Remember when: Christmas events in ‘49

Published 1:43 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

…But, thinkin’ of the things yer’d like to see upon that tree, Jest ‘fore Christmas, Be as good as yer kin be!” This excerpt from one of the best loved American poems by Eugene Fields reminds us that Christmas is just around the corner!

We should never take for granted why our hometown Andalusia is the town it is today! From the early days from Montezuma to New Site, the citizens who settled and resided here who have lived and died left their legacies. The contributions they made in the civic, political, religious, business, and educational areas are immortalized. The neighborhoods, the streets we ride down, the public buildings, the schools, the churches along with the traditions and the events are all pretty well established because of leadership by individuals who took progressive initiatives to build a small town.

As I heard “Rudoph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” playing on the local radio station this week, my mind went back in a quick glimpse to the late 1940s when I was a small child living in the first house my daddy built after World War II that we called home on Doyle Street. Gene Autry recorded this song in 1949 for Columbia Records. It is perhaps the first secular Christmas song I ever remember associating with the Christmas season. What was Christmas like in Andalusia during that era? The Andalusia Star-News archives shed some light on those times in the December 1, 8, 15, 22, 1949 editions.

“It costs 2 cents to mail cards for Christmas. Don’t try to mail your Christmas cards this year with 1 ½ cent stamps, Postmaster Luther Brown warned today.”

“In a drive to spur attendance at both morning and evening services, the First Methodist Church will initiate programs next Sunday to meet practical problems by adults with children. The operation of a nursery during the morning sessions is to be undertaken by the ladies of the church. A rotating system of duty by a quintet of mothers has been designed….Family worship services are to be staged each Sunday evening featuring a fellowship supper in the recreation hall. Each family will bring basket dinners… The Methodists have adopted the slogan, “The lights are on – The welcome is warm at the Methodist Church on Sunday night.”

“To the 73 men and women in Covington County struck by TB this year, the Christmas Seal is more than a bright bit of holiday cheer. The seal is a promise that powerful X-ray machines work day after day to find TB cases before it is too late.”

“A mammoth Christmas parade to be led by the AHS Band will be staged on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 14. The old man with whiskers will make visits to surrounding communities and schools to step up Yule trade in Andalusia.”

“The annual Christmas operetta of the Jones Kindergarten will be staged Friday night in the auditorium of the East Three Notch Grammar School under the direction of Mrs. Conwell Jones. The theme of the program is ‘Christmas Can Be Merry If You Make It So.’ Assisting Mrs. Jones will be Mrs. J. R. Caton. Mrs. William Albritton will serve as pianist. (I noticed that the cast of characters list included such living locals, Joe Proctor and Ralph Wells!)”

“The Sacred Harp singing held at the Court House December 18 was well-attended. E. O. Baldwin called the class together and prayer was voiced by S. A. Powell.”

“The members of the Inter Se Club are asking their friends to do their Christmas shopping early at the home of Mrs. M. L. Hart on Auburn Street. Handmade and hand-painted articles will be offered for sale. Candies, nuts, and baked goods will also be offered. Mrs. Mike Maddox is General Bazaar Chairman.”

“The next ‘Big Boy’ (Charles Little) signed up for a 4-year scholarship at API (Alabama Polytechnic Institute) and local Bama grads are wearing understandably arm bands of deepest black. Little chose to be a War Eagle after having overtures from no fewer than 21 colleges among them Notre Dame and West Point who were ranked one-two as the outstanding football teams of the U. S. this year (1949).”

“A Christmas musical program of the Glee Club of AHS will be presented on Saturday night, December 10, at the East Three Notch Grammar School auditorium. Directing the program will be Barbara Neal, teacher of the vocal music and choral director of Andalusia schools. The annual Christmas songfest is a highlight of school musical programs each year.”

“The 43-member AHS Band whose music was an outstanding feature at (fall) football games this year will be heard in a pre-Christmas concert Thursday evening. Dan Hanna will wield the baton. Admission is free. The band members and parents have been selling decals to make money for the band. These funds will be used for new trousers for the band uniforms. They will be of gray wool with maroon and gold stripes on the side.”

WANT ADS (December 1949):

“Join the ‘Sleepy Joe’ Club at Spicer’s Cleaners.”

“For complete building or home repairs. Call Jay Bros. Variety Shop. Free estimates.”

Wilma Seegers Flower Shop – For All Occasions. 502 Palmetto Street. Phone 389.”

Buy Useful Gifts for Christmas at WATSON’S on the square. Many prices will be marked down to rock bottom. Ladies lace-trimmed rayon panties, 59 cents each (My mother always told me, ‘If it’s rayon, then run!’); Double Blankets, 5% wool, $4.90 each (Were these the blankets for those twin beds that couples used to sleep in like those in the old black and white movies shown on Turner Classic Movies?”); Ladies silk scarves, 98 cents and $1.47 each; Men’s ties, a perfect gift that will fit.”

The Straughn Alumni will have their annual dance December 23 in the high school auditorium beginning at 8 p.m. Admission will be one dollar per person. No invitations are being mailed.”

The Pleasant Home Alumni Banquet will be held December 26 at 7:30 p. m. in the high school auditorium. Plates will be one dollar. Each graduate may bring one guest.”

Christmas music was heard downtown during the holiday shopping season broadcast by a sound system atop The Commercial Bank building via a loud speaker made available through J. J. Moates Auto Co.

Old Man Winter arrived in Andalusia as dawn broke over the city, December 1. The guy with icy whiskers could have danced in, because there was some back alley boogie woogie bright and early in the rear of the OK Barber Shop. Mr. D. D. King, blind piano player, had three used pianos to arrive at 8:30 a. m. Thursday from the Strickland Music Co. in Dothan who trucked the music boxes over, unloaded and had the pianos waiting for delivery. The piano man did what comes naturally. He took his seat at a piano in the alley before the barbershop boys came to work and began to play. Music filled the air and flowed over into South Cotton Street. The concert appreciated by several passersby never did draw a full house. The wind was too chilly to stand around in that drafty alley-way.”

“Andalusia merchants are being requested by the Chamber of Commerce to retain their Christmas decorations until the weekend of January. Colored street lights have added so much to the Yule spirit in Andalusia this year. Santa Claus who came to town for the pre-Christmas festivities has been busier than a one-arm paper hanger! He has visited schools at Carolina, Beulah, Gantt, Rose Hill, Straughn, Falco, Rawls, Sanford, local stores and youth church groups, visiting the kiddies at parties and scout programs – 27 sites in all!”

The Grand Ole Opry direct from Nashville. In Person – Bill Monroe and the famous Blue Grass Quartet and String Bean. Opry Stars to appear December 12, Monday at the Ritz Theatre. Don’t You Dare Miss It! Admission 25 cents and 50 cents.”

Ed Dannelly, Editor of The Andalusia Star-News in 1949, posted this message in the newspaper of the town Andalusia he referred so many times to as “the little dream town.”

“There will be a sprig of mistletoe over the door of The Andalusia Star-News beginning Thursday of this week. But in accord with the custom of years past, the door will be closed when this issue of the paper has rolled from the press. The newspaper staff and the job printers have been working overtime so that a holiday will be possible for a Christmas weekend.” (*Note that Christmas in 1949 came on a Sunday, too, just like this year, 2016!)

If the wise man who said, “The best prophet of the future is the past” was a good predictor, then the town of Andalusia’s future is bright, because Andalusia has had a remarkable and proud past. Let us REMEMBER WHEN as we learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future! If you and your family are staying in town for the holidays, do plan to visit the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street where a part of Andalusia’s history is being preserved.