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

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I thought of the poem, “October’s Bright Blue Weather,” by Helen Hunt Jackson, and the first time I heard it.

I was a new teacher, teaching among experienced ones, (Mrs.) Sara Baugh, Miss Annalee Simmons, Miss Ellen Barrow, and (Mrs.) Carolyn Rankin, all in the Andalusia High School Annex, or Little Building.

It was October with its “bright blue weather” when Miss Barrow and I walked over to the lunchroom one morning prior to lunch. I guess Miss Barrow was filled with the beauty of the season. She suddenly began quoting the first verse of Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem, “O suns and skies and clouds of June/ And flowers of June together,/ Ye cannot rival for one hour/ October’s bright blue weather.”

I had never heard, let alone memorized, those lines and confessed so. As James Arthur Wilson used to say, “That was a room in my brain that had never been furnished.”

Later that day, my colleagues told me more of Helen Hunt Jackson. They even sang for me the theme song from the movie made from her novel, Romona.

All these years later, when all are gone but me, I recall that morning, that poem, those friends.

As long as Miss Barrow lived, I would send a copy of the lines to her each October, as a thank you for introducing me to Helen Hunt Jackson and her lovely poem.

As long as I taught, I would read that poem as a thought for the day to my students each October.

Allow me to suggest, gentle reader, that you secure a copy of the poem and read the entire piece each October.

Seen at the “deli” of the Piggly Wiggly for lunch were James Bristow, Dan and Virginia Frasher, Donald Carter, Jimmy Gillis and Hubble Sowards.

Donald and Jimmy were putting away some banana pudding.

Jimmy is owner of Satisfied Electric and Plumbing.

Seen at Chen’s for the Friday-night buffet were Jeff and Madelyn Fuqua, Mike and Carolyn Barrow, Sandy Pochert, Linda Castleberry, Robert Lee Holley and Charles and Sandra Grantham.

It was the Granthams’ last night in their house in Andalusia. They have sold it in favor of living now in Birmingham, to be nearer their children. Charles and Sandra have been long-time residents of Andalusia and will be missed.

Linda Castleberry, by the way, is the Girl Scout leader in Red Level, the location of the only Girl Scout unit, I think, in Covington County. I understand that more Girl Scout units may be begun in the county as part of the centennial celebration of the Girl Scouts of America.

The Montgomery Chorale recently launched their 39th season with a concert on Lake Martin at the home and lake garden of Jim Scott. Prior to the concert were a tour of the extraordinarily landscaped, lakeside gardens and a catered- picnic supper.

Dr. Dent and Diane Williams of Montgomery, formerly of Andalusia, invited friends with Andalusia connections to be their guests for the evening. Diane is a member of the chorale board and reserved a table just for their guests, Al Burnette, Molly Faulk Currie, Paula Sue Duebelt and Sue Wilson.

At dusk the instrumental music began with Handel’s Water Music, played, appropriately, from a pontoon boat on the lake.

The chorale, directed by Becky Taylor, formerly Becky Padgett of Andalusia, presented the following: Bernstein’s “There Is a Garden,” Rodgers’s “Some Enchanted Evening,” Webber’s “The Music of the Night,” Schmidt’s “Try to Remember,” Simon’s “Come to My Garden,” Flummerfelt’s arrangement of “Londonderry Air” and Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow.”

The performance was appropriately named “This Enchanted Evening,” and was enhanced by the setting, created in great part by Jim Scott and his late wife over a period of 10 years.

Mrs. Wilson, a guest, recalled the setting as “a variety of Southern plantings, shrubs, bushes, trees, along with residence structures,” all designed to “blend into the woodsy setting.”

The enchanting, pre-concert, garden stroll was also recalled by Mrs. Wilson as being “amidst stone paths, winding; archways with ivy twining; brooks, bubbling; vines, winding; gentle, early fall breezes, whispering; garden sculptures, standing; the romance of the extensive garden tour … enhanced by costumed dancers, impersonating forest insects, flitting and twirling.”

Mrs. Wilson likewise remembered “following the mysterious, terraced trails, overlooking the tranquil setting of a Lake Martin sunset” and how “participants could take their momentary leisure on benches.”

One bench, she shared, was inscribed with a quotation from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows/Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows/Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine/With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

A few weeks ago the Portly Gentleman began telling us of a trip he took to South Carolina. We left him in Lexington where he went to visit relatives, especially his cousin, Jo Driggers. He’ll pick up the narrative at this point.

“Lexington is important to me because that’s where my family settled over 250 years ago after arriving in America. I still have cousins-by-the-dozens there to this day.

“My first day in Lexington Jo drove me about the old sites: the Liverman Building, built by Dr. James L. Liverman, the late doctor/husband of Cousin Katheryn (Wingard) Liverman; the house where Cousin Ruth (Wingard) Caughman was reared; Caughman’s Funeral Home, run by Ruth’s son, Steve, before his early death; part of Lexington Elementary School, where Jo attended and her mother taught; the old Lexington High School, now a middle school; Providence Lutheran Church on Old Chapin Road, where the spinster sisters, Nannie and Jennie Wingard, lie buried near their parents, George Bayliss and Lucy (Cook) Wingard; and near Jo’s parents, “Pap” Driggers and Joyce (Wingard).

