Enjoying the blooms in the ‘Dimple of Dixie’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2014

Editor’s note: Mrs. Grundy’s column that appeared in last week’s Andalusia Star-News was a column that ran last year.


Peeping through my Venetian blind, I stared at the Seven—Sisters roses, cascading over the arch at the entrance to my front yard. Jim and Eva Maloy gave me my start of that rose years ago. Of course, the rose reminds me of them.

As I drove about “the Dimple of Dixie” this week, I noted what was in bloom – the chinaberry, pansies and violas, the peacock iris from Mildred Shaw, oxalis, wild roses and cultivated, too, purple spiderworts, pink primroses and verbena along the roadsides, honeysuckle, pyracantha, daylilies, deutzia (perfect for the buttonhole of the Portly Gentleman), wild penstemon, snapdragons, petunias, and catalpa.

The April showers certainly brought May flowers.

Mother’s Day, May ll, is a good time to wear one of those flowers to church, the red rose if your mother is still living, the white rose, if she has passed away. That’s an old tradition I hope will never pass away.

Fifty Forward, the senior adults at First Baptist, East Three-Notch, motored to Abbeville Thursday, April 3, to enjoy a meal at Huggin’ Molly’s Restaurant. All had an enjoyable time, fellowshipping and shopping. (The ladies did most of the shopping.)

Those who went were Kittye Wyatt, June Smith, Trudy Vickers, Joe and Jackie McDanal, Vivian Hickey, Buddy and Betty Brunson, Morgan and Wilma Moore, Janice Castleberry, Nancy Robbins, Neal Dansby (who drove the church bus), and Gordon Vickers, director of senior-adult activities at First Baptist.

I want to know whom did Molly hug?

A party to celebrate the 90th birthday of Sarah Gene Clark was attended at noon, Saturday, April 26 in the Youth Building (former Methodist headquarters) of First Baptist Church. (Sarah Gene’s actual birthday was April 27.)

Hosts were her children, Lessie (Susie) McMullen, Kay Armistead, Charles (Butch) Clark, Jr., and Walter Clark.

Also attending were Sarah Gene’s brother, F. H. Williams, Jr., from Savannah, Georgia, and a daughter-in-law, Sue Clark, who decorated the room and tables with items sent by a granddaughter.

Approximately 50 people attended.

Guests were treated to a buffet of chicken tenders, chicken sliders, cole slaw (all from Zaxby’s), Subway sandwiches, and birthday cake and cupcakes from Dean’s Cake House.

The room was elaborately decorated with items provided by a granddaughter, Amy Sotolongo, who planned the 90th birthday theme, even though she could not attend.

There was so much food that several guests carried away servings for later.

A good time was had by all.

The Portly Gentleman attended the l7th annual Alabama Writers’ Symposium April 24 – 26 in Monroeville, Alabama, Thursday through Saturday, last weekend. The theme was “Saints and Sinners.”

The weekend included sessions with noted authors with Alabama connections, two major prizes, and several special meals.

Monroeville now calls itself “the Literary Capital of Alabama,” perhaps because of its connection with Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

The Portly One took 84-W, passing through Evergreen and Repton and side stepping Excel.

Excel brought to mind the vivacious Mary Hill, a native of Excel, known to Dimpletonians as “the Belle of Excel.”

Registration was at Nettles Hall in Alabama Southern Community College, formerly known as Patrick Henry.

After checking in at Best Western, the Portly One boarded a shuttle-bus, provided by the college, and motored over to the Community House, a spacious, modern-looking, recreation facility set in the greenery of attractive landscaping and above a lake.

I think Vanity Fair, a textile facility in Monroeville, had something to do with its construction.

The shuttle was driven by an outgoing and delightful personality, Dwight Henderson, who shared his Christianity unashamedly.

On the way over the Portly Gentleman struck up conversations with three writers, Gerald Dowling from Dothan; Richard Modlin from Owens Cross Road near Huntsville, and William Walker from Theodore near Mobile.

