Flowers, rumors bloom bright

Published 1:48 pm Monday, March 11, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I smiled at the graceful cascades of pale-yellow blooms on the Lady Banks roses, arching o’er the rustic fences at Covington Hall. The roses have joined the Indian hawthorne, Bradford pear, redbud, clovers, daffodils, azaleas, camellias and other late-winter bloomers.

“Clydie” Clump says March came in like a lion this year with a cold weekend. One lady at the Blue Goose Nursery said it didn’t come in like a lion or a lamb, but like a polar bear!

The Covingtons are planning a kite-flying contest on their great lawn during March. They started it in 2006 in honor of the tri-centennial of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. Old Franklin is associated with kites because of his experiments with electricity. Categories are l) best homemade kite, 2) highest flying, and 3) flying the longest. Prizes include a bust of Franklin.

Now’s the time to buy cards for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. according to Miss Priscilla Primme, the English teacher.

Seen at Kayla’s Restaurant on the “Double Nickel” (Highway 55 up to Georgiana) were Sir Francis and Lady Ann McGowin, Larry Shaw, Robert Lee Holley and the Portly Gentleman, enjoying the Friday-night seafood buffet. Cindy Morrow is the owner, assisted by her daughter, Kayla, for whom the eatery is named. Kayla previously ran J.D.’s Restaurant in Georgiana. J.D.’s was named for Kayla’s daughter. If one realizes that Tabby D’s in Andalusia is also named for a daughter, one can see a local trend.

Bill Gantt got into the spirit of Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday by visiting several businesses on the Golden Square in Andalusia. Dressed in costume, Gantt gave out the traditional beads to local merchants and fellow townsmen like “Uncle Bob” Brooks. Gantt, who was reared in Andalusia, has returned to his hometown to live with his mother, Jackie Gantt.

Congratulations to Paula Harr and the local arts council for bringing Fiddler on the Roof, a professional, traveling production, to Andalusia the evening of March 4. The enjoyable and moving musical, presented in the Dixon Center of our local community college, was followed by a standing ovation and extra curtain call.

The Covington Historical Society met the evening of Feb. 28 in the Dixon Memorial of the Andalusia Public Library.

Col. William Blocker, president in a second term, called the 38lst meeting to order.

Bill Law, chaplain, led the invocation, remembering the recent death of Mr. Couch, the father of a faithful member of the CHS, Jan White.

Dr. Morgan Moore, retired doctor, led the pledge to the flag.

All stood to sing the state song, “Alabama,” accompanied by Sue (Bass) Wilson, CHS vice-president.

Written minutes were distributed.

Treasurer Harmon Proctor made his report.

Following business, the program, “Camellias in Andalusia,” was presented by Sue Wilson.

She credited ladies in Greenville for leading a movement in 1959 to replace the native goldenrod with the non-native camellia as the state flower. In those days Greenville was known for its camellias and nicknamed “the Camellia City.”

Mrs. Wilson mentioned some in Andalusia known for growing camellias – Superintendent of Education J. H. Johnson, Perkins and Angelyn (Givens) Taylor of T.P. Flower Shop fame; the banker, Ashford Broughton; Dr. Ray; the jeweler, P. Lewis; Eddie Barrow with his Stanley Avenue corner; Hazel (Dubose) Shreve/Cater on Sanford Road; Leon and Myrtice (?) Benson; Bellaire Krudop; C. Henley; and the dentist, Edgar Pugh King.

Members of the audience shared stories associated with camellias in Andalusia. During this time many of the old families were mentioned and thus brought back to life among the living.

For example, Lucy (Doyle) Brady, told of a man from Orange, Texas, who was traveling to locate prize camellias. In Andalusia he spotted a rare camellia, the largest in the county, in the yard of the old McArtan house (still standing) on Sixth Avenue where Mrs. Brady’s aunt, Berta (McArtan) Cook, lived. Lucy’s mother, Mary Eliza (McArtan) Doyle, and Aunt Berta said that the money paid for that large camellia paid for a year of Lucy’s education at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga.

The McArtan sisters first grafted a camellia from the one sold before letting it go.

Bill Law told of camellias in the yard of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Tracy Wilder, nee Inez Moye, on Hand Avenue, formerly Loring Lane. Mrs. Wilder grafted two camellias onto her older camellias and named the new blooms for her granddaughters, Ellen Drew and Allison Leigh, the daughters of Bill and Joyce (Wilder) Law.

