Mrs. Grundy sees, tells all

Published 12:05 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, here on New Year’s Eve, I looked for fireworks and hummed a bit of “Auld Lang Syne,” words by that best loved of Scottish poets, Robert “Bobbie” Burns. My mind turned to New Year’s resolutions, and I decided on one – not to have any resolutions!

I ran into Darwin Pippin at Tabby D.’s Wednesday; and he introduced his little great-grandson, also named Darwin. Great-Grandpa was obviously proud of his namesake. If he – that’s old Darwin – had grinned any broader, his smile would have run around behind his ears!

The Civitans enjoyed their annual Christmas party Tuesday evening, Dec. 13.

Hosted by Roger and Dot Burkett LeCompte in their beautifully decorated home on Antioch Road, the party began with greetings from the hosts and Civitan president, Greg Bryant.

Chaplain Leroy Cole worded the invocation.

A buffet followed, featuring ham sandwiches, soups, salads, a cheese tray, and desserts. Tables with Christmas china invited guests.

Playing a Christmas word-search puzzle after dinner, William Blocker and Debbie Turner won prizes as first male and female to identify nicknames.

Dr. Morgan Moore, accompanied by Margie Thomasson at the piano, led Christmas carols.

Meghon (Bryant) Tillman of Mobile, daughter of Greg and Sandy Bryant, arrived in time to join in the fun and celebrate her birthday. Her happy news was that her husband, Chadd Tillman, a pilot, would be home from Iraq for Christmas.

In Montgomery last week to see the musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s short story, “A Christmas Memory,” at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, I enjoyed a brief visit before the play with Boyd Pass, up from Andalusia, there with his son Garrett, formerly of Andalusia, now living in Prattville. Garrett’s wife Laura (Brooks) and their daughter, Katie, made up their party. It was Garrett’s first time to visit the ASF.

The play was poignant and included a song that may become a little Christmas classic, “They Don’t Make Christmas Like That Anymore.” It was set in Monroeville, and had in its cast an actor, playing Harper Lee, famous for her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, whom Capote knew from his childhood visits to Monroeville.

Prior to the play I took lunch across the way in Café M of the Montgomery Museum, sitting at one of the walls of windows and enjoying the view of the lake with its seagulls and geese, stopping off on their ways to other climes.

My table was set with a white cloth and cloth napkins, and a vase of fresh flowers. My meal was a grilled BLT and a cup of roasted, red-pepper soup, good on that cold and gray day.

I hear tell that Jan White had a very special Christmas moment this season. She felt inspired to write a new verse to the old Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger.” When Ron Patterson, the minister of music at her church, Southside Baptist, got a copy of Jan’s new verse, he led the congregation in the world premiere of the following verse, following the traditional, first verse.

“The Way in a manger, the Truth and the Life — God’s Son dwelt among us — Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Light of the World, the King of all kings, our Savior, Redeemer, and Prince of Peace.”

That was on Christmas Day, no less.

Gentle reader, this is the last day in the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. Before you go to sleep tonight, why not read from this most popular edition of the Bible, or recite from it?

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 federal government admitted it illegally seized two Confederate commissioners, James Mason and John Slidell, from a British ship and, under pressure from Great Britain, released them to Great Britain’s care, thus avoiding potential war with Great Britain, which the South would have welcomed. In Missouri St. Louis was placed under martial law by the North; and skirmishes occurred between the North and South.

The first full year of the War (1861) had come to an end.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

The red nose in last week’s mysteriogram belongs to Rudolph, “the red-nosed reindeer,” identified by Jo Driggers of Lexington, S.C. Congratulations, Jo!

Our mysterian this week wears diapers and a top hat.

Birthdays this week included those of Woodrow Wilson, a president of the United States, and Rudyard Kipling, an English writer.

Much of Kipling’s work is set in India because he was born and reared there — by English parents.

Kipling’s work includes short stories, essays, novels, and poetry.

He was probably best at his poetry, which includes “If” and “Gunga Din.”

Passing through Rutledge the other day, I stopped at its branch of Hook’s and ran into the manager for the last five years, John David Kimbro, formerly of Andalusia.

Back in mid-December the Portly Gentleman went with Southern Touch (bus) Tours for a weekend at the venerable resort, the Homestead, in Hot Springs, Va., dating back to the time of George Washington, older than our Nation.

I’ve asked him to share his memories.

“Seven ladies and I left Dothan, stopping in Montgomery for 16 more travelers, and ending the day in Carrollton, Ga., where we spent the night.

“Our guide was Pat (Mill) Lanier, a banker, travel guide, and Methodist. This, she told us, was her last trip as a guide, since she planned to be married afterwards to Jimmy Champion.

“The driver was Ronnie Bradley, who drove all of the trip except the last leg, being relieved by Eugene Vann.

“Among the group was Kay Hind, a charming and fascinating lady from Albany, Georgia, whose granddaughter, Caroline Barnhill, has dated our own Will Starr.

