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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw even more blooms than last week – those of the wild crabapple (over all, I think, the loveliest of spring blooms), the royal iris, thrift (creeping phlox), the flowering almond, clovers (red, white and yellow) and South Carolina yellow jasmine, climbing noticeably this week over the iron-wrought fence at Keahey’s along Stanley.

I thought winter was over; but last Sunday, March 6, Old Man Winter came again and reminded me that winter wasn’t over yet!

For the last few years the return of cold weather has nipped in the bud the blooms around “the Dimple of Dixie.” This year, however, we Dimpletonians were blessed with pleasant weather for two-to-three weeks at a time, sparing the saucer magnolias, allowing them to bloom fully.

What a show the Bradford pears have made all over the Capital of Covington County! It’s as though we are walking through a land of clouds!

Seen at the Piggly Wiggly “deli” for the lunch buffet were Ed and Judy (Ward) Buck, Gary Buck, Ashton and Katie Sue (Meredith) Wells, Bill and Barbara McClain, and Kevin and Angie McClain.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, has invited Canon Beverly (Findley) Gibson, sub-dean of the Episcopal Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, to join the Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the United States. Canon Gibson was asked to travel three times this year to meetings with the twelve-member group. Her first trip was at the end of February to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Canon Gibson was reared and educated in Andalusia.

Don and Dot Lingle were in town this past weekend, houseguests of Jimmy and Sue (Bass) Wilson. Don, former minister of music for 28 years at First Baptist here, praised the Adult Choir in morning worship for their anthem, “One Faith, One Hope, One Lord,” directed by current minister of music, Dwight Crigger, and accompanied by Erica Ziglar, trumpeter, a junior at Straughn School, who played like a professional.

Irene (Davis) Butler had as guests in her home for lunch last Sunday Robert Lee Holley, Mitzi Butler (her niece), Dr. Rex Butler (her younger son), and Joe Wingard.

Mrs. Butler wished to honor with the meal the memory of Robert Lee’s mother, Bernice (Stokes) Holley, who died at this time two years ago. Robert Lee and Rex were classmates and good friends as boys, both being graduated from the Andalusia High School in 1971. Both, too, were in Mr. Wingard’s first class when he moved here to teach.

The buffet lunch included ham, steak, pork, rice, turnips, pineapple casserole, dressing, carrot salad, broccoli casserole, fried bread, German chocolate cake and tea.

The only birthday I note this week is that of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, author of perhaps the most famous of all love sonnets, “How Do I Love Thee?” Miss Barrett was much more famous in her day than her husband, Robert Browning, who, with Tennyson, became one of the greatest English poets of the Victorian Age. Because of her poor health, the Brownings moved to Italy where she lies buried today.

The Covington Rifles camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans met March 3 in the Dixon Memorial of the public library.

Vaughn Bowers, a professional photographer, presented a program of slides taken in Montgomery February 19 at the reenactment of the parade and inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederate States of America, which happened 150 years ago in 1861. This was a national program, sponsored by the SCV as part of its Sesquicentennial commemoration. Bowers and others who attended the event contributed commentary.

Commander Sir Francis McGowin presided.

Randy Kelley worded the invocation and benediction.

Larry Shaw led in pledges to the flags and in singing “Dixie.”

Sir Francis displayed some beautiful medals made for those attending the program in Montgomery.

John Allen Gantt, local chaplain, spoke about the importance of cotton and other financial matters as discussed in a biography he is reading by Evans about Judah Benjamin, a Jewish member of Davis’s Confederate cabinet.

Attending were Randy and Sherry Kelley and their grandson, Austin; Tony Wells, John Allen Gantt, Vaughn Bowers, Joe Wingard, Larry Shaw, Derick Davis, members; Curtis Hampton Thomasson, past commander; Tammie Evans, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; and Mike Bulger, guest who is a direct descendant of a Confederate general.

