Remember when: Mrs. Guy fascinated all
Published 2:10 am Saturday, September 30, 2017
March 5, 1892 – Mr. Henry Opp, Attorney at Law, advertised in The Covington Times that he was located over C. A. O’Neal’s store. Mr. Opp was an attorney that represented the L & N Railroad in a suit against Central of Georgia. The case resolved in favor of the L & N allowing the railroad to come into South Alabama and to proceed east from Andalusia. At the Duval “Y” over in present day Opp, the railroad continued on toward Graceville and turned south at the time to Florala. (The Florala segment was removed back a few years ago.) The small community cropping up near the Duval “Y” was looking for a name. It is remembered that Mr. Opp made a fiery speech on behalf of the railroad when the first train rolled into Duval or present day Opp. Following the speech, an enthusiastic crowd suggested that they call the new settlement “Opp.”
Mr. Henry Opp was of German descent and had been born in Lowndes County, Alabama. He studied law with the imminent John D. Gardner of Troy and subsequently married Mr. Gardner’s daughter, Addie Belle. They moved to Andalusia in 1890. Henry Opp became mayor of Andalusia in 1899 and served until 1906. He died in 1921 from sepsis following an injury.
As Sidney Waits wrote in his book of sketches of early Covington County, “From the Halls of Montezuma,” he penned, “If we took a stroll down Church Street about the turn of the century (Circa 1900), we would find Mr. and Mrs. Henry Opp living in the first house on the left facing Church Street with Opp Avenue running on the east side of their house.” This is the present location of the Good Will store and the Andalusia Health and Fitness building.
Waits writes this account, “Mrs. Henry Opp was a piano teacher during this period of time. Her pupils gave a musical concert on Friday evening, May 16, 1891, at the Andalusia Academy.”
After the death of Henry Opp in 1921, his wife Addie Belle Gardner Opp, married Mr. Hill Guy in 1922 who was 19 years younger than she was. According to all accounts I have ever read including the one in Dr. William (Bill) Hansford’s book, “Andalusia,” Mrs. Guy is described as a most “unforgettable” and “fascinating” character. The Covington Historical Society has featured programs through the years about Andalusia’s “colorful” characters, and Mrs. Guy who lived to be almost 99 years old was certainly one of those. Mrs. Ray Murphy, “Win,” Murphy, another “colorful” Andalusia character in a later generation, once impersonated Mrs. Guy at an historical society program as she recognized her for all of her contributions to the social and religious life of Andalusia.
“She competed for youthfulness her entire life,” Hansford writes. “A younger man can do wonders for an older woman,” he quoted Mrs. Guy as saying!
Waits continues with one of his stories. “My memory also takes me back to another area of Andalusia – the Red Robin Miniature Golf Links. This course was located on a lot where the present Mark Saxon Wise Boy Scout Hut is located on East Three Notch Street. The golf links was a very popular place of entertainment. Mr. Guy’s man servant looked after it. The course consisted of 18 miniature holes. Mrs. Guy enjoyed playing the course many times as did other adults in the community. It was one of the earlier miniature golf courses in this area of the state, and most towns of the size of Andalusia did not have such a facility.”
Waits remembers, “We used to keep playing all the holes except the last one until we were ready to go back home, for when you sank your last ball on No. 18, it would roll through a pipe into the caddy house.”
Following the closing of the course, the Guys who lived next door in the home formerly owned by the J. T. Shreve family who moved to California, built a lovely colonial home, 2-story with columns, on the same lot. I remember the stately Guy home with a big magnolia tree in the front yard that I admired when my friends and I would walk by her home each afternoon coming from East Three Notch School. It featured a porte cochere’ on the side where her limousine-like car was often parked. Sidney Waits said that the car was a fancy brown Chrysler Air Flow.
Mrs. Guy’s chauffeur Paul McVay would drive her all around town running errands centered around helping children, providing for the underprivileged, and even delivering gifts regularly to the mothers of newborns. Mrs. Guy who loved big hats and flashy jewelry visited my mother once around 1952 and gifted her with a beautiful bracelet, brass with green stones, which I still have in my possession.
Once she visited my mother and left her mink stole behind on the living room chair. When my father got home from work (The family had one car then like all of the post World War II young couples! Well, I think we did have an army surplus jeep that we bounced around town in!), Mother drove straight to Mrs. Guy’s home to return her jacket. It was about dusk. When the butler opened the door, Mother was ushered into the dining room to speak to Mrs. Guy where the dinner table was set by a silver candelabra’s candlelight! I heard that story several times during my growing up years. It paints a picture of Mrs. Guy’s gracious lifestyle.
