Generally, it’s better to own up to who you are

Published 11:14 am Saturday, December 14, 2013

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I looked over to Covington Hall, twinkling with its Christmas lights.

Today is Dec. 14, the birthday of our state, Alabama; and I am invited to the Covingtons’ annual birthday party for Alabama. Miss Cora has baked and iced a cake in the shape of our state. (She has a special pan, shaped in the outline of our borders.) The Colonel toasts Alabama, and we stand and sing the state song. We eat Lane cake, invented by an Alabamian. It’s a simple and pleasant affair, part of our Christmas each year.

Alabama is “the Christmas State,” you know, because we were the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

So, “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Birthday, Alabama!”

Last Sunday morning was special at First Baptist, East Three-Notch Street. The sun-filled sanctuary was happy with green wreaths and red ribbons in the windows, candles and swags along the walls and pots of red poinsettias.

The hall rang with the Christmas sounds of the pipe organ, played by Martha Givhan; the grand piano, played by Sonia Crigger; bells, played by the Irene Hines Handbell Choir, ringing golden tones; the sweet harmony of One Accord, the ladies’ ensemble; the congregation, singing Christmas carols, led by Dwight Crigger; scripture, read by the pastor, Fred Karthaus; and the little children, singing “Jesus Loves Me.”

A very special inclusion in the service was the baptism of Nate Wright by Dr. Karthaus and, within the same hour, the dedication to the Lord by Dr. Karthaus of Nate and Whitney’s first baby, Nathaniel.

Earlier, in the opening assembly of the distinguished Baraca Sunday School Class, Jennifer (Smith) Dansby sang, a cappella, “Sweet, Little Jesus Boy,” which she has sung for the Baracans for several years.

Seen for lunch at the Corner Market this week were Kenneth Baker, Sally Hall and James Bristow. Mr. Bristow has the most unusual Christmas tree in Andalusia – a cactus, all prettied up with Christmas ornaments.

Alan Cotton tells me that he paid a visit in Brewton to Lucille King, 102, the former social columnist for The Star-News in the days of Editor Ed Dannelly.

Sammy Hogg, who works here but lives in Fort Deposit, and I enjoyed a visit last week.

There is at Andalusia High School in the auditorium a grand piano, signed by the famous pianist, Liberace. It is believed that Liberace played this piano in a concert in Montgomery and that, consequently, the piano was purchased for AHS.

Seen at the seafood buffet Friday night at Tabby D’s were Nathaniel and Joyce Belcher, L.Rara Junior, Sonny and Sue Ann Helmes, their daughter Heather Smith, Heather’s girls, Haley and Belle, Jimmy and Tammy Cox, their son Bryan, his wife Adrienne, and their boy, Jay, Alfagus and Linda Smith, and Charles and Susan Stokes.

The Covington Rifles Camp l586 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans met Dec. 5 in the Dixon Memorial of the public library.

This group of men is dedicated to perpetuating the memory of their ancestors who established the Confederate States of America in order to preserve their independence.

Commander Curtis Hampton Thomasson presided, introducing guests, mainly from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the complementary organization to the SCV.

Larry Shaw worded the invocation and blessing for the potluck buffet.

Following the supper, Jimmy Cobb led the pledges to the national, state, and Confederate flags.

As Sue (Bass) Wilson, a guest, played the piano (from memory), Randy “R” Kelley led all in “Dixie.”

Kelley then read a Confederate letter, written by one of his ancestors.

After business was concluded, Sir Francis McGowin, resplendant in Confederate garb, presented a program entitled “The Land from Whence We Come.”

McGowin described the last Christmas in the Confederate White House in Richmond, Va., the dire conditions of the South by then, the lack of food, of toys, of gifts, President Davis’s walking to church, starvation “parties,” in which water was the drink and hungry was the main course, the sacrifices made so that the servants might have a cup of eggnog, how old toys were patched so the orphans might have Christmas gifts.

McGowin spoke of the old saying of “Christmas gif’!” When two people met, the first one to say “Christmas gif’!” was to be given a present by the other.

McGowin said he was glad to be a rural Southerner. His wife Ann said that everyday with Sir Francis was “an adventure.”

Larry Shaw closed the meeting with prayer.

Attending were Sir Francis and Ann McGowin, Commander Curtis Hampton Thomasson, Joseph Cecil Wingard, Larry Shaw, Linda Castleberry and her two granddaughters, Laken Steele and Taylor Lawson, Morris Mullen, Jimmy Cobb, Vaughn Bowers, Derick Davis, Tammie Evans and her daughter, Brandi Evans, Eleanor Williamson, Randy Kelley and Jimmy and Sue (Bass) Wilson.

The Covington County Education Retirees Association met Dec. 4 in the new Chamber of Commerce, once the Alatex offices along River Falls Street.

