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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2012

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I dwelt again upon the sweet autumn clematis, topping the upper growth of my door-side bush, like a lace tablecloth, thrown upon a shrub to dry in the sun.

Seen at the Huddle House were the Ronald Williamson family, Alma Knowles and her sister, Betty Knowles Parker, Dr. Dale Gunn of Lurleen Burns Wallace Community College, and Norma Gavras with her 13-year-old grandson, Grayson Gavras, visiting from Fairhope for a week on his grandmother’s farm. Grayson, a bright, talented and social fellow, is set to enter the eighth grade in Fairhope. He is already making a name for himself by selling his own paintings.

Gentle reader, the Portly Gentleman wants to recommend a neat, tidy, orderly, little restaurant over in Elba on Hickman Street, called Juliette’s. He went on a Friday night with Robert Lee Holley and enjoyed the seafood buffet, especially the fried oysters. The eatery is open weekdays for lunch, too.

“Grandfather Scott” (Bobby Scott) and I enjoyed talking about Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., the other day. We both had been there. “Grandfather” said the famous hotel looked like a castle to him when he first saw it. The Portly Gentleman, who joined our conversation, as might be expected, told us about the Sunday buffet, “as long as a football field.”

Colonel Covington at the Andalusia Lyceum stated that our nation has “crossed the Rubicon” when it comes to morality. “Time was when being a good Christian and being a good American went hand-in-glove. Now the federal government has violated that unity.”

June Ann (Gaines) Smith, wife of the late York Smith, and a retired teacher, was celebrated on the occasion of her 80th birthday recently. The actual date was July 28, but the occasion’s being one of such auspiciousness, the festivities lasted several days.

Family came from far and wide to honor her, including three California grandchildren, Amber of Escondido, York of Los Gatos, and Eric of Los Angeles. Amber’s daughter, Amara Geneva, was the delight of every gathering. She is the first and only great-grandchild June has, and bears the middle name of June’s mother – Geneva.

June’s son, Bill Smith, and his wife, Wanda, also traveled from California to celebrate his mother’s significant birthday.

Also in attendance were June’s grandson, Elliott Dansby, and his wife, Jenny, of Birmingham.

Traveling from Arkansas to celebrate the octogenarian was her favorite birthday present ever, her granddaughter, Judith Anne Dansby, who was born the eve of her grandmother’s birthday 23 years ago. Ever since, the two redheads have been celebrating together each year.

Completing the family gathering were Neal and Jennifer (Smith) Dansby, June’s daughter.

On Sunday, July 29, the lovely Sweetgum Bottom Bed and Breakfast was the scene of an afternoon occasion to bless June with happy thoughts and sweet memories. Guests were welcomed into the beautifully decorated establishment and treated to a refreshing spread of fruits and vegetables and dip. There was punch to ease the thirst from the summer, afternoon heat and a whimsical, topsy-turvy, polka-dotted, three-tiered confection, sliced and served up by Laura Oswald, proprietress of the bed and breakfast. The cappuccino cake was as delicious as it was delightful.

Guests enjoyed chatting with the Birthday Girl as they collected their refreshments. She was seated in a grand hallway, attired in periwinkle and adorned by a lovely corsage, an Alan Cotton masterpiece of Talisman rose and statice with a bird of paradise perched at the top, all coordinated by a royal blue ribbon, a perfect gift from her son, Bill, a graduate of Auburn.

Well-wishers had been asked to bring “memoirs,” recorded on cards to place in a basket to give June, loving mementos of this special day and their significance in her life and hers in theirs.

A good time was had by all – especially one much-celebrated redhead!

The Portly Gentleman has agreed to tell us of his trip to Huntsville in July for the annual meeting of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, organized in 1923, one of the nation’s oldest writing groups.

“Taking 65-north, I turned right onto 565 and drove about l5 miles to the Huntsville Marriott Hotel, next to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. From my room I could see several large rockets on display.

“The Marriott was the setting for the A.W.C. weekend conference.

“The hotel restaurant, Porter’s, served me dinner my first night – crab cakes, onion rings, greens, coffee and rolls.

“At bedtime I left instructions on a card on my hallway door for breakfast to be delivered to my room. I did this two days during my stay and thoroughly enjoyed this luxury.

“The next morning a tray was brought with a carnation in a bud vase and a cloth napkin. Under a domed cover were hash browns, bacon and two eggs. Also on the tray were toast, orange juice, milk, a pot of coffee and a few miniature jars of jam.

“I had allowed me a free day by arriving a day early, so I had plenty of time to piddle about. I was thus on hand to welcome old acquaintances, such as the poet laureate of Alabama, Sue Brannan Walker, when she arrived from Mobile where she teaches college English.

