Remember summertime in Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

“In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime; Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine…” What an ideal place small town Andalusia is to have grown up in during the 1950s and 1960s and experienced summers right here in the “heart of South Alabama!”

Remember when the polio scare required children to take naps after lunch in the hottest part of summertime? We dreaded that, but at the insistence of our mother, we reluctantly agreed to those short afternoon naps like a dose of medicine! There were usually fans blowing hot air around in the bedroom that had windows wide open. Window unit air conditioners had just been invented and later became common place in homes and business houses not long afterwards. Our home had our first window unit installed in one upstairs bedroom where there was a baby bed and two double beds for the entire family. Hot summer nights finally became bearable!

Some of the older or historic homes in my East Three Notch neighborhood had sleeping porches like the Russells, the former Darling home. The sleeping porch was upstairs on the back corner. There were windows all around and lots of beds. When I spent the night with my friend Marge Darling Russell, we enjoyed spend-the-night parties out on the sleeping porch where there was always a good breeze. We could even see the moon at certain times of the month. There was always a lot of conversation and the telling of ghost stories until we finally drifted off into dreamland probably after the midnight hour!

Picking blackberries near the railroad tracks behind our house was fun. If we could find more berries than the snakes, about a quart would do, my mother would bake a blackberry cobbler, not the lazy man recipe but the one with homemade crust.

Peaches in those lattice baskets could be bought at the A & P next door to the Dairy Queen. The A & P later moved down the street to a new building now occupied by Harold’s. Peach cobbler made summer lunches special.

I remember a poor man who used to roam around with a croker sack raiding garbage cans in the neighborhood. Once we saw him eating strawberry shortcake that had been thrown out. It was real sad, but whenever Mother saw him and heard garbage can lids clanking in the back yard, she would take good food outside to him. Thanks to various food programs to feed local hungry people and children in the summer, we don’t see scenes such as this today that I know of.

The chinch bugs would always get in the front lawn every summer. Daddy would have to spread some kind of poison in the brown spots. Have you seen any chinch bugs around here lately? What about lightning bugs? All of us neighborhood children used to run all around our back yard and catch lightning bugs in jelly or peanut butter jars. Maybe the chinch bugs ate the lightning bugs. Maybe they all “moved up” and relocated to the newer neighborhoods!

Running through the water sprinkler in our bathing suits was always fun for the neighborhood children. We didn’t used to have slip ‘n slides back then – no 2-piece or bikinis back then, only the traditional 1-piece that tied around the neck with a flouncy layered bottom!

Popular past times in our back yards were the pogo stick, badminton, and wham-o! Playing with our barking dogs and purring cats was exciting since some of the pets were always getting into neighborhood dog or cat fights!

As a teenager, my friends and I would look forward to Covington Stores downtown on the square getting in their inventory of Jantzen bathing suits. My friend Beverly Brooks whose grandparents, the Dunns, ran the store, would let us be the first to know when the bathing suits arrived so we could all go uptown, try them on, and pick out our favorite design for the summer. We had Brownie cameras back then, and for our scrapbooks, we would take turns photographing each other as if we were practicing to submit our images to “Seventeen” magazine.

It was a daily occurrence for us children to walk across, roller skate across, or ride our bicycles over to Mrs. Wilson’s grocery store to get a bottled cola drink or a banana, strawberry, or grape popsicle. Mrs. Wilson also ran a bus station. The buses would pull in around five o’clock in the afternoon. We lived right across the street from the bus station on the curve on East Three Notch Street. One afternoon, my mother was standing in her kitchen at the sink washing dishes and preparing supper. She looked up and a strange man was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. She screamed! The man was as surprised as she was and apologetically said on his way running out the front door, “Excuse me ma’am, I thought this was the hotel!”

The City of Andalusia had a wonderful summer recreation program for all ages of school children and teenagers in the 1960s thanks to the creation of this program by two high school teachers, Miss Patricia Seymour and Miss Merilyn Jones. Older teenagers could apply for the job of teaching younger children at the two elementary schools, Church Street and East Three Notch Schools. As an almost 16-year old, my first summer job was teaching swimming lessons in the mornings at the City Pool which was at the old site behind Church Street School and adjacent to Robinson Memorial Park. In the afternoons, the teenage workers would divide up and work on the playgrounds at each neighborhood school. Activities would include a lot of games for all of the attending children. Hopscotch and jump rope were favorites – “Postman, postman, do your duty. Deliver this letter to an Alabama cutie. How many letters did she get? One, two, three…” or “Cinderella, dressed in yellow, went downtown and kissed her fella. How many kisses did she give? One, two, three…”

Older teenagers, some recent AHS graduates, would be in charge of the high school recreation program where teenagers would gather in the old gym and learn to play Bridge and Rook. Basketball and ping pong were favorites, too. At the end of the summer, there would be tournaments. At AHS school assemblies in the early fall, awards would be given to tournament winners. “CITY ROOK CHAMPION,” – Yes, that is probably my only claim to fame! I have a charm on my charm bracelet to prove it!

At the end of each summer, there would be a Storybook Festival which would be held in the park. Children would be delighted at the stories, the costumes, the artistic sets, the characters – all make-believe! Margo Russell, teen summer worker, had a lot to do with the event back then which is still going on in this community each spring, a Coterie Club project.

Another summer activity that some of us were a part of was taking sewing lessons which were offered at the Singer when it was located downtown in a South Three Notch Street storefront adjacent to the Brooks Shoe Shop. The late Nina Taylor taught us the fundamentals of sewing including how to sew on buttons! Betty Radcliff Kleiss and I are probably still our family’s “menders!” It was fun to pick out a pattern, choose the material, select the buttons, and visualize how a dress would turn out.

The McInnish family moved from Dothan to Andalusia during this period of time being written about. Dr. Dan McInnish, optometrist, came first followed by the family of Howell McInnish (school educator and principal). Then the Horace McInnish family was not far behind (Horace was the R.C. Cola bottling company owner and president). All three McInnish families lived within a block of each other from Third Avenue over to College Street. All three families were blessed with outstanding young musicians. Becky McInnish, daughter of Dan and Agnes; Marilyn, daughter of Horace and Betty Sue; Mickey and Mary Ann, son and daughter of Howell and Karma Lou who taught piano lessons. One hot summer, Karma Lou planned and brought together a home music recital of popular music. All of the songs played on piano and organ or vocal solos sung were Broadway’s greats Rogers and Hammerstein numbers. The evening concert was a huge success. The McInnish cousins and their close friends participated in the evening event entertaining the invited family and friends with everything from “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” to “Getting to Know You” to “I Whistle A Happy Tune” to “Some Enchanted Evening” to name only a few. The McInnish cousins all eventually excelled in the music field with Marilyn, vocal soloist, becoming director of the Arts Council in Montgomery, Mickey and Mary Anne serving as church musicians and accompanists (Mickey becoming a Baptist minister of music); and Becky being an AHS Glee Club accompanist and a church pianist at the First Baptist Church.

“Summer time and the livin’ is easy…” When reflecting on the times children grew up in, every decade has been unique, but nothing has changed as far as its being important for the growing generation who will always deserve time to play and time for fun during summer break from school. It is especially enjoyable this summer for this writer, child at heart, to pull up these memories and REMEMBER WHEN.