Looking for April showers to bring May flowers

Published 12:03 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I looked for those “April showers” that “bring May flowers.” All I saw were the sun and those abundant blooms that make our town look as if Easter has arrived already, though Easter is about two weeks away.

Suddenly I saw Miss Flora, heading my way from Covington Hall with her determined step, a basket of blooms on each arm. Before she got to my door, I could see dogwood, azaleas, bridal wreath, wisteria, Indian cane, Indian hawthorn, South Carolina yellow jasmine, cherry, iris, crabapple, the Lady Banks rose, wild azaleas, lagustrum, snowballs, button spirea, and “pink feathers.”

Miss Flora was laden down with beauty.

After she and I had arranged her floral gifts about my cottage, we sat down to tea and talk.

Before I leave the blooms, gentle reader, have you seen purity among the mosses, the dewberry blooms along the South Three-Notch bank of the Simmons house atop Bay Branch Hill, the Lady Banks yellow rose, cascading in June Smith’s yard, dewy spiderworts early in the morning, and the roadside patches of clovers — red, yellow, and white — mixed with purple verbena?

Oh, there is beauty, beauty, everywhere!

Of all the blooms of spring, to me, the most beautiful is that of the wild crabapple. Sara (Foreman) Hobson used to have some lovely ones in her backyard.

Last Sunday, March 30, a good friend, R. E. Ivey, was laid to rest in Monroeville after a funeral at First Baptist Church, East Three-Notch, Andalusia.

It was especially lonesome that Sunday morning when time came for the Sunday School assembly of the Baraca Class, and R. E. wasn’t in his regular place next to Gillis Jones.

After two songs with Jeanice Kirkland at the piano, two musical tributes were offered in R. E.’s memory – first, “In the Garden” by Rogerl Reeves; second , “Goodbye, World” by R. K. Price, who had sung with R. E. in the Glory Singers, a choir for senior adults. Both solos were sung a cappella.

John Collier taught the lesson.

That afternoon at the funeral the Baraca Class sat in a group as honorary pallbearers, and the Glory Singers sang from the choir loft.

R. E. lay in an open casket with a “blanket” of spring flowers, featuring sunflowers, perhaps a reminder of the time he played football for Sunflower Junior College in Mississippi.

It was a sunny, windy, cool day.

The pianist was Sonia Crigger, church pianist and wife of the minister of music, Dwight Crigger.

The service began in the auditorium with “The Old Rugged Cross,” sung by the Glory Singers and congregation and directed by Mr. Crigger.

Pastor Fred Karthaus read scripture and led in prayer.

Mr. Crigger sang a solo, “It Is Well,” accompanied by his wife.

Dr. Karthaus followed with prayer and a tribute to R. E., born and reared in Evergreen, an athlete, employed by Vanity Fair Mills in Monroeville for 42 years, the father of four children by his late first wife, and married ten years to his second wife, Edwyna, his childhood sweetheart.

Karthaus spoke of R. E.’s “great sense of humor,” his famous pound cakes, and his joy in all aspects of fishing.

Dr. Karthaus concluded with prayer.

The Glory Singers then sang a medley of songs about heaven.

The Covington Historical Society met the evening of March 27 in the Dixon Memorial of the public library.

Sue (Bass) Wilson, vice-president, presided in the absence of President John G. Scherf IV, and called the 392nd meeting to order.

Curtis Hampton Thomasson led the pledge.

Bill Law worded the prayer.

Dr. Morgan Moore led the state song, “Alabama,” as Mrs. Wilson accompanied at the piano.

Guests were recognized.

Harmon Proctor presented his treasurer’s report.

Those providing refreshments were Mary Jane Winkler, Betty and Ottis Reynolds, and Bill Law.

Following announcements and other business was the program, “Show and Tell.”

Joe Wingard shared a walking-cane souvenir from the Centennial celebration of the War Between the States in Montgomery in 1961 when he was a high-school student at Robert E. Lee. Now, fifty years later, during the Sesquicentennial (150th) of the War, he is using the old cane to advertise the celebration.

Wyley Ward, local historian, passed around Indian artifacts and explained their uses.

Harmon Proctor explained the significance of a Catholic statue.

John Vick spoke on turpentine collectors and showed several antique ones, recounting the difficult process of gathering gum for turpentine during the old days.

Norma Gavras, the niece of Miss Lela Cope, a local educator, identified a stack of pictures to be donated. She wove in many memories, such as the old Gables Hotel where some of the teachers used to live.

Mary Jane Winkler brought war helmets and other war items. One was a Russian hat worn in the Afghan War.

Jan White shared rare Jewish documents and a fertilizer sack, from which clothing used to be made.

Seen at the Corner Market for the buffet lunch were Kenneth Baker, Judge Jerry Stokes, and James Bristow.

The Portly Gentleman tells me that he enjoyed political talk and coffee at the Huddle House with Democrats, Billy Hughes and Bill Law.

The Portly One also reported a nice conversation with Bobby Craig at the Huddle House.

Seen last Sunday for lunch at Simone’s were Helen Philips, Deamian Fischer, Robin Livingston and her daughters, Anna K. Livingston, Audrey Livingston, and Abby Livingston, along with Tara Dalton, celebrating her birthday with two of her five sons, Sam and Connor. The boys were displaying handsome table manners, taught them by their mother.

