Halloween, fall is in the air near Covington Hall

Published 12:41 am Saturday, October 25, 2014

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw Clay Clyde Clump over at Covington Hall, decorating for fall and Halloween with pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, scarecrows, “ghosts,” and what-not.

I turned to check my supply of candy to give trick-or-treaters; then, settled at my kitchen table to compose notes for this column.

Fifty Forward, the group of senior adults at First Baptist, 50 and older, met for their monthly luncheon October 2l at noon in the church’s Fellowship Hall.

Gordon Vickers, director of the senior adults, presided.

R. K. Price worded the blessing, and Dr. Fred Karthaus, pastor, worded the benediction.

Tables were decorated by Trudy Vickers, Kittye Wyatt, and Betty Bass with centerpieces of scarecrows, fall leaves, and pumpkins that matched candy pumpkins and pumpkin napkins. Scarecrows were placed about the hall.

The food, catered by Gary’s Café at Wages in River Falls, included fried catfish, cheese grits, hush puppies, baked beans, tea, and lemon-iced cake.

“Happy Birthday” was sung to Sue Carlisle and Carolyn O’Neal, who have October birthdays.

The speaker was John Newsome, retired from the food-service program at our local hospital. Newsome spoke on nutrition and its spiritual importance into old age.

Newsome’s wife, Phyllis, was present. They have four children, twelve grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Congratulations to our own Dr. Rex A. Butler, who is celebrating his 32nd year of medical practice.

Butler’s list of accomplishments includes the following: he was the first Alabama doctor, south of Montgomery, to have a certified echo-lab (third in the state, even assisting Dothan in starting their lab); the Senior Citizen Hall of Fame named him “Doctor of the Year” in Alabama; he served as president of the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce; he served as president of the Lurleen B. Wallace Foundation (raising $l00,000 for matching funds for scholarships); and he served as president of the Andalusia Rotary Club.

Seen at Chen’s Sunday for lunch were Roy and Audrey (Thomasson) Wilson, Kyle and Carol Thomasson, Tommy Grimes and his son, Trey, Ken and Martha Ward, and Richard Roberts.

Seen at the Dairy Queen, Andalusia’s oldest eatery, Sunday night were Johnny and Nelda Godwin.

I noticed a family at the Dairy Queen, heads bowed for prayer before they ate. Bless them.

Seen at Yo’ Craving was Judson Blackstock.

Seen at Larry’s for supper were David and Karen (Hudson) Barton, Dan and Rita McMullen, and Jimmy Ponds.

Seen at David’s were Penny Berry, Wayne Johnson, Harold and Cathy Rouse, and Gene Stallings.

Gentle reader, have you noticed that certain words come into fashion, like clothing? One such word is absolutely. It’s widely used of late.

In the distinguished Baraca Class of First Baptist Church, East Three-Notch, Miss Abigail Lee, the fifth-grade daughter of Randall and Katie Lee, played the special music last Sunday. A pupil of Martha (James) Givhan, Abigail and her teacher played two duets on the Ann Martin Memorial piano. Abigail’s parents were present.

The Baraca Sunday-School teacher, Richard Pass, 93, said in his lesson that one should “do what you can while you can.”

Kate Bush, unable to attend morning worship at First Baptist because of illness, nevertheless sent her written testimony about what Jesus means to her. Mrs. Bush’s testimony was read aloud from the pulpit by Dr. Fred Karthaus, pastor. The testimony is part of a series being shared Sunday mornings.

Last week the Portly Gentleman was telling us of the trip that he and his cousin, Jo Driggers of Lexington, South Carolina, made to Orangeburg, S.C., for the biennial conference on William Gilmore Simms, the most important writer of the antebellum South. The two belong to the William Gilmore Simms Literary Society.

Let’s listen to what the Portly One has to share this week.

“After our motel breakfast Jo and I drove from Orangeburg the twenty miles to Simms’s plantation, the Woodlands, out in ‘the middle of nowhere.’ The property is still in the hands of the Simms family. The original, plantation house was burned, rebuilt and burned again. Part of the ruins were built into the third version of the house, a much smaller and simpler structure than the original, which contained rare art, manuscripts, and one of the great libraries of the Old South.

“Woodlands is near the small town of Bamberg and a depot known as Midway, where Simms could take the train to and from Charleston.

“A tent had been set up on the lawn. Here we heard eight papers and speeches before lunch and eight after lunch.

“Upon arriving, Jo and I walked the grounds, which had been freshly mowed. We circled the two-story, white house in which Simms lived briefly after the War. I understand that he lived in a surviving section of the bottom floor and that the second story was added later.

“Near the house, which has been neatly repaired and furnished, stands an independent, small, one-room, brick structure which Simms used for writing. It is in sad shape, leaning to one side, with crumbling brick. There is a fireplace and two large windows for light.

