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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 8, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, looking at the blue, blue sky, I thought of the poem, “October’s Bright Blue Weather,” written by Helen Hunt Jackson. The first stanza came back to me.

“Oh, suns and skies and clouds of June/ And flowers of June together,/ Ye cannot rival for one hour/ October’s bright, blue weather.”

I learned those lines from Miss Ellen Barrow with whom I once taught. It was a beautiful October day as we walked from the Annex at the Andalusia High School towards the cafeteria. Miss Barrow, who taught seventh-grade English, suddenly quoted the lines. I had never heard them. She had been made to put them to memory as a girl.

I secured a copy of the entire poem and read it thereafter each October to my students as a thought for the day. As long as Miss Barrow lived, I sent her a copy of that poem each October.

This deed, as Longfellow wrote, was one of the secret anniversaries of the heart.

Seen at Granny’s (formerly known as Perry’s Restaurant) for the Friday night, seafood buffet were Billy Rathel, June Moore, Robert Lee Holley and a group of alumni from Kinston High School, especially those from the Class of 1945 (?), gathered for a reunion. Spotted were the brothers, Howard Pierce (’40) and Roy Pierce (’45?). In talking with Howard I learned something of his childhood. His family’s land was next to Kinston High School, so he didn’t have far to walk. Howard told me that he went barefoot to school till the ninth grade.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for lunch were Michael Harper, Laura Hunt, James and Jenelle Jones, Mickie Riley, Don and Cheryl Cotton (Don, on his “hobbler” because of a leg injury), Richard Jones, Neal Dansby (who had given the program to the Rotary Club) and Trey Burgress, the young attorney from Opp.

Sue (Bass) Wilson presided at the Covington Historical Society Sept. 29 in the Dixon Memorial of the public library (old post-office building).

Bill Law worded the invocation. Curtis Thomasson led the pledge. Larry Shaw led all in “Alabama,” the state song. New members and guests were recognized, Lee Enzor, in particular, because his law office at 208 Dunson, just down the street, is the oldest brick residence in town, according to Wyley Ward, local historian. Lee told later that the house was built by Sam Berman, one-time Jewish merchant, whose father came to Andalusia in the old days with only a pack of goods on his back.

Among the members was Sidney Waits, another local historian whose AHS Class of 1942 reaches their 70th anniversary of graduation this year.

(One improvement that the homecoming committee at AHS can make for the future is to be sure that all living alumni are included in the homecoming assembly. That should include, for next year, the classes of 1933, 1943, 1953, 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 and 2003. If you are in one of these classes, don’t wait for someone to notify you. Notify the school. “Take the bull by the horns.” The poor faculty is already “swamped” with work and may not have time to call all the alumni, or even know who’s in each class and how to get in touch with them. I hate to see any alumni left out. If you want to be included, “It’s the squeaking wheel that gets the grease!”)

In CHS business, Harmon Proctor reported on the museum.

Mrs. Wilson announced that the Sunshine House on Stanley Ave., once the home of the Altrusa Club, had been sold by the Society. Altrusa gave it to the CHS when the Altrusans disbanded.

Charles “Chuck” M. Simon, county agent coordinator with the Covington County Extension Office, spoke on cattle still around the Pineywoods area in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi that originated with cattle shipped over from Andalusia, Spain, to the old Southwest, Caribbean islands, California and Mexico. They are called Cracker Cattle in Florida. In Texas, they are known as Longhorns. True breeds from the old days are becoming rare.

Using pictures, Simon presented a fascinating history of the cattle and the times.

Refreshments were provided by Glen and Barbara Powell, who traditionally for the fall meeting offer boiled green peanuts and homemade ice cream. They also served pimiento sandwiches, chips and dip, and sweets, assisted by Jimmy and Sue Wilson.

