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

Published 12:03 am Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind this past Tues., April 12, I noticed the Confederate jasmine, blooming over the curved arbor at the entrance to my little yard, and thought how appropriate the Confederate blooms were on that date because, on that date 150 years ago, Fort Sumter, out in Charleston Bay, was “rescued” from the belligerent North by Confederates.

The Covington girls, Miss Cora, Miss Dora and Miss Flora, went riding with me this week to see which blooms we could spot in addition to Confederate jasmine. There were waves of red, white and yellow clovers, interspersed in various combinations of color, in the medians between Andalusia and Opp, with patches of purple (and sometimes, white) verbena and sweeps of pink primroses (buttercups), honeysuckle, English dogwood, pink oxalis, stiff deutzia (the perfect buttonhole), ligustrum with its waxy clusters and roses of all sorts, especially the Knock-out variety. We noticed on Church Street, especially, the beautiful cascades of roses on the rustic fence, bordering Robinson Park, which gets prettier and prettier each year.

Gentle reader, have you noticed the flat, one-story, rectangular, brick-and-glass, office building next to City Hall? Various businesses and services have been housed in it for several decades. By the time this column is published, it will be gone, being demolished a-purpose for a park and parking between City Hall and Springdale. I particularly recall that Connie Beasley, hair stylist, was located there “forever.”

The Murals Committee of our town, chaired by Pat Palmore, met April 11 in City Hall (once the Andalusia High School and later the Grammar School and later one of two grammar schools).

After prayer by Mrs. Palmore, the committee discussed the fifth mural planned for the “Dimple of Dixie.”

Wes Hardin, the muralist from Dothan, who has painted our first four murals, presented his ideas to spotlight utilities, the Three-Notch trail, and the marriage of Hank Williams, all on the building owned by Tony Brown at the corner of East Three-Notch and Central.

Brown shared his thoughts with the committee, as did Mayor Earl Johnson, who dropped by.

A visitor, David Fuqua, a son of Jean (Carter) Fuqua, recently returned to Andalusia, expressed his interest in the project.

Committee members present were Elaine Manning, Nancy Robbins, Hazel Griffin, Mary Lee Howard and Joe Wingard.

I agree with a complaint shared with me by a fellow citizen the other day. He wondered why those who sing the national anthem at ballgames feel they must “enhance” the music with ten variations on one note and add inventive inter-melodies of their own making. Why can’t the singer sing what was written? When he finishes his varieties, he really thinks he’s done something. Well, he’s done something, all right.

I notice the same thing is fashionable in church with certain hymns. The hymn is beautiful in itself; but then someone has to go and spoil it by using a new accompaniment for the final stanza, a kind of Hollywood ending. The “tune” wanders into Discord Land and modulates into notes no eunuch can reach.

For this week’s Sesquicentennial Moment we remember that 150 years ago in 1861 Fort Sumter out in Charleston Bay in South Carolina was the center of attention.

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, in charge of the Confederate forces in Charleston, received a telegram from Montgomery, the temporary capital of the Confederacy, authorizing him to require the surrender of Fort Sumter.

Gentle reader, the next time you find yourself in Montgomery at Court Square where the fountain stands at the foot of Dexter Avenue, look about you. You will see the three-story Winter Building, now used for offices. Outside will be a historical marker. That marker explains that it was from the Winter Building (second floor) that the telegraph was sent to General Beauregard, mentioned above.

Just across the court from the Winter Building once stood the Exchange Hotel. President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet discussed Fort Sumter and the information for the telegraph in their offices there. The information for the telegraph, authorizing General Beauregard to fire on Fort Sumter, using his own judgment, was sent from the Exchange Hotel across the court to the Winter Building and telegraphed from there to Charleston.

What a shame the old Exchange was later destroyed. In it the Davises had briefly lived, the Fort Sumter telegraph had been authored, the cabinet of the Confederacy had met, William Lowndes Yancey had made his famous speech, “The Man and the Hour Have Met,” Davis had spoken upon his arrival in Montgomery from Mississippi, and, later, Sidney Lanier, the poet, had worked. What a rich history was lost!

Meanwhile in Fort Sumter Major Robert Anderson (who had taught Beauregard at West Point), representing the federal government, has twice refused offers for a peaceful surrender, tendered by three messengers, Colonel James Chestnut, A. R. Chisolm and Captain Stephen D. Lee.

Gentle reader, take note of Chestnut. He was the only son of the richest man in South Carolina and played an important role in the War. His wife, Mary, kept a diary that has become famous. Mary lived in Montgomery for a time when the Davis family lived there and was a close friend of Mrs. Davis there and, later, in Richmond.

General Beauregard ordered bombardment on Fort Sumter April 12. The next day, April 13, Major Anderson surrendered. The only deaths were those of a few Northern soldiers, killed when they accidentally blew themselves up, and a horse.

President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to fight the rebellion and learned that federal reinforcements had secured Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, Fla.

This past week commemorative events in Charleston recalled the surrender of Fort Sumter, which some consider the beginning of the War. Personally, I think the War had begun long before in attitudes, words and deeds.

Seen at Fried Green Tomatoes along Highway 84 for the seafood buffet last Saturday were Bell Henley and her daughter, Barbara Henley.

Seen for lunch at Tabby D.’s were James and Jenelle Jones, Andy and Mickie Riley, Dr. Dale and Jane Gunn, Allan and Nell Wiggle, Johnnie Davis and his son, Derek Davis, Jean (Carter) Fuqua and her son, David Fuqua, and his wife Jana, who have recently moved here to be near his mother. Also seen were Ophelia Albritton, Abbie Taylor, A.G. and Pat Palmore, Nancy Smith, Elmer and Myrtice Davis, Rita Young, Maggie Shelley, Sally Hendricks, Gloria Boswell, Marie Aughtman, Tari (Harrelson) McClung and her mother-in-law, Donna McClung, and Ham Curry.