“Jo and I spent the rest of the morning, wading through genealogical notes. We also watched a mutual friend, Dan Shehan of Savannah, (Ga.), on YouTube as he played some of his own organ compositions, especially ‘Steamboat’s A-coming.’

“After a lunch of sandwiches, baked Ruffles, and ice cream, courtesy of Jo, we drove over the dam at Lake Murray and into the shopping center at Irmo where I bought new shoes at S.A.S. (San Antonio Shoes), and treated Jo to supper at the Olive Garden.

“I had bought my first S.A.S. at the original store in San Antonio, Texas, on a bus tour with Betty Mitchell.

“Lake Murray is a man-made lake, lately improved. Beneath its waters lie the graves of many of my relatives. Memorial stones on the shoreline recall their names.

“At the foot of the dam lies Saluda Shoals Park. Near this park, perhaps on part of its land, my direct ancestor lived, farmed, and died.

“As Jo drove us toward the dam, we passed the late Judson Wingard’s nursery, still in operation.

“While in the Irmo area Jo and I visited her brother’s (Ted’s) son, Dr. Ira Brent Driggers, his wife Ingrid, and their three young sons, Harry, Owen and little John.

“Brent teaches at Lutheran Theological Seminary in nearby Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. He has three degrees, Wake Forest, Duke and Princeton, and is the author of two books, one of which is Following God Through Mark.

“The next day Jo and I spent the morning in the State Archives in Columbia, researching family. It was exciting, while examining the old journal of a minister, to stumble across his record of performing the marriage of my great-great-grandparents, the ones who later moved to Alabama and established the family here.

“Jo and I took a late lunch at Lizard’s Thicket, one of l5 family restaurants of the same name run by the Bob Williams family, mainly in the Lexington/Columbia area. Lizard’s Thicket provides good food. For example, the meal I selected included a thick, country-fried steak with gravy, roll, collards (the official vegetable of S.C.), dressing, and squash casserole – all delicious – for ‘next-to-nothing.’

“After lunch Jo and I visited the Richland County Library, the public library, in downtown Columbia. Here we found a wealth of information from old newspaper files about a common cousin, Emmanuel Albert Wingard, 1849 – 1900, first pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in downtown Columbia and a minor Southern poet. Because I enjoy poetry and try my hand at it, I am particularly interested in my cousin, E. A. Wingard, a ‘kindred spirit.’

“After reading several articles about him in the local newspaper, the State, we found the site of his former home at the end of Assembly Street at Elmwood Street.

“We followed with a visit to nearby Elmwood Cemetery, where E. A. Wingard, his wife, her mother, his son and his wife, his three single daughters, and his one married daughter, and her husband, lie buried, 10 in all.

“The next morning Jo and I continued our research on the family, especially E. A. W.

“Our cousin, Kathryn (Wingard) Liverman, widow of Dr. Liverman, prepared an elegant lunch in her lovely home in honor of my visit, inviting, in addition, other relatives, Jo Driggers, my exceptional cousin; Ruth Caughman, 94, pretty in blue and pearls; Charlotte Compton, Ruth’s daughter; Jimmy Compton, Charlotte’s husband; Charles Wingard, the son of Katheryn’s brother Robert; Susan Clifton, Robert’s daughter; and Jan Wingard, Charles’s wife.

“It was Mary Grace Wingard, the 8-year-old daughter of Charles and Jan, who suggested that South Carolina have a state vegetable – the collard – and wrote letters and saw it through till passed.

“Kathryn set her table with starched Italian cloth and matching napkins, and a floral centerpiece.

“She served apple-fluff salad, green beans almondine, Rawls potato casserole, spoon rolls, chicken fricassee, gingered carrots and cocoanut pie with whipped cream.

“After lunch and talk, some of us sat in Kathryn’s garden, enjoying the sun and shade, butterflies, and flowers.

“After lunch Jo and I continued our genealogical work, played duets on her mother’s organ, and watched online Helen Hill, one of our cousins, known nationally for her work with animation. Sadly, Helen was murdered by an intruder, following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“That evening Jo and I dined at the Flight Deck, a most unusual restaurant, decorated with model airplanes and other flight themes, with an extensive menu.

“Also that night Jo and I drove into Columbia and saw a production of The Music Man at the Town Theater near the Capitol. At the end of this excellent production the audience clapped in unison to ‘Seventy-Six Trombones,’a delightful experience.”

The Portly Gentleman will perhaps share his other notes with us in the future.

The celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, England’s greatest novelist, continues.

This year we also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Christian movie cowboy, Roy Rogers, born Nov. 5.

We also celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts.

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.

Southern Gen. Braxton Bragg and his troops successfully escaped from Kentucky where the North threatened them. For failure to stop Bragg’s retreat, Northern Gen. Don Carlos Buell was removed from his position by President Lincoln. Lincoln also expressed his disgust at the lack of initiative by Gen. George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, so McClellan moved his army across the Potomac into Virginia.

Remember to purchase Sesquicentennial, Mark Twain, O’Henry, War of 1812, and Girl Scouts stamps.

Does anyone have more to say about Mrs. Hill Guy?

Birthdays this week are those of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet; Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer, who wrote perhaps the best piano piece around, “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”; Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet, who wrote The Canterbury Tales; Thomas Babington Macaulay, the confident English essayist, historian and statesman; Johann Strauss, Jr., Austrian composer; Georges Bizet, French composer of the opera Carmen; and Teddy Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States.

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

Fare thee well.