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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw the world a-greening before my eyes – the grasses, the roadside clovers, the Bradford pears, done with their blooming, now turning green, too. Even the long-blooming Kiss-Me-at-the-Gate had yielded to leaves.

Over at Covington Hall kites filled the air above the great lawn. The Covingtons were sponsoring their annual kite-flying contest. March is known for windy days and kites. Prizes this year, Miss Dora told me, were cash and busts of Benjamin Franklin, associated with kites because of his experiment with electricity. Categories include the kite that stays aloft the longest, best homemade kite, and highest-flying. The Covingtons began the Benjamin Franklin Kite Contest on the tricentennial anniversary of Franklin’s birth.

Clay Clyde Clump had set up tables on the lawn for refreshments prepared by Miss Cora. Miss Flora had decorated with flowers.

As I stood at my window, I saw, too, that the dogwoods were coming into their own. They quickly follow the redbuds. I’m told that the redbud is the Judas tree, red with the blood of Christ, betrayed by Judas. The dogwood symbolizes the cross of Christ that followed the betrayal.

My eyes went from one bloom at Covington Hall to another – the Lady Banks roses, Knock-out roses, wisteria (hanging like Japanese lanterns, like paper clusters of grapes), sloes on the woody roadsides, tea olives, azaleas, and dewberries, which put me in hopes of dewberry nectar, dewberry jam, and dewberry cobbler.

My eyes took in the fields that flanked Covington Hall. I saw great wind-swept stretches of Indian cane, pinkish-red and bowing to the passing winds of March.

Who can ever tire of the beauty of this world? As Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

On my way to Montgomery this week, I stopped for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Greenville. Mrs. Gotrocks joined me under the picture of Hopalong Cassidy at our favorite table. Every time I eat at a Cracker Barrel I feel that I’m on a bus tour with Betty Mitchell, who is known for stopping often at a Cracker Barrel somewhere.

On the drive up I was aware of dozens of redbuds in bloom along I-65. I don’t know why the tree is called a redbud, though, because the bloom is purplish. I noted, too, the South Carolina yellow jasmine, cascading from roadside trees and shrubs, as well as ‘possum haw in the wet spots and Stars of Bethlehem in yards as I entered Montgomery.

I went to Montgomery to see the two plays written for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in commemoration of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the War Between the States.

The fact that this year is the silver anniversary of the ASF made the trip even more special.

I saw the first, Blood Divided, last Saturday. Four actors portrayed historical characters in Montgomery during the War years: Dr. Baldwin, who sympathized with the North; William Lowndes Yancey, a famous secessionist who welcomed Jefferson Davis to Montgomery with “the man and the hour have met”; Willie Baldwin, the doctor’s son who went off to fight for the South; and Jim Hale, a slave with a talent for building. The divided blood was between father and son, who differed politically.

Before the play I took a little lunch in the Terrace Cafe across the park and lake from the ASF, over in the Montgomery Museum.

The Terrace is a small room with walls of glass, offering artistic views of the terrace, the art museum, geese on a lake, landscaped lawns, and the ASF in the distance. Tables are covered with starched, white cloths and set with little vases of live flowers (this day, yellow daffodils and orange Gerbera daisies).

The food is excellent. I chose hot tea, vegetable quiche, and tomato-artichoke soup, which came with crackers and a cluster of fresh fruit.

As I drove over to the ASF, I noticed in the park fronting the theater that there were persons riding bikes, walking dogs, sunbathing, picnicing, walking, “spooning,” children riding “sheep” (statues), youth at Frisbee and football, kites, strollers feeding ducks in the lake and resisting the temptation to wade, and nappers, soaking up the lovely, afternoon sun.

My seat was next to that of Mary Bullard of Montgomery. It turned out that she had worked in the Montgomery school system with Jane Riley, formerly of Andalusia, and knew of Jane’s children, the lovely Ruth and the mischievous Peter. I could but smile when I recalled the stories of Peter’s youth in the “Dimple of Dixie.”

I saw the companion play, The Flag Maker of Market Street, Sunday afternoon. It, too, had four characters. Two were historical, George Cowles, a merchant on Market Street (now Dexter), entrusted to make the first Confederate flag, and William Bibb, a wealthy Southron. Both were secretly pro-Union. The actors who played Cowles and Bibb had also appeared in Blood Divided. Also, each play referred to characters in the other.

Both plays were powerfully written and excellently acted with memorable lines, moments of laughter, and moments of tears.

I became aware of the difficulty of keeping modern perspectives and prejudices – political correctness – out of the plays. I had assumed that, since there were two plays, that one would sympathize more with the North and one more with the South. Rather, there were elements of sympathy to North and South in both plays with a tendency to favor the thinking of the North. There were some far-fetched ideas in The Flag Maker; but it was the more entertaining of the two plays, because of the presence of two women.

After the play I ran into the delightful Sally (Salter) Loveless of Brewton, who had been reared in Andalusia. She introduced me to her husband “Yank”; to Red Blount’s daughter, Kay, of whom Sally was a guest; and to her sister-in-law, Sharon Blackburn, Chief Justice of the U.S. District in Birmingham.

Red Blount was the financial power behind the ASF. His statue stands on the grounds as one enters the theater.

Today and tomorrow are the last times to see these two plays.

I hope both are published for they deserve more detailed study.

Before I left the ASF grounds, I strolled through the Shakespeare garden, which lies next to the theater. The garden was a-bloom with seasonal blooms.

Clydie Clump tells me that he’s still sleepy from losing an hour last weekend by “springing forward” for the time change. I can still hear Carolyn (Raborn) Rankin, a local teacher, saying, “Fall back in the fall; spring forward in the spring.”

