Fun had in travels close to home, far and wide

Published 12:05 am Saturday, September 7, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noticed the September morning glories, curling up my picket fence and over the arbor at my gate. Yellow butterflies stuttered and fluttered about the blooms.

I went out and sat on my porch and rocked, eating a few scuppernongs. Here came Miss Cora Covington from across the way. She had a bouquet of spider lilies in her hand, most of them, red, with a yellow one here and there. One rarely sees any color but red on spider lilies. They remind me of soldiers with red turbans.

I offered Miss Cora some fresh grape juice, made from the recent harvest, as we caught up on the latest news.

Seen at the P.O. was A. L. Beck, a former colleague at the Andalusia High School.

Seen at David’s Catfish House for supper were Jimmy and Keron Donaldson, ol’ friends from bus tours with Betty Mitchell.

Those hateful, ‘ol love-bugs are in the air again.

Teachers, retired from A.H.S., met last Tuesday, Sept. 3, in the River Room of David’s Catfish House for food, fun and fellowship.

Presiding was Amy Spurlin, retired English teacher and librarian, who suggested “the Growing Up Group” as a name for the retirees. This group met for the first time last year, also at David’s.

Each one present briefly spoke of his life and told how long he had taught, all-told. (These years are included below after each name.)

Each ordered a la carte.

Joe Wingard worded the blessing.

Attending were Brunetta Patterson (32), Debbie Posey (19 ½), Louise Anderson (36 ½), Mike Jones (25), Jerri Stroud (40), Amy Spurlin (33), Beth Wilkes (36), Pat Stewart (29), Elaine Manning (31), Faye Enzor (34 ½), Linda Mellown (25), Louise Yeargain (32), Jenny Pitts (39), Judy Weant (25), Roland Brown (14), Angie Brown (38 and still counting), Joe Wingard (39 in the same chair, desk and room), and Kennith Mount (37).

Mrs. Patterson and her husband Cecil just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Three generations of the same family have served as librarian at A.H.S. – Rebecca (Darling) Russell, her daughter, Amy (Russell) Spurlin, and Mrs. Spurlin’s daughter-in-law, Charlotte (Smith) Spurlin. Mrs. Russell was editor of the first yearbook in 1930, named the Memolusia, for “memories of Andalusia.”

Homecoming at A.H.S. is set for Fri., Sept. 13. Classes being honored are those whose numbers end in four – 1914, 1924, 1934, 1944, 1954, 1964, 1974 (the largest class in the school’s history), 1984, 1994 and 2004.

For September and October in the Alabama Journey, the AAA magazine, is an article on “The Spirits of Alabama,” written by JoBeth McDaniel, a freelance writer, reared in Andalusia. JoBeth has written countless pages and is an excellent writer. We Andalusians are mighty proud of her.

Trudy Vickers, the wife of Gordon Vickers, minister to senior adults at First Baptist, East Three-Notch Street, penned a little poem for her four-year-olds in Sunday School. Each child received a picture of himself with the poem, to present to his parents.

The poem reads as follows:

“This is me at four, and growing more and more,

Watching the things you say and do, so one day I can be just like you.

When I do the things I’ll do, this will be a reflection of you.

So, I’ll please Jesus and you, trusting each day I’ll see Jesus in you.”

Seen for lunch last Sunday at Capt. D’s were Johnie and Wanda Davis, Dr. Wayne Johnson and Richard and Georgette Pass.

Johnie said he was born during the Depression; that’s why he could afford only one “n: in his given name.

Richard and Georgette celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary Sept. 2. Both were born and reared in Mississippi and worked there before moving here to be near their daughter.

Richard at one time was associational missionary for three Baptist associations in the Natchez area in the better part of four counties.

Richard, at 91, teaches the distinguished Baraca Class at First Baptist and preaches each Sunday at Searight Baptist.

