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

Published 1:27 pm Monday, October 31, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw Miss Flora over at Covington Hall, arranging pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, and gourds, for Halloween decorations for the trick-or-treaters. Clay Clyde Clump was doing the heavy work. People decorate for Halloween much more nowadays than when I was a child. We thought we were “big time” if we carved a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern and wore a costume.

We loved ghost stories, especially at “Howl-a-ween.” We used to beg our “Aunt E” (Eva Mae Cobb) to tell us some.

Two I’ve told in my own time are about the “Mud Monster of the Conecuh” and “The Old Lady of Five Runs.”

In the “Mud Monster,” people along the Conecuh River disappear, swallowed by a man-like thing made of mud, which emerges from the muddy riverbanks and consumes fishermen, campers, hikers, hunters, anyone passing by. The Indians in this area used to explain the disappearance of members of their tribes with this story.

In “The Old Lady,” one parks his car near the Five Runs Creek and honks. If he sits still, she will come and look into his window. He dare not look back. If her eyes fix on his, he will be hypnotized and led away into the woods, never to be seen again. Hehhhhh! BOO!

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, why not read or memorize from this edition before 20ll ends?

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.

President Lincoln decided to terminate Gen. John Fremont’s command in the West and replace him with Gen. David Hunter.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

Congratulations to Gail Mullen for identifying Paula Harr as the mysterian.

I offer only one clue for the next mysterian: “She runs this town; she do.”

This week past saw the birthdays of Geoffrey Chaucer, the first major English poet, still as modern today as when he wrote The Canterbury Tales; the optimistic Thomas Babington Macaulay, English historian, author, and statesman; Johann Strauss Jr., Austrian composer; Georges Bizet, French composer of the opera Carmen; Teddy Roosevelt, president of the United States; Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch scholar; Jonas Salk, American doctor whose discovery of a vaccine for polio saved the lives of my generation and others; and James Boswell, Scottish author of perhaps the greatest biography ever written, The Life of Samuel Johnson.

Last week also saw the anniversaries of the founding of Harvard University in 1636 (the oldest in the USA) and the dedication of the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France) in 1886.

Someone once said that he wished he could be as sure of anything as Lord Macaulay was of everything!

I have asked Mr. Wingard again to tell of another bus tour he joined, one organized by Betty Mitchell, “the Travel Queen,” to see the Amish country in Pennsylvania and the battlefield at Gettysburg, also in Pennsylvania.

“Our bus driver was Julio Gacitua from Miami. Tall, dark and handsome, he spoke with an accent and charmed the ladies with his Latin smile.

“The travelers included Betty Mitchell’s husband, Zolly, who kept us supplied with bottled water and counted each time we boarded to make sure no one was left behind.

“From Opp came Kathleen Adams, Effie Brooks, Judy Burchfield (Jean Carr’s sister), Glenda Hilburn (Josh’s aunt), Betty Kyser (Gertrude Nelson’s niece), Virginia Merritt, and James and Joy Simmons (he once ran the Opp I.G.A.; his son now runs it).

“Faye Carroll came from Bonifay, Fla.

“From DeFuniak Springs, Fla., came Mac Baker and his vivacious wife Nell, Jeannie Greene, Gwen Kelley, Beckie Mooney, Noma Prescott and Alice Thomaston.

“From Freeport came Betty Hall, our senior ‘Buskoteer.’

“David and Vicki Day joined from Ft. Walton, Fla.

“Elizabeth Godwin and Rosalyn Wright came from Red Level.

“Jettie Shell came from Evergreen.

“From Sylacauga came Mary Adams, Betty Hilyer and Violet Sanford.

“Kathryn Milton joined from Hope Hull.

“Ray Mitchell, Zolly’s brother, came from Lowndesboro.

“Janice Fike, a good friend of Hazel McClain, came from Acworth, Georgia.

“My cousin, Jo Driggers, hailed from Lexington, S.C.

