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

Peeping through my Venetian blind one night at Christmas-Time, I saw Miss Primme pull up to get me to join her, Miss Birdie, and the Covington girls, Miss Cora, Miss Dora and Miss Flora, to ride around and see the Christmas lights before going over to Miss Birdie’s for refreshments – homemade, iced, butter cookies, fruitcake, divinity, chocolate-covered cherries, a sampler box of Whitman’s, crème drops, assorted nuts, tangerines, sandwiches, ambrosia, popcorn and a gumdrop tree, all this to wash down with eggnog, wassail, hot chocolate, punch and Russian tea.

We wore our Christmas clothing with plenty of red and green and homemade corsages – sprigs of holly, mainly, made up by Miss Flora. We made an Alician garden!

After supper we exchanged gifts – nothing expensive – just little remembrances.

A simple Christmas is best.

As we rode around the Golden Square and “the Dimple of Dixie,” we noticed candles in the windows and wreaths upon the doors. Candles are placed to guide the Christ Child to a welcoming home. Wreaths symbolize God’s unending love.

Ah, Christmas!

Others have been out and about, enjoying the season.

Seen at Tabby D.’s, where the waitresses all look pretty in their Santa hats and the dining room is looking festive with Christmas decorations, were Nina Keenam (the columnist), Helen Philips, Billy and Marie White, Blake Barton, Sammy and Bobbie Brown, and Jack Brawner.

Helen spoke of reading in my column recently about the famous novelist/poet, Helen Hunt Jackson, and shared that Mrs. Jackson was a sister-in-law to her late husband’s aunt. That’s a Pittypatism.

Have you seen the new cross at the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery? It’s striking by day and even more striking when lighted at night.

Last Wednesday on Dec. 14, Alabama celebrated another birthday. We were born in 1819.

I think we Alabamians ought to do something each year to recall that fact. What can you do and teach your offspring to do? Put it on your calendar.

Each year the Covingtons have a dinner in honor of Alabama’s birthday. Miss Cora sets a festive, Christmassy table, since it is the Christmas season. (Alabama was the first state to make Christmas a holiday.)

I was among the guests.

Miss Cora had managed a large cake, cut into the shape of the state. It was a version of a red-velvet with alternating layers of red and green. With the white icing it was a pretty thing.

Colonel Covington worded a prayer for God’s forgiveness, protection, and blessings upon our home state; and Miss Dora played the state song on the piano and led us in singing it.

Our own “Miss Sue” Wilson helped save our state song not long ago when it was threatened with a substitute. She went to Montgomery and fought for it, and won.

The Covington County Education Retirees Association, an active group of retired educators from among the 600 education retirees in our county, enjoyed their December meeting on the seventh, guests of Straughn High School.

Retired Covington County Superintendent Sharon Dye, vice-president of the CCERA, presided in the absence of President Allen Miller.

Hosts were Shannon Driver, the principal of Straughn, his staff, and the students of Straughn, who proved polite, well behaved, and extremely respectful.

A single-sheet programme with deckled edge, printed in red and green with a colored picture of ringing bells, was topped with a silky, bright red ribbon, tied into the card, a good keepsake.

Principal Driver welcomed the teachers with a tribute, saying that education is “an art that is passed on, teacher to teacher.”

He said that education has “more to do with the heart … than the brain.”

He compared the three notches placed through the county for roads in the old days to the notches – the influences – that teachers put on children when teaching on the road of life.

After the welcome the SHS Chorus sang “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

Then, Courtney Fussell read the Christmas story from St. Luke, using the King James Version of the Bible – an appropriate way to conclude the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV.

Mrs. Bryan’s science class then played two songs, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” What was fascinating was that the students played the notes by using different lengths of PVC pipe, making notes by popping the pipe into the palms of their hands. It was remarkable!

Refreshments, provided by the teachers of Straughn, followed.

Principal Driver worded the blessing.

The library tables were covered with white or green cloths with centerpieces of small Christmas trees and Christmas sparkle.

The buffet was beautifully set and appointed, using Christmas plates. Dishes included a potato casserole, chicken coins, a vegetable plate, Sister Schubert’s rolls, a cheese ball with crackers, a fruit bowl, tea sandwiches, banana-nut bread, coffee cake, cakes and Russian tea, all served by members of the Student Government Association.

Straughn did a first-class job!

The meeting concluded with a business session.

Prayers went up for Harriet Scofield, treasurer, who is ill; for Principal Driver’s father, and for Murray and Nan Johnson, now in assisted living.

Geraldine Boothe, a former president and one of the pillars of CCERA, Fleeta School and Opp, and the member present with the most years of retirement, delivered a devotional called “God Provided the Room.” Mrs. Boothe also read the minutes in the absence of the secretary.

Kay Casssady read the treasurer’s report for Mrs. Scofield.

Peggy Mobley, who served on the Alabama Education Association search committee to select the replacements for Dr. Paul Hubbert and Joe Reid, reported on the new leaders. Dr. Hubbert and Mr. Reid have been in control of AEA for years and are both retiring at the end of the year. Dr. Hubbert, in his tenure, has become one of the most powerful men in Alabama history.

