Remember When: Rainbows in Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true…” Celine Dion sung this song in last Friday’s Today Show Summer Concert Series, a beautiful rendition of this classic song. Prior to her performance, she made this simple statement of introduction, “This is a song that everybody knows. This is a song that everybody should know. This is a song that everybody should sing.”

In the mid 1980s when the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce theme for the decade was “Upward in the ‘80s,” the Environment Committee produced a slide presentation titled “Andalusia, Alabama – On Our Way to the End of the Rainbow.” Guitarists strummed “the song” in the background as scenes around Andalusia, eyesores actually, were featured that were in need of improvement. That “awareness” presentation was shown at the chamber banquet that year and the production won, in fact, a state beautification award presented in Montgomery. That was over 30 years ago about the time that the downtown revitalization movement began. It is indeed a pleasure to see beautification and revitalization continuing today by a new generation of citizens. If everyone would do their part to spruce up their own private property, then this place we live, work, worship, and play could surely be the end of the rainbow! The city can just do so much, and, of course, they have! Pride must take hold in order to get residents to mow, weed, trim, edge, de-junk, and paint.

Speaking of the chamber of commerce, in 1993 we asked Mr. Joe Wingard, local poet and retired teacher who taught at AHS for 39 years, to pen some additional verses to Frank L. Stanton’s poem, “Keep a-Goin’,” on the occasion of the annual chamber banquet as a symbol of encouragement for the business community. Let me share that since its carefully chosen words are relevant and needed even today.

“If you’ve lost your job or quit, Keep a-goin’! You just can’t stop and sit, Keep a-goin’! The sun is sure to shine, Even tho’ we’re in a bind, Everything will turn out fine, Keep a-goin’! Andalusia’s day will come, Keep a-goin’! This old town is gonna hum, Keep a-goin’! Tho’ business may be slow, We’ll soon be ‘on the go’ And a-rakin’ in the dough! Keep a-goin’!”

At the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street, there are some interesting artifacts relating to business houses of the past in downtown Andalusia which is where all of the businesses used to be located prior to the construction of the by-pass in the late 1950’s. A photographer came through town in the early 1920’s and took pictures of business owners and their employees posing in front of their storefronts – grocers, bakers, opticians, clothiers, druggists, soda fountain jerks, restauranteurs, hostel managers, hardware moguls, furniture store salesmen, saloon keepers, and others. There is quite a vintage collection on display to be seen at the museum. These black and white images of almost 100 years ago were professionally framed thanks to the generosity of the Dixon Foundation who also graciously supplied the museum office with a printer and copier.

The trains, the L & N and the Central of Georgia, came steaming through regularly and the old timers remember travelers alighting being solicited by the various porters who shouted out in high-pitched voices, “Dixie Hotel,” then in low-pitched voices, “Riley House.” M. E. Brunson of the “City Hotel” would carefully look over his potential guests before he would beckon them to his hotel, because he had twelve children at home. The guests resided upstairs and the family occupied the downstairs parlor and bedroom suites. His oldest daughter fell in love in 1917 or 1918 with a World War I soldier who boarded in the hotel, a traveler through Andalusia via train. The couple wrote letters back and forth until she was notified that he was killed in the war. Eva Brunson later married Robert Purefoy, but she never completely got over that first romance. She stated late in her life as a widow that she would one day soon be in heaven with that young man, the true love of her life. In the modern perspective, the old “City Hotel” property on South Cotton Street is now “Alan Cotton’s Florist.” This building is a perfect example of historic preservation thanks to the Cottons who “went out on a limb” and opened up a new avenue for trade in the next generation in revitalizing an older building to be used in their flower and gift shop business.

Thinking of all of those storefront businesses on the 1920’s, almost a century ago, I recall some businesses of the not too distant past that were popular business establishments. Most of these listed were in my era of growing up in the 1950’s. “Uncle Johns’ Grocery” on the corner of Baisden and South 3-Notch and “Brooms Grocery” on Perry Street were neighborhood stores. The “Max Barton Store” on South Cotton, the “Collis Cooper Store” on Carlton near the Dixon Lumber Company office, the “J. V. Bell Supermarket” on River Falls, the “Hugh King IGA Grocery Store,” the “Wilson Grocery/Bus Stop” on the Three Notch Lorraine curve, the Taylor owned “Jitney Jungle,” the “Adams Store,” the “James Henry Store,” “Rogers Store,” and “Searcy Store and Meat Market,” all in downtown Andalusia.

“The Williams” owned by Dent and Evelyn Williams, later by Lamar and Jo Ann Everage, on Court Square sold mostly stylish women’s clothing and lingerie and some men’s wear including shoes. “Russo’s Service Station” on South 3-Notch and Baker was the center for car washes and ball talk, Manny Russo, WWII hero, being a great leader in city youth sports activities. “Turners Store” owned by the Sol Rosens on the square sold fashionable women’s merchandise. Mother always bought our winter coats there. “Johnson Bros. Jewelry” owned by Turner Johnson and later by Jimmy and Diane Pate was almost an institution where back to the times when the teenagers would buy charms for our bracelets and where wedding gifts including a variety of china patterns were abundant. “If you got married during WWII, the only choice in china was ‘Apple Blossom,’” my mother said. (She and one of her classmate friends, Ethel Mae Holley Walker, both chose “Apple Blossom!”)T-P (Taylor-Pippin) Flower and Gift Shop at Three Notch and Central always had the most beautiful display window. Who could ever forget Santa Claus at Christmas time? Dorothy and Darwin Pippin along with Angelyn Taylor decorated for many a dream wedding in the Andalusia area. The Children’s Shop on the corner of Church Street and Opp Avenue is where my friends and I got out piano recital dresses and our unmentionables!

At “Stokie’s” on Sanford Road, one could call in an order of barbeque sandwiches then drive up to the back door and the order would be handed out. Riding away, we could look over across to the east and see all the teenagers parked in the rear of the “Idle Hour,” the place to hang out in the 1950’s. I can still hear the music playing from the juke box, “Lollipop” and “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes and “Rock Around the Clock,” all mid 1950 hits. The teens of that day would sit at the booths and order a steak sandwich and chocolate malt according to Linda Harrison Wiggins then head out across town to “The Pit” on River Falls Street. “Let the Good Times Roll” was mostly the theme of that doo wop generation!

The teens of my day in the 1960’s gathered at Charlie Bradley’s “Big R” on River Falls Street ordering broasted chicken, root beer floats, and French fries after sitting on car hoods in the parking lot and singing folk songs with the guitar players who usually staged a hootenanny on Saturday nights – “The Answer My Friend is Blowin’ in the Wind…” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” When the by-pass was completed, “The Shamrock” was constructed and opened, and the young crowd would ride around and around that hang-out! “Harris’ BBQ” on Hwy. 29 North across from the Bellwood entrance was another family restaurant. Let’s not forget to mention the Fendley Drive-In on the Florala Highway. Rowdy teenagers would often pile in the trunk of someone’s car and go to the show – not me! They were often thrown out!

Well, it’s 10 p. m. and time to “sign off” for the night just like WCTA Radio Station did back then. I certainly remember the radio playing at our house at that hour when the lights were off with Jo Stafford’s recording of “The Night Watch,” Circa 1954. The lyrics went like this, “Bright stars are watching the world as it sleeps, Shepherds watch over the little white sheep. The lighthouse is shining for ships far at sea, As God keeps the night watch for you and for me. So sleep, sleep in peace and rest. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. All’s well for over the land and the sea, God’s keeping the night watch for you and for me.”

So “Goodnight, Sweetheart,” it’s therapeutic, some say, to REMEMBER WHEN.