“All the rest hailed from Andalusia – Sharon Dye, the spunky Norma Gavras, Hazel McClain, Jimmy and Crystell Prestwood, Glinda Simmons (the youngest among us) and Gladys Trawick.

“Our group left early from West Highland Assembly of God (Miss Betty’s church) the morning of Oct. 17 for seven days on the road, returning Sun., Oct. 23.

“Jimmy Prestwood worded a travel prayer for us. Each day someone prayed before we got on our way. A blessing was said before each meal on the road, usually by Miss Betty.

“We weren’t two feet before Hazel brought out her homemade fig ‘newtons’ (fig tarts) and passed them around as a breakfast for many of us. Most of the ladies had baked homemade goodies and shared them each day.

“James and Joy (Manring) Simmons sat before me all the trip, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this delightful couple.

“We made stops to pick up others – five in Montgomery, Janice Fike in Atlanta, and my cousin in Greenville, S.C. Jo had driven over that morning and had parked her car at the motel where we met her and would return six days later to spend our last night on the road.

“We stopped for lunch in Opelika at the Cracker Barrel. We often ate at a Cracker Barrel. It wouldn’t seem like a tour with Miss Betty if we didn’t stop at Cracker Barrel. Each stop we ate, shopped, and rocked in the rockers on the front porch. There’s little in life better than rocking.

“Norma Gavras invited me to sit with her, Betty Kyser, and Glenda Hilburn for lunch. These are fun people. I taught Glenda’s nephew, Josh Hilburn. Betty’s aunt, Gertrude Nelson, was one of my dearest friends; and I miss her something awful.

“On the bus we passed the time with talk, snacks, naps, snacks, reading, snacks, looking at the scenery, snacks, games, snacks, and watching DVDs – and did I mention snacks?

“Every two hours or so we stopped somewhere to ‘rest.’

“In Greenville, S.C., Jo joined us. She’d been waiting three hours at the La Quinta. She left her car there and found it okay when we returned six days later.

“Some of us were amused by a sign at a church we passed on Pelham Road in Greenville – ‘ATM inside.’

“When we reached Charlotte, N.C., we ate supper at another Cracker Barrel. James, Joy, Jo (who was my seatmate for the trip), and I sat together and got acquainted. I was pleased to learn that James worked two years for Moore Company (a chain) in Quitman, Ga. I go through Quitman each time I take Highway 84 over to Jekyll Island. It’s a charming, little town; and I was delighted to learn more about it. James and Joy were married while he worked in Quitman. Joy attended Howard College (now Samford) and would have finished in 1960 but took an M.R.S. degree when she and James were married in Opp. It was fun to share memories of old Howard. I was envious that Joy got to attend on the old campus at East Lake with its Sherman Oak and on the new campus at Lakeshore Drive.

“It wasn’t long before talk turned to food, and James asked if I had tried the new Krispy Kreme hamburger. I still don’t know if he were serious or not.

“We spent the night in a La Quinta in Charlotte.

“Tuesday morning, David Day worded the travel prayer. David wore shorts and sandals, even on the coldest days; and it didn’t seem to bother him.

“Heading north, we saw the Blue Ridge Mountains and changing leaves. We were awed by the valleys, mountains and colors.

“As we came to Virginia, we stopped at a welcome center and enjoyed the beautiful landscaping. Riding through those mountains was worth the whole trip.

“Sharon Dye got a poem stuck in her mind, and we tried to think of the name. It turned out to be ‘Richard Cory’ from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, an American attorney/poet.

“In Roanoke, Virginia, we ate in a mall cafeteria called K & W, begun by Mr. Knight and Mr. Wilson in 1935. We also ate here on the way home. K&W was one of the best places to eat I have ever known. It reminded me of Morrison’s and Piccadilly. It was one of a chain in several states. I told Jo that I wished we could eat there every meal.

“As we left, I noted a separate section of K&W, constructed only for take-out food, entered by a separate door. It was an attached, but smaller version of the regular cafeteria with no seating and fewer choices. One went down a line, selected his food, paid, and left. I was impressed at the idea of co-cafeterias.

