Remember when: Post-war prosperity here in 1954

Published 12:20 am Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thanks to one of our readers who said she really enjoyed my columns about the 1950s. So there, I headed to The Andalusia StarNews archives and found the bound newspapers from 1954.

I could not be more delighted than to check the Internet for “Song Hits of 1954” and find perhaps one of my favorite Doris Day songs, “Secret Love” from the musical “Calamity Jane.” If a really talented singer participant going out for Distinguished Young Woman will sing their 90 seconds of this number, and will end especially with the last part, she could be an impressive winner. Do they write songs like this anymore? It is said that when Doris Day recorded this in the studio, there was only one take! The engineer said, “We don’t need you to do it again! That was perfect!”

“Once I had a secret love…Now I shout it from the highest hills, Even told the golden daffodils, At last my heart’s an open door, And my secret love’s no secret anymore.”

Did I mention that my mother could sing just like Doris Day? She had many outfits and hats that resembled Doris Day’s movie wardrobe! We had a collection of her 45 rpm records and albums and sang loudly and played them on the stereo as soon as Daddy went back to work after lunch! “Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be….”

“The New Year was ushered in Thursday night with a dinner dance at the Country Club. On the stroke of midnight, Ole Father Time and Baby New Year in the persons of “Red” Bregan and Earl Dapp entered the ballroom and paraded through the throng of dancers. About 70 couples were present to ring out the old and ring in the New Year!”

Here is a typical newspaper ad of the 1950s“Savings Galore in ’54 at Thrifty Stores.”

Bank deposits were on the rise in Covington County last year in 1953. Prosperity is here. You don’t have to rely on statistics to establish that. Just look at the new autos!”

At least five car dealerships were advertising in January 1954 in The Andalusia Star-NewsJ. M. Merrill Motors, Count Darling Co., Andalusia Motor Co., M. L. Moore Motors, Jackson Pontiac Co., and Red Bregan Buick Co.

Post World War II building was swinging too – “Make Your Home Your Castle – Waller Construction Co.”

“Receipts of the Andalusia Post Office set a new record for the past year with nearly 10 per cent higher than the year before.”

“Now playing at your theatres the Martin, the Ritz, and the Fendley Drive In – Dedicated to Community Service.”

Do you remember when the large posters in wooden frames of the current playing movies were displayed for passers-by on East Three Notch Street adjacent to the bus station – almost on the curve? I remember when the man came around weekly to change out the advertising posters. Chicken wire held them in place. I saw him often since we lived across the street, and my friends and I would frequent the Wilson Bus Stop and Grocery Store to buy banana popsicles and walk right by the signs. Back then we referred to the movies as the picture show! I have seen some of those billboard-type posters on Antiques Road Show that have a pretty good monetary value. They were works of art! Wish I had the one on “Ben Hur” or “Pillow Talk.”

“See the Powerful Golden Jubilee Ford TractorCotton Tractor Co. – Just outside the city limits – Florala Highway.”

Benny Gatlin, former policeman and WWII veteran returned to Andalusia as a highway patrolman. Gatlin was in the infantry in the Normandy invasion in France, Germany, and Italy.”

Arthur Wallace thanked the members for their confidence in electing him the new president of the Kiwanis Club for 1954.” The only club member still living in 2017 named in the news article is Darwin Pippin. He is a very young 90 something!

Silver bigger than Dimes is going to have to be put in the March of Dimes to meet the demand to ‘Help Prevent Polio.’

Only you can help – The fight against polio is everyone’s. Join the March of Dimes!”

Yes, I remember the polio scare. In the summertime, all of the children in the neighborhood families had to go inside in the early afternoon from playing in the yard, lie down, and take about an hour nap with big fans blowing! The windows were open, of course. That was before the days of air conditioning. Also, we had to take several dreaded rounds of polio shots at the schoolhouse!

“Portraits Keep Your Family Young – Randolph Watson Photographer.” I have some of those photographs in my baby book – one in my stroller, one lying on the bed on my stomach at about six months of age looking up at the photographer, and one in my pinafore with big tears in my eyes! I’ll bet you have some of those, too, especially if you are a Baby Boomer!

Jack Studstill, accountant in the Alatex offices, had a narrow brush with serious injury when he tried to halt his run-away car late Sunday afternoon at the Alatex gate. He had been supervising out-of-town maintenance men working on bookkeeping machinery at the Alatex plant.”

‘Big Jim’ Folsom (James E.) has announced key plans on which he will again seek election for the governorship from his home in Cullman.”

What was that song his band combo would play when he came to the towns stumping on the courthouse steps? Was it the “Alabama Jubilee?” “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here…” I don’t remember those days of politics in the 1950s, but I remember hearing about it!

