Remember when: Birthday parties, monkeys and days gone by

Published 12:52 am Saturday, May 28, 2016


“Playmate, come out and play with me; And bring your dollies three; Climb up my apple tree; Slide down my rain barrel into our cellar door; And we’ll be jolly friends forever more!”

Even when I was a child in the early 1950s, this tune sung usually with two playmates clapping hands together then one at a time was as popular as it was in my mother’s childhood in the 1920s.

In the 1920s many mothers sewed at home much of the family’s clothing especially the little daughter’s dresses and frilly things. Flour sack material was often used. Later in the early 1950s my Grandmother Brunson made doll clothes for me and my sister Sally out of not only flour sacks but also material scraps left over from beautiful special-occasion garments she had sewn for her two daughters, Marge and Caroline. Her Singer sewing machine, an electric version, would hum away although I would be right by her side always when it was time to thread the needle. Now in my adult life, I have difficulty in “threading her needle” on that same sewing machine that came to be one of my treasured possessions along with her button basket.

It is remembered in the family that early one morning before school, her young son or her “sun” as the family recognized as her shining light announced, “Oh, I just remembered. I’ve got to have a clown costume for the play today at East Three Notch!” Well, by the time to head to school, “Charlie Boy” had a colorful and authentic clown costume whipped up by his loving and talented seamstress mother!

As evidenced in the old school photos at the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street, many young boys wore overalls and went barefooted to school in the warmer months. Others boys wore knee pants or knickers held up by suspenders with their pants fly buttoned up before the invention of the zipper. Girls especially in the one-room schoolhouse photos dressed like the “Little House on the Prairie” girls with their hair in pigtails until the 1920s when hair was bobbed with finger waves and cut short on the neck. Every mother had a button hook for the button-up shoes. A silver button hook with an engraved initial is today quite a collector’s item!

A 1929 AHS graduation picture of the students posed in front of Church Street School, the city high school at the time, showed the female graduates wearing lovely fancy white dresses and holding large bouquets of red roses and ivy which have traditionally symbolized education and knowledge. Graduates today often decorate their dining room table with roses and ivy where their graduation gifts are displayed. The young men graduates with their hair slicked down wore sporting suits of the day.

When summer finally arrived, children in Andalusia would head to Salter’s Pool, the first brick and concrete pool in the area, where youth could swim for 10 cents each all day that is if the freezing cold spring water didn’t cause one to reconsider staying in for long. That pool was located west of the West By-pass and just north of where the “peanut lady” often sits there on Prestwood Bridge Road. Down in a hole or gulley as it appears today, the pool was dynamited when Church Street was extended and the by-pass was built, and kudzu now adorns its resting place along with memories of the past. The drive or walk into the Salter’s pool area was down Church Street off Snowden Drive where two sisters would take up your money and lifeguard, too. What fun was had there by many snaggled-tooth lads and lassies who splashed and ducked their way through summer times!

A birthday party in the early 1930s was once remembered by Sarah Waits Hair, former popular kindergarten teacher of the 1970s at Happi-Time. “It was exciting to look for the silver miniature article in your slice of cake,” she said. “It might be a thimble which meant you would be an old maid. It might be a button which pointed to the fact that you would surely be a bachelor!”

Here is how the vintage Star News account goes: “The lovely home of Mrs. E. D. Loraine was on Saturday afternoon, the scene of one of the loveliest parties of the season for the younger set when Mrs. Loraine entertained about twenty-five of the friends of her little daughter Elenor, whose ninth birthday anniversary it was. A hornet’s nest was one of the features arranged for the children, it being a huge bag which held dozens of tiny bags of peanuts and when the nest was opened by a kick from one of the gridiron heroes of the future, the hornets went flying. The pinning on of the donkey’s tail was a pleasing diversion and to Miss Sarah Frances Waits was awarded the prize for pinning it on correctly blindfolded. Miss Helen O’Neal won in the rabbit race and secured the rabbit as a prize. The lovely dining table was centered with a silver basket of pink carnations and surrounding it were silver stands burning pink tapers. Here were served ice cream, cake, and homemade candy. The lovely white birthday cake held nine white rose holders in which burned tapers. The cutting of the cake was an enjoyable feature of this affair and the following symbols were cut – the wishbone by Margaret Brown, DeWitt Chapman, Jr. cut the ring, Mary Allen King cut the heart while Ellen Brawner cut the thimble, and Abner Powell is to be the future bachelor for he cut the button.”

Children remember all kinds of things from their childhood. My mother Marge Brunson Bass quite vividly recalled a mean monkey that “lived up the street with some neighbors across from Mrs. Thagard.” The family went out of town for a few days and left the monkey in the house alone. The monkey spread lard and sifted flour all over the kitchen counter. He also swung from the chandeliers. They ended putting “Old Joe” away in the Montgomery Zoo. He lived to be real old for when that incident happened, my mother was a child, and she later visited “Old Joe” when she went to Montgomery to Huntingdon College in 1941! “…and we’ll be jolly friends forever more!”