“Both Pat and Kay know our own Ben Barrow (Benny and Esther’s older son) of Albany on whose property the inspirational film, Facing the Giants, was made. Small world.

“Perhaps the best friend I made on the trip was Rosalyn Donaldson from Tifton, Ga. She’s a retired teacher of English, who loves to travel, and is the widow of a funeral director.

“On our way north to pick up more, we passed through LaGrange. Rosalyn told me that Aunt Pitty-Pat in Gone with the Wind had gone to LaGrange College, which Rosalyn described as having a beautiful campus. We motored though town on Hamilton Drive – Aunt Pitty-Pat’s surname. Along Hamilton was the town’s giant cemetery where Lee and Sarah Baugh lie buried. He worked with the railroad here in Andy; she taught science at the high school. On a previous trip I had located their graves and paid my respects. I did so again as we drove by.

“We stopped in Carrollton for the night. Carrollton, an agricultural and industrial town of 20,000, once known for producing cotton, is home to the University of West Georgia. It was named for Charles Carroll of Maryland, a signer of the “Declaration of Independence.” Carroll County was chartered in l826 from Indian lands. The oldest bookstore in Georgia, Horton’s, is located there.

“Most of us ate supper in the Carrollton Diner. The chicken pie was superb, and the chicken soup was about the best I’ve ever eaten. Only Margie Thomasson’s chicken soup can rival it.

“We picked up more travellers before we left Carrollton; then, more in Atlanta and along the way, till we had 53.

“Pat gave a thought for the day each morning. We played games to pass the time, and watched movies. Once we sang “Happy Birthday” to Helen Spruill of Carrollton.

“Arriving in Greenville, S.C., we ate lunch at the Brick Street Café, so called because of a brick path down the center of the main room. While dining, I especially enjoyed a conversation with Lewis Spruill, 85, of Carrollton, who worked his way through Berry College in Rome, Ga. He was once the driver for the college’s founder, Miss Martha Berry, and planted the boxwoods at her grave. Once he drove Henry Ford, a benefactor of Berry, using Mr. Ford’s own car. Lewis said that he opened the back door for Mr. Ford to get in. Mr. Ford asked, ‘What’s wrong with sitting in the front seat, Sonny Boy?’– and he did, right beside Lewis. Lewis said that he got to see Mr. Ford’s private, railroad car, too; and, boy, was it a sight for sore eyes!

“Back on the bus we watched a new movie, The Help.

“As we drove north, we came upon snow on the ground. We saw it on the ground everywhere in Virginia.

“We spent the night at Country Inn and Suites in Beckley, West Va., with snow on the ground, and ate next door at the Cracker Barrel, which made me think of “Miss Betty” and her tours.

“I made a couple of snowballs and aimed safely at inanimate objects.

Pat’s thought the next morning was ‘Today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.’

“Still in the snow, we visited Tamarack, an arts-and-crafts center that opened in 1996 in Beckley. This is a beautiful, modern building with displays, artisans, sales, programs, conference rooms, and a fine cafeteria, supplied by the nearby, world-famous resort, the Greenbriar of West Virginia.

“As I rested and tried to take in all the beauty, both the arts and also the winter scenes outside, I talked with the McNair sisters of First Baptist, Carrollton, Naomi Jane Britton and Margurite Morris, with whom I had traveled previously to the Greenbriar.

“For lunch I ordered sausages with onions and green peppers, kale with onions, and fried green tomatoes.

“After we reached Covington, Va., we took a 16, two-lane, winding road up into the Allegheny Mountains in the middle of nowhere, where stands the majestic resort known as the Homestead.

“We passed a splendid waterfall on our way up the mountain, made scenic with winter woods, snow, mountain rocks, valleys, farms, log cabins, churches, homes, horses, pastures, sheep, schools, and finally in the glory of the sun – the Homestead!

“The Homestead, upon my arrival, looked like a large, brick palace with white trim. It is a collection of buildings, dominated by a residential tower to the right, topped with a clock. The main entrance is centrally located with a porte cachere and pediment, supported by six white, Ionic columns, flanked by two matching colonnades along wide, covered porches with sitting areas and lines of rocking chairs, painted white. Greeters wait to handle luggage. Shuttles offer rides all over the place.

“We were just in time for afternoon tea. I expected tea at cloth-covered tables with servers and was sorely disappointed when we had to line up to get a cup of hot water and a tea bag of our choice. There wasn’t a petit four in sight! Tea was served in the Great Hall, which was a sight to behold, and made up for the lack of a seated tea. In a room off the Great Hall, called the Jefferson Parlor, we found crustless, tea sandwiches of minced cucumber, minced watercress, and pimiento. I had never eaten watercress before; it was tasty. There were also scones, cake, and cookies – and hot chocolate.

“The Jefferson Parlor is an octagonal, sitting room with four, central, white, fluted, Ionic columns around a central, circular couch, topped by a display area and lamps. Historical murals of the Hot Springs area and Jefferson himself cover the walls, thus the name.