Richard had served the last four years as president of the Alabama Writers Conclave.

I’ll let the Portly One take up the narration of his visit.

“I knew Richard from attending the AWC a number of years.

“As we passed through the court square, I noticed the courthouse, known for several scenes in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The clock tower makes the brick building even more distinctive. I had noticed a smaller version of that tower atop the library on the campus of ASCC.

“As we approached the Community House, I warmed with sentimentality because my mother’s people, the Cobbs, gathered there several years for family reunions in October. I could just hear and see in my mind the older generations like Ralph Cobb and his sister, Virgie Mae Pettie.

“The great room was elegant with mirrors, glass walls, a dais for the dignitaries, and round tables, draped in black, with centerpieces of cut flowers, set for a hundred or so guests.

“Those at the head table were recognized, but it was done so quickly that I could not jot down all the names and titles.

“The key introducer of those on the dais was Mary Tucker, a retired teacher and the mother of Cynthia Tucker, the syndicated columnist. Mary is a beautiful and gracious lady.

“The blessing was worded by Dr. Thomas Butts, a retired Methodist minister, whom I had heard pray before at another symposium. His carefully written prayer matched the creativity of the writers assembled before him.

“A buffet lunch followed with a garden salad, yeast rolls, slabs of roast with au jus and horse-radish sauce, cheese-topped, baked potato halves, green beans, and cheesecake.

“The featured speaker was Koethi (co-fee) Zan from Opp, who was making her first public address at this time and had just had her first novel, The Never List, published.

She attended Birmingham-Southern College and Yale Law School. Her husband is Stephen Metcalf, also an author. They have two daughters.

“Friday morning the sessions to hear authors began in the Nettles Hall auditorium.

“The first session was an interview with Sandra Jaffe, introduced by Dr. Wayne Flynt.

“Each session ran about an hour.

“I knew Dr. Flynt from his teaching tenure at Howard College (now Samford University), his alma mater. He is professor emeritus of history from Auburn and the author of eleven books, one of Alabama’s major historians.

“Sandra Jaffe of Birmingham teaches screenwriting at Northeastern University in Boston. She showed one of her documentary films, ‘Our Mockingbird,’ about the influence of Harper Lee’s novel on young people, producing a play of the famous novel. A discussion followed the film.

“Kirk Curnutt, chair of English at Troy’s campus in Montgomery, the author of l3 books of fiction, and president of Alabama Writers’ Forum, introduced the next session, which featured Charles McNair of Atlanta, whose first novel was Land O’Goshen. McNair spoke of his new novel, Pickett’s Charge, which has taken him l9 years to write.

“Before McNair left the stage, he quoted the old song, “I came from Alabama with a banjo on my knee,” and pulled up a pant’s leg to reveal an actual banjo tattoo on his knee, to everyone’s amusement.

“The third session featured Bobby Horton, the musician, who sang for us a cappella, with his guitar, and with his banjo. He spoke to us of his arranging background music for PBS documentaries by Ken Burns and others, of his l4 volumes of music from the War Between the States, and numerous scores. He was a talkative, humorous, and entertaining fellow, who seemed to know endless stories of ‘the War.’

“Lunch was served at the Community House again. I took the shuttle driven by Dwight Henderson. On the way over I made acquaintance with Angela Terry, a judge in the Moulton area of North Alabama. She knows John Holley and his family. John was reared in Andalusia and runs the farmers’ co-op in Moulton. He is the younger brother of Robert Lee Holley.

At each meal at the Community House a pianist played music at a grand for us. He was excellent.

“Two major awards were presented, following lunch.

“One, the Eugene Current-Garcia Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Literary Scholar, went to Dr. Flynt.

“The second, the Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer,” went to Mark Childress, who is now working on a libretto for an opera.

“Both men responded with prepared essays.

“Childress, known for his humor, dropped about every literary name in the encyclopedia.

“Both received standing ovations.