To keep up with Sesquicentennial doings, it was 150 years ago this past week that Lincoln refused to deal with the three men sent by President Davis to discuss peace. They turned to other Republicans in office to no avail. Lincoln, meantime, was being advised by General Scott that the Army alone could not handle the situation at Fort Sumter. (What if Lincoln had listened to the men sent by Davis?)

The annual banquet for representatives from local education associations connected to the Alabama Education Association, sponsored by UniServ District 24, a division of AEA, made of educators and support personnel in Conecuh, Covington, and Escambia counties, was attended March 4 in the Bright Beginnings Pre-School on Seegers Street, Andalusia.

Peggy Mobley, twice the past president of AEA, presided.

Warrick Maye, president of the Conecuh County Education Association, worded the invocation.

Ted Watson, new superintendent of the Andalusia City Schools, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Craig Pouncey, deputy superintendent of education for Alabama, speaking for Dr. Joe Morton, state superintendent of education, originally scheduled.

Pouncey spoke of what seems a “tidal wave” of anti-public education attitudes nowadays. He picked out teachers south of Montgomery for special praise for their dedication despite the lowest tax base in the state. He insisted that the federal government is not a villain and praised it for its financial contributions to Alabama. He acknowledged that the DROP program is threatened because of its cost to the state. Joking, Pouncey said that next year teachers will find empty classrooms because there will be no money to bus students to school. He said there might not be money for air-conditioning. Pouncey spoke of the influence of new representatives in the Alabama legislature.

Decorations were placed by Traci Locke, Emma Locke, Paula Simpson, Addie Simpson and Ethel Robertson.

Tables were laid with white cloths with centerpieces of lighted candles in globes filled with red, white, and blue rice. Tables for the buffet supper, door prizes, and head table were covered with paper bunting. Balloons of red, white and blue lined the entrance to the building and floated in the top of the dining hall. Behind the head table was suspended a sign of clasped hands, representing the banquet theme, “Strength in Unity.”

Attractive printed programs in red, white and blue were distributed.

Dawn Jacobs, a local, supply pianist, played soothingly beautiful music on a baby grand all during the meal as background music. Mrs. Jacobs teaches piano from her home.

Tabby D.’s catered with chops, baked chicken, carrots, butter beans, garden salad, rolls, muffins, Dean’s chocolate, layer cake and tea.

Vivian Jones of Brewton, the AEA District 24 director, distributed door prizes.

District officers on hand were Jacqueline Earthly, vice-president; Dianne McKenzie, treasurer; and Joe Wingard, secretary.

Congratulations to Allen Butler, son of Dr. Rex and Billie Jo Butler, for his second- and third-place rankings in national karate tournaments, despite a journey of 4,000 miles and dangerous icing on his aircraft.

Allen competed in the largest karate tournament on the West Coast, the North American Sports Karate Association.

Despite his exhausting trip, young Butler was back in time for school Monday.

If you read from the devotional book, Daily Guideposts, 2011, note that the daily devotional for March 6, written by Patricia Lorenz, is set in Savannah, Georgia, in the famous restaurant known as Mrs. Wilkes’s, and mentions “Dan” and “Joe,” who, believe it or not, just happen to be Dan Shehan of Savannah, formerly of Andalusia, and Joe Wingard, currently of Andalusia. Whoever thought they’d end up in a devotional?!

Time is running short to see the two plays, written for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery this year to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. They are The Flagmaker of Market Street, ending March 19, and Blood Divided, ending March 20.

The Portly Gentleman will now continue the story of his visit to South Carolina last September.

“After breakfast in the Sleep-Inn, Cousin Jo and I drove to Harris Teeter, a grocery in Mount Pleasant familiar to Jo in her neck of the woods, but not to me. I wanted to buy flowers there to take out to Magnolia Cemetery, lying along the Charleston Bay.

“It’s easy to get to this famous Charleston cemetery. We simply drove from Mt. Pleasant over the giant Ravenel Bridge and at its other end turned right onto Meeting Street, which took us directly out to Magnolia.

“Every time I’m in Charleston I like to place flowers at the grave of William Gilmore Simms, the greatest of the ante-bellum writers in the Old South. I was especially determined to do so this year because I had just spent the weekend, studying Simms at the conference in Columbia.