“One game we played on the bus was to find the ‘arrow’ and ‘spoon’ in the words on a FedEx truck. Can you?

“As we drove through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we took in the tree-covered, fall-colored Appalachian mountains, hillside farms, barns, foliage, outcroppings of stones, wildflowers, and clear streams, tumbling over creek-bed rocks.

“We passed briefly into West Virginia, crossed the Potomac River, entered Maryland, and then came to our destination, Pennsylvania with its rolling farmlands.

“Joy told me that she had studied with Dr. John Carter on the old Howard campus. I told her that I’d seen him and his wife Frances at the Samford homecoming a couple of years ago and that they seemed still going strong.

“Violet Sanford said our blessing before we left the bus to enjoy the buffet at Fire Mountain Restaurant in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Jo and I sat with Jimmy and Crystell Prestwood, and I was amazed at all the ice cream Jimmy could put away. I nicknamed him ‘the Ice-Cream King.’

“It was dark when we reached our hotel for the next three nights, the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, right in the middle of Amish country.

“Locals pronounce the name LANK-is-ter.

“Amish and Mennonites are Christian Protestants who make up about 20 percent of Lancaster County. There are about 1,400 Amish farms, 29,500 Amish and 25,000 Mennonites. The Amish live simple, old-fashioned, modest, and humble lives. They believe in separation from a ‘godless society’ (that would be you and I, gentle reader). They worship in homes, not in church houses. They do not use cars, or have in their houses electricity, telephones, radios or televisions.

“The Mennonites, who will turn into Baptists if they don’t watch out, use cars, electricity, telephones, radios, televisions, VCRs and computers. They believe in higher education, contemporary clothing, and church houses.

“I was in my hotel room, writing in my travel journal, when my hotel door flew wide open. One of the ladies in our group had mistaken my door for hers and was making bold to enter. I burst out laughing when she realized her mistake and quickly withdrew. I dare not mention her name.

“For three mornings at the Host we enjoyed a hot buffet with everything one could wish for breakfast. I hated to leave!

“Jimmy worded the prayer for Wednesday for us as we left for the Mennonite Information Center nearby.

“It is my understanding that Mennonites grew out of a group of Christians from Switzerland called Anabaptists. The Anabaptists believed in baptism for adults only, nonresistance, and separation of church and state. The Anabaptists broke from the established church back in the l500s and were known as Protestants (protesters). They were persecuted for their beliefs.

“The Mennonites were named for Menno Simons, leader of an early outgrowth of the Anabaptists.

“The Amish, who came out of the Mennonites, were named for Jacob Amman, a Swiss Mennonite bishop.

“It seems that William Penn, the English Quaker who had been granted ‘Penn’s Woods’ (Pennsylvania) by the king of England, invited persecuted groups, like his, to settle in his American woods. In the 1700s the Mennonites and Amish did so. It was the descendants of these seekers of religious freedom that we were visiting.

“At the Mennonite Information Center we saw a full-sized re-creation of the outer court and the inner tent tabernacle used by Moses and his people in the wilderness and described in the Old Testament.

“Our narrator, Nancy Hoff, said that some 30,000 a year visit the reproduced ‘temple’ and ‘court.’

“Nancy explained in detail the measurements and trappings and furniture of the ‘tabernacle.’

“She drew comparisons between the sacrificial lamb offered for the pardon of sins in the tent tabernacle to the Sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus, and his death on the cross for the sins of the world.

“Nancy pointed out that blood must be shed because of sin, the blood of the lambs in the tent tabernacle and, later, the blood of Jesus.

“She ended her presentation by witnessing of Christ and encouraging those present to accept His sacrifice.

“After visiting the gift shop, we left for a neighboring town, Bird-in-Hand, to visit its Farmers’ Market, buy produce and snack. Jo and I walked up and down the aisles and eyed all the canned goods, jams, pickled produce, cheeses, meats and crafts. I bought a quart of pickled beets. Jimmy took samples left and right, using toothpicks provided at each stop. I gave him another name, ‘the Toothpick Man.’

