Remember when: Dear hearts, gentle people

Published 3:46 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

“I love those dear hearts and gentle people who live in my hometown, because those dear hearts and gentle people will never ever let you down. …I love the dear hearts and gentle people who live and love in my hometown.”

After America’s beloved ballad writer, Stephen Foster, died, a scrap paper found in the jacket pocket of his suit was found with the phrase, “Dear hearts and gentle people.” Perhaps this was the beginning of another Foster song like “Beautiful Dreamer” or “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Foster’s words appealed to writer Bob Hilliard so much when he heard of them in 1949 that he continued the lyrics, and Sammy Fain who had already won Academy Awards for such tunes as “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” and “Secret Love” furnished the music for this song. Dinah Shore and Bing Crosby among a long list of other singers recorded this song that became a hit.

Remember when – the Dot Dixon beauty parlor was located in the First National Bank building. One had to ride up the elevator, but the view from up there was fantastic. She later moved her business to South Three Notch Street in the turn-of-the-century Monch Riley home now adjacent to a mini-storage facility. A white picket fence surrounds the yard today in the restored structure last used as Attorney John Peek’s office.

Remember whenMelba Kelley’s beauty shop, not so long ago, was located on East Three Notch Street. What fun It was to go in there with Melba, Diane Colvin, Peggy Wood, Bobbie Brown and the lady friends to hear all of the “girl” talk. Melba always said, “Come on in!” She will go down in history as one of the most accommodating hair dressers in town. One could always get a piece of pound cake and a cola or cup of coffee. Our children and her children grew up there!

Remember when – neighborhood grocery stores were in every part of uptown and downtown. This was in an era long before the big grocery chains came to town. The Brooms Grocery Store on Perry Street was operated by husband and wife, Bascom and Gladys. Three of my classmates’ parents owned neighborhood stores, Mary Rogers, Cheryl Taylor, and Janice Searcy Rogers’ Store, Taylor’s Store, and Searcy’s Grocery. Husband and wife traditionally worked together in the neighborhood groceries. Mr. and Mrs. Hugh King of the King’s IGA come to mind, fine people who knew their business with an unsurpassed work ethic. They trained a lot of young people whom they employed as teenagers stocking and mopping – great experience!

Remember whenBonner Patrick and his brother operated a furniture store on the square, Patrick Furniture. Bonner’s daughter, “Mickie,” short for Margaret named after her mother, had a milestone birthday party as a teenager, maybe a 16th. Bonner helped to make her party a success by loading up one of his delivery trucks with bales of hay and treating the gang to a hayride. He rode over a lot of dirt roads and crossed some wooden bridges as we hooted and hollered with delight! We had a barrel of fun!

Remember whenEditor Ed Dannelly would write in his newspaper, The Andalusia Star News, “The Smith family motored to Pensacola!” or “Mr. Jones went under the knife in Montgomery!” Some couples, it was reported, were always getting married in “wedded bliss!”

Remember when – getting a real estate sign painted back in the mid 1970’s was easy since Hixon Signs and Berry O’Neal were local sign painters. They were within a block of each other on Dunson and Hixon Streets. Business signs, parade floats, no problems for those artistic fellows of that trade.

Remember when – the bowling alley came to town in the 1960s, Andalusia Bowling Lanes. A little later LeMay Lanes was built on the U. S. Hwy. 29 West By-pass where Harper Electric is today. George LeMay loved to recognize his star bowlers and would post a large magnetic sign out in front for passers-by to view and to drum up business. One week’s sign read “TRIPP BASS WEEK.” Well, late one night a trickster removed the “T” and the “B,” and the next morning the phones began to ring! That’s all I will say about that!

Remember when – the Portemont carnivals, Johnny’s United Shows, moved from Brazil, Indiana to make Andalusia their winter home. Johnny Portemont, Jr. and Marilyn brought with them their entire family including Johnny Portemont, Sr.; sister, Kathleen Portemont Bush and husband, Jimmy; and sister, Mary Portemont LeMay and husband, George. Johnny was a Marine in World War II and a flame thrower in the Pacific going into all of those islands, a real hero, who took a chance on settling here in the “dimple of Dixie.” His family members, all of the children and grandchildren, have made enormous contributions to our town. In addition, all of his carnival workers and their families were and still are a vital part of this community!

Remember when – a great place to eat home-style catfish was Dutch and Nell’s Restaurant on Point A Lake. Some ladies would go down there to dine on Saturday night with rollers in their hair, yes, that’s right! In the wintertime, Dutch would have that gas space heater going that would warm one to the bones. There is even a road off of the Heath to River Falls Road named after the couple, Dutch and Nell Road.

Remember when – the best barbecue in town could be found at Harris’ BBQ on Hwy. 29 North. There used to be a rental go-cart track adjacent to the Harris business. My friend, Marge Russell, and I would worry Eric Russell, her father, to death until he finally took us to zoom around that track several times. We went around on two wheels!