“Near the house also stand giant live oaks with Spanish moss and resurrection fern. One looked to be 400 years old. Four of our young Simms scholars climbed into its shade, like children in a tree house.

“There was a log barn, too.

“At this point I met Matt Brennan, married to Beverley Simms, a great-granddaughter of W. G. Simms. About the same time I spoke with Alexandra (Furman) Whitley, another descendant of Simms and the daughter of Mary (Simms) Furman. She had injured her foot and was limping, but that did not stop her from acting as a gracious hostess and giving a tribute to her late mother, during which talk she could not help but weep. By the way, Alexandra’s grandmother, ‘Aunt May,’ wrote a history of South Carolina, based on one written by Simms himself.

“The third Simms descendant I met was Anne (Simms) Pincus of New Orleans, who served as a hostess along with Alexandra.

“Another tribute made this morning was to the late Dr. John “Jack” C. Guilds, a biographer of Simms.

“The Simms family, which had agreed to host the Society at Woodlands, opened up the third Simms, plantation house to us and treated us to a buffet lunch of fried chicken, pasta salad, potato salad, marinated green beans, pimiento sandwiches, and pound cake, catered by Don Rizer of Greenville, S.C..

“Don told me that the cake was his mother’s recipe and that he himself prepared the potato salad. Both were unusually good.

“Following a leisurely lunch, members returned to the tent for more ‘papers.’

“When the session ended, Jo and I drove back to Orangeburg for the night, stopping at a restaurant known as the Kuckery, where we enjoyed the Simms Society banquet of baked chicken, green salad, rice pilaf, broccoli casserole, and chocolate cake.

“Sitting with Jo and me for dinner were Betty Jane Miller of Barnwell, and Don and Libby Still of Blackville.

“Betty Jane was a delightful character, worthy of Dickens. She had taught 40 years and is a steadfast conversationalist. She reminded me of Aunt Pittypat, speaking of the past, of relatives, of who married whom, the Yankees, and what they did. She dresses prettily, gleaming like a peacock. I was charmed by her.

“The next morning the conference ended at Woodlands. Jo and I were the first to arrive on the grounds, which were lovely and lush. We soon met Laura Oliphant, whose husband is a descendant of Simms.

“We heard three more papers and stayed on for the business meeting.

“Then we returned to Jo’s home in Lexington, taking back roads.

“One old acquaintance who showed up the last day was Bill Cawthon. He had driven from his family’s plantation in Eufaula. His great-grandfather’s uncle was S. I. S. Cawthon, an early citizen of Andalusia, who said in his day that the new town of Dothan was ‘overrated.’ (The laugh’s on S.I.S., isn’t it?) I imagine only Sidney Waits knows who S.I.S. Cawthon was.

“I had met Bill in Athens, Georgia, at an earlier Society meeting.

“Back in Lexington Jo and I ate supper at Fatz, one in a chain of restaurants, enjoying fried onion ‘straws,’ chicken pot pie, and peach cobbler with walnuts and vanilla ice cream.

“That leaves a tad of the story to share, but that’s for another time.”

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.

If you collect stamps, now is the time to buy those remembering the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States and the War of 1812.

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

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia Confederate Gen. Jubal Early surprised Union troops, winning a temporary victory. As Early’s men prematurely stopped fighting to enjoy the spoils of war, they were surprised in turn by Union General Sheridan, just returning from a conference in Washington. Sheridan returned midst the battle, rallying his fleeing men at Cedar Creek for a turn-around Union victory. “Sheridan’s Ride” was made into a poem by Thomas Buchanan Read.

On October 20, 1864, President Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

In the Battle of Westport, a Union victory assured Union control in Missouri.

Confederate General Hood clashed with Union troops in North Alabama, especially in Gadsden and Guntersville.

In Kansas two Confederate generals, four colonels, and a thousand men were captured.

Congratulations to Curtis Hampton Thomasson, who solved the riddle of “I am half, yet I am whole.” The answer is the First National Bank (Andalusia’s skyscraper) on the Golden Square. Original plans called for the building to be twice its present size, yet only half was built. That half, though, is the whole of the structure to this day.

The new mysterian is a couple. He worked for the railroad. She taught school. They had one son. They are buried in LaGrange, Georgia.

Recent birthdays are those of Christopher Wren, English architect, designer of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet; “Old Ironsides,” a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes that saved the U.S.S.Constitution from destruction (it still floats in Boston); Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer; Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet, whose beginning lines of The Canterbury Tales many a schoolchild has memorized; Thomas Babington Macaulay, English statesman and historian; Johann Strauss, Jr., Austrian composer; and A.C.L. Bizet, French composer of the opera, Carmen.

In Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Marina” one finds one of the most famous lines of poetry ever written, “Water, water, everywhere/ And all the boards did shrink./ Water, water, everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink.”

Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” may be the most exciting and brilliant piece of piano music ever written.

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.