Miss Priscilla Primme told me our local flags were at half mast on the Ides of March in honor of the burial that day of Frank Buckles, aged 110, the last living soldier from World War I.

The only birthday I mention this week is that of Kate Greenaway, English painter and illustrator, especially of children’s books.

March 17, St. Paddy’s Day, I ran into Raymond Worley at the Piggly-Wiggly “deli,” and we joked about being pinched if we didn’t have on something green. That’s an old belief I was taught in childhood.

For our “Sesquicentennial Moment” it was this week l50 years ago that President Lincoln refused to acknowledge the Confederate States of America as a separate nation, refused to meet ambassadors from the CSA, and refused to accept the fact that Southern states had left the Union. He postponed a decision about Fort Sumter, too, seeming to want to avoid firing the first shot of the War, physically, though verbal shots and decisions had already been fired by both sides. Arizona seceded. (I didn’t even know that Arizona was organized at that time.) The CSA sought recognition from Great Britain (which never gave it). Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis was hoping that the federal troops would withdraw from Fort Sumter, but knew that was highly unlikely.

If Mr. Gried and Mr. Glutt haven’t priced gasoline out of your financial world, consider the 46th annual Eufaula Pilgrimage of Homes April l – 3.

Also, a trip to Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore near Mobile is a journey that each of us should make at least once in our lives. Curtis Hampton Thomasson, our local columnist for geneaology, has been writing in our paper about the Bellingrath family, including the Bellingrath sister who once lived in Andalusia. It was her brother and his wife that began the Gardens.

Miss Birdie Purdie tells me that someone is cutting down about l6 pines along Easley Road at the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery, probably in preparation for the fence to border the cemetery.

Clydie Clump tells me that he saw a small, white pig on the loose over Easley-Road way.

Seen at Granny’s (formerly, Perry’s) for the seafood buffet were Danny and Jan (Whitehurst) Hall.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for the lunch buffet were Dr. Dale and Jane Gunn.

Seen at the Piggly Wiggly “deli” for the lunch buffet were Robert Williams, Ed Buck, Gary Buck, Tony Nall, Bill McClain, and Kevin and Angie McClain.

Our mystery person last week was Judge “Trippy” McGuire, identified by Robert Lee Holley.

This week’s mystery person has blue eyes, loves surprises, the sunset, and the beach. She’s a photographer who likes to capture “God’s creation” on film. She can be seen, jogging through town occasionally in the afternoon. A fan of the piano and chicken strips, she has just acquired a new vehicle, having found that her old one doesn’t ride as smoothly upside down!

Educational employees, associated with the Alabama Education Association in this area, met March l4 at Reid State College in Evergreen for a monthly meeting. These are teachers and support personnel from all the public schools in Covington, Conecuh, and Escambia counties.

Jacqueline Earthly, vice-president of this area (District 24), presided in the absence of Jimmy Ponds, the president from Covington County, who was ill.

The AEA members discussed the “rolling reserve,” DROP program, a rally for education set for April 2 in Evergreen, new officers for the next two years, and membership.

Attending were Eugene Smith, Janelle Riley, Kiara Smith, Dianne McKenzie (treasurer), Calvin McIntyre, Rita Folmar, Ethel M. Robertson, Emma Locke, Warrick Maye, Nancy Crosby, Joe Wingard (secretary), and Vivian Jones (district director).

Janelle Riley provided a supper of fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, butter beans, pasta salad, rolls, tea, and a pound cake made with pure butter. YUM-yum!!

All stood and joined hands in a circle of prayer for President Ponds.

Now, gentle reader, the Portly Gentleman will conclude his notes of his trip back in September. He had gone with his Cousin Jo Driggers of Lexington, S.C., to a conference about the great, Southern writer of ante-bellum days, William Gilmore Simms, in Columbia, S.C.. Then they had visited Charleston in connection with the Sesquicentennial. Finally, the Portly One had visited his old friend, S. Daniel Shehan, in Savannah. We find him now, about to head home.

“Dan and I ate breakfast at IHOP on my way out of Savannah. For the first time I tried lingonberry syrup on pancakes.

“The reader may be interested in reading the spots I noted as I motored west: Bryan, Midway (with its historic church), Highway 84 (which took me home), Flemington, Hinesville (a very nice town), Ludowici, Jesup, Screven, Patterson, Blackshear with the Pierce County Courthouse, Waycross (the famous railroad town), Homerville (where the former Beverly Davis and her family have lived for years; there is an excellent restaurant in the split of the roads there), Dupont, Stockton, and Valdosta (a handsome city with grand civic and church buildings).

“The rains were falling heavily by now. They had threatened back in Savannah. I pulled over in Valdosta to eat lunch at Shoney’s and escape the rains for awhile.

“Motoring on, I came to Quitman (a quaint town), where the rains slacked. The sun was out by the time I got to Thomasville, the “City of Roses,” a lovely place with the largest oak between the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean. There is a market restaurant in Thomasville where I have had some of the best meals of my life. One can spend the day, just driving up and down the main street. My dad, who worked for the railroad for 40 years, used to spend the night in Thomasville before heading back to Montgomery. All my life I’ve heard about Thomasville.

“On I drove through Cairo, Whigham (another charming town), Climax, Bainbridge, Donalsonville (the home of Benny Gay), Dothan, Daleville, Perry’s Store Community (little did I know then that Perry’s Restaurant would soon be gone and Agnes Perry deceased), Opp, and into ‘the Dimple of Dixie.’”

So ends the Portly Gentleman’s account.

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