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

Published 2:45 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind at nature’s dying world outside, I thought of William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “The Death of the Flowers,” and his line from it, “The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year.”

Riding to Birmingham last week, I found the foliage of Alabama’s trees to be as eye-catching as that I’ve seen up North, or more so. I guess the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.

Driving just above Montgomery, I caught sight of an expansive field of cotton, north of the Alabama River, bright white in the autumn sun, seemingly ready for harvest. Alabama, indeed, is “the Cotton State.”

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, why not read or memorize from this most popular 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 l50 years ago.

Aging Gen. Winfield Scott, general-in-chief of the Union Army, a veteran of the War of l8l2 and the Mexican War, retired to West Point, succeeded by the ambitious Gen. George Brinton McClellan, 34 years of age.

Another ambitious general, Fremont, made military decisions President Lincoln didn’t authorize, thus intensifying a power struggle between the two men.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

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

This week past saw the birthdays of John Adams, second president of the United States; Jan Vermeer, Dutch painter; John Keats, English poet; and William Cullen Bryant, American poet/editor.

Keats wrote perhaps the most famous of poetic lines, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” from Endymion.

Bryant, quoted above, penned two now famous American poems, often quoted, “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl.”

Bryant, editor of a New York newspaper for 50 or so years, was also one of the founders of Central Park in New York City.

It was on October 3l, l5l7, that Martin Luther, a Catholic priest in Germany, nailed to the door of a church in Wittenberg his 95 theses (statements of belief), which contributed to the Protestant Reformation.

Mr. Wingard has agreed to continue his story of Betty Mitchell’s bus tour to Pennsylvania October l7 – 23. He told me that her group headquartered in Lancaster (LANK-is-ter) where James Buchannan, the l5th president, lived, as well as Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican in Congress in the days of the War Between the States. Here, too, was the home of Robert Fulton, who developed the first practical steamboat. Here, too, the Conestoga wagon was built (the Conestoga River runs through Lancaster; thus, the name). Also, F. Woolworth opened his first store here.

Lancaster was named for Lancaster, England, and the House of Lancaster, symbolized by a red rose in the War of the Roses, a famous civil war in English history. (The white rose symbolized the House of York, the other family that wanted to rule England.) Lancaster was once the capital of the Colonies and also of Pennsylvania.

“One of our ‘Buskoteers,’Jimmy Prestwood, worded a prayer for the day’s travel.

“Another traveler, James Simmons, former owner of the Opp I.G.A., kept us amused with his wit and cleverness. For example, he looked out of our bus window through that of another travel bus and said, ‘There go a bunch of old folks.’

“Our driver, Julio, took us down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the first paved road in the United States (l795). A Mr. McAdam had paved it. Even today some in the area refer to pavement as macadam.

“Our day’s guide, Trevor Shenk (shank), a Mennonite teenager of l8 with a good personality, rode with us through Amish farmland, explaining much to us and inserting some ‘corny’ jokes.

“Sharon Dye, a member of the Church of Christ, asked Trevor if the Amish and Mennonites believed baptism necessary for salvation. He said neither did.

“Trevor also told us that the Amish don’t believe in having their pictures made. They think it’s not scriptural.

“We learned, too, that Amish carriages are grey; Mennonites’ are black.

“We stopped several places to shop — Peaceful Valley Furniture, the Bake Shop, Countryside Roadstop, Riehl’s Quilts and Crafts, and Kitchen Kettle Village with its 42 shops. At the Bake Shop we ran into a busload from First Baptist in Crestview, Florida. At one stop I bought some feed and fed the barnyard animals. At one stop we drank homemade root beer. We passed through farmlands, fields of alfalfa, apple orchards, and pumpkin patches. Clothes were hung out to dry on lines stretched from houses to the second stories of barns in order for the clothes to get more air and thus dry faster. Flowerbeds were everywhere. There were one-room schoolhouses, spaced for walking. One scene we saw was used in the film Witness with Harrison Ford.

“At the Kitchen Kettle Village we hired two-horse carriages to take us out to a farm and back. Our driver was Elsie King. Our horses were Laura and Louise. We spotted an‘outhouse’ that sheltered a telephone for the Amish community for emergencies. We also saw a ‘scooter,’ which looked like a bicycle but had a bottom board instead of pedals to place one foot and ‘scoot’ along. The Amish did not believe in bicycles.

“It was cold, grey, and windy with whirlwinds of leaves and occasional sunshine.

“That afternoon we saw a Christian musical, Joseph, produced in the nearby Sight and Sound Theatre, a gigantic ‘temple’ that reminded me of a cross between the display hall at the St. Louis World’s Fair and Grand Central Station in New York City. I hear that there’s only one other like it in the nation, the one in Branson, Missouri.

