.

Birthdays since last Saturday include those of Jack Benny, born on Valentine’s Day, an American comedian; John Barrymore, an American actor, known as “the Great Profile,” grandfather to Drew Barrymore; and David Garrick, English actor, known for playing roles in Shakespeare’s plays.

The American ship, the Maine, was blown up in Havana Harbor, Cuba, leading to the popular cry of the Spanish-American War, “Remember the Maine!”

Yesterday, Feb. 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as first president of the Confederate States of America on the portico of the Capitol in Montgomery, 150 years ago. A bronze star marks the spot. If all goes well, that swearing in will be reenacted today on that spot by a descendant of Davis.

Also 150 years ago this past week the Peace Conference in Washington continued, unsuccessfully, to stop secession from the Union. Many in the service of the Union, including Raphael Semmes of the Navy, left the Union to join the Confederacy. Semmes would later rise to fame for his sea adventures. His statue and grave are in Mobile today. As a Confederate cabinet was being formed, Lincoln was on his way to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C., having to follow Davis’s momentum.

No one identified last week’s mystery person. Here, again, is the cluegraph: “athletic, especially fond of tennis, retired, mustached, a traveller with his lovely wife, a military man.”

Seen for lunch in the Piggly-Wiggly “deli” were Joe and Joyce Cook.

The Portly Gentleman will now continue his account of his trip to South Carolina for the biennial meeting of the William Gilmore Simms Society, held this year at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the capital. We find our subject on his way to the dining room.

“Breakfast was served again in the dining room of the Inn at the USC, my ‘home’ for the Simms conference. I found there Dr. James Kibler and Dr. John Guilds, both outstanding Simms scholars, enjoying their meals, preparing for another day of listening to scholarly papers.

“Cousin Jo drove in from Lexington, and I joined her for a walk over to the Cooper Library where, during this last day of the conference, we heard nine papers about Simms read. The readers included our friends, Nick Meriwether and James Kibler.

“During the hours of readings, I came up with my own definition of a scholar – one who uses ten words for one.

“I enjoyed a special treat this day, that of speaking with Beverley Simms, a great-granddaughter of Simms.

“I also made two purchases from the rare books on display. One was a copy of The South in American Literature by Jay B. Hubbell, the great scholar of yesteryear, who taught American literature at Duke, the teacher who inspired John Guilds. The copy had belonged to Mary Simms Oliphant, a granddaughter of Simms whose underlining and notes were penciled in the volume.

“The second purchase was a letter of Christmas greeting, written by Simms and having his signature, a rarity indeed.

“For lunch Jo and I returned to the Russell Building with its food courts and chose the Grand Market, a cafeteria.

“The conference concluded with a business meeting. Jo was the only lady present.

“Leaving the campus, we drove to the S.C. Archives and History Center in Columbia to view on display the original Ordinance of Secession of December 1860. This was the first of secessionist papers by states who left the Union. South Carolina led the way. The Archives had the document on display in honor of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the War Between the States.

“Those wanting to secede had met Dec. 17, 1860, in Columbia at the First Baptist Church (still standing) to pass an ordinance; but, due to a smallpox scare, had moved to Charleston to vote on and sign an ordinance, which was done by Dec. 20, 1860. The two buildings in Charleston where the vote and signing were done burned the next year.

“I particularly wanted to see the Ordinance of Secession because this year is the sesquicentennial (l50th) anniversary of the War Between the States. Jo and I had previously visited the First Baptist Church where the secessionist meetings began.

“At the archives bookstore I purchased books on the ordinance for Jo and me, as well as a book on Confederate monuments in South Carolina. This latter book was used later by the local Covington Rifles camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to design a local monument, honoring those in this county who fought for the Confederacy.

“We drove next to Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia to pay our respects at the grave of Emmanuel Albert Wingard, our cousin of the Victorian Age, a South Carolina poet who served as the first pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia.

“Next Saturday, Lord willing, I want to tell you, gentle reader, about Sunday morning and motoring over to Charleston.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Fare thee well.