Mrs. Wilder, Andalusia High School Class of 1921 and, until her death, the oldest surviving graduate of the high school, was the wife of Tracy Wilder, a former mayor of our town. Their only child is Joyce (Wilder) Law. Mr. Law shared a bloom named after one of his daughters.

Alan Cotton, local florist, shared some blooms from the Barrow yard. The current owners of the Barrow property are his neighbors.

David Walters, a local historian, also shared camellia blooms.

Joe Wingard, first president of the CHS, said that the Pink Perfection (camellia) reminded him of his landlady of 12 years, Mrs. W. M. Thweatt, who grew one to the right of her front steps at 408 South Cotton. To the left of those steps, by the way, is the bedroom in which Jim Maloy was born.

Mr. Wingard shared also that the original pronunciation of camillia was “Ca-MELL-yuh,” after the man who discovered the plant abroad.

Each table was decorated with camellias as centerpieces. On the tables were also valentines from the Girl Scout troop in Red Level, sponsored by Linda Castleberry. The girls had made the valentines for the CHS members to take home.

Mrs. Wilson had also placed on each table coloring crayons and pages of a coloring book, featuring camellias. A coloring contest was part of the program. Curtis Hampton Thomasson, local genealogist, won first prize for his coloring.

Mrs. Wilson wore an artificial camellia as a pin on her dress. She had bought it at the Goat Hill Souvenir Shop behind the state capitol in Montgomery. She said that souvenirs from all 67 counties in Alabama are available there.

Mrs. Wilson had prepared an attractive display board, featuring basic information on camellias. She announced that the Birmingham Camellia Society is planning a camellia garden there.

One new CHS member, Jeff Walker, is a first-year teacher of sixth-grade social studies in the Andalusia Middle School.

Refreshments were provided by Linda Castleberry, Nancy Robbins and Bill Law (beverages). Sue Wilson added a tray of petit fours with pink or red, icing “blooms” on top, in keeping with the program theme.

We’ve all heard about how small the world really is. Just the other day a good example occurred. Our editor, Michele Gerlach, was attending a golden-anniversary party for her Uncle Ben and Aunt LiNetta (Cox) McCuene in Tallahassee, Fla. While there our editor visited with a cousin, William Saxman of Savannah, Ga., who owns a bed and breakfast there. He is currently helping to restore an organ at Savannah’s Bull Street Baptist Church with none other than one of our former Andalusia citizens, living for the last decade in Savannah, S. Daniel Shehan!

A rumor, spreading all over the Internet, is that when the new middle school is built on the current high-school grounds, it will be painted white; and so will Old Main, the 1939 main, high-school building. Not true at all, Superintendent Ted Watson tells me. Not true!

I hope the cedar at the high school won’t be cut down. Its “brothers” at Church Street and East Three-Notch have been destroyed.

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 150 years ago.

The Federal Congress passed the Enrollment Act (also called the Conscription Act; the draft), requiring males, 20 – 45, to serve in the military for three years. The same Congress suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Federal troops ransacked a newspaper office in Ohio because of anti-Union sentiments in the paper. Colonel Mosby, a Confederate leader, captured Union forces at Fairfax County Court House in Virginia.

Buy stamps, recalling the Sesquicentennial, Mark Twain, O. Henry and the War of 1812.

Don Parsons identified the owner of the restaurant on North Cotton as Johnny Crenshaw, once a leader in the local black community. Don, who ran Don’s Record Shop on East Three-Notch, would call Crenshaw’s for a lunch plate each day; and it would be delivered from around the corner. Don’s favorite was fried chicken, rice and yams.

The new mysterian was known for her cooking, her friendly disposition, her laughing, her smile, and her golden teeth. She liked to talk to her customers.

Birthdays this week are those of William Dean Howells, American novelist and editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, English poet and wife of Robert Browning, an even more popular English poet.

Elizabeth is the central character in the famous play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

She is also the author of the most famous love poem in our language, “Sonnet 43,” which begins with the famous line, “How do I love three? Let me count the ways.”

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

Be looking, gentle reader, for a bit of palm to wear on Palm Sunday. I admire the Presbyterians in Andalusia, who have worn palms in the past.

Fare thee well.