“For lunch I ate in the Seasons, the restaurant next to Porter’s. Porter’s is for night dining; the Seasons, for day dining.

“Lunch for me was clam chowder and a Reuben sandwich. Since I do not drink alcohol, I asked for Sierra Mist with several splashes of orange juice in it. This can be made with Sprite or any other clear soda, such as ginger ale. I call it a ‘Baptist screwdriver.’

“After lunch, back in the main lobby, my attention was arrested by several, teenage girls, who were making all sorts of noises and gushing noticeably at the hotel entrance. It seems a fellow named Seth Clearwater, who had played a role in the popular Twilight film, was arriving. I think he was staying the night and was making a film over at the space center next door.

“After registration that afternoon, I chatted with other A.W.C. members.

“At the reception that night I met Teri Henley, who teaches advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama. Her best friend is Cathleen (Owens) Erwin, daughter of our own John and Corrie (Anderson) Owens. Cathleen is a former roommate of Teri’s and a professor at Auburn.

“For the program that night three Alabama poets read from their works – Sue Scalf, Sue Brannan Walker (poet laureate), and Andrew Glaze.

“Saturday I spent most of the day in literary sessions. We had several choices each hour. That morning I chose Kathy Rhodes, who taught non-fiction, and Bill Brown, who taught poetry.

“I have noticed that practically all the poetry nowadays is free verse. Traditional poetry seems to have disappeared. I have also noticed that some of the ‘poetry’ is more prose than poetry. There is an admirable emphasis upon deep thoughts.

“After the morning classes, all assembled to hear the year’s writer-in-residence, Terry Cline, assisted by Judith Richards, speak glowingly of the late Edgar Cayce, a mystic.

“Following a lunch buffet, provided by the A.W.C., we had two more sessions. I heard Kathy and Bill again, learning much from both. Bill’s passion for poetry and his interest in his students especially impressed me.

“Saturday night we assembled for the Grace Gravlee Awards Banquet, named in memory of an early leader in the A.W.C.

“We had a fine meal, heard an after-dinner speaker, and witnessed awards to participants in eight categories of creative writing.

“My table included Nancy Akberg, who wrote a children’s book about the War Between the States, Steve Gierhart, Sue Scalf, Charles Farley and Deborah Adelsperger.

“The speaker was Terry Clein, an older fellow who had made his living by writing jokes for such as Dick Van Dyke, Morey Amsterdam, Jonathan Winters and Joey Bishop. He kept us laughing for an hour. He added that he had never sold a pun, though, the ‘lowest form of humor.’

(Note: I want to remind the reader that Shakespeare, considered the world’s greatest writer by many, used puns extensively.)

“I could not but note that there were many writers present from Fairhope, which has become a cultural center in Alabama.

“There were four more classes offered the next morning, as well as a business session.

“During the business session, which concluded the conference, a new poet laureate was elected for the next four years – Andrew Glaze, 92. He was elected to serve to 20l7, and will replace Sue Brannan Walker, who served the last eight years (two terms of four years each), 2005 – 2012. A plaque of appreciation was presented to Mrs. Walker.

“On the way home I stopped at the Guy Hunt Rest Stop in North Alabama, along Highway 65, the most unusual rest stop I have seen in Alabama.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman.

The celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, greatest of English novelists, continues.

The celebration of the 100th birthday of the Christian, movie cowboy, Roy Rogers, born Nov. 5, continues.

The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 continues.

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 Second Battle of Bull Run continued.

Remember to buy the four Sesquicentennial stamps and the one of Mark Twain.

Congratulations to Roger Miller, who correctly identified last Saturday’s mysterian as Myrtle Kervin, one of the more popular and admired citizens in Andalusia’s history. I have never had so many participants in this section of my column as I did with Miss Kervin. She brought much professionalism, dignity, beauty and efficiency to our corner of the world. Thank you, Mr. Miller.

The new mysterian is a retired teacher, a member of First Baptist, a widow, the mother of two children, a lover of flowers and a red-haired great-grandmother.

The one birthday remembered this week is that of Sir Walter Scott of Scotland, a poet and novelist, who cast a veil of romance over his homeland by setting his poems and novels all over the countryside of Scotland, thus glorifying almost every foot of Scotland with a line of poetry or prose. His life became romance itself when he re-created a castle-home and attempted to live the life of a medieval lord. He was a true man of letters, a poet through and through. He brought great honor and glory to his country.

Perhaps his best known quotation is as follows: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive.” (That might be a good theme for the presidential race in our country.)

In our own country we had our own version of Sir Walter here in the South in the form of William Gilmore Simms, who tried to do for the South what Sir Walter did for Scotland – establish a haze of literary glory all over South Carolina and the South.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing, like Ward and June, Wally and the Beaver.

Fare thee well.