In the absence of both president and vice-president, Secretary Glenda Presly presided.

The agenda included the pledge, minutes, a treasurer’s report by Kim Dyess, who had driven all the way from Millbrook to make it, and a report by Elaine Chavers, who read a thank-you note from Cynthia Taylor, the daughter of the late Nan Johnson, in whose memory a memorial had been given by the CCERA.

The entertaining and informative program by George and Brenda Gantt included an exhibit of antiques brought by members for evaluation and an exhibit of mysterious antiques presented by the Gantts.

Attending were Kim Dyess, Larry and Glenda Presly, Elaine Chavers, Linda Lucas, Dean Morris, Johnnie Meeks, Pat Stewart, Janice H. Lindsay, Gwendolyn H. Jessie, Lucy M. Conner, Louise Anderson, Rebecca Powell, Emma Locke, Ethel M. Robertson, Elaine P. Johnson, Terry and Brenda J. Holley and Joseph C. Wingard.

My Cousin Jo of Lexington, S.C., sent me a copy of the Christmas issue of Ideals magazine. I had thought this beautiful publication of poetry, pictures and prose had been discontinued. It is a joy to know that it is alive and well.

The Portly Gentleman lent me his homemade “Christmas Book” so that I might share it with you, gentle reader.

In case you have little children, you may want to create a “Christmas Book” out of a book of blank pages for each child, or one for yourself if you are of an optimistic heart.

My friend, the Portly Gentleman, has in his book a table of contents, listing Christmas readings (when he taught school, he collected and read Christmas “classics” to his students during the season), ornaments used to decorate his tree (with a little record about each, its origin and age), other Christmas decorations (their origin – passed down, purchased, or gifts), Christmas activities (that’s where I got the list I used last week), ideas for stocking stuffers, ideas for Christmas gifts, a list of gifts received at Christmas as far back as he can remember (the year rec’d, and from whom), a Christmas shopping list, a want list, Christmas music to accumulate, a Christmas Eve menu and a Christmas Day menu.

He also has the only record of Dan Shehan’s annual Christmas Carol Sing with special notes on each sing-a-long, including songs written by Mr. Shehan and Mr. Wingard for the occasion, collected and published only this year.

The celebration of the War of 1812 (1812 – 1815) 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.

President Lincoln addressed Congress about amnesty and Reconstruction.

Federal General Burnside voluntarily gave up his command at Knoxville.

The North continued to bombard Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina.

Mrs. B. H. Helm, widow of a Confederate general, was granted amnesty by President Lincoln. She was half-sister to Lincoln’s wife, Mary (Todd) Lincoln.

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

At last! “The Plowboy Poet,” Kent Davis, has identified the spot where one can park at Straughn and yet not be at Straughn. Simply turn into the parking lot by the Dairy Queen on East Three-Notch and park at the mural, depicting Straughn.

Congratulations, “Plowboy Poet.”

The new mysterian, after l5 weeks, is the Methodist who played the organ and lived with Mrs. W. M. Thweatt.

Birthdays this week are those of Horace, Roman poet; Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer; John Milton, English poet; Joel Chandler Harris, American creator of Uncle Remus and Br’r (Brother) Rabbit and the Tar Baby; and Emily Dickinson, thought by some to be the best female American poet.

Sibelius’s most popular piece is “Finlandia,” which some know as “Be Still, My Soul.”

Milton is often ranked with Chaucer and Shakespeare as one of the top poets in English history.

Harris, reared in the country town of Eatonton, Ga., later lived in Atlanta, where he wrote for The Atlanta Constitution. He lies buried in Atlanta. His house is preserved as a museum, the room where he died left as on the day of his death.

It is sad to me that modern prejudice has hurt the popularity of a man, among the first to enshrine the wisdom of the black man, to present the black man as a major character in literature, and to preserve accurately the beauty of dialect.

In all my education I was required to memorize only three poems. Two were by Emily Dickinson, “There Is No Frigate like a Book” and “I’m Nobody.” (The third was Carl Sandburg’s “Fog.”)

My ninth-grade teacher of English, Mrs. Reid, required all three. I thought the world of Mrs. Reid.

When I went back to Capitol Heights Junior High School in Montgomery on a sentimental visit to see Mrs. Reid, she had no idea who I was. That stung; but, after teaching myself for about four decades, I understood and sympathized.

I would advise graduates not to play guessing games with former teachers. Identify yourself at once and hope for the best. It is embarrassing to an old teacher to be unable to recall names and faces. The teacher probably sees former students as they looked in their childhoods. Old teachers wish they could remember everyone, but they can’t.

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

It would be nice for the gentlemen to wear sprigs of holly on their coats.

Fare thee well, merrily!