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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I took in a world of blooms – yellow forsythia, flowering red quince, Kiss-Me-at-the-Gate (Breath of Spring), fruiting pears, Bradford pears, yellow winter jasmine, signs of red clover and white clover, daffodowndillies, pampas grass, violas, pansies, camellias, red peach, pink peach, white peach, plums, blueberries, saucer

magnolias, star magnolias, purple henbit, button spirea, delicate spirea, purity, redbud (Judas tree), pink feathers and snowdrops.

Both the saucer magnolias and camellias had shed enough to make skirts of petals all about them. Miss Flora Covington said the Bradford pears seemed to dominate the Society of Blooms in the “Dimple of Dixie,” especially making a beautiful setting for First Presbyterian Church on South Three-Notch.

Harvey “Pete” and Judith Ann Donaldson of Marietta, Ga., formerly of Andalusia, entertained at Redmon Farms in the Brooklyn community near Kinston last Saturday evening.

The Donaldsons, who marked their 44th wedding anniversary the Friday just before, had as their weekend houseguests Leonard and Donna Van Slyke of Jackson, Miss. Leonard is an attorney, specializing in tax and First-Amendment law; Donna teaches history.

Joining the Donaldsons and Van Slykes for a delightful evening in the beautifully restored farmhouse were Andy and Anne Sumblin of Kinston, Glen Kendrick and Judy Stokes, Mark and Meryane Murphy, and Tommy and Michele Gerlach, all of Andalusia.

An interesting point of conversation was Mrs. Van Slyke’s summer plans. As a teacher of world history, she spends time each summer, visiting areas that can help her bring history to life for her students. She has been named a Fulbright scholar to Egypt, but doubts the opportunity will materialize, given the current unrest in the Middle East.

Guests enjoyed a dinner of grilled chicken, pork tenderloin with mango salsa, a salad of Bibb lettuces with avocado and mandarin oranges, served with a champagne dressing and orzo. For dessert, the hosts offered fresh berries, Swiss butter cookies with lemon curd, chocolate torte and bread pudding with rum sauce.

Redmon Farms is a sixth-generation, family farm. In l934, Harvey’s mother’s sister, Lois, was married to Coleman Redmon and moved to Brooklyn, to which Coleman’s great-grandfather had moved in 1850. Coleman and Lois had no children. From Coleman’s death in 1998 until Lois’s death in 2007 the Donaldsons took care of the farm and Aunt Lois. Since 2007, they have managed the farm and enjoyed it as a weekend retreat. Harvey’s great-grandfather on the Johnson side of his family moved to Brooklyn in l880.

All that should interest Curtis Thomasson, in particular.

March came in like a lamb – with good weather — this year with a mild, sunny, most pleasant Tuesday. According to superstition March will therefore go out like a lion – with bad weather.

Seen at the “deli” at Piggly Wiggly for lunch Tuesday were Bill and Frances Rabren with his Uncle Cecil and Aunt Marzell Parrish. Bill’s dad and Marzell are siblings. The conversation turned on golf and genealogy.

Seen at the public library with its beds of yellow pansies was Margaret Proctor, checking out a stack of books.

At a party of “middle-aged” couples recently, guests were asked to name a movie title that reminded them of their mothers-in-law. One guest named James blurted out, Jaws!

When the Council Oak that had been standing in front of Church Street School for 80 years was being arbitrarily cut down, a swarm of bees was suddenly discovered as a colony within it. They were not too pleased at “bee-ing” bothered and let the cutters know. I like to think that the lively spirit of the Andalusia High School Class of 1930, which had planted the old tree, was letting their presence “bee” known one more time. I like to imagine the cutters, running in fright. Goodie, goodie, goodie.

Seen Sunday for lunch at Fried Green Tomatoes on 84 were Dennis Cockrell, Julie Bass McDonald, Calvin and Syble Warren of Opp, Johnny Meeks and Von and Ella (Travis) Butler.

Dennis manages Penney’s.

Von is a financial officer. He and Ella have moved back home to Andalusia after about 15 years in Georgia. Their grown children live in Birmingham.

Johnny Meeks, who turned 82 March 1, enjoys motorbiking.

Fried Green Tomatoes serves a Sunday buffet, cafeteria-style. One can eat all he pleases for $10 even. That includes the buffet, salad bar, desserts and beverage.

First Baptist in Andalusia had two magnificent displays of blooming saucer magnolias Sunday, flanking the podium. In that beautiful setting Dr. Fred Karthaus, pastor, baptized young Mary Taylor Seymore Sunday morning.

