Remember when: Beautiful voices on WCTA

Published 2:05 am Saturday, January 28, 2017

     “…You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, so go downtown. Things’ll be great when you’re downtown, no finer place for sure, downtown, everything’s waiting for you.” This pop song recorded by Petula Clark in 1964 became an international No. 1 hit. Its lyrics are reminiscent of our town, Andalusia!

Remember when – during World War II German prisoners were housed just off Sanford Road in the Through Street area where the National Guard headquarters and the fair grounds were located at the time. They worked during the daytime on farms of local residents who fed them generously and treated them with kindness and dignity. The young men were often seen riding around the square in open trucks. They would whistle at pretty girls standing on the corners and seemed to be enjoying themselves wherever they went! After the war, many of those Germans once freed and back home kept in touch with the Andalusians by letter with words of appreciation. Ask the Spicer family of the Heath Community.

Remember whenNavy boys stationed in Pensacola during World War II would drive up to Andalusia on the weekends to date the “prettiest girls in Covington County.” They would lodge at The Gables Hotel on Church Street. Several of those pilots ended up marrying Andalusia girls!

Remember when – Andalusians would board the train in Greenville to travel to Montgomery. College girls of the early 1940s, Jean Darling (Radcliff), Anne Kearley (Tipler), and Marjorie Brunson (Bass), attending Huntingdon College went back and forth that way. Dorothy Dunn (Brooks), Martha Wood (Bozeman), and Louise Cotney (Yeargin) would ride the train back to Montevallo from the Georgiana train station.

Remember when – movie star Clark Gable was stationed in Montgomery at Maxwell Field during World War II. You may not have ever heard this, but an Andalusia girl, Nita Mathis (niece of Foye Brunson), was working in the Capitol City Clothing Store in downtown Montgomery in the men’s department when a handsome young soldier in a white uniform walked up. When she looked up, she nearly fainted! That was just a few years after the premiere of “Gone With the Wind!”

Remember whenengagements during those war years were relatively short. Home weddings were popular and most of the pictures taken at those marriage ceremonies showed the drooping candles! Fashionable suits often replaced the white wedding dresses!

Remember whenclutches and straight shift were standard on most cars and trucks that young people of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s learned to drive on in that day and time – no automatic transmission or power steering back then!

Remember when – the speed limit signs displayed 30 MPH on East Three Notch Street. My daddy had to remind me of that every time we went out riding as I was learning to drive. Oh, my, I think that is still the speed limit! Now I have to remind myself and my grandsons! Daddy just didn’t know but my neighborhood friends and I used to turn doughnuts on a family car in my back yard probably doing the East Three Notch speed limit! I am sure it was Betty Radcliff, Mickie Patrick, or Marge Russell’s idea! Anyway, we mastered the stick shift right there at home!

Remember when – the song, “The Night Watch” played at 10:00, sign-off time every night on the WCTA AM radio station. Jo Stafford sang that version (“God’s keeping the night watch for you and for me…”). It was easy to drift off to sleep after that!

Remember when – the beautiful lilting voices of Peggy Eiland and the late Barbara Turner Cook that could be heard back in the 1950s on WCTA, Dige Bishop’s station. They spun the records and the hits of the day! By the way, both of those young ladies had solo singing voices as well as DJ voices! I’ll bet they sang along when Doris Day sang Young at Heart and as Rosemary Clooney charmed listeners with, “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window!”

     Remember when – the Dixie Hotel was located on South Cotton Street where Merrill Motors was last situated close to the L & N railroad depot. The hotel did not have Room #13! Who would want to stay in it anyway? However, bad luck eventually came when the hotel caught fire early one morning and burned to the ground.

Remember whenSaturdays were once very busy shopping days in downtown Andalusia. Farmers driving their mules and wagons came to town to stock up on supplies and groceries such as flour, sugar, coffee, hardware, and equipment. The courthouse was open for business until noon. That is why downtown stores were closed on Thursday afternoons for many years even into the late 1970s.

Remember whenButler Feed and Seed on Pear Street sold an array of farm supplies including horse and cow feed. If one bought 100 pounds of horse feed, it was packaged in croker sacks. I’ll bet that is where “crocker sack” races at the school playgrounds and church picnics originated – from Ray Butler’s crocker sacks! (Crocker sacks were burlap bags used to catch frogs, I read somewhere! They let the frogs breathe so it stands to reason that the bags must allow the feed to stay fresh!)

Remember when – business as usual went on downtown Andalusia with windows and doors open covered by window screens and screened doors. The delicious aroma of bakery goods floated everywhere. Fly swatters and electric fans were plentiful. Lots of businesses were upstairs in several two-story business establishments on and off the “Public Square.” The “Public Square” is most often referred to these days as “Court Square.” Did you know that the “square” concept is exemplary of the Spanish plaza? And the name Andalusia (An-da-lu-cia) is Spanish in origin. Maybe someday we will run across someone or something in print which will explain once and for all exactly how our fair city got its name! For now, we can only speculate that river traders in Montezuma were back and forth to Pensacola, Spanish Florida, where there may have been a discussion of the little village of Montezuma moving up the hill to higher ground to a “new site” and the gathering of ideas of a new name for the town.

Remember whenWorld War I soldiers in their new uniforms headed for the battlefields in Europe posed for a picture on the steps of East Three Notch School. If you remember that, you’d be way over 100 years old. Just think, in 1917, the school (Circa 1914) would have been just about 3 years old! Now many of those boys’ names, the deceased WWI heroes, are listed at Veterans Park on the obelisk – “Gone But Not Forgotten.”

     Remember when – a watering trough for animals was located on the square as one entered from the East Three Notch side. Luckily pictures at the Three Notch Museum reveal this scene in a photo taken from the second story of the courthouse in the center of the square on Armistice Day at the end of World War II in 1918, “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Hundreds showed up downtown to celebrate in mules and wagons, horses and buggies! This was not too long before the old courthouse was torn down after the new and present courthouse was completed and occupied. Looks like it might be time to start planning a centennial celebration of the Covington County Courthouse for 2018.

Remember when – the shop workers that labored in the rear of the Andalusia Manufacturing Company building supply business on Central Street built doors, windows sashes, mantels, transoms, columns, screen doors, cabinetry, and custom moldings for many, many homes and buildings in this area. Expert craftsmen of the day were the pride of the local building industry! Many fine homes especially on our main streets were the recipients of this fancy carpentry work of the E. R. and W. C. Merrill owned business.

Remember whentelephone party lines were common. One could pick up the telephone to make a call and might hear conversations such as these: “Do you know my chickens have quit laying? I don’t have one brown egg in my chicken coop this morning! Those airplanes flying over town from Pensacola scared my rooster and my chickens yesterday. I was planning on baking a pound cake today and now…!!!” or “Did you see those cute servicemen dancing down at the O’Neal upstairs dance hall last Saturday night. They could cut a rug!” or “Did you see what Sadie Mae hung out on her clothesline this morning? It is shameful!” or “I saw that taxi cab drive up to my neighbor’s door late last night and guess who got out?” or “Down at Walgreen’s Drug Store, can you believe he has hired all girls behind the counter now, just us girls. Those young teenagers come in after school and jitterbug up a storm back in the back. If my daddy knew that, oooohh!!!!!!”

Remember when – teenagers flocked to Wood Amusement Company down on South Cotton Street in the 1930s and 1940s to buy those records like “Elmer’s Tune,” “In the Mood,” and “Over the Rainbow.”

     “…Where troubles melt like lemon drops a-way above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me…” As we REMEMBER WHEN, this town, our town, and all of its illustrious history and citizens is where you’ll find me and you, too, I hope!