Remember when – the best barbecue in the county could be found at Green’s BBQ in Gantt. No telling how many celebrities, politicians, and governors ate there through the years. A lot of their pictures hung on the walls. Seems like I heard something about “Big Jim” Folsom stopping in there during a campaign trip. “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here for the Alabama Jubilee!” I would love to hear Diane Green Pettie sing once more “You are my sunshine!” One more time, one more day!

Remember whenJay Brothers’ Construction Company was located on the corner of East Three Notch Street and Henderson Street. Tom, Jack, Will, and John built so many quality homes in Bellwood, Country Club Park, and other local neighborhoods. That business house on the main street is still there, but, now vacant, it has seen its better days.

Remember whenRoscoe’s Grocery Store was located on the corner of East Three Notch Street and East Pass Road. This was a favorite gathering place for business owners in the immediate area as well as salesmen passing through. Once an out of town visitor came in to buy a soda, and he was bad-mouthing some Worley fellow he had had some dealings with. Roscoe, a Worley himself, listened quietly and agreed and nodded at the man’s comments that seemingly continued on and on. The group of men standing around in the store were all looking at each other exchanging glances and bewildered at what to expect next. The visitor finally started out the door to leave and said, “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself!” He asked Roscoe, “Now what was your name?” Roscoe replied, “I’m Roscoe Scroggins! Good to know you.” That incident was talked about and laughed about for ages!

Remember whenRose’s Department Store was located in Covington Mall where J. C. Penney’s is today. Howard’s Department Store opened a store in the Westgate Shopping Center. On a cruise to the Bahamas, I know some people who loaded up a bunch of handmade baskets in the straw market down there, brought them all back by the hardest in their laps on the airplane, got back to Andalusia, and the next week found the same baskets on sale at Howard’s!

Remember when Dr. Juanita McDonald’s doctor’s office was located on Dunson Street in an older house right behind where Bryant Appraisals is situated today. There is a parking lot there now. Later she built a small office building on the corner of College Street and East Three Notch Street adjacent to their home. “Dr. Mac” had younger children at the time. She would see patients and sometimes would have to run next door to give a child a spanking! She was a character! When she delivered a baby at the Covington Memorial Hospital, she might run up and down the wide center hall there in the hospital after the baby was born shouting, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

Remember when – Dr. William Cumbie and his family lived in a home on the next block west of the Covington Memorial Hospital on East Watson Street. His daughter Caroline says that Dr. Cumbie who would often have to go back to the hospital in the middle of the night would keep his pajamas on so he could get right back in the bed upon returning home!

Remember whenDr. Ray Evers like many physicians of the day made house calls. He was in a huge hurry late one night headed for a patient’s house in River Falls. He forgot that the new bridge across the Conecuh River had been built. The road across where the old bridge had been over to the right side was still familiar to him, and as he “motored” at high speed to the house call, his car completely jumped the river and landed on the other side. I am glad he lived to tell about it, for he delivered me into the world in 1947 and my first child in 1971!

Remember whenBenson Hardware Company on Central Street down by the Central of Georgia depot built caskets. Since there were no funeral homes at the time, now this is way back in Andalusia history, they also embalmed bodies in the back of the hardware store! I have walked to the back interior of that building and the thought of all of that comes to my mind!

Remember when – the Scherf Memorial Building built to honor the late mayor John G. Scherf was the setting for civic club luncheons and meetings in the upstairs area for many years. Abe Joseph catered those meals, maybe even someone else before him. Prior to 1948, those civic club banquets were held in the Baraca Hall on Crescent Street. Governor Frank Dixon made a speech there in 1939 honoring civic leaders. The Baraca Hall with a simple Mission Revival façade was built by the First Baptists for use as the men’s Sunday School class. Panoramic photos of the large classes of the mid-twentieth century taken on the steps of the courthouse are hung and displayed at the Three Notch Museum and in the FBC Chapel.

Remember whenSleepy’s Place on Dunns Bridge Road was a popular boat launching spot for boaters who iced up their ice chests and purchased fishing bait and tackle, inner tubes, and sun tanning lotion. It was just past the bridge down on the right. It is remembered by many old timers that Dr. Hamner’s cabin was the first one of its kind on Gantt Lake near the Valley of Shiloh. I have seen a picture of his pier/dock. Hamner Road is named after him. Dr. Hamner had a medical practice in Gantt. Bea Craven Brackin and Julia Studstill were daughters of his that I knew. Julia who ended up in Opp married to Henry Studstill, a banker, often said that she wished she could go back to her growing up days in Gantt.

So, in conclusion, all of you “dear hearts and gentle people” of Andalusia who have been kind enough to carefully read all of this and reminisce with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is indeed a real pleasure to REMEMBER WHEN.