“Also buried in Magnolia is a fine writer from Beaufort, S.C., William John Grayson. I placed flowers at his grave, too. Grayson’s autobiography, which lay in manuscript, unpublished for decades, has recently been published and is excellent, reminding me of the genteel style of Washington Irving.

“Leaving Magnolia, Jo and I drove back down Meeting Street, which is the main street on the Charleston peninsula, running right through the city and ending up at the Atlantic Ocean.

“My advice to anyone visiting Charleston is to drive down Meeting Street, find a parking deck, park, and walk.

“That’s what Jo and I did.

“Our main interest this visit was to see the sites where once stood Institute Hall and St. Andrews Hall.

“Institute Hall stood on Meeting Street and is where the South Carolina delegates for secession signed the original Ordinance of Secession, viewed by a crowd of spectators. I had studied my booklet about the ordinance the night before. The men had originally met to vote for secession in First Baptist, Columbia; but a smallpox scare had sent them over to Charleston to finish their work.

“Meeting Street runs into Broad Street, up which my ancestors walked over 250 years ago after landing in Charleston harbor. Jo and I, like our ancestors, (turned right and) walked up Broad to find the site of St. Andrews Hall, where, in a smaller space, the secessionist delegates voted to leave the Union, the first state so to do. The reason they later moved around the corner onto Meeting Street is because St. Andrews Hall was comparatively small, and the delegates wanted a bigger hall in which to accommodate the public at the signing of the ordinance; that was Institute Hall.

“Both buildings burned the next year (l86l) in the great Charleston fire (nothing to do with the War, which had hardly begun).

“Today there is another building where Institute Hall stood. A vacant lot next to a Catholic church marks the old location of St. Andrews Hall.

“While Jo and I were in the area, we located the Charleston County Courthouse, which we explored; various houses, dating back to the old days, such as the home of John Rutledge; the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, where we took shelter from a rain storm; and the Historic Charleston Foundation, where we bought books.

“For lunch we chose the Mills House on Meeting Street, which was standing at the time of the ordinance of secession. It had been threatened by the Great Fire of l86l but had survived it. One of the guests at the Mills House during the fire was Robert E. Lee, who took charge of a rescue party. For lunch I selected shrimp and grits, a traditional Low-Country dish. I feel on every visit to Charleston that I must try she-crab soup and shrimp and grits at least once.

“After lunch Jo and I parted. She headed back to her home in Lexington. I headed south to Savannah to stay a couple of days with my old friend and colleague, S. Daniel Shehan.

“The rain fell all the way, a three-hour drive for me.

“I stopped once at a roadside stand to buy some cider.

“Reaching Savannah safely as an official houseguest, I invited my host to be my guest for supper at Pearl’s on the Isle of Hope, a modern, high-class restaurant, where we sat next to large windows and viewed the marshes, boats, piers, and sea houses that extend as far as the eye can see. Seafood is the specialty.

“It was Sept. 27, which just happened, with no pre-planning, to be the anniversary of the day that Dan had moved to Savannah nine years before. It was also my brother’s 64th birthday, and I called my Aged Father to let him know of my whereabouts and my brother to wish him a ‘Happy Birthday.’ I also called Jo to make sure she had arrived safely despite the heavy rains. She was safely home.”

The next column, Lord willing, should finish up the September trip of the Portly Gentleman. Then, Lord willing, I want to share notes from Betty Mitchell’s bus tours.

The mystery person last week has been identified by Jeff Moore as his co-worker at the Star-News, Myrene Henley. She’s the first person one sees when one enters the newspaper office, and one can bank on her friendly and helpful service.

This week’s mystery person is “Mr. Friendly,” with a smile and a handshake for everyone, a judicial sort with a good memory for names, a historian at heart, a family man, a popular man.

Seen at David’s Catfish were Dr. Dale and Jane Gunn.

Glenn and Cindy Cook have returned from their annual trek up North to enjoy the snow and to visit her family in North Carolina.

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