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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I thought, “Christmas is tomorrow!”

My mind went back to the happy Christmas-times of long ago in the Land of Childhood. Oh, nothing all year long could compare! What excitement! What wonder! What expectation!

Tonight is Christmas Eve. I look forward to attending church this evening and singing carols in the glow of candles, seeing the church-house all decorated, and hearing families read the Christmas story from the Bible. I hope someone sings “O Holy Night” and that we end with “Silent Night.”

Tonight I hope to hear the story of the birth of our Savior and Lord read from the King James Version of the Bible. That will be an appropriate ending for the 400th anniversary of its publication.

When we were children, we were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve. How carefully we considered the size of the presents so as to select a “good one.”

“Merry Christmas” and “Christmas gif’” to you, gentle reader; “and so, as Tiny Tim observed, ‘God, bless us everyone!’”

It was good to see the Davis sisters, Beverly and Linda, last Sunday night, present for the Christmas cantata at First Baptist. They were in town with their families to visit their parents, Joe and Sandra Davis. They just get prettier!

Dwight Crigger, minister of music at First Baptist, led a glittering, splendid, musical triumph called Down from His Glory, directing the Adult Choir and Children’s Choir, all accompanied by the generous-hearted and talented John Beasley, retired instructor of math at the Andalusia High School.

Soloists included Allie Karthaus, little daughter of Dr. Fred and Connie Karthaus, the first couple at First Baptist; Clara Bass, home from college; Casey Thompson; the Dansbys, both Jennifer and Neal; Allison Farrington; Charlotte Rogers; and Sonia Crigger.

The organ was played by the dedicated Jeanice Kirkland.

Steve Thomas did an excellent job of narrating.

Adult Choir members included Clara Bass, Jeremy Boyd and his mother, Stephanie Boyd, Janet Brantley, Glenn and Cindy Cook, Callie-Marie Crigger and her mother, Sonia Crigger, Neal and Jennifer Dansby, Nancy Darnell, Shelley Dooley, Amy Dugger, Peggy Eiland, Allison Farrington and her mother, Beverly Farrington, Linda Finlin, Betty Gay, Martha Givhan (church organist), Wynne Glenn and her mother, Sue (Bass) Wilson, Mary Hill, Jeff Hopkins, Dennis Johnson, Connie Karthaus (wife of the pastor), Jeanice Kirkland (church pianist), Nate Mack (student at Troy), Natasha Mallory, Jennifer McMath, Joan Mitchell, Frank Moore, Morgan and Wilma Moore, Teresa Nelson, Frances Rabren, Charlotte Rogers, Randy and Connie Seale, Casey Thompson, Peggy Tucker and Gordon Vickers.

The Children’s Choir included Mary Elizabeth Adams, Alexis Aldrich, Rosemary Bass, Hunter Berryhill, Hannah Grace Blackstock, John Bolen, Ashley Bulger, Jeff Bulger, Sam Dalton, Ingram Dugger, Daniel Gacha, Nicholas Gacha, Tucker Glenn, Gray Jackson, Jake Jackson, Kaitlyn Jones, Sophia Jones, Allie Karthaus, Dawson Kennedy, Ashlyn Kilpatrick, Trace Kilpatrick, Colby Lee, Amanda Majors, Chloe Mikel, Olivia Mikel, Ashli Parker, West Parker, Ava Ramsden, Josh Riley, Paulk Smith, Max Thomas, Coleman Thompson, Everett Thompson and Noah Whiddon.

Last Sunday morning little Ashli Parker, the youngest of the five children of Joe and Candy Parker, publicly professed her faith in Christ. With her decision all five of the Parker children have professed Christ as Savior and Lord. Ashli has four older brothers and is the only girl.

Several in morning worship at First Baptist were amused because of a line in the carol, “The First Noel.” The ladies’ emsemble, known as One Accord, were singing along with the congregation. All sang together, “Let us all with one accord sing praises to the Lord.” Many smiles spread over faces because we were singing with One Accord.

Erica Ziglar, a senior at the Straughn School, played “Silent Night” on her trumpet, as a special, in the Baraca Class of First Baptist during the Sunday-School assembly.

Cousin Jo Driggers of Lexington, S.C., tells me that the Kiss-Me-at-the-Gate (Breath of Spring) is already blooming there; and winter just came in on Dec. 22.

Seem at the hospital cafeteria for lunch Sunday were A. G. and Pat Palmore, Betty Bass, Janette Carroll, Ron and Caroline Picking, Gordon and Trudy Vickers, Charles and Audie Thomasson and Sharon Dye.

