Can’t stop talking ’bout dominoes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2014

Here we are approaching the end of June. That means it won’t be long until the official call, “Play Dominoes!” is sounded to kick off the 39th year of the World Championship Domino Tournament, held at Andalusia’s Kiwanis Fair Complex. This year’s date for the event is July 11-12.

My friend Carolyn Davis has been the event coordinator for 20 years. As we discussed its approach, it set me to reminiscing about reporting on the event for The Andalusia Star-News during the tournament’s beginning years. It was exciting to watch it grow year after year. I enjoyed seeing and photographing celebrities like the late Paul “Bear” Bryant and others, and mingling with friends, neighbors, and visitors who had never heard of Andalusia before.

In 1984, I attended a press meeting in Gulf Shores. During that time, I struck up a conversation with one of the guest speakers, a newspaper publisher from Georgia who was behind me in a long dining room line. When I mentioned Andalusia and the domino tournament, he frowned and said he didn’t understand anyone spending time playing dominoes. I did not understand why he didn’t understand and I wondered if he was speaking tongue in cheek. I then spoke at length about the fascination dominoes has held for Covington Countians for years and years, long before the tournament was initiated by the Andalusia Rotary Club.

Since he was a newspaperman, I figured he would be captivated by descriptions of some of those who were keenest on the competition. I told him about some folks in Troy who found a hideaway in the courthouse basement, plotting to walk away with the prize money by being the shrewdest competitions at the tournament. Then I mentioned those men in the Perry Store community who played dominoes at a table under a shade tree, weather permitting, or moved onto the store porch or back room when it was inclement. I recounted my visits to the little shack behind Dallas Henderson’s store in Cedar Grove where players sat on wooden soft drink cases and vines snaked through cracks and climbed the walls. Then I bent his ear about the domino clubhouse Dallas built with his winnings from the 1978 competition.

While we ate, I gave him time to question me about the people who came to watch players bending over the tables, speaking “domino.” I explained that the Rotary Club members and townspeople worked hard to plan and keep the tournament running smoothly. During dessert, I mentioned it had started as a Rotary Club Bicentennial project on a small scale, then mushroomed into a big event. I added that the money went for scholarships and other needy causes.

If that publisher has since heard anything about Andalusia’s World Championship Domino Tournament, I think it will strike a chord with him. He might say, “That reporter I met in Gulf Shores said folks in Alabama really enjoy playing dominoes. In fact, she just wouldn’t shut up about it.”