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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I caught sight of the Confederate jasmine, honeysuckles and running roses, all cascading over my picket fence.

Along the roadside the evening primroses turned their pink blushes up to an Alabama sky.

When a child, walking to school, my schoolmates and I would pick the primroses, which we called buttercups, and ask each other to sniff. Of course, the yellow pollen would “butter” the noses of the smellers, to our general amusement.

I see the privet hedge is blooming now. Four or five generations ago these shrubs were used to “landscape” yards. It was fashionable among humble, country folks.

Seen at Larry’s for supper last week were Anthony and Kathy (Portemont) Ammons, Robert Lee Holley and Andy and Mickey (Bullard) Riley. Kathy, Robert Lee and Mickey were all members of the notable Class of 1971 of the Andalusia High School.

Our local, well-known set of twins, Madison and Robert Copeland, celebrated their 25th birthday April 10 with an informal drop-by 6 – 9 p.m. at the picnic area of the Dairy Queen on East Three-Notch.

The twins’ mother, Betty (Sorrells) Copeland, hosted, providing a store-bought, white-chocolate birthday cake and free passes for ice-cream cones, given to each well-wisher, including Billy and Thelma Sorrells (the twins’ uncle and aunt), Nate and Micgayle Bass, Nick Cleland, Brett Darnell, Carla Mooney, Shaun Morgan, Britteny O’Rourke, Caitlin Rider, Noah Rider (Caitlin’s youngest brother), Thomas Rudd, Jimmy Faulkner, Ron and Caroline Picking, Barry and Laura Wilkinson, Joe Wingard and the Dairy Queen staff.

Robert Lee Holley accompanied his ol’ classmate, Dr. Rex Butler, A.H.S. Class of 1971, to a karate tournament in Shreveport, La., last weekend to see the doctor’s son, Allen, a seventh-grader here in Andalusia, compete. Allen did himself proud by winning four first-place events. Robert did his share of the driving to make the sleep-deprived, three-day trip possible. The trio left the “Dimple of Dixie” late Friday and returned late Saturday.

Kittye Wyatt received a certificate of honor from the executive board of Covington Baptists for her late husband, Neal Wyatt, for his work with the Baptists of Covington County.

Another certificate, honoring the late Edwin Patterson, a Baptist minister, was also announced.

At the annual Brown-Johnson family reunion this past Sunday, attended in the Mayor Jeanette Barrett Civic Room of the Gold Star Park in Wetumpka, I enjoyed a long talk with a third cousin, Hilda (Wingard) Johnson, who lived with her husband in Andalusia around 1959 for two years.

Her late husband David lived here during the week to help with the steam plant at Gantt. The couple went home to Elmore County on weekends.

Hilda said they lived at 219 1/2 Church Street in the first-floor apartment of a building in the back yard of a brown, wooden house across the street from the Commercial Bank, rented to them by George Proctor.

Hilda shared stories about Dr. Abrams, the Scherfs and Mrs. Hill Guy. (Wasn’t Mrs. Guy’s first husband Henry Opp, for whom Opp is named?)

Hilda’s only sibling and sister, Billie (Wingard) Brown, also attended the reunion.

Their grandmother, Camilla Thomas, who lived to be 102, helped deliver my father and put his first “apron” (dress-like covering) upon him. My father visited Mrs. Thomas when she was l0l.

I love to hear stories of the old days.

(I hope Curtis Thomasson, “Mr. Genealogy,” is reading this.)

Hilda told of the times when my dad’s mother, Lillie Alline, and one of her sisters, Sadie Pearl, would go over to their childhood home on ‘Possum Trot every Friday to “sweep” the yard for their mother, Mattie (Ross) Garner. Yards then were “swept” clean of grass and weeds. It was the fashion to have a yard of smoothed sand and dirt. Bundles of little, dogwood switches were used as brooms to sweep the yard. Bundles of broom straw were used as brooms in the house, and could be used outside, too.

About 2,000 educational employees from all over Alabama gathered with the fervor of converts at a tent revival Saturday afternoon, April 14, at the foot of the gleaming, white steps of the state Capitol to rally for public education and against charter schools and more funding cuts to educational programs.

The crowd, mainly members of the Alabama Education Association, were “fired up” during a one-and-a-half-hour program that featured pep talks by two dozen or so speakers – so many that I lost count. Many of the educators felt that the Republican-led, state legislature had not only deserted them, but even intentionally made their lives miserable in an effort to revenge themselves upon AEA, the Democrats (long in the pocket of AEA), and Dr. Paul Hubbert, recently retired. Many educators felt that the Republicans were throwing the baby (teachers and students) out with the water (revenge).