Seen at David’s for supper were Jimmy and Tammy Cox, Martha Chisum, Ken and Jane Short, Ralph and Kendall Riley, Monty and Cara Russell and their son, Carter, Benny and Esther Barrow, Gwen Bonner and Janette Carroll.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for lunch were Mike and Janet Beste and Greg Mayberry.

The funeral for Guy Wiggins was last Saturday morning, Dec. 17, at 11 a.m. at Foreman’s chapel, with visitation an hour before.

Mr. Wiggins, dressed in a grayish suit with print four-in-hand, lay in an open casket, spread with the American flag.

The casket was flanked with urns, holding patriotic arrangements of red (roses), white (mums), and blue (delphiniums), with greenery. Other floral tributes flanked the coffin.

The service began with one of Mr. Wiggins’s favorite songs, “Hallelujah to the Lamb,” known to him as “the bus song” because of an illustration of a bus on the sheet music.

The Baraca Quartet of First Baptist, in which Mr. Wiggins had sung for years, sang the quartet arrangement. The men were Kim Dyess, Dr. Morgan Moore, Dwight Crigger and Joe Wingard. Dyess and Wingard had sung regularly with Wiggins in the quartet.

The quartet was accompanied by Sonia Crigger, wife of Dwight Crigger, minister of music at First Baptist.

As the service began, the sun came out and flooded the chapel.

The eulogy followed, delivered by Mr. Wiggins’s grandson, Lt. Commander Morgan Wells Wiggins Murphy, resplendent in his uniform.

He spoke of his grandfather as fair, open-minded, brave, a lover of music, one who lived a full life, a man of character, sometimes loud and gruff, but always dedicated to family, one who really cared for people, a collector of clocks, one who made time for others.

Murphy, a writer of humorous essays and books, shared that the first story he ever had published was about his grandfather.

Murphy said that Wiggins was neat and orderly to the point of combing the tassels on his rugs.

Murphy said that “showing up is the true mark of commitment” and that his grandfather was “present and accounted for.”

He referred to a commitment to God that Wiggins had made in a foxhole in Korea and that he kept his promise to God the rest of his life.

Murphy recounted advice from Wiggins – to tell one’s spouse daily of one’s love for her and to hug her.

Murphy spoke of his own mother’s daily presence with her father and her dedication to him.

At the end of his eulogy, Murphy read from a love letter, written from Korea by Wiggins to his wife, Helen.

The quartet then sang “It Is Well.”

A tribute/sermon was next delivered by Dr. Fred Karthaus, minister, First Baptist. He spoke of Mr. Wiggins’s courage through World War II and the Korean War, and his physical fight with cancer.

Karthaus said that Mr. Wiggins became the “face of Mt. Royal,” his retirement home in Birmingham the last years of his life, where he led the music for fellow residents on Sunday mornings. Karthaus spoke, too, of Wiggins’s music, his playing the violin, and his famous birthday parties in Andalusia.

The congregation joined the quartet in ending the service with “When We All Get to Heaven.”

At the gravesite in Andalusia Memorial Cemetery, Dr. Karthaus spoke of Wiggins’s loves, read scripture, and prayed.

After “Taps,” three soldiers folded the flag and presented it to Wiggins’s daughter, Susan.

The day was sunny but chilled by a cold wind.

I thought, “Another of America’s ‘Greatest Generation’ is gone.”

James and Era Andrews, one of Andalusia’s liveliest couples, hosted one of their locally famous open-house evenings Sat., Dec. 17, between five and eight.

Guests found a drive, lined with lighted trees, and spotlights on a house, draped with wreaths, swags, and ribbons, looking like a living Christmas card.

At the door a bell wreath pealed forth Christmas carols.

Inside, guests were “Christmassy” in greens and reds.

Five Christmas trees made the bedrooms, den, and living room festive. Everywhere one looked were decorations – windows, tables, doorways.

The living room glowed with lights from electric angels, tree, and wreaths.

The buffet was set with candles, utensils, plates, and a centerpiece.

The table itself, covered in a lace cloth, was laden with Swedish meatballs, hot Rotel dip, party pizza, “fire crackers,” vegetables with Ranch dip, cream cheese with red-pepper jelly atop, croissants with pimiento, honey chicken salad, crackers, corn dip, cheese wafers, marinated roast, ham, buns and condiments and red punch in a silver bowl, atop a silver tray, with a silver ladle. Large ornaments hung from a chandelier over the table.

A group of youth from Bethany Baptist dropped by to sing a few carols at the door.

