Remember when: Many worked for preservation

Published 1:38 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

“…Lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone to where we are, where we’ve been, said we’d do it all again, remember when.”

These lyrics to this song, Remember When, written and recorded in 2003 by American country music artist, Alan Jackson, express a lot about the interest and even the passion of many who enjoy the study and preservation of local history in the communities of America. As time goes by and the years turn into eras, those of us who live in the present often think back to days gone by and wonder who, where, how, why, and when.

A popular television show on the TLC Channel is “Who Do You Think You Are?” Professional genealogists assist individuals with tracing their family heritage. The results are often life-changing, because they discover who they really are and why they are like they are. The missing gaps are filled in. is a popular internet genealogy site.

A letter addressed to the Covington Historical Society came this week from the 200 Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The Co-chair of the ABC Statewide Initiative Committee has asked the society to send representatives to Montgomery to a gathering of historical societies from each county in Alabama to discuss the part each organization can play in the upcoming 200th birthday of the State of Alabama (1819-2019). To be held at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the meeting will “open a dialogue about our fate in this new century, a century vastly different than the one that gave birth to most of our societies.”

“Many of you have expressed your concern to our steering committee over diminishing numbers and lackluster involvement in your societies. We met this week and got very honest about what we see happening to too many of our groups. We recognize that some of the functions we have served in decades past are now being served by a digitally connected world.”

“The 21st century beckons whole new groups into genealogy and history but often not into our societies. Online, they are finding friends and training – the things that once drew the rest of us to society meetings.”

“Are we going obsolete then? Has the age of historical and genealogical societies entered its twilight? Heaven forbid.”

“Without passionate local champions, who will save and make accessible the records and artifacts deteriorating and at risk of destruction in your local courthouses, city halls, church basements, school closets, household attics and garages? If we let our societies die so go our local records. So goes local history. So goes local genealogy. So goes our sense of who we are.”

“We cannot let that happen. We need champions in every county, and we believe you are the core of that ambition. You have the answers.”

I share these excerpts from this letter with you to ask for your support of the Covington Historical Society and its project, The Three Notch Museum.

Do you Remember When the old Central of Georgia Depot was in a dilapidated state needing significant repair work? “Tear it down,” they said. That was in the early 1980s.

Do you Remember When a majority of the small business establishments in downtown Andalusia had moved out to the by-pass and outer fringes of the main business district? After that happened in downtowns all over America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation started promoting the “Main Street” programs. “Design Alabama” was established by the Alabama Historical Commission. The historical society sponsored programs promoting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.

Do you Remember When the Court Square was a real eyesore, mostly asphalt paving with scattered parking meters and the street extending through the middle from East Three Notch to Church Street? An old photograph was found in an older home that was taken from the top of the First National Bank Building that showed the Public Square back in the 1920’s on a snowy day. It was a picture that gave ideas of how the square could once again look like a park again with walkways and landscaping – a design created after the courthouse in the middle of the square was torn down around 1918.

Do you Remember When the only local history that could be found was at the public library, a few old photographs that were finally turned into a slide presentation – Old Andalusia and at the City Hall on Opp Avenue where a collection of mayor portraits hung in a hallway?

Do you Remember When the Bicentennial of America was celebrated in 1976? That was the year the Covington Historical Society was established. “To preserve and publicize the history of Andalusia and Covington County” was the purpose of the CHS. The society began gathering history with enthusiastic citizens who presented one program at a time on the history of businesses, churches, schools, homes, neighborhoods, colorful characters, events, politics, communities, wars, streets, roads and bridges, clubs, railroads, dams, heroes, and many other topics relating to the area’s past. The slogan became widely used – A Proud Past, A Promising Future!

Do you Remember When we did not have history murals at the Dream Park for children to enjoy and learn from that tell the history in artwork from the Indians to the trains arriving which transportation brought much progress and prosperity?

Do you Remember When Andalusia did not have an official City Flag which design portrays the history of Andalusia from the Spanish explorers, to the Indians, to the Conecuh River and the village of Montezuma, to the Three Notch Trail, to the timber industry, to the farmers who plowed the land, and to the arrival of the trains? The historical society and the chamber of commerce historical committee jointly established a city flag which is housed at the Three Notch Museum.

Do you Remember When title to the depot property finally became a reality and the community’s citizens and civic clubs alike helped the society to clean, repair, paint, restore, and convert the C of G Depot to a local history museum? Artifacts started coming in as donations – a cotton weight, an old Alabama map, an ornery mule bit, a farmer’s planter, a World War I helmet, a grist mill corn meal bag, a courthouse spittoon, a cabinet-style radio, a one-room schoolhouse bell, a McGuffey Reader, a WWII mess kit, a farm table, an ice box, a quilt, and a corn shuck mop.

The CHS celebrated the 40th anniversary last year – 1976-2016. Much history has been preserved that might not have been had it not been for the efforts of this organization which began the process of historic preservation. Mr. Joe Wingard was the charter president. With his leadership and inspiration, he “got the ball rolling” back then, and with much appreciation, the society honored him in 2016. Also, the society was awarded a state award in 2016 by the Alabama Historical Association.

Do you Remember When numerous books on the history of the county were written over the past 40 years – “The Heritage of Covington County;” “Images of America: Andalusia, Alabama;” “Historic Andalusia Coloring Book;” “Andalusia, Alabama;” “Historic Walking Tour Through Andalusia;” “A History of East Three Notch School;” “Montezuma, Alabama – Tenants in Common;” “A History of the Horseshoe Lumber Company;” “The Three Notch Road Across Covington County;” “Burning of the Courthouses in Covington County, Alabama;” “Some Early Leaders of Covington County;” “Covington County History;” “Early History of Covington County;” “Original Land Sales and Grants in Covington County, Alabama;” “From the Halls of Montezuma;” and “Unraveling the Mysteries of the Montezuma Village in Covington County.” There are others thanks to Wyley Ward, Sidney Waits, Gus and Ruby Bryan, Paul Spears, Curtis Thomasson, and other local writers.

The society’s membership like other civic clubs has declined somewhat due mainly to death. It needs volunteers and friends of the museum even if you never attend a meeting or present a program. If you can laminate a label, design a display, replace a light bulb, paint a door, pull a weed, plant a flower, welcome a visitor, frame a picture, raise a flag, sweep a floor, tell a story, or blow dust, then you are needed at the Three Notch Museum, the source of your local history. When you are cleaning out your garage, your attic, or your closet, and you run across an old letter or a picture or a visual object that may be related to our history, you may want to consider donating it to the museum. Most of all, the society needs your ideas. The museum is brimming full and running out of space with which to work and display the treasure of items. We need your ideas and input on the future. The younger generation will one day need a sense of who we are, who they are. Bring the younger members of your family to the museum.

In the eighth grade at AHS, I Remember When my class had a teacher who grew up in Selma, an Alabama native, who gave us an assignment to write a paper, “Why Study History.” From an early age as a student, one can begin forming ideas on an important subject such as that.

As the letter from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission reads, “Every county needs history champions.” Covington County is no exception. Please visit the Three Notch Museum on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (9 a.m. – 2 pm.), or Sunday afternoons (2 p.m.- 4 p.m.). Call 222-0674 for a special tour at another time. Please support the society with your $25. annual contribution (CHS, P. O. Box 1582, Andalusia, AL. 36420).