The Eufaula Pilgrimage of Homes is set for April 1–3. Eufaula is one of the most beautiful towns anywhere because of its preserved, grand, old homes. It lies along the border separating Alabama and Georgia. If you have never been to this remarkable place, go before it’s too late.

The Thomasville (Georgia) Rose Show is set for April 21-23. This is another beautiful place to visit. Thomasville is known as “the City of Roses” and boasts a grand main street. The largest oak between the Atlantic Ocean and the mighty Mississippi River stands in downtown Thomasville. I’m glad they respect their heritage trees there.

Seen at Fried Green Tomatoes were that sweet Bell Henley and her daughter Barbara, Betsy (Corley) Tucker (A.H.S. Class of 1963) and Johnny Meeks, who was honored with a surprise birthday party.

Arbor Day in Alabama, a day to plant trees and show our appreciation for them, was Arbor Week this year, February 20-26. If you want to have your own Arbor Day, it can be whenever you wish. Parents and grandparents, involve your children in such a day. Plant a tree. Have a little ceremony. It can be on a special anniversary, such as a birthday or graduation. Have someone read “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, a man, by the way, not a woman. Every school child used to be able to recite “Trees” from memory. It has been put to music, too.

The Covingtons had their own Arbor Day at the end of February. Several of us were invited for the ceremony and tea afterwards – Miss Birdie Purdie, Miss Primme, Mr. Propper, Mrs. Gotrocks of Greenville (“the Camellia City”). Clyde Clyde Clump was stuck with digging the hole. At the tea Miss Dora played “Trees,” and we sang along.

I wish our city fathers would sponsor an Arbor Day yearly.

Trudie (Cobb) Steele was treated to a trip to Atlanta and an evening at the Fox Theater for her 82nd birthday by her friends, Perry and Madison Castleberry. At the Fox the trio heard Celtic Women in song.

Seen at the Huddle House were Pat and Gerri Greathouse.

February 11-13 some ladies of First Baptist, Andalusia, attended the Gulf Coast Women’s Retreat in Orange Beach, the 26th year for the retreat, sponsored annually by a group of women in Monroeville.

The main speaker was Donna Partow, author of 27 books.

Teresa Mabrey, one of those present, said, “What a powerful message she brought!”

Those attending became in spirit, “Mighty Musk Ox Prayer Warrior Princesses!”

The theme for the weekend was “This isn’t the life I signed up for, but I’m finding hope and healing.”

Attending from Andalusia were Mary “the Belle of Excel” Hill and her daughter Joan Mitchell, Pennye Anderson, Sherry (Frazier) Wingate and her two daughters, Kristen and Laurie, Susan Castillo, Sharon Owen and Teresa Mabrey. Also attending were some friends from Montgomery, formerly of Andalusia, Ann Cushing and her three daughters, Charlotte, Jama and Connie.

Ann’s husband, Harrell, was twice pastor of First Baptist, Andalusia.

Charlotte is a missionary to Africa.

The mystery person for the last three weeks was Roland Brown, identified by Dalton Barton. This week’s “cluegraph” follows: “a short and cute widow with two grown children and grandchildren, too; her hands sometimes have printer’s ink on them; she enjoys eating out of town, especially in Florida and especially at the Red Lobster; a fan of Cary Baker’s pies; a lady who likes to ‘trip the light fantastic.’”

This past week 150 years ago during the War Between the States, the Peace Convention, meeting in Washington to avert the break-up of the Union, proposed six constitutional amendments. In the South President Davis appointed three men to go to Washington to offer a peaceful settlement with the federal government. All was in vain. (What if Lincoln had accepted the peace offerings? What if the amendments had been made?)

Meanwhile Governor Pickens of South Carolina wanted President Davis to do something about Fort Sumter out in Charleston Bay. The Yankees, commanded by Major Robert Anderson, were holding the fort. Meantime Lincoln was inaugurated March 4 as the l6th president of the Union, saying he was not against slavery where it was already established, but he supported Union. He said he was against “revolution” in the South.

Lincoln met with Gen. Winfield Scott, head of the U.S. Army, and discussed Fort Sumter. Major Anderson, all this time, needed reinforcements. (What if the North had peacefully given up the fort?)

Birthdays this past week included those of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet; John Tenniel, the illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There; Gioachino Rossini, the Italian composer, especially of operas, whose “Overture” to William Tell, an opera, is probably the most popular, single piece of music ever written; and William Dean Howells, an American editor and novelist.