Speakers for the S.O.S. (Save Our Schools!) rally included state senators, state representatives, students, retired teachers, active teachers, Anita Gibson (AEA vice-president, who presided), Lee Walker (a preacher from Autauga County, who worded the invocation), Dorothy Strickland (AEA president), Dr. Henry Mabry (new executive secretary of the AEA), Dr. Gregory T. Graves (new associate executive secretary of the AEA), members of the AEA board, Joe Ward (vice-president of the Alabama Education Retirees Association), and Kenneth Dukes (minister from Shelby County, who worded the benediction).

Music, including the “Star-spangled Banner,” was provided by the color guard of Bullock County High School and the Prattville High School Show Choir.

In the crowd of reporters was Phillip Rawls, who was one of my journalism students at the A.H.S. in the 1960s. He works for the Associated Press and had a nice piece about the rally the next morning in The Montgomery Advertiser.

As the crowd of protesters assembled, they broke out in song, “Sweet Home, Alabama,” and chanted at different times “SOS,” “No more cuts,” “Invest in Schools,” and “We all vote”!

AEA Vice-President Anita Gibson asked, “Do you know why we are meeting on Saturday?” and answered, “Because we work for the children, Monday – Friday!”

Dr. Mabry in a fiery speech said, “We cannot fund education by taking money away.”

When he mentioned Governor Bentley, a majority of those present booed the Governor.

Many felt the Governor had broken his word to teachers.

Vivian Jones of Brewton, AEA director of District 24 (Conecuh, Covington, and Escambia counties) was among those present. Her son, William, a senior at T. R. Miller High School in Brewton, and a top student, was among the speakers and gave one of the shortest and best speeches.

Others from District 24 were Ricky and Donna Bass of Straughn, Carolyn Batchelor of Straughn, and Jacqueline Earthly, two-term president of District 24. Two buses transported education employees from our area.

Dozens sat in the shade of the trees around the Capitol. Most stood for the entire program on the hot pavement of Dexter Avenue under a pleasant but warm sun. I don’t see how they did it. A friendly breeze blessed those sitting and standing.

The Capitol was a sight for sore eyes – beautiful, white, under an Alabama, dome-like sky of blue with white, fluffy clouds, the grounds landscaped with flower beds of oakleaf hydrangeas, daylilies, and roses.

On the capitol grounds I ran into some visitors from New Jersey, who commented on how clean everything looked. They had their grandson from Chicago with them. The grandmother’s hobby was taking pictures of all the state capitols. Alabama’s was her 48th snapshot.

I showed them the Goat Hill Gift Shop and explained that goats used to graze where the capitol now stands. I went in to speak to Judy Jehle, who works in the gift shop. She’s sister to Nell Richardson, the wife of Ed Richardson, who was principal at A.H.S. eight years and, later, state superintendent of education and president of Auburn University. Dr. Richardson is semi-retired.

When I think of Chicago, my dad comes to mind because he learned a memory device about the Windy City – “Chickens in the car, and the car won’t go.” He told me, too, that he boarded the train, known as the South Wind, when it reached Thomasville, Ga., from Miami. It was on its way to Chicago through Montgomery with the body of Al Capone, noted gangster. Dad “deadheaded” to Montgomery, his home base, and got to see Capone’s boxed coffin. “Deadheaded” means that his railroad responsibilities from Montgomery to Thomasville were over, and he simply had to get back to Montgomery as a passenger.

Jasmine Hills Gardens above Montgomery but below Wetumpka is open “for the season,” now through June, each Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.

It has been said of Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday we celebrate this year, that not even Shakespeare or Jane Austen has inspired more movie, TV, and stage adaptations.

This year is also the 100th anniversary of the birth of the movie cowboy, Roy Rogers, born Nov. 5, 2011.

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 1582, Andalusia, AL 36420.

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

President Lincoln signed a bill to prohibit slavery in the District of Columbia. (He was putting his foot in the water, so to say.)

A military draft was proposed by the Confederacy, probably out of necessity in order to survive; but the idea of drafting went against strong, idealistic beliefs in the South about states’ rights and individualism. (It seems to me that the South was forced to try some of the very practices it hated in Northern behavior.)

Both the South and the North wanted Ship Island in the Mississippi River. The North wanted to control the Mississippi and clear the way to take New Orleans. The North reinforced its attack on Ship Island with more troops and vessels. (I can see early in the War that the South didn’t have much of a chance to win.)

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

The mysterian, for the second week, is a man who lost his teeth in the World War.

Birthdays this week include that of Charlotte Bronte, an English writer of four novels, the most famous of which is Jane Eyre.

Paul Revere made his famous, midnight ride this week, “on the eighteenth of April in ’75.” Certainly, as Longfellow wrote in his poem about Revere, “hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year.” Revere rode to warn the countryside that the British were coming. The Revolutionary War had begun.

It was the next day, April 19, that the British and colonials fought at Lexington and Concord. Many a town renamed itself Lexington after that battle.

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

Fare thee well.