Do you remember? Looking back: 1916 in Andalusia

Published 12:28 am Saturday, March 26, 2016

“The best prophet of the future is the past,” a great American once said. Looking back recently at Andalusia 100 years ago in the old microfilm newspapers at the public library was more than I could imagine. In 1916 we had quite a little growing town with business, school, social, and church news events and announcements.

From the Andalusia Star, January 1916, one reads, “Resolve to put in a good year of work. Save the earnings, and buy a home for some time you will need it.”

In late January, the news was about the new courthouse under construction, “The Covington County courthouse is rapidly assuming form as the contractors having the work in charge are taking advantage of the splendid weather by rushing the work forward. The artistic stone facings are being placed and at the rate the work is progressing, the beautiful outlines of the magnificent building will soon be manifest.” So it appears that we should be planning a 100th year centennial celebration in 2016 for the construction of our landmark courthouse!

In the spring of 1916, “The Andalusia High School girls are selling illiteracy buttons this week. On the back sector of these buttons is printed the number 362,779. This is the number of people in Alabama who cannot read and write.” A few weeks later, another news item reads, “The Alabama Illiteracy Commission named the 1st Monday in June as ‘Illiteracy Day’ and requested the Governor to proclaim it as such and to appeal to the citizens of Alabama to observe it.”

A January business ad reads, “Coca Cola of Andalusia never wearies of well-doing. Last summer they gave the Star office numerous fly swatters. This week George Etheridge brought in five more swatters. They all swat flies in the Star office. Are you doing your part toward ridding the community of flies – the greatest disease carriers? “

A legal notice reads, “PASS THIS ORDINANCE – That each person, firm, association or corporation, who shall operate, conduct, or maintain a restaurant, grocery store, cook shop, butcher shop, fish house or oyster house, shall provide, maintain, keep in place and keep baited a fly trap outside of, and within fifteen feet of each door that enters.” We can all picture the conditions that existed in those days of long ago before air conditioning.

A business notice reads, “Supt. T. G. Conner told the Star yesterday that satisfactory progress is being made in the completion of the big packing plant at Andalusia. The packing plant is the biggest thing that ever happened at Andalusia. The Andalusia packing plant will soon open for business. They are anxious for names of their hams, bacon, etc. They desire suggestions. Send suggestions to Supt. Conner.” (This was the beginning of the Andalusia Packing Co. that was bought out by Swift and Company in 1917 who was “reported to have purchased the stock. Swift is equipped with a 60-ton refrigerating machine and will enlarge and improve the plant.” Many over the age of 80 and some younger will remember that the facilities occupied by Swift and Company eventually became the Alatex textile complex on River Falls St., a business that kept the families’ pockets jingling for over 70 years!)

News from the public square area reads, “FARM MULES WANTED – O’Neal, Law, & Co. of Andalusia desire to purchase some good farm mules. No plugs wanted.” Another garage ad for the newly invented automobiles reads, “NEW AUTO GARAGE – J. B. Youngblood has opened an automobile garage next to the Chero-Cola plant (present site of Walker’s corner store).”

February 15, 1916 brought some welcome news, “A choral club has recently been organized by some of the music lovers in Andalusia and is proving a great success. Dr. Norman of Georgiana has been engaged as director and will be present every Tuesday evening at which time the club will meet at the schoolhouse. The club has 35 members. A membership fee of $1.00 is charged each month. All who are interested in good music are invited to join.”

By June 27, 1916, The Star reads, “OFF TO WAR – Orders came for the boys to leave for Montgomery.”

In December 1916, a baby announcement unlike those we see today, “Born to Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Baron on the 29th, a 12 lb. boy. This is the 17th child to be born to Mr. and Mrs. Baron and 12 are still living.”

Tragedy struck back then as it does today. “Oscar Rawls was killed by a rolling log.” (October 1916) Then it was reported that “Six men attempted to cross Conecuh River in a boat Saturday evening near McGowin’s Bridge when the boat capsized. Four men were drowned – two white and two black. Two escaped.”

Even a real estate ad I was not expecting to come across reads, “FOR RENT – New five-room bungalow in the Riley-Rankin addition – papered, lights, water, etc. Phone 9.”

The late Berta McArtan Cook’s words are still fresh in my mind. “Things (in Andalusia) have changed, honey, but not really!”