Remember when: Birthday parties were so much fun

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2017

     “Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush so early in the morning! This is the way we wash our clothes so early in the morning!”

     When I was a child in the early 1950s, at birthday parties, we always played “Drop the Handkerchief,” “Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush,” and “London Bridge.”

     I ran across a couple of poems that little friends received in their birthday invitations.

     “I’m having a dress-up party, September 28 – don’t be tardy! It’s just for little girls, you see. Wear your mother’s long dress and high heels. Paint your lips and your cheeks, and do wear a hat. I’m looking forward to being six, you can count on that!”

     “My granddaddy (He was a baker.) has promised to bake a wonderful scrumptious birthday cake. So won’t you come and have a bite. Tuesday, the twenty-eighth, will be just right. Three o’clock in Granny’s back yard – don’t be late. My seventh birthday, we’ll surely celebrate!”

     Favors given the party guests listed in the newspaper accounts were Old Maid playing cards, whistles, and ABC tablets.

     Around the 1900 time period, “Wood burning stoves became available and kitchens were moved into the homes.” This is according to Dr. Bill Hansford, author of the 2015 book, “Andalusia, Alabama.” Those books are still offered for sale in the gift shop at the Three Notch Museum. They hold a treasure of information about not only the history of the homes and commercial buildings that make up the city but also the people who had a part in helping to make Andalusia what it is today. Most of those from the old days are gone but are not forgotten.

     The wash pot, the rinse pot, and the scrub board were standard in those days. Monday was wash day; Tuesday was ironing day; Wednesday was sewing day; Thursday was market day; Friday was cleaning day; Saturday was baking day; Sunday was set aside to “rest!” (Do we always follow the commandment about resting on Sunday from The Ten Commandments?) Hey, I do all of that Monday through Saturday work on Saturdays. Bet a lot of you career girls do, too!

     Remember when – a traffic light on a pole replaced the watering trough for horses where East Three Notch meets the town square? Sometime in the 1940s, someone finally decided that gas stations for automobiles on the main streets should replace the watering troughs! After all, those veterans of World War II, soldiers returning home, brought with them all of those cars and jeeps, and they were known for whizzing around the square!

     Remember when – you might have heard it said that the First Baptist Church was originally organized in 1847 as “The Missionary Baptist Church of Andalusia.” This was just a couple of years after the settlers moved up the hill from Montezuma. A stately church building was constructed beginning in 1905 just off the North Court Square in front of the historic Magnolia (City) Cemetery. Work was interrupted several times due to lack of funds but was finally completed in 1909. By the late 1950s, the church had continuous growth, and a new church building was erected in a primarily residential location on East Three Notch Street where parking and room for expansion was plentiful.

     The lot for the new church was actually next to the Circa 1926 Baptist pastorium, “one of the most commodious pastoriums in the state built to last 1000 years or unless blown away by cyclone” according to church history, but the West Annex as it was referred to in the 1980s was unfortunately razed in 1989.

     Remember whenwhiskey could be bought on the square at the J. L. Adkinson Saloon on the corner of Coffee Street and South Cotton Street. This building was demolished before 1919 when construction began on the new First National Bank Building skyscraper. Guess you could take a jug home with you! Some of those “little brown jugs” can still be found at the Three Notch Museum.

     Another “bar room” on the public square is shown on an old map of early Andalusia around 1900 recollected by Walter L. Howell and drawn by L. F. Adams in 1950. A population of 400 is noted on the map. I think those Baptist “church ladies” saw to it that the saloons on the square relocated to the boondocks! That was probably after one of those shootouts that occurred on the square as historian Wyley Ward tells about in the findings of his ongoing historical research! Ward is steady in his research of old Andalusia and Covington County there in his Pear Street office where an array of books and booklets he has written on the history of Andalusia are available. Our hats are off to him! His office is on the corner of Yellow River Street! Anyone know where that got its name?

     Remember when – it was said that Old Montezuma down on the Conecuh River was a little village. The history murals at the LBWCC Dream Park portray the Montezuma Trading Post, the settlers moving into the area on covered wagons, the lumberjacks cutting the timber, the farmers planting their crops, and the Spanish traders coming up from Pensacola that frequented the river town!

    Some houses were on the west side of the river, but most of the town was on the east side including a courthouse and other public buildings. An old map shows the trodden path or road crossing the river at the old Bullock Ferry before there was ever a bridge built. Montezuma was the first county seat of Covington County. Then up the Devereaux Hill they came after spring flooding.

     Remember when – there was an Order of the Knights of Pythia established around 1896 in Andalusia. A large group of those gentlemen were photographed in the early 1900s. Google informs me that they were a fraternal organization and secret society that received a charter under an act of the U. S. Congress in 1864. Their ideals were loyalty, honor, and friendship illustrated in an Irish poem and legend. I don’t know of any “Knights” today locally although the order still exists today worldwide. Maybe someone does.

