To appreciate our future, look to people of past

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 4, 2014

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I caught sight of the first narcissus bloom of the year, a reminder that “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” (from Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”)

By the way, “Happy New Year!”

On New Year’s Day the Covington sisters and I enjoyed black-eyed peas, collards, raw onions, pork roast and cornbread. When I was a child, I was told that the more black-eyed peas that I ate, the more money I would make during the coming year. I was told, too, that the peas represented coins and the greens represented folding money. I used to stuff myself with both, hoping to be rich.

During the Christmas holidays I heard of a couple that gave three gifts maximum to each of their children because the Christ Child received only three gifts from the wise men.

The Portly Gentleman drove to Montgomery a few days before Christmas to be with his dad, the Aged One, and his brothers. He took the road through Georgiana and there drove on the new bypass, recently completed, for his very first time.

I, too, spent Christmas in Montgomery. That’s why I had no column in the paper last Saturday.

On my way up I-65 I stopped for lunch with Mrs. Gotrocks at the Cracker Barrel in Greenville. We sat at the Hopalong Cassidy table.

Mrs. Gotrocks, incensed with some friends of hers who had thrown away some papers she thought historically important, said, “People are not to be trusted with history.”

I wonder who is.

Colonel Covington, speaking at the Andalusia Lyceum, said, “Considering the changing attitudes about right and wrong in today’s United States of America, I predict that U.S.A. will soon stand for United Sins of America.” He added, “Sin walks about boldly these days and demands acceptance and even admiration.”

David Beasley, a prominent Alabama Kiwanian from Florence, who has spoken to our local chapter, has written a book, History of the Kiwanis Club of Florence, Alabama, which details the first 25 years of that organization (1922–1947).

Seen at the Corner Market for lunch were Curtis Baker, Donald Carter, Don Cotton, Blaine Wilson and his son, Brunson, Lynn Ralls and his daughter, “Kat,” and Anthony King.

Morgan Simmons, born in Andalusia and kin to the prominent Simmons family here, is a retired musician, living north of Chicago. When he spoke to our local historical society this fall, he led those present in an imaginary walk up and down South Three-Notch Street, recounting who lived where and sharing anecdotes.

When Simmons got to the Riley House near the railroad tracks, he recalled Miss Alexine Rollings, who rented a room in the Riley House and who had been one of his teachers in the Andalusia schools.

Someone said that she required her students to memorize one poem each a week.

Sidney Waits, local historian and an AHS graduate, said that she was the school’s first teacher of Spanish.

He also recalled what Miss Rollings would say when students stretched their feet into the aisles, “Keep your tugboats in neutral waters.”

Sidney’s wife, Polly (Wilder), said that Miss Alexine Rollings taught her seventh-grade English.

The mention of Miss Rollings prompted one in Simmons’s audience, Joe Wingard, to add that three of his brothers, Bill, Paul and Dave, took music lessons in Montgomery from a Miss Blanche Rollings, an older sister to Miss Alexine.

The Rollings family seems to have moved to Montgomery from Tennessee and to have stayed there.

Checking with his cousin, Jo Driggers, better known as “Computerella,” of Lexington, S.C., Wingard found out the following information.

The sisters, Alexine and Blanche, are buried in the same grave, covered with a marble slab, in Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery.

The words atop read “Alexine Douglas Rollings,” beneath which is a quatrain, reading as follows: “A life on service bent/ A life for love laid down/ It is the life for others spent/ Which God will give the crown.”

Beneath the poem is the name of “Blanche Rollings;” and beneath her name is “Teacher,” which, those who knew her say, is the name by which Miss Blanche Rollings desired her pupils to address her. There are no life dates for either sister on the stone.

To the left of the above-mentioned slab is another marble slab, covering the bodies of the sisters’ parents and a baby girl, Mamie Bell, 1907. Above the name of the little sister of Miss Alexine and Miss Blanche are the names of the parents, reading, “Alex Wood Rollings, 1865–1920, and wife, Harriett Thomas, 1871–1935, and infant daughter.”

I presume that Alexine was named after her father.

A third slab, that of a brother, reads as follows: “William Thomas Rollings/None knew him but to love him/None knew him but to praise/Addie Louise Rollings/ To know her was to love her.” I presume he was named for his mother’s surname.

A fourth slab, that of another brother, reads as follows: “Joseph Francis Rollings/ Nov.14, 1900/Sept. 25, 1959/Blossom McKinney Rollings.”

Jo found that Miss Alexine was born in 1902 and died Sept. 19, 1949, in Montgomery.

As for Miss Blanche, she was born around 1895 in Tennessee. She spent her last years in Louisiana and probably died there. She was organist at the Catholic Church just across the street from her Victorian cottage on Clayton Street, Montgomery, in the Cottage Hill District where she taught music. Her Victorian home and the Catholic Church are still standing.

Among her pupils was Hank Williams, who lived at his mother’s boarding house nearby in the area known as Five Points.

The piano Miss Rollings used in her teaching is said to be in the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery.

She taught steel guitar to Bill and Dave Wingard, organ to Paul, and, to other pupils, piano, violin and other stringed instruments.

Miss Rollings, the music teacher, was known for her recitals.

One Christmas when Miss Blanche was alone, Malie Wingard, the mother of the five Wingard boys, invited “Teacher” to spend Christmas with them – and she did!

A list of the Rollings siblings includes Edna Rollings Trentham, Harry H. Rollings, Mamie Bell Rollings, Blanche Rollings, William Thomas Rollings, George W. Rollings, Joseph Francis Rollings, Alexine Douglas Rollings, and Beth Rollings Liverman.

Miss Alexine was next to the youngest.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church will host its annual Epiphany Tea and Evensong tomorrow, Sunday, Jan. 5. This is always a lovely occasion. Epiphany marks the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ. The tea will be held from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. in the library, with the evensong starting at 4:15 p.m. in the nave.

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.

It was winter and the South, both civilian and military, were suffering from lack of food, the cold weather, and depression at the North’s superior manpower and material resources.

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

The mysterian is a bald-headed man who was hit over the head with a walking stick in our public square by a man who was angry at the victim. The wound became infected, and the man died. Who was the man who died?

Birthdays for this week and last were those of Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States; Rudyard Kipling, English writer of poetry, novels, and short-stories; Betsy Ross, American maker of our first flag; William Lyon Phelps, American professor of English at Yale and popular author; Cicero, Roman statesman and writer; and Jacob Grimm, German writer, who with his brother, Wilhelm, collected and published fairy tales.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to join Buffalo Bob Smith in encouraging each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing.

Fare thee well!