They were born in Water Valley, Miss., and were married in high school as they began their senior year.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rogers had a special treat last Sunday during morning worship at First Baptist. Their daughter, Charlotte, a teacher at Lockhart and soprano soloist in the Adult Choir, led the congregational singing and directed the choir in the absence of Dwight Crigger, minister of music, who had, with his wife Sonia, gone to Tennessee to visit his parents.

Mrs. Rogers, an alto, sang in the Adult Choir as her daughter directed.

Jeanice (Paul) Kirkland of First Baptist played the piano in the absence of Sonia Crigger. She and Martha (James) Givhan, the church organist, played a duet for the offertory, “When We All Get to Heaven,” which was received with much applause. Some compared Mrs. Kirkland’s enthusiastic and energetic rendition at the piano to the playing of the late Ann Martin, one-time church pianist, who seemed to “bounce” up and down the piano bench as she played.

Seen at Simone’s, the new fashionable restaurant, were Roger and Cathy Powell.

Ottis Reynolds told me that he didn’t have to go to college – he went to Red Level!

Herb Riedel, president of Lurleen Burns Wallace Community College for the past five years, and I enjoyed a conversation about LBWCC. He explained to me what a blessing the new apartment complex for student housing has been, especially by keeping students on campus.

President Riedel repeated the purpose of LBWCC, “building brighter futures.”

The Covington Historical Society met Thursday night, Aug. 29, in the Dixon Memorial of our public library for its 387th time.

President William Blocker presided.

Bill Law worded the invocation.

Following the pledge, all sang the state song, “Alabama,” played by Sue (Bass) Wilson and led by Blocker.

Minutes by Nancy Robbins were read and a financial statement by Harmon Proctor was approved.

Mrs. Wilson presented a museum report. Two chimneys had to be removed as dangerous. The miniature railroad is being repaired.

Jan White, member, introduced the program, a book review by Kristy Shuford White (no relation), a teacher for 12 years of English and speech at LBWCC.

Mrs. White edited a study of Lurleen (Burns) Wallace, the namesake of LBWCC, along with her students. The study is called Nurturing Spirits: Lurleen Burns Wallace and LBW Community College.

The presentation included Power Point, a sound track with Lurleen’s voice as she campaigned for governor here in Covington County, research from the state archives, chapters written by Mrs. White’s students, and an actual dress worn by Lurleen at her daughter’s wedding.

The paperback book cover was painted by Roger Powell, retired circuit clerk and local artist.

One of Mrs. White’s students, Jessica Byrd, attended her. Jessica wrote one chapter in the book, as did other students of Mrs. White.

A room in the LBWCC library is being modified to become a museum, emphasizing Mrs. Wallace.

During the program those in attendance learned that Gov. George Wallace’s niece, the daughter of his brother Jack, lives in Andalusia. She is Jean (Wallace) Gantt, wife of Charles Gantt.

The meeting concluded with refreshments and fellowship.

At this point the Portly Gentleman will tell more of his trip to Mississippi this summer. He had spent five days in Vicksburg at the national convention (reunion) of the Sons of Confederate Veterans – his last night in the antebellum bed and breakfast known as Cedar Grove. Let’s join him for breakfast there on a Monday morning.

“I ‘sat me down’ in the sunroom for orange juice, fresh fruit, a muffin, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits, and toast with butter and jelly. It wasn’t long before I was headed down Washington Street, south, towards Port Gibson.

“Port Gibson is an easy 30 minutes or so away, about midway between Vicksburg and Natchez. It has fewer than 2,000 citizens. During the War Between the States General Grant camped his soldiers there, in order to prepare an attack on Vicksburg from the south. He spared the town, it is told, because of its beauty. Today, it is a quaint, sleepy place that takes one back a hundred years.

“Visiting Port Gibson was my greatest joy during my trip to Mississippi this summer.

“In college in an American-literature class, Dr. Joseph L. King, my teacher, read from a poem, “Christmas Night in the Quarters,” by Irwin Russell. The poem made a lasting impression on me, and still does.

