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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw signs of spring – patches of Dutch clover, South Carolina yellow jasmine (about to bloom out), early azaleas, winter jasmine, tiny purity (hiding under the grasses), henbit and redbud.

The Japanese magnolias have “hit it” just right this year, escaping their “browning” by the frost.

Kiss-Me-at-the-Gate and camellias have also enjoyed a long season of bloom.

Word comes that Wayne and Lenora Johnson motored southward to spend their daughter’s (Suzanne’s) birthday with her, Jan. 20.

James Bristow was guest of his daughter, Susan, and her husband, Walter Cammack, for a few days in Orange Beach. They were joined by James’s sister, Marie, and her husband, Buddy Allen, of Union Springs.

Seen at Captain D’s for Sunday lunch were Larry and Sandy Skipper, Hazel Griffin, Robert and Louise Anderson and A. G. and Pat Palmore.

Seen conferring at the Corner Market “deli” were Ab Powell and Judge Jerry Stokes.

Jean (Martin) Ray and I enjoyed a telephone visit the other day.

Jean and her husband, Glen, live in Oklahoma, but spend their winters in Destin, Fla. Jean has taken up quilting.

Jean’s daughter, Nancy, a widow, lives in Montgomery but teaches at Eclectic Middle School. Nancy, who has been in education about 34 years, plans to retire next year. She recently was named Teacher of the Year at E.M.S.

Nancy’s daughter, Lindsay, was married this past September and has settled in Atlanta.

Jean’s son, Hal, has retired in Auburn, along with his wife, Laura Beal of Montgomery.

Hal’s daughter, Emily (by an earlier marriage), is married to Marchman Smith of Mountain Brook. The Smiths have a little girl, Martha Mae.

Hal and Laura have a son, Jimmy, who also lives in Auburn.

An anecdote about the late Mrs. Hill Guy came to light this week. It seems Mrs. Guy, a widow, two times, had money. She liked to ride around in her limousine, driven by her black chauffeur. When she went to church at First Methodist, she would time her entrance so that all eyes could see her, walking down the aisle to the front, wearing fine clothes and a big hat. One Sunday morning she and Ed Dannelly, also a Methodist and editor of The Star-News, were trying to talk to each other before the service began. Mr. Dannelly was hard-of-hearing – at least, he seemed to be when it was to his advantage. Some said Ed heard what he wanted to hear. Let’s assume he really was going deaf, though. Anyway, Mrs. Guy spoke louder and louder so that Mr. Dannelly could hear her. The result was that the whole congregation listened into their private conversation. Mrs. Guy, despite her vanities, was a sweet and generous lady, one who loved children and did countless acts of kindness.

Another anecdote surfaced about the late Kate Head, wife of the local sheriff, Tom Head. The family, which included a daughter, resided in the old, brick jailhouse, still standing behind the courthouse. Kate was a diamond in the rough, sometimes wearing a gun, on the loud side, not always precise with her language – or, maybe, too precise. She knew everybody and everybody knew her, and thought of her as a fine person. Later in life Kate ran a flower shop, which seemed strange, considering her rough ways.

The Covington Historical Society met for its 380th time Jan. 31, in the Dixon Memorial of the Andalusia Public Library (old post office) to hear a program on life in Andalusia 100 years ago in 1913.

Dressed in period clothing, Sue (Bass) Wilson and Joe Wingard shared national and local facts from 1913. Their program included a duet, “I Remember It Well,” from the movie, Gigi.

Col. William Blocker, president for his second time, presided at his first meeting of the year.

Bill Law worded the invocation.

Larry Shaw led all in the state song, “Alabama,” with Sue Wilson at the piano.

Mrs. Fletcher Jones, member and a natural-born storyteller, reared in Greensboro, shared interesting anecdotes about the author of the state song, Julia Tutwiler. One was that Miss Tutwiler’s father taught school in the Greensboro area and how his schools influenced Miss Tutwiler to become an educator and prison reformer.

Dr. Morgan Moore led the pledge to the flag.

Minutes were distributed by Evelyn Murphree, secretary.

A newsletter was provided by Sue Wilson.

Harmon Proctor, treasurer, gave his report.

Following committee reports and the program, refreshments were provided by Bill Law, Harmon Proctor, Dick and Macil Chandler and Dianne Blocker.

Last Saturday we left the Portly Gentleman in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., attending the annual Chautauqua weekend. He had been to programs Friday, and Saturday had arrived. Let’s listen to his concluding report.