Congratulations to Coach Richard Robertson, Class of 1961, Ralph Bunche High School, and Dr. Jack Sasser, Class of 1954, AHS, for their being honored as outstanding graduates in a ceremony in City Hall (formerly, the Andalusia High School), following the parade on homecoming day, Sept. 16.

A reception followed the awards presentation.

Both men were recognized with standing ovations in the morning homecoming assembly at AHS, following presentation by Suan (Riley) Salter, Class of 1948, a member of the Outstanding Graduate Committee.

Student Government officers, taking leadership roles at the AHS homecoming assembly, were Josh Atkinson, president, who presided; Stephen Caton, vice-president, who welcomed alumni and those who serve in the military; Sung Mo, secretary, who gave the devotional; Alexandra Hart, treasurer; and Samantha Hill, parliamentarian, who led the pledge. The art on the printed program was drawn by Sarah Brabner, class artist.

Piano accompaniment for the assembly was provided by the talented Angie (Baker) Sasser, Class of 1972, class valedictorian, celebrating her 40th high school anniversary, current science teacher at AHS, and soloist.

The Class of 1992 placed the flower arrangement on the stage in memory of their deceased classmates, Tara Petty and Beverly Smith.

I hope that some members of the classes of ’32, ’42, ’52, ’62, ’82, ’92 and ’02 will share something of their reunions, as my notes are mainly about the Class of ’72. Won’t you be the one?

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, I quote Isaac Newton, English philospher, “I account the scriptures of God the most sublime philosophy.”

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, Alabama 36420.

CHS President Sue (Bass) Wilson asked me to include the address of a new CHS website: www.3nmsm.com.

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

The Confederacy signed treaties with the Cherokee, Shawnee and Seneca Indian tribes. Some Indians joined the Confederacy.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

No one has guessed the mysterian from two weeks ago, a sweet Methodist, a retired teacher, a precious soul, beloved mother and grandmother.

This week past saw the birthdays of William Crawford Gorgas, American army surgeon and sanitation expert; Jenny Lind, Swedish soprano; and James Whitcomb Riley, Indiana poet.

Gorgas, from Alabama, was responsible for controlling yellow fever during the construction of the Panama Canal, thus saving many lives. I believe his house stands on the campus of the University of Alabama.

Jenny Lind, nicknamed “the Swedish Nightingale,” was said to have the most beautiful voice of any woman who ever lived. She traveled to foreign countries and sang to thousands. It’s a pity we have no recording of her heavenly voice to verify history.

James W. Riley inherited the popularity of Longfellow, whom he admired. His best-known poem is “Little Orphant (Orphan) Annie,” which the students of Jeanice (Paul) Kirkland, one of our retired teachers, heard often as their teacher recited it by heart. The poem led to a comic strip by Harold Gray, called Little Orphan Annie with Daddy Warbucks, Sandy, the Asp and Punjab. The cartoon led to a musical, Annie, with that heart-throbbing song, “Tomorrow,” a musical performed here in “the Dimple of Dixie” by some of our own.

Another Riley favorite is “When the Frost Is on the Punkin (pumpkin),” a perfect poem for the fall.

My personal favorite is Riley’s “Joney.”

Now Mr. Wingard will resume his notes about Betty Mitchell’s bus tour to Niagara Falls. This is the fourth installment.

“We ended Tuesday with free time. Ann McGowin, Jo Driggers and I took a taxi to the amusement park in Niagara and rode five loops of the giant Ferris wheel known as SkyWheel. From the top position in our four-passenger, see-through box we could see not only a classic sunset but also Niagara Falls in all its glory, a wondrous sight. Ann treated us to the ride.

“The girls were brave in our box; so was I as long as no one moved or breathed.

“Afterwards I suggested we walk back to the Radisson. What an idiot! I huffed and puffed and grumbled all the way. The girls looked at me and shook their heads.

“Wednesday, after a nice breakfast buffet in the Radisson, our guide, Pauline, joined us for a trip to Toronto on Lake Ontario, the capital and largest city in the Province of Ontario and one of the five largest cities in North America.