“Safety has the ‘right-of-way’ on the Central of Georgia.” Passengers – soldiers, salesmen, and others, were traveling in and out of Andalusia on the C & G and the L & N. A train ride to Atlanta to visit my paternal grandmother was my one and only ride on a train at the age of 12. Going to Atlanta, passengers had to board the train in Greenville. I don’t remember being a bit afraid!

Harmony Cemetery is being enlarged and improved by clearing and grading parts of the graveyard. Forest Easley, District Commissioner, has generously allowed the use of road machinery in the work.”

“Autos piled up Saturday night on South Three-Notch Hill near Simmons Street.”

“The 2nd annual show of the Andalusia Men’s Camellia Club will be held Sunday, January 31, at the Scherf Memorial Building. Vice-president W. G. King will be in charge of the show arrangements. Dr. King said every flower grower was urged to sponsor entries. Club members as well as the general public are invited to show blooms. Prizes will be awarded outstanding exhibits. The show (last year) in 1953 had 3,000 blooms entered.”

Hmm, what about giving some serious thought to bringing back that tradition – an Andalusia Camellia Show, perfect idea for an event during the upcoming 2018 Alabama Bicentennial Celebration. I’ll bet that Dr. Bill King might even agree to be in charge like his dad was! If you are not a member of the American Camellia Society, then join. The quarterly color magazines are worth the $25. annual dues! I am in love with the Pink Perfection!

It is noted that the society headquartered in Georgia states that there are over 20,000 varieties of Camellias, Alabama’s State Flower. We surely must have nearly that many here in Andalusia – white, pink, purple, red, variegated. Back in the 1950s, there were a group of men (some women, too) whose hobby was growing and grafting Camellias. As you ride through the town neighborhoods from about September through February, you will still see the fruits of their labor in the many yards. It is so pleasing to see the fall and winter flowering shrubs. They are properly groomed by allowing the myriad of blooms on the rounded bushes to grow from the ground to the peak and not ‘leggy’ from overgrowth and neglect from pruning.

Mrs. John W. Tisdale entertained with a lovely bridge party. A striking arrangement of Professor Sargent Camellias was used on the mantel in the living room. Cokes were served when the guests arrived. At the conclusion of the game, the hostess served ice box pie, buttered pecans, and coffee. High score went to Mrs. Tom Head who was given a pair of hose. Mrs. William Wadsworth and Mrs. Fay Caton were given white linen handkerchiefs. The guest list included Miss Sophie Tisdale, Mrs. Swinson Anderson, Mrs. Turner Johnson, Mrs. Tom Head, Mrs. Broughton Tisdale, Mrs. Tisdale Brooks, Mrs. James Malon, Mrs. Ed Dannelly, Mrs. Fay Caton, Mrs. Charlie Bass, Mrs. Bill Wadsworth, and Mrs. Fred Taylor.”

“The Andalusia Kiwanis Club will sponsor an All-Star Hill-Billy Jamboree at the East Three-Notch School on Saturday night February 13.”

“The annual Sweetheart Banquet for young people will be held in the Scherf Memorial Hall on February 12 at 7 p. m.”

“On Thursday night, father of the mayor, Tracy Wilder, and former city councilman, Mr. A. C. Wilder, Sr., 80-year old Andalusian, was unhurt in an 18-foot fall into a well while directing the fighting of grass fires on realty across from the Frank Buck home on Sanford Road. He remained shoulder deep in the cold waters for nearly 30 minutes but was able to finally climb from the water hole without assistance on a fire ladder with a chain wrapped around his waist.”

“Two fire fighters busy fire-fighting had not missed the elder Mr. Wilder when he fell into the well, but two youths attracted by the fire scene happened by the well and by mere chance looked in. The two youths were Ab Powell III and Bob Taylor, Jr. ‘Little Ab’ came up with the question of the year, ‘Mr. Wilder, what are you doing down there?’ Mr. Wilder was taken home, got a warm bath, but only at the insistence of his wife was a physician called who found him in good condition. He remained in bed over the weekend and returned to his desk at the A. C. Wilder Land Co. on Monday morning!”

The Three Notch Museum recently acquired the business sign, A. C. Wilder Land Co., donated by Tracy Wilder’s son-in-law, Bill Law. It is on display along with some other exhibits of signs of past businesses in the county including J. W. Shreve Feed and Seed and Horse Shoe Lumber Co. The Covington Historical Society whose purpose is to preserve and publicize the history of Covington County welcomes donations of other business signs that might be in your garage or attic. Then visitors to the museum will be able to say, “Oh, I REMEMBER WHEN that business was on or just off the square. My granddaddy used to work there! I hadn’t thought of that in years!”


Sue Bass Wilson is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at