“Saturday began with an assembly in the beautiful First Methodist Church of DeFuniak to hear representatives of a dozen or so Chautauquas from around the country. I was surprised at this because I thought there were only two Chautauquas, the original at Lake Chautauqua in the state of New York and the winter Chautauqua in DeFuniak.

“Descriptions were heard from representatives from Colorado, New York, DeFuniak, Lake Side in Ohio (the second oldest, located along the Southern shore of Lake Erie), Monteagle in Tennessee (near the University of the South), Muskoka in Ontario, Ocean Park in Maine, Plains, Georgia (that’s why Mrs. Jimmy Carter spoke the day before), Waxahachie, Texas, Mt. Greta in Pennsylvania, and Wawasee in Indiana. There were a few others, not represented.

“The representative from Ocean Park, stated, ‘We cannot forget to remember.’

“The moderator for the representatives was comical. Their difficulties were described by him as ‘herding cats’ and ‘nailing Jello to a tree.’ He also teased one, long-winded ‘rep’ by saying, ‘I was clean-shaven when you began.’

“Excellent displays and pamphlets about each Chautauqua were set up in the Hall of Brotherhood across the street from the Methodist church.

“Classes followed with about six choices in each time slot. My first choice was a program on Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, the Confederate general, taught by Skip Tucker, who had written an historical novel based on Jackson’s mysterious death, Pale Blue Light. Tucker is a former editor and press secretary.

“Other class choices were cooking, genealogy, keeping records, the Titanic, Abraham Lincoln, Indians, female pilots, black pilots and teas with impersonators of famous people (John Wesley, Sidney J. Catts, Teddy Roosevelt), and much more.

“Sidney J. Catts was a colorful Florida governor. Gentle reader, do you recall heading into downtown DeFuniak and turning to your right up a hill on your way to the interstate and the beaches? At the top of the hill, to your right, is a grand, Victorian house. That was the home of Governor Catts.

“Teenage ushers were all over the place, taking up tickets to classes and helping us older folks find classrooms. I didn’t realize till then that the Anchor Clubs and Key Clubs had been integrated by gender. Here in Andalusia we have both. In the past, though, the Anchor Club was just for girls; and the Key Club, just for boys.

“Outside the Methodist church I could hear the Westminster chimes from the Methodist tower, chiming the hour, followed by ‘The King Is Coming.’

“The Westminster chimes are 16 notes, making a melody, played in four sets at each quarter hour (four at a quarter after the hour; those four and four more at the half hour; 12 at a quarter till, and all 16 on the hour). They were named for Westminster, a section in London, England. They should have been named, though, for St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge, England, where they originated. By the way, Westminster has three syllables. It is not West-min-is-ter, as though it were a preacher from the West.

“I walked down to the Lake Yard, the extensive park around Lake DeFuniak. The beauty of that circular lake, the park, the Victorian houses, waterfowl, blue of the sky, spring-like weather, the peace and calm are reasons enough to head to DeFuniak, Andalusians. Wake up and take advantage of the Chautauqua, Andalusians! The Yankees are getting all the good seats!

“Suddenly the cannon and guns boomed and shot from the reenactment of a skirmish during the War Between the States. Camped in the Lake Yard for the weekend were reenactors, frontiersmen and Indians. One could stroll leisurely through the camps and learn of life long ago.

“Next I visited the Book Store, rich with used books. I purchased John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, which is like a college education in itself. Therein one comes into contact with the great minds and hearts of the ages and their wisdom. Therein one can even find the name of Mrs. Grundy (rhymes with Monday).

“My first afternoon class was about the Traveling Chautauqua, presented by Jonathan Schmitz, archivist for the New York Chautauqua. Schmitz completed his history of the Chautauqua that he had begun yesterday. Class was in the beautiful First Presbyterian Church, one of three churches on Circle Drive, which surrounds the lake.

“My second class was about Albert Caldwell, who, with his wife and son, survived the sinking of the Titanic. Caldwell was the great-uncle of Julie Hedgepeth Williams, who, dressed in 1912 style, related the fascinating story of her great-uncle’s escape from death. She enhanced her story with a Power Point.

“I took supper at McLain’s, meeting an Andalusian friend, Robert Lee Holley, who had driven down for the seafood buffet. McLain’s used to be located in Crestview, Fla., but moved to DeFuniak. Others from Andalusia showed up at McLain’s – Eddie and Pam Lindsey and Greg and Sandy Bryant.

“Already I was lamenting all the classes that I could not attend because of the abundance of choices.