“It was good to see old acquaintances. One I ran into was Chervis Isom from Birmingham, whom I have seen at the Alabama Writers’ Conclave for years.

“Another I saw was Carol Nunnelley, whom I knew in my days at Howard. She is the wife of Bill Nunnelley, editor of Samford’s quarterly magazine. Carol has always been pretty; she still is.

“At table I sat with William Walker, author of two published novels, and with Jim and Liz Starnes of Birmingham, where he is an attorney. Jim and Liz know Tom and Donna Walker (Tom is also a Birmingham attorney) and their son, David, now in college. The Starneses also count our John Givhan and all of our Albrittons as friends. Jim is kin to the late Robert Albritton, whose late wife Carrie is Jim’s great-aunt.

“I got to speak, too, with Dr. Reggie Sykes, the president of Alabama Southern. I asked if he knew our Dr. Riedel, president of our Lurleen Burns Wallace Community College. He smiled and said that he certainly did.

“Back at Nettles Hall I heard Andrew Hudgins, a poet educated at Huntingdon in Montgomery and at the University of Alabama, discuss his works. His moderator was Dr. Richard Anderson of Montgomery, who had taught 30 years at Huntingdon, now retired.

“Glenn Feldman, a scholar, next spoke, introduced by Jacqueline Trimble, chair of the Department of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University, and a poet.

“Two discussion panels were offered next. Both were crowded with attendees. I attended the one about writing, presented by Adam Vines, an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and a poet. He was assisted by a graduate student at UAB, Jason Walker.

“After the panel discussion I drove to the court-house square for a symposium picnic. I think I was the first one there, for which I blush.

“I had time to walk across the street to the law office of a friend, DeWayne Beesley, who wasn’t t’home.

“The courthouse grounds were beautiful with blooming plants and baskets. White tents covered tables and chairs. An outside buffet drew me. I struck up a conversation with a hostess, Kathryn Blan, who told me of the time she and her date ate at the Gables in Andalusia and of her meeting Grace Larson, who ran the hometown restaurant. Ah, Miss Grace, I miss you and all that good food you used to serve!

“The open-air buffet included fried catfish, fried okra, baked beans, cheese grits, stuffed eggs, hush puppies, sweets, and lemonade.

“I sat at table with William Walker, Richard Modlin, and Bryan Graham of Tuscaloosa, who designed the literary fountain outside the ASCC Library.

“As I ate, Kathryn Blan came over to tell me that a bus from Andalusia had arrived. It was ‘Miss Betty’ Mitchell with one of her bus tours. The hometown group had come over to see the evening production of To Kill a Mockingbird. I hurried over and spoke to my friends.

“After the picnic I retired for the evening at the Best Western.”

Thank you, Portly One. Your last day at the symposium will be saved for another Saturday, Lord willing.

The celebration of the War of 1812 (1812 – 1815) continues, but not for long!

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 upcoming meetings.

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

On the Red River Federal engineers ordered dams built to float the stranded Federal fleet southward.

Federals retreated to Alexandria, Louisiana. (The Confederates had been more successful than the Federals in the so-called “Red River Campaign.”)

In a speech to the Second Confederate Congress, President Jefferson Davis accused Federal troops of barbarism.

In Richmond at the Confederate White House President Davis’s young son, Joe, fell to his death from a balcony.

The Federal shelling of Fort Sumter continued (it had been active since late 1863).

Federal General Grant organized his forces, especially the Army of the Potomac, for a move on Confederate General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in an area of North Virginia known as “the Wilderness” because of its dense forests and undergrowth.

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

The mysterian was identified by Judy Knox. Congratulations, Judy! Patsy Moon was a close second. The grocer with the bowtie was Hugh King. The new mysterian is a mayor, also known for wearing a bowtie.

The special birthday this week is Joseph Addison, an English essayist. It was said of his writing that it was so good that those who followed him imitated his style for a hundred years. It was that classic style that is simple, organized, and easily comprehended.

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.