“Its author, Russell, was born and reared in Port Gibson. He is the only reason I wanted to visit Port Gibson, he and his poetry. He is the only reason I ever heard of Port Gibson. I waited almost 50 years to visit this little, Southern town, and am grateful that I finally made it. Some dreams do come true.

“The inspirational Dr. King, by the way, is the reason I went into teaching. He had been required to retire at 70 at one of those Northern colleges and had come to Howard College in Birmingham (later, Samford University) as a guest teacher for a year or so. He was so beloved and admired, though, that he and his wife were asked to stay on there till his death at 87, some 17 years. His ashes were scattered in Walden Pond of Thoreau fame.

“As my years went by, I became more and more interested in antebellum authors of the Old South – Wilde, Grayson, Simms, Timrod, Hayne, Ryan, Lanier – Russell.

“When I reached Port Gibson, I drove up and down Church Street with its five churches and stopped eventually at the visitors’ center, housed in the relocated, brick house known as the home of Mr. Gibson, for whom the town is named.

“The single staff member at the center was Linda Ory, who was most helpful by answering my dozens of questions. I have found that it is good to stop at a visitors’ center when one arrives in a town and to find out all he can before venturing out and about.

“It was lunch time, and Linda recommended The Old Country Store, literally a country store, now also a restaurant, several miles south of town.

“The restaurant offered gobs of good food, all home-cooked. My eyes bugged out! The owner, a black man, moved from table to table, entertaining his customers with song. I was most impressed.

“At the restaurant cash register I ran into a familiar face, that of Bill Troupe, who had stayed last night at the same place as I, Cedar Grove. I had shown Bill the cannon ball in the wall of the parlor. Bill, like me, was traveling alone, out of Jacksonville, Florida. We wished each other safe journeys and went our separate ways.

“Linda had advised me to visit Windsor, the ruins of an antebellum mansion. It was one of the grandest homes along the Mississippi in antebellum days. The Yankees spared it, but it burned in later years, due to someone’s smoking, I’m told. What remains are the fluted, Corinthian columns. The builder died just three weeks after his house was completed.

“The ruins are located in the middle of nowhere, barely free of the encroaching woods which surround them. It is a haunted, silent, isolated place, a place that inspires poetry and deep thoughts.

“Following Linda’s instructions, I drove for what seemed forever, through forests and on back roads until I came to Windsor.

“It is better to go to Windsor with someone else because of the isolation of the ruin.

“My drive back to Port Gibson was almost as long as my journey to Windsor had been.

“I spent the afternoon, searching out houses, markers, history. I drove up and down one street after another, over and over. I soaked in Port Gibson as one soaks in the sun. I could not get enough of the spell, the beauty of this enchanted place.

“The streets were wide, and I found it easy to pull to the curb and read the many historical markers.

“One stop was at the local weekly, The Reveille, where I talked an hour with “Margie” Bufkin, who with the editor, makes the staff. I couldn’t ask questions fast enough. We talked of the town, Irwin Russell, and Emma Crisler, the owner and publisher, who was out of pocket.

“Emma had taken over the newspaper, published on Thursdays, from her husband, who died young. His father and grandfather had run the paper before him, making him a third-generation newsman.

“As I roamed through the town, I found out the following: 1) Port Gibson had the first library in Mississippi; 2) it had the second newspaper in Mississippi; 3) it is the county seat for Claiborne County; 4) General Grant said it was ‘too pretty to burn’; 5) it is the third oldest settlement in Mississippi; 6) it is known as the ‘City of Churches.’

“One of my stops was at First Presbyterian Church, which was left open for tourists. I had the place to myself. I had met the rector, Michael Herrin, in Montgomery at a SCV program, and had hoped to surprise him with my visit. He was out of town, though, in Georgia, visiting his mother, who was ill. The church chandeliers were from a riverboat, the Robert E. Lee. Attached to the church from the rear was the Brashear Academy, once a girls’ school, now the property of First Presbyterian. On top of the tall steeple was a large, carved hand, covered in gold, its index finger pointing to God, the most famous landmark in Port Gibson.