“Sunday I attended worship and communion at St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church, a small, quaint, Victorian structure on Circle Drive, rich with its own pipe organ and stained glass.

“I was invited to take communion (what we Baptists call ‘the Lord’s Supper’) with the congregation; and so I did with tears in my eyes and the thought in my heart, ‘unworthy, oh, so unworthy.’

“The vicar, who preached the sermon, was Dr. Sandra K. McLeod, who has been at St. Agatha’s for only seven months. Previously Dr. McLeod had served for nine years as president of the Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton.

“Invited to be the ‘guest of honor’ at a church buffet lunch next door in the vicarage, I feasted on fried chicken, shepherd’s pie, green-bean casserole, and biscuits that had floated down from Heaven. Homemade chocolate cake and chess pie followed.

“The meal was prepared by a member of St. Agatha’s, Ellen Mayfield, known for her teas. I have been to tea at the Ritz in London, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Ellen’s. Her teas outpour all others!

“My seat was next that of Billy Moore, a retired history teacher, whose grandparents lived in Opp and Babbie, a fellow who grew up in DeFuniak, the author of three novels, Cracker’s Mule, Llano Estacado, and Little Brother Real Snake.

“I really enjoyed the hospitality of the good folks at St. Agatha’s.

“A little later, sitting on the back porch of the Hall of Brotherhood, I ‘took in’ the lake, Lake Yard, sunny sky, the beauty, the peace, and, unwillingly, left this lovely place.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman, for your report.

The celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, England’s greatest novelist, came to an end Feb. 7.

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 1582, Andalusia, AL 36420. Include your e-mail address if you wish to be reminded of upcoming meetings.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week l50 years ago.

The Federals continued to move toward Vicksburg, Miss., with the intention of taking it and ending its dominant position of power. Gen. Joseph Hooker, appointed commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, reorganized his force. Some Confederate ships managed to run the Federal blockade and reach Charleston, S.C.

Remember to buy stamps, recalling the Sesquicentennial, Mark Twain, O. Henry, War of 1812, and Girl Scouts.

Here’s the clue again for the mysterians.

The story goes that two high-school boys were sitting on the campus. One was smoking. Suddenly they were aware that their superintendent, J. H. Johnson, was approaching. The one, smoking, quickly threw his cigarette down. Mr. Johnson saw the cigarette and asked whose it was. One of the boys quipped, “You saw it first; you can have it.” Of course, the student was punished. There are many versions of this story around town. Who were the two boys?

Birthdays this week are those of Sidney Lanier, a Georgia poet, author of “The Marshes of Glynn” and “Song of the Chattahoochee;” Felix Mendelssohn, German composer; Abram Joseph Ryan, Catholic priest and Confederate poet, author of “The Sword of Robert E. Lee;” Christopher Marlowe, English playwright; Charles Dickens, greatest of English novelists; and Thomas More, Irish poet.

The oldest, public high school in Montgomery is named for Sidney Lanier because the famous poet once lived there. Before integration the big, football, high-school rivalry in Montgomery was the Lee-Lanier game. The cheer from Lanier was “The pen is mightier than the sword!”

“The Marshes of Glynn” are just off the coast of Glynn County, Georgia, spreading out to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Golden Isles of Jekyll and St. Simon’s.

Mr. James Arthur Wilson, teacher and principal at the Andalusia High School for 36 years, loved poetry but taught science. I have heard him more than once quote lovingly from Lanier’s “Song of the Chattahoochee.”

Ryan’s cottage in Biloxi, Miss., was washed away by Hurricane Katrina. It had been made into a bed and breakfast. Ryan used to be visited there by President Jefferson Davis, who lived down the road in retirement. Ryan’s statue and grave are in Mobile, where he also lived.

Marlowe wrote a play called The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, about a man who sold his soul to the devil for the pleasures of youth. A similar work, Faust, was written by the German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The story by the German was turned into a French opera, also called Faust, by Charles Gounod. The end of the opera contains a trio (Faust, Marguerite, Mephistopheles) of some of the most glorious music ever heard!

Marlowe’s play includes an exclamation by Faust when he sees the girl of his dreams, “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!”

Helen had been kidnapped by Paris of Troy (Ilium). The Greeks launched a thousand ships and burned Troy to get Helen back. If one kissed Helen, he would be “immortal,” in a sense, because he would be remembered forever.

Thomas More’s sentimental poetry lends itself to music, such as his “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing, Young Charms,” which contains the lines about “the heart that has truly loved, never forgets, but, as truly, loves on to the close.”

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

Fare thee well.