Jimmy Ponds, librarian at Straughn Elementary School, drove to Montgomery last week to check on plans to retire.

The Portly Gentleman went along for the ride.

While Ponds checked his options in the new Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) building, the Portly One looked over the grand lobby and read some literature about the Robert Trent Jones (1906 – 2000) golf courses in Alabama, financed by the RSA to make money for retirees.

The Portly One learned that Jones was born in England on the Trent River, thus, his middle name.

He moved to this country in 1911 and grew up in New York state, becoming a designer of golf courses.

Suddenly Dr. David Bronner, head of the RSA program, came through the lobby on his way to lunch. The Portly One thanked him for his wise investments and for his own good retirement. Dr. Bronner seemed taken back at a positive comment instead of negative criticism. Later, as he returned from lunch, he smiled at the Portly Gentleman and said, “Are you still here?” and offered his hand again.

Walking to a large window, the Portly One stared at the renovated St. Margaret’s next door where he and his four brothers were born when the building was a Catholic hospital. It is now much modified and houses offices. In the days of babyhood St. Margaret’s was a handsome, brick structure atop a steep, grassy hill.

Still waiting, the Portly Gentleman struck up a conversation with the security guard, Carolyn (Robertson) Bradley, who turned out to be in the Andalusia High School Class of 1973 and a first cousin to Coach Richard Robertson of AHS, who, about that time, walked into the lobby with his wife Ethel.

Coach had driven up to check on his retirement.

Now, don’t think that he’s retiring this year. He checks on his retirement every year.

At one time there were five from “the Dimple of Dixie” in the RSA lobby. Go, Andy!

Coach has been at AHS longer than any other instructor in its history.

Ponds and the Portly One drove to Old Alabama Town in downtown Montgomery and had lunch at the Farmers’ Market, run by Phil Norton and his wife, JoAnn McBride, a classmate of the Portly Gentleman in the Lee High School Class of 1962.

Before leaving the restaurant, the Portly One met for the first time the new executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, Dr. Henry Mabrey, who also ate dinner at the Farmers’ Market, known for its good home-cooking.

While getting my car repaired at the S & D Garage, I enjoyed a conversation in the waiting room with Al and Christine (Foshee) Barton. Al is a retired chemist. They are members of Buck Creek Baptist Church and are neighbors to Neal and Jennifer Dansby. They have retired here after having lived in Eufaula, Brewton, Demopolis, and Augusta, Georgia.

In Brewton they went to church with Ed and Elizabeth (Bozeman) Everage, once Andalusians. The Bartons visited the Everages’ daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Dr. Barton Starr, in Hong Kong when the Starrs were missionaries and teachers there. Rebecca was in Al’s training-union class in the Baptist church in Brewton.

Ed Everage was the first president (1930) of the newly formed student government association in the AHS Class of 1930, which also boasted the first yearbook of AHS. The memorial oak that the SGA planted in 1930 to remind future generations of the founding of the SGA stood till a year or so ago in front of Church Street School.

I wish that some of that oak could have been made into a lectern or gavel or some other “reminder.”

In Eufaula the Bartons attended church at First Baptist and were friends of its pastor, Dr. Kenneth Bush, who has been there over three decades. His wife, Joyce Cox, is from Deatsville. They met at Howard College in Birmingham – now called Samford University. Dr. Bush finished at AHS in the Class of 1960. Christine was his secretary at one time.

Gentle reader, do you remember when “spring break” was known as the “AEA holidays”? That’s because teachers, most of whom belonged to the AEA, were expected to attend professional, state-wide meetings of the AEA in Birmingham during that week.

Teachers considered the cost of hotels, gasoline, and food.

They wanted a vacation, a chance to rest.

Eventually, teachers gave up on the annual AEA meetings and did other things during that week, not even pretending to attend professional meetings.

AEA became more political. A core of AEA members kept attending the annual meetings, and the time for the AEA meetings was changed from spring to the first weekend in December, and the “AEA holidays” changed to “spring break.”

AEA holidays were no more, but the name lingered for awhile.

The first AEA meeting I recall attending during those old holidays was in Birmingham. I recall the keynote speaker, Bennett Cerf, a book publisher. He spoke of a new book he was publishing and highly recommended, Charlotte’s Web.

Mr. Cerf was also a panelist on a TV game show, What’s My Line?”

March went out like a lamb, by the way.

Gentle reader, when you talk to someone, do you look at that person’s eyes or mouth?

Seen at the Huddle House were Barry and Judy Clark and their daughter, Amber, Greg and Jan White, their Kelley and Chase Nolan, Sam Shakespeare, Missie (Broussard) Davis and her daughter Kerrady, and Missie’s brother, Russell Broussard.

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

Again, I ask the citizens of Andalusia to 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, Alabama 36420. Include your e-mail address if you wish to be reminded of up-coming meetings.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to last week 150 years ago.

Federal gunboats and transports gathered at Alexandria, Louisiana, to supply a Federal advance south to Shreveport.

Confederate General Taylor’s troops blocked the way.

The French in Mexico eyed Texas for conquest.

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

The mysterian this week was a military man and banker. He served as president of the AHS Class of 1919. Who was he?

The birthdays this week are those of Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer; Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer of fairy tales, such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling”; and Washington Irving, American essayist and short-story writer, best known for “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Irving, named for our first president, was the first American to earn his living by writing.

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.