“Byram Lambert led us in prayer before we left.

“Pauline informed us of the sights as we left Niagara and headed around the lake for Toronto.

“In Toronto, which reminded me of New York City with its narrow streets and skyscrapers, we saw marinas, clubs, the Canadian National (railroad) Tower (an observation tower which some people climb by elevator), Canadian geese, parks, condos with sun porches, ships, Rogers Centre, street cars, traffic and crowds.

“We stopped at Queen’s Quay (key) Terminal, a dock on Lake Ontario, a center with apartments, shops, restaurants, public areas, washrooms, Sobeys Grocery, and a Tim Burton’s (donut chain). We rested, shopped, and looked about.

“One unusual sight was an inukshuk, an Inuit symbol of friendship, a marker of rocks, stacked to resemble a human, a kind of guidepost.

“As we continued through Toronto, we saw both the old and new city halls, chestnut trees, a statue of Winston Churchill, monuments, the Supreme Court building, hospitals, the building where insulin was discovered, the state capitol, the University of Toronto, Queen’s Park, museums, flower shops, churches, houses and ‘millions’ of apartments.

“Our main destination was Casa Loma (Spanish for castle on a hill), high on a hill, overlooking Toronto, built by 1914 at a cost of $3 to $5 million dollars as a private home, a modern-day, stone castle with 98 rooms, by Sir Henry Pellatt. When Pellatt lost his fortune, the city took the castle for back taxes. Today the Kiwanis Club runs it as a tourist attraction.

“We toured the three stories, gardens, and fountains on our own.

“Jo and I had lunch in Sir Henry’s Café in the basement.

“In the great hall was a pipe organ; and I could just imagine Dan Shehan, perched upon the bench, playing some grand piece.

“Despite the cool, grey, overcast day, I enjoyed sitting in the gardens, just looking.

“On the way out of town we stopped at the CN Tower, over a thousand feet in height. Having no reservations to climb it, we could only look. Someone who had been before pointed out the spot on the walk where one of our citizens had fallen on that trip.

“In the town of Missisauga we ate supper at the Muddy Duck, an excellent restaurant. I was seated with Jo, Ann McGowin, Sharon Dye, Glinda Simmons and Pauline, the guide.

“Next we passed through Hamilton where the water tower was shaped like our planet.

“Thursday rose, grey, damp, and cool.

“I was feeling pretty smug, having arisen earlier than need be, and having eaten already and having had time to read something of the area. I let the time get away from me, however; and when I looked at the clock, I had only two minutes to board the bus. I think everyone but me had a roommate. I wanted a room by myself and bragged to friends that I had my own, private elevator because it did open right next to my door on the fifth floor. Also, I was the only one with a sitting area in my room and the only one with a tub with jet sprays. Well, I hurried downstairs and out and boarded the first bus I came to. Yes, it was the wrong bus. I was not only late and last, but also aboard a bus bound elsewhere. I backed off and looked sheepishly about. There was my bus, angled just so everyone could get a good look at my humiliation. I have never heard so much laughter. To make things worse, I was seated in the back of the bus; so I had to walk the ‘gauntlet of laughter’ to my seat, red-faced and embarrassed. I got my comeuppance! (I still had my jet sprays, though!)

“Byram prayed for us again. Pauline took up her narration.

“Our first stop was at the chapel of Mount Carmel in Niagara, a Catholic Carmelite monastery, a place of serene beauty. After we were seated in respectful silence in the chapel, our own Bobbie Lambert read scripture and sang, a cappella, “Let Your Glory Fall.” It was crystal clear and beautiful, helping give us a truly worshipful time.

“Jesus is always welcome on Miss Betty’s tours.

“About us were wood carvings, stained glass, a hammer-beam roof, altar, choir, and organ.