     Remember whenCoca-Cola glass bottles were stamped on the bottom with the name of each town where Coke was bottled. Andalusia, Alabama is listed on some of those bottles at the Three Notch Museum in the bottle collection.

     Remember when – the grand home of Alsie Riley, son of Malachi and Anna Riley, built in 1920 later became the Methodist parsonage? The new Methodist Church on the corner of Oak and East Three Notch Street was built in 1925 on the adjacent lot. Especially memorable to me is when Rev. and Mrs. Powers McLeod who had twin boys were kept by a sitter in the parsonage one Sunday. They were very young and mischievous, but anyway, they poured out a large can of chocolate syrup in the living room rug during the church hour. The McLeods came home to find the disaster. The church members asked Rev. McLeod, “What in the world did you do?” He patiently replied, “I just rolled up my sleeves and starting cleaning it up!” The home was eventually removed to make way for the present office building beside the main church.

     Remember when – a “white dove” was placed on all of the casket sprays that came into Mrs. Georgia Marshall’s funeral home there on North Cotton Street. She was a grand lady and always involved in every aspect of the activities of the local community.

     Remember when – there were two entrance doors at the Covington Stores department store, the former Shreve building on the east Court Square. One door opened to the men’s side, the other was considered the main corner entrance, and it led to the women’s section. This was Andalusia’s largest department store at one time. No need for ladies to “trek” out of town for the latest in fashion!

     Remember when – the three-story Hotel Ray had second and third story balconies. That seemed to be the style of many hotels in Alabama which were considered early downtown hotels. The Hotel Ray was located on Pear Street between the Thagard Drug Company and the City Drug Store. At that time, the city jail known as the “calaboose” was also situated on Pear Street. The Hotel Ray owned by Dr. T. Q. Ray eventually became the Victoria Hotel operated by J. J. Moates who formerly managed the Dixie Hotel on South Cotton Street that was destroyed by fire. Merrill Motors later built on that site across the street from the L & N Railroad Depot. Picture postcards of the Victoria Hotel show the property remodeled and the balconies removed.

     Probate Judge Malachi Riley married Anna Chapman in 1880. They had five children, but Judge Riley died on February 24, 1896 at the early age of thirty-seven years.                            It was thought at the time that he had an appendicitis attack, but one historian today is of the opinion and convinced that he may have been poisoned due to the politics of the late 1890s. One living Riley relative was interested in and agreeable to having his body exhumed from Magnolia Cemetery, but being that a casket of that time frame would have probably been wooden, it was likely that the evidence would have been washed away! That would have made a good forensics mystery story unraveled right here in “the dimple of Dixie!” The Malachi Riley family tombstone lies on a prominent plot there in Magnolia surrounded by a beautiful ironwork fence. “To know him was to love him” is his epitaph inscription.

     Riley’s widow built a Colonial Revival turn-of-the-century residence on East Three Notch Street there at the corner of Oak Street. Son John D. Riley inherited and lived in the magnificent home designed by Alabama architect Frank Lockwood who also designed the Covington County Courthouse, the First National Bank Building, the J. W. Shreve home, and the Laurin Avant home.

     John D. Riley was quite active in real estate development in Andalusia. Several subdivisions and one street, Riley Street, are all named after him. In the 1950s, Riley arranged to have the majestic two-story home moved back several hundred feet on the lot to make way for Andalusia’s first shopping center which he built and leased to grocery and  pharmacy businesses. That was a lucrative income for his family for many long years down the road until the building was finally sold to David Darby.

     John D. and Inez Preston Riley’s children were Inez, Peggy, and Jonnie Dee. Peggy and my mother were friends about the same age. They often double-dated with the handsome Navy pilots who would come up to Andalusia from Pensacola on the weekends during World War II to date all the “pretty Andalusia girls.”

     Mrs. Riley would always be right there at the door when their dates brought them home.  “Peggy,” she would scold. “Either you’ve been smoking or kissing some of those boys who smoke!” Peggy quickly exclaimed, “I’ve been kissing them!” Guess Peggy determined that was the best of the worst to admit!

     Faithfully issuing a word of warning to the young ladies, Mrs. Riley, a staunch Baptist and preacher’s daughter, would announce – “Girls, be sure and come home before twelve o’clock. I want to remind you that the devil walks after midnight!” They were afraid not to follow those stern instructions!

     Now, it is actually almost midnight and the devil will be making rounds, so I will once again close out this column which includes remembrances of old Andalusia that “warm” my heart when I REMEMBER WHEN.