“Back in the Great Hall an old fellow in a tuxedo and winged collar played Christmas songs at a grand piano during tea time.

“It was Saturday, and the Great Hall was running over with crowds. By Sunday many had left, and we could enjoy the Homestead more with more room to move about.

“The architecture of the Homestead is worth the visit alone. It made up for a hundred teas! I looked about and decided that there was too much to see even if I stayed a month!

“Our group was treated next to a history of the Homestead, delivered in the resort’s theatre by its own historian, Keene Byrd, who grew up in the area. For an hour Mr. Byrd gave us a visual glimpse into the past.

“The Indians were attracted to the natural hot springs, believing them curative. Then the white man came. The Homestead grew up around the springs, attracting early on Thomas Jefferson, who visited the area about 22 days. General Lee and his wife, an invalid, stayed in the old hotel that burned. Mrs. Lee ‘soaked’ at the Homestead, but General Lee preferred Healing Springs down the road. A house the Lees used there still stands. The Old Course for golfing, built in 1892, has the oldest first tee in continuous use in this country. (I thought of Frank Moore when Mr. Byrd spoke of golf history at the Homestead.)

“The theatre in which we met was added in 1921 and has a pink-and-black color scheme, plush seats, gilt and ornate vent covers, arches, pilasters, sconces, and a stage with curtain and screen.

“At the end of his lesson, Mr. Byrd led us over to the Presidents’ Lounge, a bar, where there are portraits of all the Presidents who have visited the Homestead.

“Each then went to his room to await dinner at 7 p.m..

“The staff outshines the guests when it comes to clothing. I saw among the guests, sports caps on heads, jeans, one pair of overalls, and sweat shirts, not appropriate for the grand surroundings. One spoiled brat lay on the floor and kicked his heels and screamed; and his mother just looked helpless. He needed an attitude adjustment!

“At each end of the Great Hall is a balcony. My room was on the second floor near one balcony. I stood there before going in to dinner and tried to ‘take in’ the Great Hall.

“It is grand, filled with old-fashioned elegance. At one end is the check-in desk. At the opposite is the desk of the concierge. The hall is about two stories tall and seems the size of a football field. A two-story Christmas tree stood at my end. Up and down the hall, toward the walls, are rows of white, Corinthian columns – eight in each of two rows, each wrapped in Christmas greenery. Along the inner wall are two fire places, pilasters, and some ten sitting areas with stuffed couches, chairs, and tables, each a little nest of comfort. On the inner wall are also four ‘coves,’ small sitting rooms that can be closed off for privacy. Along the outer wall are more sitting areas. The carpet is lush. Pictures and mirrors decorate the walls. Ornate lamps hang from the ceiling. The door facings are fancy. Here is where afternoon tea is enjoyed and where people go to see and be seen, or just sit and rest, read, talk, or nod off to sleep by the fire. It is the heart of the Homestead.

“We had a merry dinner table that first night and much laughter. There were seven ladies and I — Kay Hind, who reminded me of the heart-winning character of Marie Dressler; Madelyn (Anthony) Henderson, formerly of Albany, now of Macon; Johnnie McMilion, who sparkled with social charm; Ruth Azar, a Catholic from Montgomery, whose family is in the clothing business, and who said grace for us; Mary Ann Ostrye, Ruth’s lovely daughter; Nelda Peevy, who knew Fontelle Wingard of Auburn; and Joann Stewart, who also knew Fontelle.

“The Grand Dining Room was a combination of four dining halls, a forest of white columns, with old-fashioned waiters in uniforms. Our seating was under a large dome. A live band played. Little lamps served as centerpieces. Courses were accompanied with the appropriate tableware. White cloths covered the tables, which sat eight. Bread plates and butter knives were already in place.

“Drinks were first. I boldly ordered a Shirley Temple.

“The chef sent all of us tomato bisque for a starter.

“My next course was shrimp cocktail with remoulade and cocktail sauces.

“Then came cold-water lobster bisque with chowder garnish, poured into my soup plate from a little bottle, to keep it hot.

“The entrée was a mixed grill with roast quail, shiitake mushroom mousse, lamb t-bone, grille tomato, veal-and-truffle sausage, and whipped potato.

“Dessert was a pecan pie, served in a little, iron skillet, topped with ice cream, and enjoyed with coffee.

“A silver finger bowl with lemon in the water was brought last.

“I shall close for the time with a description of my room, which looked like one of those ideal bedrooms in old, black-and-white movies, complete with plush carpet, antique furnishings, a writing desk (I secured hotel stationery), a clothes closet, historic prints, white-yellow wallpaper, plantation blinds, drapes, and a widescreen TV. The bathroom had an oversized lavatory and tub. Everything was white with a tile-and-marble floor, white tile up the walls, and a large framed mirror. My bedclothes were turned down each night, and a chocolate left on my pillow. The furnished, white, soft bathrobe was big enough even for a portly fellow!”

I shall ask the Portly One to continue his notes next time, Lord willing.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Fare thee well, and “Happy New Year!”

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” No, it shouldn’t.