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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I thanked God for the recent rains and prayed for more. Boy, is it hot! Do you remember all the complaining about the cold weather this past winter? I limited my complaining because I knew that, when summer came, we would long for some of that cold weather!

The Murals Committee met June 30 in City Hall (the old Andalusia High School) to discuss our city’s fifth mural, to be painted, Lord willing, at the corner of East Three-Notch and Central streets. Wes Hardin, the muralist from Dothan, who has painted our first four murals, hopes to begin July l2, the same day the Murals Committee plans to meet again.

Wes has been working in Ft. Gaines, Ga., which Robert Anderson, a committee member, described as an attractive place.

Someone reported that a couple has already been married on the sidewalk at the corner of East Three-Notch and Central because now-famous Hank and Audrey Williams were married there. Someone predicted many more marriages at this corner when the mural of Hank and Audrey is finished.

David Fuqua, who recently returned to Andalusia and has taken an active interest in local history, led a discussion on the East Three-Notch Trail through South Alabama and, possibly, an interpretive center about the old trail, to be located in Andalusia.

Other committee members present were Hazel Griffin, Nancy Robbins, Willie Thomas, Joe Wingard, and Pat Palmore, chairman.

Gayle (Greenwood) Weeks, retired teacher in Opp, treated her husband, Earl, to the lunch buffet at Tabby D.’s Restaurant in Covington’s capital city on his 68th birthday, July 6.

Mr. Weeks worked 33 years for Opp City Schools, retiring in 2008 as superintendent of the Opp City Schools, a position he held his last four years in the system.

He was the first Opp superintendent to have gone through the Opp City Schools himself and to have been graduated from Opp High School.

Lisa Peek was surprised by her fellow staff members at Tabby D.’s Restaurant with a birthday party after the lunch crowd left July 6. Enjoying a big cake with her were her husband, Michael, and 6-year-old son, Christian. Staffers honoring one of their own were Sonia Senn, Jane Grice, Angela Biggs, Tabitha Stacks, Anna Hester, J. R. Cintron and Lori Stacks.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for lunch were Willie and Thelma Thomas and Trey Burgess, the up-and-coming Opp lawyer.

Seen at Country Folks in Florala for the Friday buffet were Vernell and Flora Craig, her uncle, Ellis King, Robert Lee Holley and the Portly Gentleman.

Riding on the backroads near Samson, I counted 18 buffalo in a pasture near the home of Charlene Williams.

Seen at Tabby D.’s were Marvin and Jeanette Britt and Esker and Ann Thomasson.

Hazel Jordan popped her head into the newspaper office this week. She seemed right at home; and her presence reminded me of the good old days when she and Paul, her husband, worked for The Star-News, in the days of Ed and “Twinkle” Dannelly, Byron and Louise Vickery, Lora Jones, Mr. Suggs and others.

Natasha Mallory lent me an anthology last week, entitled The Nation’s (England’s) Favourite Poems, l996. The contents included 100 poems with Rudyard Kipling’s “If” as the top favorite. I want to share four observations I gleaned from examining the volume.

First, I came across the poem, “Warning,” by Jenny Joseph, which inspired the Red Hat Society. The poem begins with “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple/With a red hat.” Perhaps you have seen older women, dressed in red hats and purple dresses. Check out the organization’s history on a computer, if you wish. It’s interesting.

Second, I read for the first time a comical poem, “Please, Mrs. Butler,” by Allan Ahlberg. It’s about a schoolboy, who complains about being teased by a classmate. His teacher, Mrs. Butler, gives him advice at each complaint; but the teacher is not really interested. She just wants the boy to hush and leave her alone. It’s clever. Again, check your computer.

Third, there is an author named John Clare, an Englishman who lived long ago, whom very few know. He’s one of those lost treasures in literature and worth a third look on your computer.

Fourth, John Betjeman lived 1906 – 1984, a prominent English poet, already in school anthologies. I already knew of him and that he was good, but I didn’t know how good until I read his works in the anthology Natasha lent me. I became a Betjeman “convert.”

“Check him out,” as they say.

Richard Pass, teacher for the Sunday School of the Baraca Class at First Baptist Church, East Three-Notch, reminded the gentlemen of the class that God is still in charge and that He hasn’t passed control on to someone else. That was reassuring.

First Baptist sponsored a church-wide breakfast last Sunday morning. Fellowship Hall was decorated extensively with red, white and blue, in keeping with the upcoming Fourth of July. Serving up a varied and rich repast were Jerri Stroud, Mary Avery, Jennie Pitts, Jean Jones and Gloria Collier.

The auditorium was festive with a row of American flags across the back of the choir loft. The choir itself dressed casually in red, white and blue.

The service included patriotic music, accompanied by Martha Givhan at the organ and Jeanice Kirkland at the grand piano.

Pieces included “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “God, Bless America,” “The Star-spangled Banner” (following the pledge), “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.”

Martha Givhan played “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “For Spacious Skies” as prelude and offertory.

Dwight Crigger, minister of music, led the adult choir in two anthems, “Pray for America” and “If My People.”

The theme of the day was that God will spare a nation if its people turn back to Him from their sins.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, I quote Daniel Webster, the great Massachusetts senator and orator of his day, “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury us and our glory in profound obscurity.”