Longfellow is always honored with a dinner at Covington Hall. I was among the guests. After Miss Cora served us a fine meal, we adjourned to the library to read and recite our favorite poems and passages of his. Every American should be able to recite from memory dozens of lines from Longfellow; otherwise, his education is short-changed.

Longfellow is the most important American poet and the centerpiece of American literature. One can judge a nation by its knowledge and appreciation of Longfellow.

Time is running out to see at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery the two plays especially written in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the War Between the States – The Flagmaker of Market Street (ending March 19) and Blood Divided (ending March 20). Both are now playing.

The Portly Gentleman will now resume his travel diary from last September when he was in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, for the biennial conference to study the greatest of ante-bellum, Southern writers, William Gilmore Simms.

“It was Sunday morning. The Simms conference was over. I took breakfast in the Inn at USC with Jim Kibler, David Aiken, Nick Meriwether and John Guilds, all fine scholars.

“Checking out, I drove around to the Capitol, next to the USC campus, and found at one side of the Capitol grounds, Trinity Episcopal Church in whose graveyard lies buried Henry Timrod, one of the Old South’s most loved poets. I like to go each time I’m in Columbia and pay my respects at the grave of this gentle soul.

“Cousin Jo Driggers and I had agreed to meet for church at Zion Lutheran on Corley Mill Road, Lexington. We wanted to worship at Zion today, especially, because it was homecoming and Zion was 265 years old. Our ancestors had worshipped at Zion over 200 years ago, before we were a nation.

“Also, we saw in the congregation some cousins of ours who are current members of Zion – Boyd and Carolyn Wingard, their sons Bert and Steve, and their children, as well as friends like Thomas Kleckley.

“The sermon that morning was preached by Bishop Herman R. Yoos and was integrated. Because of the New Mt. Zion AME Church congregation that had come as guests, there was spontaneous clapping at times and spontaneous singing during the Communion. When I joined the line to take Communion, we began to sing ‘Amazing Grace’; and I was overcome with emotion and wept. I was overcome with the Holy Spirit in that place, with joy at being ‘home’ with my kin, with an awareness of my heritage, all flooding in on me at one time.

“Later we sang ‘Faith of Our Fathers,’ and I repeated in my mind my ‘fathers’ – Cecil, William, Jacob Mathias, Christian, Christian his father, and John Adam, who came to America in 1753.

“The handbells and organ joined the singing. It was overwhelming.

“Before Jo and I left the sanctuary, she introduced me to one of her cousins, Tim Driggers, who is a lawyer and columnist.

“The pastor of Zion, Tim Bupps, used a puppet, representing an Italian chef, earlier in the service to speak to the little children. I thought he did a clever and useful job.

“Jo and I stayed for lunch – it was homecoming! We sat at table with Ann (Drafts) Koch, who told us much of her life. Pastor Bupps also sat with us and proved an interesting conversationalist.

“After lunch Jo and I visited the graveyard next to Zion to see the monument to our common ancestor, John Adam Wingard, and his family, dedicated June 22, 2003, on the occasion of our family’s 250th anniversary of arrival in America. At that time our family celebrated with several days of programs and activities, including sailing into Charleston Bay aboard a ship, as our ancestors had done.

“Jo and I took separate cars that afternoon to Charleston, driving the l00-plus miles in the rain. Our plan was to spend the next day in Charleston. Bit by bit we are learning more and more of this beloved ‘Old Lady of the South.’ Charleston is dear to me because it was the first ‘home’ of our ancestors when they came to this country, even before it was a nation.

“We had arranged rooms at the Sleep Inn in Mt. Pleasant, across the Bay from Charleston, because of the convenience and cost. Crossing the new, great bridge, the Ravenel, which joins Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, we checked in.

“For supper we joined forces and ate at nearby Locklear’s, a favorite restaurant of ours, originally named for its North Carolina founder. I took Don and Dot Lingle there once. Jo and I ordered she-crab soup, coffee, and a chocolate torte. One should always eat she-crab soup and grits with shrimp when he visits Charleston. Those are two specialties.

“Jo ordered corn fritters with tomato jam. The jam is made at Locklear’s and is superb.

“I ordered a fried seafood platter with shrimp, oysters from Chesapeake Bay, scallops, flounder, crab cakes, rice and vegetables.

“An approaching storm hastened us back to our rooms. We barely beat the torrential rains!

“All Sunday I introduced myself as being from Alabama where Auburn University is located. I was none too popular because Auburn had defeated South Carolina in football that weekend.”

The Portly Gentleman has promised, Lord willing, to continue his tour of Charleston next time.

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