“There was so much beauty in Port Gibson that I could only see some of it. It was good to linger and not be rushed.

“Driving back to Linda Ory in the welcome center, I asked more questions and ran into a traveling artist, Charles Alexander, who told us of his travels. He was on his way to see the ruins of Windsor and had stopped for directions.

“Next I found the historical marker, telling of Irwin Russell. It was on a corner and read that down the street the poet had been born. Actually, the house in which he was born stood there; but it had been located at another site at the time of his birth. His birth cottage has since become half a home and half a shop. A beauty parlor, Leona’s, has been made in one half.

“I talked to the customers and owner. Deborah Lum, a customer, sent me to the local library to find a picture of the way the house used to look. The shop owner, Linda Stuart, gave me a square-headed nail from the house as a keepsake. She sensed how important the old place was to me. Honestly, I was shocked and pleased that the birthplace was still standing. I learned that the house used to stand on another lot near the St. James Episcopal Church and had been moved to Jackson Street in this neighborhood.

“Linda was working on a customer, who had run a bed and breakfast called Oak Square. I had seen this grand, old antebellum mansion as I had driven about town. It is now closed to the public.

“At the library I received excellent service from the staff and was shown a book on the architecture of Claiborne County by Ed Polk Douglas. I made a donation and went away with several pictures of the birthplace of Irwin Russell as it appeared in his day.

“About now I became concerned about a place to spend the night. There was only one bed and breakfast still open in Port Gibson – the Isabella, run by Phil and Bobbye Pennix, a restored antebellum house. The B&B, once the Person home, is named for a Person sister who lived her spinster life there. The couple put me up for the night in an upstairs bedroom called the Isabella – no number.

“After writing in my travel diary, I went downstairs for a supper Bobbye was kind enough to prepare for me – as an extra service – a couple of sandwiches, chips and bread pudding, topped with fresh figs.

“Bobbye walked me over to the house next door to the Isabella, since I had told her of my search for Michael Herrin, whom I had met in Montgomery. Bobbye pointed it out as the Presbyterian manse, the home of Michael.

“As we were eating supper, a neighbor from across Church Street came in the back door for a visit. She said she had heard that a stranger was in town, going all over the place, and had stopped in her newspaper office for a visit. It was none other than the editor of the local paper, Emma Crisler, who pleasantly reminded me in appearance of our own Annalee Simmons. Mrs. Crisler turned out to be one of the most interesting and delightful persons I have yet met.

“We talked an hour or so, and I could have talked another hour. I was mesmerized. I hated to see her leave.

“Before I close my notes on this day, I shall list other sites I saw in Port Gibson – the Oak Square Bed and Breakfast (up for sale); Claiborne County Courthouse (tall and grand); the office of the Reveille (which dates back to 1850 and has been run by the Crisler family since 1898); the Judge Maury House (where Henry Clay, a friend of the family, visited); the Judge Coleman House (where a rally was held for Henry Clay); the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy (a private military school); the Port Gibson City Hall (a grand structure); Idlewild (a house where Henry Clay spoke from the front porch); and the Presbyterian Manse.”

I thought that the Portly One would have finished by now, but he tells me he is weary-worn and must postpone the conclusion.

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.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay was further bombarded by the North, yet the South held on.

Women in Mobile protested and looted because of a lack of food and clothing.

The Federal government persuaded Britain to cease building ships for the Confederacy.

Southern General Bragg evacuated Chattanooga, Tenn., as the Federals closed in.

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

For the second week, the mysterian is still a mystery. The answer is part of a riddle, “Where can one park at Straughn and yet not be at Straughn?”

Birthdays this week are those of Eugene Field, an American newspaper poet for children, and Sarah Orne Jewett, an American essayist. Her book, The Country of the Pointed Firs, is lovely.

The Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War, was signed on Sept. 3, 1783.

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

Fare thee well.