Now, Mr. and Mrs. America, if you have been wondering what’s wrong with our nation, read the above again. That explains it all, purely and simply.

Colonel Covington says that we have a “sintral” government.

Again, I ask that each citizen of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 so as to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box l582, Andalusia, AL 36420.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week 150 years ago.

The Federal troops marched into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley (uninvited). President Lincoln claimed that he had done all in his power to maintain peace (he wouldn’t even meet with the peace committee sent by the South) and had tried to solve the problems precipitated by the South (yes, the lily-white North was as innocent as a coiled snake) without resorting to war. He blamed the South for Fort Sumter (naturally). His intention was to preserve the territorial integrity of the United States and the federal Union. He called for 400,000 more men (another effort at peace, no doubt). (Some label the War as Mr. Lincoln’s War. His actions and attitudes, mentioned above, seem to justify that title. I feel that Mr. Lincoln deceived himself, to say the least.)

In Missouri, Governor Claiborne Jackson led Confederate troops to a victory over Union troops invading Missouri.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial stamps.

The mysterian last Saturday was Grace Ellis Larson, identified by Lucy Price. Congratulations, Lucy!

Grace ran the Gables hotel and restaurant on Church Street, as did her mother, the gathering place for lunch after church on Sundays for years and years. I liked to call Grace “Mother Andalusia.”

This week’s cluegraph: Methodist, originally from Tampa, Fla., one of five sisters, Air Force “brat,” Southern Mississippi “grad” and homecoming queen her senior year, one husband, one son, wears many hats, works for the hospital and in marketing.

I return this week to the biography written about John D. Stokes, local, beloved farmer, who died this year at 94. The biography was written by his daughter, Gail Segrest of Huntsville.

We pick up this week with John D.’s schooling.

“I started school at Adellum, a two-room community school. Three teachers divided the children into groups and taught primer through sixth grade. The school day lasted from eight to four o’clock, and the school year was seven months long. During the day we had two thirty-minute recesses and an hour for lunch.

“Children started in the primer level at seven; and, because of my August birthday, I was eight when I got to start the first grade.

“I never had trouble making my grades, but I didn’t study too much either! I liked arithmetic and spelling.

“The worse whipping I ever got was by a teacher named Mrs. Taylor. I ’accidentally’ struck a match, and she saw it! She kept several poles ready in the corner for when something like that happened and went to get three or four of them. I knew what was about to happen, so I started to run out of the room. Unfortunately, I got my feet hung up in my desk. Then I grabbed my tablet and held it over my head, but she kept hitting at me ‘til the tablet was in pieces. She was really mean to all the children!

“My dad was a trustee of the school, so he got the superintendent to agree that she would never teach in Covington County again but would finish out the last few weeks in the school year. (Of course, at the time, I didn’t know this.)

“Mrs. Maude Hare was one of the good teachers I had. I got some paddlings from her, too; but I’m sure I deserved them! Most of the teachers were good to all of us. One day one of my teachers was standing in the back of the room and told me she was going to whip me; so I ran to the front and said, ‘Here I stand, black and dirty. If you don’t come get me, I’ll run like a turkey.’ Well, she did come get me because I couldn’t out run her!

“We mostly studied reading, writing, arithmetic, and history. When Uncle Lamar (Dad’s brother) finished the seventh grade, he was qualified to teach primer through third grade. It was hard to find enough teachers.

“One of our readers had the Bible story of Joseph. I always enjoyed the stories in our reading books.

“There was no cafeteria, so my lunch was a biscuit sandwich with eggs on Irish potatoes. Mama rolled it in paper, and I stuck it in my hip pocket or coat pocket. I didn’t want to bother with a lunch bucket.

“We would walk to school (about two miles); and when we got home, we enjoyed sweet potatoes for a snack.

“I liked school and wanted to finish but was able to go only through eighth grade because mama was sick and dad had to have me help at home. I went later to adult schools at Adellum and Cedar Grove Church and continued my education. I also loved to read and would always keep a dictionary handy to look up words I didn’t know.

“We subscribed to a weekly paper called the Grit, which had interesting, continuing stories. I also loved reading the newspaper, Westerns and the Bible.

“Bernice and L.C., the youngest in the family, were able to go on to high school because times were much better. Bernice graduated (as valedictorian of her class) and began working at the Commercial Bank. L.C. started work in Mobile as a machinist. He was drafted into the Army during World War II but didn’t have to serve long because they needed trained machinists more at the shipyards in Mobile.

“After farming in the Adellum area for five years, we moved to my granddaddy’s place near the Conecuh River (behind Cedar Grove Church). The river flooded our crops three times in seven years. Finally, the flood of 1929 wiped out everything. Dad had to give up our home and about 250 acres and start over. Times were tough!

“Dad knew that the hydroelectric company had opened Gantt Dam after the first and second floods to prevent the dam from breaking. It was built with dirt rather than concrete. The third flood was caused by heavy rains in February and March of 1929.

“Dad went to his banker and asked his advice on suing for damages. He was told he should not sue because he could never win a lawsuit against the electric company. He found out too late that his banker was a big stockholder in the company.”

Next time, Lord willing, we follow John D. through “The Great Depression.”

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