“The show, which lasted two and a half hours, was based on the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. There were fantastic sets, fabulous props, splendid costumes, grand orchestration, professional singers, real animals (including camels), and an emotional and tearful ending, a blend of Walt Disney optimism and a Hollywood ending. At one point, as Joseph dreamed, the actor ‘flew’ across the heads of the audience in a kind of fantasy. It was almost unbelievable.

“After the ending, a person stepped out and presented the salvation offered by Christ Jesus to anyone present.

“That night we dined at Miller’s smorgasbord, a buffet to challenge even the Portly Gentleman. Traditional Pennsylvania Dutch (German) dishes were featured – baked cabbage, chicken potpie, dried corn, chicken-corn soup, potato stuffing, raisin-bread pudding, raspberry tea, and shoofly pie.

“The next day Violet Sanford led us in prayer as we left the Host lodge after three days and nights – and those wonderful hot breakfasts with Hatfield link sausages! We were on our way to the battlefield known as Gettysburg, which historians think to be the turning point in the War Between the States.

“On our way we crossed the Susquehanna River. This river is known to literary romantics because brothers-in-law, two English poets who married sisters, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, saw the name on a map and thought it sounded poetic and that they would go to America and establish a colony on its banks. They never did.

“We arrived during the morning at the Gettysburg National Military Park and its large, modern welcome center with giant lobby, gift shop, bookstore, crowds of people, a theatre where we watched a film on the battle (slightly slanted to political correctness), a museum, displays, a restaurant, and (upstairs) a fantastic cyclorama of the field as it looked in l863. One could have spent days just in the museum.

“Toward the end of our time at the center, Betty Hall and I sat outside in the cool sunshine and confessed how we enjoyed just ‘people-watching.’ Some had their pictures made next to a seated statue of Lincoln. Not I.

“Our tour continued through the rustic, rural miles of Gettysburg battlefields with a guide, Kurt Anschuetz, who in a booming voice, filled our ears with hundreds of facts and led us off the bus four times to see the sights. The cold wind could not spoil the wild beauty of the fields, the colors of the autumn leaves, the scattered sunshine, rustic vistas, and rural havens.

“Our tour began with a drive through the town of Gettysburg, which was charming with its old, historic, brick buildings. We saw a statue of Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed in the battle, accidentally shot while baking bread. We saw the Presbyterian church where President Dwight David Eisenhower worshipped (he bought a farm on the edge of the battlefield), the David Wills House where Lincoln put the final touches on his ‘Gettysburg Address,’ the Lutheran Theological Seminary on Seminary Ridge, overlooking the battlefield, and a statue of John Burns, over 70, a civilian volunteer and local hero, who joined the Northern forces on the spur of the moment (he and Lincoln later sat in church together).

“I was especially excited to see the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, still active, whose original, central building, that predates the War, is still standing, one of several on the small campus atop Seminary Ridge. The reason I am excited is that a cousin of mine, Jacob Wingard, attended this seminary in the pre-War days and then went home to South Carolina, dying young, now buried in Lexington. Of course he is cousin, too, to Jo Driggers and Dr. Wayne Johnson and many others.

“As we drove along Cemetery Ridge, Kurt pointed out various positions of the two sides, cannons in their original places, and original stone walls, built for protection.

“One stop was at the North Carolina Confederate Memorial – the fields were dotted with memorials erected by the states to the memories of their fallen soldiers. This memorial was designed by the same man who sculpted Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum.

“We saw views that General Lee and our Alabamians would have seen.

“Kurt said the South should have been victorious for several reasons and why it wasn’t.

“We also stopped at the South Carolina monument and the Alabama monument, given by the Alabama Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in November of l933. Above three figures was the word, Alabamians! An inscription read, ‘Your names are inscribed on Fame’s immortal scroll.’ The figures are a wounded youth, an older man, gun in hand, and a female figure, overlooking both. The area was marked off for repairs.

“On the far horizon we saw Little Round Top and Big Round Top, mountain peaks where some of the fiercest fighting took place. The North had the advantage there because of the steep incline and many boulders. The South charged across an open field.

“We drove over to the peaks and found a number of tourists. The children were having fun, scrambling over the boulders and playing. It was today a child’s wonderland of height, woods, and rocks, like a play castle; but it had been a death field for the American soldiers in l863. Some of us got out and stood atop the boulders, wrapped in a cold wind, as we observed the fields below, which the South had crossed in a deadly, desperate effort. What a vista! What a craggy, rustic scene — beautiful had it not been for the horrors of war. What scenes in what a season in what weather!

“It came to my mind that this visit to Gettysburg could count as one of my commemorations of the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. The commemoration lasts five years, so there is much time left to plan trips, readings, and programs, 20l0 – 20l5.

