Everywhere, a good time, good meal had by all

Published 2:23 am Saturday, August 31, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I wondered what that big ball of yellow was – away up there in the sky. Could it be the sun after all these days of rain?

Irene (Davis) Butler hosted a birthday dinner Aug. 23 in her home for her classmate, Dr. John Reuben Langford, Straughn Class of 1944.

Dr. Langford, 87, was accompanied by his wife, Rebecca. (They had first met at Auburn.)

Also attending were his fellow classmates, Aaron Jordan of Headland, Cotha Wallace of Enterprise, and Irene Butler of Harmony, as well as his cousins, Minnie Wallace and Jamie Clark, both from Opp.

Special friends at table were Neal and Jennifer Dansby and her mother, June Smith.

Neal often visits Dr. Langford and drives him around, looking at long-leaf pines, a common interest. In fact, just the week before, Neal had driven Dr. Langford over to Ozark to explore a gristmill, a site Dr. Langford had never seen.

For some 42 years Dr. Langford practiced as a veterinarian in Daytona, Fla. Upon retirement, he returned to Rose Hill hereabouts. Since then he has grown long-leaf pines and is currently cutting a field for more. At First Baptist he teaches a Sunday-School class.

The group sang “Happy Birthday” to Dr. Langford and shared memories in their lives. One guest even recalled the day that John was born.

The menu, prepared by Mrs. Butler, included baked ham, chicken dressing, cranberry sauce, meat balls, dumplings, camp stew, a Mexican dish, green butter beans, string beans with Irish potatoes, pineapple casserole, corn salad, shrimp/pasta salad and Italian cream cake with ice cream, which served as the birthday cake.

A joyful time was had by all.

Seen at Larry’s for supper were Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Saulmon, Claude and Marcia Summerlin and Robert Lee Holley.

Seen at Tabby D’s for the Friday-night seafood buffet were Randy and Kathy White and his parents, as well as Don and Cheryl Cotton, their son Chase Cotton and his LeAnn, and their Savannah and Crews.

Homecoming at the Andalusia High School is about two weeks away. Classes ending in the number four are being honored – 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, 1954, 1964, 1974 (the largest class in the history of the school – about 200), 1984, 1994 and 2004.

When last we left the Portly Gentleman, he had concluded four days in Vicksburg, Miss., at the annual convention (“reunion”) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The reunion was over and Sunday had come.

The Portly One had stayed over to see more of Vicksburg.

Let’s see what he remembers about that Sunday.

“My intention was to worship at the antebellum Christ Episcopal, which I had attended for the SCV memorial service; but I couldn’t find it.

“Looking about, I saw a steeple that just looked like a Baptist church. I drove over. Surely enough, it was a Baptist church – First Baptist.

“Certain churches just look like a particular denomination, don’t they?

“I was early, so I sat in the foyer and talked with passers-by.

“One was a retired superintendent of education, Othel Mendrop, 86.

“Two others were Larry and Pam Wilhoite, who’d been in Vicksburg for the SCV reunion. They had with them Frances (Cox) Koury of Vicksburg, a member of First Baptist. She had not been to church in months because of health issues, but had made a special effort just to attend with the Wilhoites, who’d picked her up that morning.

“The three had met years ago and formed a bond because Frances was born in Waxahachie, Texas, where the Wilhoites now live.

“Frances invited me to join them as her guest after church at the Walnut Hills Restaurant, which I described last week in this column.

“My meal there on that Sunday was particularly good – Parker House rolls, sweet tea, chicken-artichoke casserole, spinach with onions, squash casserole, rice and gravy and blueberry angel cake. Menus are printed daily with changes.

“After our little party of four broke up, I sat a long time on the front porch of Walnut Hills and rocked as I had done before. A breeze relieved the heat. A blue sky provided a backdrop for a magnolia three. A mockingbird sat and looked about. The crepe myrtle added color. Old houses stood nearby.

“Leaving Walnut Hills, I drove about, admiring the antebellum and Victorian houses, the Mississippi River, steep hills, churches, shops, a set of murals (Pat Palmore would have been impressed), and a modern water park (which Campbell Johnson would have enjoyed).

“Determining to stay the day and night, I drove down Washington to the Cedar Grove Mansion, now a bed and breakfast, and secured a room for Sunday night. I’d eaten dinner at this antebellum house a couple of days ago.

“My room was in the former carriage house, one of eight rooms made out of that structure. My room was furnished with antiques.

“After a rest, I explored the mansion and grounds, which were handsomely kept.

“In the main house’s library I came across a bust of Longfellow, America’s most important poet.

“In a front parlor I spotted a cannonball in the wall, which had hit the house during the War Between the States and had not been removed all these years. I saw the patched hole in the front door where the ball had entered.

“Jimmy and Jeanice Kirkland and their grandson, I believe, had once stayed at Cedar Grove and recalled the cannonball.

“Outside I saw the largest apple tree I have seen in my life. It was loaded with apples and skirted all about with those that had fallen.

“Nearby was a catfish pool where fish were kept for a few days until needed for a meal. In Andalusia people used to have little pools to keep fish alive and fresh since there was little refrigeration.

“At supper time I ate in the sunroom/dining room, enjoying rolls, green salad, shrimp scampi, and a Shirley Temple.

“I sat on the front porch afterwards and watched a glorious sunset sink into yesterday.

“The next two days I spent in Port Gibson, a little town south of Vicksburg, which was the highlight of my trip. You will see why if I am invited back with more memories.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman. You are invited.

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

Again, I ask that citizens of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 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.

Many citizens of Lawrence, Kansas, resentfully left their property at Federal orders. This proved an ineffective, anti-guerrilla directive.

The shelling of Fort Sumter continued.

For those who collect stamps, consider those associated with the War of 1812 and the Sesquicentennial of “the War.”

Congratulations to Sidney Waits, a local historian, for identifying the building that stood in the front yard of what is now city hall. That building was the first brick schoolhouse in Andalusia. In a short time it proved too small for Andalusia, which was growing by leaps and bounds because of the railroad line and timber. The school stood about 1905 – 1914. The larger one, behind it, was built to hold the expanding student body. At first there were only 10 grades. Then grades 11 and 12 were added. Church Street eventually was built and became the high school. Finally, the current Old Main was built around 1939. I hear tell that bits and pieces of the first brick schoolhouse became parts of homes around Andalusia.

The new mysterian is identified by a riddle. Where can one park at Straughn and yet not be at Straughn?

Birthdays this week are those of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet; Lev Tolstoy, a Russian novelist; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American poet/essayist.

Goethe is to Germany what Shakespeare is to England, its greatest poet. His masterpiece is Faust, about a man who sells his soul to the Devil for a second chance at life. Part of this poem was made into an opera by the French composer, Charles Gounod.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace is considered by some the greatest novel ever written.

Holmes’s poem, “Old Ironsides,” helped save the U.S. ship of that name from being destroyed. It floats today on the Charles River at Boston.

Holmes taught medicine at Harvard.

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

Fare thee well.