To honor the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (1611 – 2011), I quote Patrick Henry, “There is a book worth all others which were ever printed.”

The Covington Rifles, Camp 1586 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, met for business April 7 in the Dixon Memorial of the Andalusia Public Library.

Commander Sir Francis McGowin presided.

Chaplain John Allen Gantt worded both invocation and benediction.

Vaughn Bowers led in the pledges to the American, Alabama and Confederate flags.

Larry Shaw, songster, led in “Dixie.”

Last year’s slate of officers were voted back into office for another year.

Josh Lee received his membership certificate into the SCV.

Also attending were Derick Davis, Joe Wingard, Larry Lee (father to Josh Lee), Donald Sasser (who came all the way from Mississippi), Jimmy Cobb, Jimmy Mott, Curtis Thomasson (only living past commander) and Pat Cowden (a visitor).

Two famous birthdays this past week were those of William Hazlitt, English essayist, and Thomas Jefferson, third President of our Nation.

Hazlitt wrote the best essay I ever read, “On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth.”

Also, this week past, Noah Webster published his dictionary, still the most famous American lexicon to date.

Miss Flora reminded me again that Jasmine Hills Gardens near Wetumpka, above Montgomery, is open weekends through June 26. The hours are 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays the gardens are open noon till 5 p.m.

Bellingrath Gardens at Theodore near Mobile is open almost daily.

No one guessed the mystery person, so I offer my “cluegraph” for the third week. This person is so true-blue an Auburn fan that, if you cut him, he bleeds orange and blue. His Auburn bill is paid first each month, if all others have to wait. A former baseball star, the son of a teacher, and a Baptist, he has an “underground” job. He has one wife, “so far,” she says, and is master of a beloved dog, Little One.

Here at last is the long-awaited report by Betty Mitchell of her bus tour to New Orleans, the “Big Easy.” Her group left Andalusia on Nov. 8, 2010, stopping for lunch at – surprise! surprise! – the Cracker Barrel in Moss Point, Mississippi.

I shall pick up now with “Miss Betty’s” own words.

“After lunch and a little shopping we arrived at our hotel, the Ambassador, in downtown New Orleans. Our hotel had once been a coffee warehouse but is now renovated. It was very unique, and the staff was extra nice and accommodating.

“After getting checked in, we were off to dinner at Ralph and Kacco’s, a very popular restaurant, famous for its seafood. I had the fried catfish; they were delicious!

“After dinner we were back to our hotel for the night. Some went exploring the area around us.

“Tuesday morning after breakfast we loaded up, had prayer and a drawing for the prize of the day, and departed for a tour of the Destrehan Plantation.

“There we saw a demonstration of how moss was used, which was a big business in the 1800s. It was cleaned and then used in mattresses and furniture. Henry Ford used it in the seats of his Model T Ford.

“Then we went back to the French Quarter for lunch. Zolly, my husband, Ray, my brother-in-law, and I dined at Landry’s Seafood House. Ray and I had gumbo. Ray also ate oysters on the half shell. Zolly had a hamburger! We told him he doesn’t know what good food is! I had gumbo every day for lunch, and the best was at the Gumbo Pot near the River Walk.

“After lunch we picked up our guide for our city tour. Our guide was excellent. Our first stop was at one of the many cemeteries. One had the Chapel of Saint Rock, known for his miraculous cures. The people are buried above the ground with several or a whole family buried in one tomb – very interesting.

“We saw the damage Hurricane Katrina had caused. They’re still cleaning up. We saw how the homes were marked after a search for people. Rescue workers had come from all 50 states. One typical house was marked with an X, recorded the date of the search, the number of dead people, no entry on the right, and on the left the state doing the inspection.

“Our guide showed us the area he lived in and told that his wife was in the kitchen and he was in the yard when the hurricane came and that within three minutes the water had swept him to the housetop. He didn’t know what had happened to his wife, but they were united after several days. He seemed so grateful. It makes you know how precious life is and that it can be gone in seconds.

“Our guide dropped us off at our restaurant, Gordon Biersch. After dinner we had free time, either to go to the French Quarter or to return to the hotel.”

At this point “Miss Betty” had to stop writing because of an operation. One of her “Buskoteers,” my cousin, Jo Driggers of Lexington, S.C., agreed to pick up the story at this point. Lord willing, Jo’s Part II will be used in a future column.

Before I leave the New Orleans trip, November 8 – 12, I want to list those going as follows: Bowdy and Garlene Brown, Virgania Merritt, James and Joy Simmons, all of Opp; Jean Ward, T. C. and Myrtle Clemmons, all of Bonifay, Fla.; Jo Driggers, Lexington, S.C.; Ray Mitchell of Lowndesboro, Jettie Shell of Evergreen, Betty Hall of Freeport, and all the rest from Andalusia, Glyndia Baker, Lucy Davis, Ferrolyn Elmore, Beverly Gilder, Mark and Cynthia Gunter, Susan Henderson, Betty Knowles, Zolly Mitchell, Barbara Teel, Catherine Davis, Kent Davis, Sharron Dye, Kay Ezell, Thelma Glisson, Martha Helms, Gordon Helms, Shirley Helms, Rex Helms, Crystell Prestwood, Frances Ptomey and James Summerlin.

The driver was named Michael.

Now, gentle reader, let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing, especially since it’s Palm Sunday. If you can, wear a palm frond on your clothing tomorrow.

I hope each of you gets to hear “The Palms,” either sung or played or both. It is a grand, old piece of music.

Fare thee well!