“After a group picture on the steps of the chapel, we drove along the Niagara River with its rapids and a l9l8 barge still wedged amid the river rock. We drove past, too, the rustic, lovely Dufferin Park.

“Two men were trapped aboard that 1918 barge when it wrecked in the river. One was only 19 years of age and terrified. They say, before he could be rescued, that his hair turned white overnight.

“Everywhere I looked as we rode the bus, I saw large and lush flowers. The flowers in Canada do well, probably because of the dampness. I admired the sedum, roses, begonias, canna, castor and, especially, the heliotrope, which I rarely see.

“We soon arrived at the Welcome Center, a modern, tasteful complex at the edge of Horseshoe Falls, filled with restaurants, shops, washrooms, vantage points, and the entrance to Journey Behind the Falls. One could almost reach out and touch the water! He certainly could get his fill of the bountiful, powerful, surging flood of waters in all shades of green. I thought of Church’s great painting of the falls and of Lord Byron’s description of the sea, ‘Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean! Roll!’

“The Welcome Center rests on Table Rock, which juts out next to Horseshoe Falls. The location is about as close as one can get to the falls without going over.

“Of course we got wet from the rainy day and from the mist that rises from the foot of the falls.

“Our stay on Table Rock was not enough time to do all, so some ate (ice cream was only five dollars a cone), some went from vantage point to vantage point to stare at this wonder of nature, and some, like the ‘Three Daredevils,’ Betty Knowles, Thelma Glisson and Barbara Teel, went behind the falls to feel their majesty and roar.

“We were on the Canadian side with the Horseshoe Falls beside us; across the way we could see the American Falls and the single Bridal Veil Falls. There was a fine, though uncovered and wet, terrace on one level, plus an upstairs, dry observation room with glass walls. One could observe, wet or dry.

“Reluctantly leaving, we boarded for Victoria Gardens, which runs along the river, a place of gardens, flowers, lawns, walks, and statues. Here, just down river from the Welcome Center, we unloaded to board the Maid of the Mist, the name given to a number of boats which take dozens of tourists at one time out onto the Niagara River and up to the edge of the falls. Each passenger is given a throw away, blue raincoat and hood to keep him dry.

“It was a long walk down the hill to the boats, which were going out, one after another, from both American and Canadian sides. There was also an elevator one had to ride to get down to the boats. “Once we crowded onto our boat, I was concerned that we had to stand on deck the whole time. There were no chairs. One wobbled with the motion; and I feared someone would fall, but no one did. I let down my hood and felt the mist wet my face. I counted about eighty on our boat with room for more. We looked like a cluster of blue dumplings. Seagulls flew above us. People laughed nervously. Foam surrounded us. Looking up to the escarpment, I could see the skyline above the American Niagara Falls, the Cave of the Winds on the American side, Behind the Falls on the Canadian side, and the Welcome Center on Table Rock, jutting out next to the top of the Horseshoe Falls.

“As I stood unsteadily on the boat, I thought of Browning’s line, ‘to feel the mist in my face.’

“One sight we saw along the gorge was an old power station, deserted but still grand.

“The ride was over all too soon; and we were up the elevator, up the winding walk, and onto our bus in Victorian Park, wet, winded, and happy.

“We drove along the gorge, catching glimpses of the river, seeing some lovely bed and breakfasts, stopping at Rossi Glass to see a man blow a cranberry vase and then a horse. Miss Betty was given the glass horse as a souvenir because, in a contest, she guessed what it would be before he finished it. Hmmm, come to think of it, I wonder if Miss Betty had been there on another trip and knew ahead of time what the creation would be. Miss Betty, say it isn’t so!

“We drove on, past Whirlpool Golf Course (I thought of Frank Moore there), and stopped at the giant whirlpool on the Niagara River, watching people coming across from the American side in a cable car and seeing below others in a jet boat, edging the pool.”

We have to stop now, gentle reader. Please allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend. Fare thee well.