“Outside, the weather had turned cold, and we were bundled in coats, sweaters, scarves and hats. The sky was grey and cloudy. The wind blew and blew, and I kept repeating a line from Lydia Maria Child’s ‘Thanksgiving Day,’ ‘Oh, how the wind doth blow!’

“All around the outskirts of town were Amish farms. Regularly we could see Amish buggies going up and down the streets. They looked like black boxes atop four, skinny wheels. Each was drawn by one horse. The Amish were dressed like old-timey farmers in black and white. The women wore white ‘bonnets;’ the men, flat, black hats.

“Our next stop was at the Plain and Fancy Amish Farm where a lady named Sue gave us a lesson in a one-room Amish schoolhouse on Amish life.

“The Amish go to school through the eighth grade only. Their lives are centered around their farms and their families. Only single women can teach. Children take their lunches to school. For example, a raw potato can be taken and put on the old-fashioned stove to be cooked by lunch. Children learn German and English. The German is used in the home and in worship. Those who are not Amish are called ‘English.’ To ask a question, a child raises his arm, making a V with two fingers.

“Sue led us in a spelling bee, one in which she spelled words backwards and we had to identify each.

“Sue called upon James Simmons with arithmetic problems, and he became her ‘star’ pupil. We would have said, ‘teacher’s pet.’

“Sue taught us that church is attended every other Sunday. Each family hosts the services once a year. Services last three hours. The hymnbook has only words. Tunes are ‘picked up.’ Married men wear beards. Single men are clean-shaven. Clothing is uniform, simple and plain. There are no telephones in the homes. A community ‘phone in an ‘outhouse’ can be used for emergencies. There are no televisions or other electrical devices. No electric wires connect the family to the outside world so the Amish can avoid its influence.

“We went from the schoolhouse to a farmhouse and toured it. Then we saw a film, Jacob’s Choice, which highlighted an Amish teenager, Jacob, who had to decide to leave the Amish world or commit himself to the Amish lifestyle.

“Much was made of baptism. The Amish associate it with adulthood and marriage. If a youth decides to be baptized, then he has committed to the Amish way of life.

“We drove to a real Amish farm run by the Glick family, seeing on our way the overcast, cloudy, grey skies, the wind-blown landscape, fields and farms, buggies, barns, farmhouses, horses, cows, goats, creeks, apple orchards and stretches of alfalfa.

“We passed a picturesque group of Amish children, walking home from school in their dark Amish clothes, ‘bonnets,’ and flat, straw hats. Everyone pretty much dresses alike.

“James Simmons, the star pupil, pointed out the stars on many houses and barns. We found later that these are used for decoration, good luck, and identification of the builders.

“We saw many pumpkins; and Miss Betty kept saying, ‘I want a BIG pumpkin!’ ‘I want a BIG pumpkin!’

“After another visit to a shop specializing in pretzels and canned goods in another little town, Intercourse, Miss Betty prayed before our supper at Hershey Farms Restaurant in Ronks, which looked like a big, red barn.

“Bowls were put on our tables and passed from one to another – ham, green beans, corn, slaw, rolls, bean salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, shoo-fly pie, apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Jo and I sat with Zolly Mitchell and his brother, Ray, and Kathryn Milton.

“Jettie Shell from Evergreen entertained us royally during supper by playing hymns at a piano. He played from memory excellently well and was appreciatively applauded.

“We ended the day with a visit to one more gift shop and a group picture.”

I shall ask Mr. Wingard to continue next week, Lord willing.

Seen at the Huddle House were Sidney and Polly (Wilder) Waits, Howard Easley and Bobby and Fay Craig. I taught Fay’s girl, Sonya Hart. Howard and I were at Samford together one summer. Sidney was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II and can report on its current history remarkably well. It’s fun to hear him tell all about it.

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