In the den the mantel supported doll-carolers, flanked by small lampposts at either end. A clock in the middle chimed Christmas carols every hour on the hour. Swags and ribbons hung from the mantel.

The dessert table, laid with Christmas plaid, offered divinity, fudge, lemon squares, fruitcake cookies, candied peanuts, peanut-butter balls, “haystacks,” “Tiger Candy,” toasted pecans, orange balls, date balls, crock-pot candy, marshmallow candy, Baby Ruth bars, sandtarts, Santa Whiskers, Almond Joy, glorified grahams, Christmas holiday wreaths and a silver service with coffee.

In a conversation I fell to talking about Guy Wiggins, who was buried just that morning; and James Andrews told me that Guy Wiggins had given him his first job.

I learned that Era had fallen the day before her party and had broken her arm; but she still went on, helped by James’s sister.

Kendall Andrews recommended a good eating place in Dothan, Cookie’s Corner.

Sue (Bass) Wilson, Margie (Jacques) Thomasson and the Portly Gentleman took off for Montgomery Thurs., Dec. 15, to hear a musical program presented by a group of re-enactors of the War Between the States at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Seventeen, uniformed members of the 33rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry, also called the Alabama Campfire Players, entertained an audience with old War songs, and a few new ones, for an hour. Every seat was taken; and some people had to stand.

The program was one of a monthly series, sponsored by the ADAH throughout the year.

This particular program was part of a series to celebrate the Sesquicentennial (l50th) anniversary of the War Between the States.

Taking advantage of being retired teachers, the visiting Andalusians parked at the state office of the Alabama Education Retirees Association behind the Capitol, stopping to chat with the AERA executive secretary, Janice Charlesworth, who graciously welcomed them to Montgomery.

A short walk through a carpet of fallen leaves, past gardens of brightly colored pansies, brought the three to the ADAH.

The group ran into Mike Williams, formerly of Andalusia, a state photographer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The program began with “Rose of Alabamie,” included “Dixie,” to which the old-timers stood, and ended with all singing “Silent Night.” (Alabama was the first state to make Christmas an official holiday.)

This group of re-enactors is said to be the most authentic in Alabama.

Afterwards the Portly Gentleman spoke with Dr. Edwin C. Bridges, director of the ADAH, the oldest archives in the Nation. They discussed celebrating Alabama’s birthday, Dec. 14. There was not an ADAH program this year, Dr. Bridges lamented; and the Portly One volunteered to help plan one for 2012, Lord willing.

After the program the Andalusians were surprised to run into none other than Miss Marion “Bumpy” Bumpers, well-known and beloved retired teacher, who lived for years in the Montgomery area, and now lives in her hometown of Grove Hill. She had come up for the program with her friends, Randy and Susan Jones of Grove Hill. It was on this occasion that Mrs. Thomasson and Miss Bumpers met for the first time. Mrs. Thomasson had long heard of the famous Miss Bumpers through her daughter, Christy, who teaches in Grove Hill.

The Andalusians ate lunch at Wintzell’s downtown, running into an ol’ friend, Charlie Grantham. The order of the day was fried shrimp and oysters, for which Wintzell’s is known. The Portly Gentleman indulged with a Shirley Temple. (Wintzell’s is a restaurant chain based in Mobile.)

The last stop before returning to “the Dimple of Dixie” was the Goat Hill Gift Shop behind the Capitol. Some Christmas gifts were purchased; and there was a good visit with Judy Jehle (yay-lee), youngest of five, once a teacher of English, and a sister of Nell Richardson, whose husband, Ed, was principal of the Andalusia High School for eight years, before going on to Opelika schools, state superintendent and president of Auburn.

A last stop in Greenville for supper was followed by the group’s arrival safely home.

I’ve heard several ladies of our town report how beautifully Tim Trent, minister of the Methodist church on East Three-Notch, sang “Ave Maria” at a study club.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, why not read or memorize from this most popular edition before 2011 ends. Gentle reader, we have about a week left.

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 Trent Affair was coming to a head. Two Confederate, foreign ministers of state, Slidell and Mason, had been forcibly removed from a British ship by the North. Britain threatened war with the North unless the men were immediately released. The South hoped Britain would go to war with the North, thus putting the South at an advantage.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

Congratulations to Dr. Morgan Moore, who correctly identified the mysterian of the week as none other than old Santa Claus!

The new mysterian has a red nose.

The special day this week is tomorrow, Dec. 25, when George Washington crossed the Delaware in 1776.

Now, gentle reader, let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Again, “Merry Christmas!” and fare thee well.