Oh how I love Kiss-Me-at-the-Gates, primroses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 13, 2016

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noted how the recent cold had “browned” the blossoms of the saucer magnolias. That happens almost every year. The Kiss-Me-at-the-Gates were doing fine, though, as were the primroses. It was Win Murphy who introduced me to Kiss-Me-at-the-Gate, bless her soul. Some call the plant the Breath of Spring.

Last week the Portly Gentleman was telling of his trip to the Chautauqua in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. He’ll pick up now and finish his notes.

“Classes on a variety of subjects are offered at Chautauqua. I attended one on the contribution of women to art, taught by Janet Faube.

“Another class allowed me to meet the great-granddaughters of Wallace Bruce, one of the early leaders of the winter Chautauqua in DeFuniak and a poet. ‘Rusty,’ one of the great-granddaughters, and in costume, recited a poem by her ancestor.

“This program was in the Octagon House on Circle Drive, which surrounds DeFuniak Lake. The house, which is eight-sided, once belonged to Wallace Bruce; in fact, he died there. Owners in later years included the parents of Jan Turnquist, who manages the home of Louisa May Alcott in Concord and also impersonates Miss Alcott. Jan has often appeared as Louisa May at the Chautauqua.

“Friday afternoon I attended the tree planting in the Lake Yard, during which Jerry Mathers of Leave It to Beaver planted a red maple. I told last week of shaking his hand and having my picture made with him, plus much more.

“That evening I ate supper at McLain’s, which serves a seafood buffet Friday and Saturday nights. I especially availed myself of the fried oysters.

“While dining, I ran into two Andalusians, Keith Pittman and his wife.

“Saturday was a beautiful, golden, sunny, spring-like day.

“My first class of the day was “Saving the Monarch Butterfly,” taught by Annette Wise of Plains, Georgia, a friend of President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter.

“This first class was taught in the Methodist Church on the Circle. The second class was taught on the sidewalk outside the church. Two boys comically acted out ‘The Complete History of America – Abridged.’

“My third class was a book review by its author, Mike Mahan. His book is entitled No Hill Too High for a Stepper.

“I took lunch in the Corner Café, which was so crowded that I had to share a table with strangers.

“After lunch I returned to the beautiful Methodist Church for another class. This was also a book review by its author, Mac Otts; his book is The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist.

“There were other classes, but I wanted to sit on the steps of the Methodist Church and watch the sun turn into gold the great dome of the Chautauqua hall across the street. I gazed at the beauty of the day, the grand homes, the parks and yards. Before heading back to my motel, I slowly drove around the Circle again.

“Saturday night I dined in the Crossroads Inn, the restaurant of my motel.

“Sunday morning I ate breakfast in the Inn and then drove back to the ‘Dimple of Dixie.’

“I wish everyone in Andalusia could attend, at least once, an annual winter Chautauqua. The cultural event is different each year and is scheduled the last weekend in January. Put it on your calendar, Gentle Reader.”

Thank you, Portly Gentleman. I’ll invite you to tea and serve petit fours.

District 24 (Conecuh, Covington, and Escambia counties) of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) met for its monthly assembly February 8 at Reid State Technical College in Evergreen.

Teresa Hultz, president and a teacher at Flomaton High School, presided.

The main item of business was the discussion of the district’s annual banquet, set this year for March 4, at 7:00 p.m. in the Brewton Civic Center. Tickets are $20.

The Covington Rifles, Camp 1586 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, assembled February 4 for its monthly meeting in the Dixon Memorial of the Andalusia Public Library.

February 4 happened to be the date in 1861 when the Confederate States of America was organized in the Capitol in Montgomery.

John Allen Gantt, commander, presided.

“Hank” Roberts offered the invocation.

The flags were pledged and “Dixie” sung, led by Larry Shaw.

A certificate was presented to a new member, James Hallford.

A boycott of New Orleans was discussed because of its threat to remove Confederate monuments on public land.

A Confederate monument in Crestview, Florida, has been removed already or is being removed.

“Hank” Roberts gave a program on the Enfield rifle, used by North and South during the War Between the States.

He shared information about an authentic 1863 Enfield 53 cal. he brought with him, especially the triangular bayonet, which could be used as a candle holder and a tent peg, as well as for killing.

Hank spoke, too, of the psychological use of a bayonet.

Hank stated that even more effective than a bayonet was the use of a rifle as a club. Any means of defense was used by Southerners because they were defending their homes.

Refreshments were enjoyed at the end of the program.

Wanda Davis sent cookies and squares; and Rosemary Gantt sent a red-velvet cake, in keeping with Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of St. Valentine’s Day, which is coming up this Sunday, I noticed that Miss Cora Covington was trying to keep me from seeing a valentine in her hand when I was visiting Covington Hall last week. She was nervous and dropped the envelope. I picked it up for her and saw that it was addressed to her. She was embarrassed that I had seen it and blushed.

Now, who could be sending Cora a valentine?

Seen out and about this week were Mark and Cynthia Gunter and their grandchildren, as well as their son, Jason Gunter, and his son, Dr. Wayne and Lenora Johnson, Maggie Shelley, Otis Bradley, Ron Haig, Allen and Nell Wiggle, Judge Jerry Stokes, Dawn (Cooper) Pischek and her husband, Pablo Pischek, of Mobile (Pablo’s family came from Argentina and are the only Pischeks in the country) (Dawn’s aunt is Jenelle Jones), James Jones, Ronald Williamson, Vince Pierce, Casey and Kim Thompson, two of their sons, and Casey’s parents at David’s for Casey’s birthday, Fox Willinford III and his son, Fox IV, of Santa Rosa Beach, Peggy Castleberry, Jimmy Ponds, and Dwight and Babs Mikel.

Once 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.

Since the mysterian is such a mystery, I’ll offer some clues. He did not begin or end with the AHS Class of 1926.

Recent birthdays are those of Charles Dickens of England, perhaps the greatest novelist in our language; Sir Thomas More, the English statesman who disobeyed King Henry VIII, which cost More his life; Charles Lamb, the gentle, English essayist; Thomas Edison, the American inventor; and William Cecil Wingard, my dad.

Dickens’s novel, A Christmas Carol, next to the Bible, is the best book in English.

Sir Thomas More was beheaded because he would not give up his principles. His body lies buried in the Tower of London. His head lies buried in a small church in Canterbury. I have stood in respect at both sites. Very few are willing to die for their beliefs. More was one. My admiration for More is almost boundless.

Was it not Edison who said that genius is l percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration?

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.