“Upon leaving the field, we paused at the largest and grandest memorial on the fields, appropriately, that of Pennsylvania.

“I think all of us were awed by the distances the Southern soldiers had marched to get to Gettysburg through extensive mountains.

“The battle, by the way, lasted July l – 3, l863.

“Leaving Gettysburg, we stopped for apples at Benny’s Market. We then continued over the Potomac into West Virginia, stopping in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for the night. Here we ate at Bob Evans, a chain restaurant, and slept at the Jameson Inn.

“Jo, my cousin, and I ate with Jimmy and Crystell Prestwood.

“Saturday morning Sharon Dye led us in our travel prayer.

“We drove south through the Shennadoah Valley with its mountains painted with fall colors, pointing out to each other the beautiful vistas.

“Hazel McClain told me that she had heard by telephone that Judy Armstrong had died. We had heard earlier that she was seriously ill and we had been praying for her. I recalled the last time I had seen Judy – at choir practice at First Baptist in Andalusia, happy, laughing, peppy, excited, full of life. My thought thereafter was to get home so that I could attend her funeral, which I thank the Lord I was able to do.

“Our bus stopped in Roanoke, Virginia, where we were joined by a guide, Barbara Fink. She led us on a short tour of Roanoke and up its Mill Mountain to stand at an overlook before the largest man-made star in the world. The ‘star’ is made of concrete-and-steel and tubing and is lighted at night to shine over the Shennadoah Valley, which means ‘daughter of the stars.’ Roanoke is called ‘the Star City of the South.’ The artificial star, built in l949, is l00-feet tall on its pedestal. It burns white each night if no one has died in an accident.

“From the overlook (atop the Blue Ridge Mountains?) we saw the valley below and the Appalachian Mountain chain beyond, which stretches from Canada to Alabama. The Alleghenys were to our west, if I have my geography correct.

“The natural beauty of the mountain top was glorified by the fall woods. I could see below a few Roanoke landmarks, the Wells Fargo bank, the Hotel Roanoke, and St. Andrews Cathedral.

“Miss Betty led us in prayer before we ate lunch at the K&W (Knight and Wilson) Cafeteria in Roanoke. We had eaten there on the way north. There are 25 of these cafeterias in North Carolina, five in South Carolina, four in Virginia, and one in West Virginia. I could eat there daily.

“Soon passing into North Carolina, we stopped at the Jonesville Welcome Center, a clean, neat, attractive building. Jonesville is celebrating its bicentennial this year (20ll).

“Once in South Carolina we stopped, as Miss Betty’s groups usually do, at Abbott Farm to buy cider. Here were also boiled peanuts for sale; and here our driver, Julio, ate his first boiled, green peanuts. I don’t think he was impressed with them.

“Abbott Farm also sells canned goods, such as TOE jam and FROG jam.

“We spent our last night on the road in La Quinta in Greenville, SC, first enjoying supper at the Cracker Barrel. Cousin Jo had left her car here after we had picked her up. She drove out with us the next morning, on her way home to Lexington, South Carolina.

“We headed home on Sunday. Jimmy Prestwood gave us a fine devotional on the ‘Prodigal Son’ and led us in prayer. Miss Betty then played a tape of l5 hymns. We sang those we knew. The songs included ‘Do, Lord,’ ‘Just a Closer Walk,’ ‘Peace in the Valley,’’Precious Mem’ries,’ ‘What a Friend,’ ‘Old Rugged Cross,’ ‘ Rock of Ages,’ ‘In the Garden,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’

“We passed through a fog bank and then into Georgia, as we sang. Tears welled in my eyes because of the emotions the songs brought back. Old folks would understand.

“Miss Betty worded the blessing one more time as we approached the Cracker Barrel in Commerce, Georgia, where we ate our last meal of the trip. I joined Norma Gavras, Betty Kyser, and Glenda Hilburn for brunch.

“I don’t know what we’d do without the Cracker Barrel – to eat, shop, and sit on the front porch and rock.

“It was about this time that Jo called Miss Betty to report that she was safely home in Lexington.

“Passing through Atlanta, we spotted the famous Varsity restaurant, the golden dome of the Capitol, and Turner Field. One could spend a lifetime in Atlanta and never run out of things to see and do!

“Janice Fike left us in Atlanta.

“We gained an hour when we crossed the Chattahoochee into Alabama.

“In Montgomery five left us – Ray Mitchell, Kathryn Milton, Violet Sanford, Mary Adams, and Betty Hilyer.

“About five in the afternoon we reached West Highland Assembly of God. Home again! Thank You, Lord.”

Thank you, Mr. Wingard, for your account.

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