Mrs. Mobley served two terms (four years) as president of AEA and two terms (four years) as vice-president of AEA. She has also served on the AEA Board of Directors since the 1980s. I do not know of another member of AEA who can match her record, and she is one of our own!

Mrs. Dye distributed Christmas gifts.

A card was signed to be sent to Mrs. Scofield.

Community service hours were counted.

Mrs. Dye displayed a handsome plaque of appreciation to retired teachers, issued by the Covington County Commission for Retired Teachers’ Day, Nov. 15.

A donation of $500 was voted from the CCERA for Opportunity House in Opp.

Counted among the CCERA attendees, in addition, were George and Kathy King, Gaylen Sims, Mary Wilson, Dean Morris, Pat Stewart, Amy (Stewart) Till, Linda Lucas, Elaine Chavers, Kim Dyess, Lorena Bryant, Mary Bass and Joe Wingard.

The Andalusia High School Choral Department presented its hour-long Christmas Concert Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. in the beautiful, stained-glass sanctuary of First United Methodist Church.

The choir, consisting of about 30 young men and 30 young ladies, all dressed in crimson sports shirts, was directed by Paula Sue Duebelt, assisted by Sue (Bass) Wilson.

The two ladies “came to the rescue” again this year, as last, when Andalusia City Schools was in danger of losing its musical program because of a lack of funds. Working for next-to-nothing, the two friends, singing together since the fifth grade and members of the remarkable AHS Class of 1965, have trained a group of youth who have a quality sound, often rivaling professionals.

Many present commented on the fact that there were more men than ladies in the choir, a surprising count.

The programme began with prayer by Tim Trent, minister of FUMC for the last eight years, a popular, likeable, humorous pastor, who has made Andalusia a happier place.

A medley of patriotic music was offered in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11 and the 70th of Pearl Harbor.

The choir impressively sang these pieces from memory.

Two songs, “I’m Getting’ All Dressed Up for Christmas” and “The Mistletoe Song,” were next. These two were written some years ago by local composers, Dan Shehan (music) and Joe Wingard (lyrics), for Mr. Shehan’s annual Christmas Sing, a standard in Andalusia for 25 years. Both taught at one time or another at the high school.

Nine more Christmas songs followed.

In “Mary Had a Baby,” several of the men sang short, solo parts; and the audience was encouraged to sing along.

In “I’m Getting’ Nuttin’ for Christmas,” James Holley, a freshman, captivated the audience with his comical solo.

Mrs. Duebelt and Mrs. Wilson took turns playing the accompaniment. Tapes were used for some pieces.

When the youth sang “Sleigh Ride,” they sounded downright professional!

Toward the end Mrs. Duebelt presented Mrs. Wilson a gift of appreciation.

In the audience was the Andalusia City Schools Superintendent of Education Ted Watson, the “Singing Super,” a soloist himself. I’m glad to see he’s encouraging music in our system, despite hard times. After all, Andalusia has long been known as “the Singing City of the South.”

We can’t let the music die, folks. We just can’t.

Last Tuesday was an evening of good, wholesome fun; and the youth are to be congratulated, as well as the two Sues, whose names were inserted into the evening’s music every chance the mischievous young men could do so!

Music should be fun!

The next time the chorus sings, Andalusia, be there. You’ll be glad you were!

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, read the Christmas story in Luke during Christmas-Time. Time is about to run out.

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. 1582, Andalusia, AL 36420.

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

Half of Charleston, South Carolina, burned in a non-war-related fire, destroying, among much, the two buildings where the Ordinance of Secession (the resolution to withdraw South Carolina from the Federal Union) had been adopted, signed, and read to the public. This could be compared to the burning of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, had it burned. This fire, naturally, greatly discouraged the South Carolinians at the start of the War.

In England Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died Dec. 14. He had advised moderate action concerning the Trent Affair in which two Confederate ministers of state had been “kidnapped” by the North on their way to England and France. England was indignant at this act of the North, and the North was a bit “shaky” about how England would react. Fear was that England might even assist the South. I think the Queen leaned that way; but the death of her beloved husband and his dying advice, lingering in her ear, may have stopped serious thoughts of military action.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

The mysterian is still unidentified. He is weight-challenged, his belly shakes when he laughs, wears a snowy beard, red-suited, cherry nosed, corncob pipe, chimney stuffer, reindeer pilot, a right, jolly, old elf. (I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.) Now, if you can’t guess that one, expect switches and lumps of coal in your stocking.

Birthdays this week included those of Jane Austen, the English novelist of Pride and Prejudice, and John Greenleaf Whittier, the American “Quaker Poet,” whose masterpiece may be Snow-Bound.

Whittier’s most famous lines may be “Of all sad words of tongue or pen/The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”

Allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. I call it “Cantata Weekend” because so many churches present cantatas on the weekend before Christmas.

Before I go, fare thee well, gentle reader.

“Merry Christmas!”

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God bless us everyone!’”

Finally, “Christmas gif’!”