Mrs. Guy would tell those young mothers she visited, “Later today, I am having a party for poor children. My table is filled with cake, fruit, candy, and goodies for them all!” She was truly a servant to the young people in town. Mr. Guy tried to put her on a budget, but she would insist on having large parties with tables, chairs, playing cards, refreshments – all with the welcome mat rolled out for her invitees that she may not have even kept up with!
“She must have had a big heart indeed,” Waits remembers, “for Mrs. Guy was noted for her Christmas parties for underprivileged children, and she had a great interest in young people.”
Her chauffeur and her attendant, Queenie, would take her all about town shopping and spending money for the next event she would host.
During the Christmas season in the early 1960s, she dropped by The Taylor Shop with a Montgomery Yellow Pages in her hands. “I want to send the most expensive tie you have to every Montgomery doctor listed in this book.” Her faithful Queenie whispered to the salesman, “Just send them your $3. tie. She will never know the difference!”
The Covington Stores on the square which sold high-end merchandise and the latest fashions for women and men was one of the local stores where Mrs. Guy was a customer. Bill Hansford recalls going there as a child when his mother shopped in the store. He would often wait on a long bench with seating spaces divided by arms. He described this spot as “a fun place to sit. It was not just for children. Mrs. Hill Guy was often found sitting on the bench wearing her large hat, gloves, fine jewelry, and a fur.”
Mrs. Guy loved to dance at the Andalusia Country Club and at other parties around town until the wee hours of the morning as long as she could entice someone to dance with her. She would send neckties to the high school boys she knew would be at the party along with a note that read, “Dance with me this evening!”
Rarely did she have two matching earrings and frequently she had price tags on her garments! (I did that once lately and embarrassed myself! I thought of Mrs. Guy!)
Mrs. Guy had no local family, but her Methodist family loved her, a seat on the pew always reserved especially for her, a Methodist tradition that I hear is still ongoing. (Be careful if you are a visitor at whose pew you sit on!)
Once a deacon taking up the offering at the Sunday worship service got a big surprise. When he passed the plate down her row, Mrs. Guy who was hard of hearing asked the deacon in a loud voice, “_____________, I heard you’ve quit drinking!” The deacon just gave Mrs. Guy a big smile and nodded in agreement as everyone in the church looked his way, rolled their eyes, and commenced to whispering!
In 1965, Mrs. Guy passed away and left her property and entire estate to the Methodist Church. Some of the church ladies greeted guests and visitors at the front door of her home following her death. Some bedraggled children, barefooted and wearing worn and tattered clothes, appeared at the door saying, “We came to see Mrs. Guy.” Mrs. Mildred Johnston responded, “Mrs. Guy died today.” A little boy looked up and said, “We know. We just wanted to see her one more time.” Those children were used to coming to her house where she had picked them up in her car and surprised them with clothes she had bought for them, fed them, and entertained them. That is a sweet and touching story!
It is written and preserved in many historical accounts that the Guys as principal investors were quite influential in helping to establish the textile industry in Andalusia, the Andala and the Alatex.
Mrs. Guy’s headstone reads, “Addie Belle G. Opp Guy, March 15, 1867 – December 3, 1965.” Her resting place is beside the grave of “Henry Opp, 1859 – January 14, 1921” on Magnolia Circle in the Magnolia Cemetery behind the Covington County Courthouse. I do not know at this time where Mr. Guy, her second husband, is buried. Do you? He is not listed and indexed in the “Magnolia Cemetery” 1995 book by G. Sidney and Polly Wilder Waits. Since Mr. Guy died in 1959, perhaps he is interred in the newer Andalusia Memorial Cemetery.
A chapter in Waits’ book, “Great Women in Andalusia’s Past” includes a lengthy paragraph on Mrs. Guy. “No reflection of Andalusia’s great women would be complete without remembering Mrs. Guy. Perhaps one day we can have a special day set aside to honor Addie Belle as she so often honored all of us…It is a tribute to her memory and her record of achievement that we pause today to think about and recall the wonderful memories associated with all of the great ladies in Andalusia’s history (and of Mrs. Guy). The best man for the job is a woman!”
Thanks to Dr. Bill Hansford and Mr. G. Sidney Waits for the words and stories they have penned to help us REMEMBER WHEN.
Sue Bass Wilson is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There is a history in all men’s lives.” Women, too! That is the motto of the Covington Historical Society – from Shakespeare. You may wish to join as an active member, an inactive member, or just a friend of the museum. Send $25. to CHS, P. O. Box 1582, Andalusia, AL. 36420 along with your current e-mail address, and that will take care of your 2018 dues to help support the efforts of the society to preserve and publicize the history of Covington County.