Remember when: Sidewalk neighborhood memories
Published 1:57 am Saturday, January 20, 2018
Peggy Lee, an American jazz and popular music singer began as a vocalist on local radio singing with Benny Goodman’s band in the 1940s. She revived an 1894 song, “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard.” This song reminds me of my mother and her growing up days in an Andalusia sidewalk neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, riding around on Saturday afternoons with my mother and aunt, Marge Brunson Bass and Caroline Brunson Caton, I listened attentively to them talking about their “good old days” in Andalusia, the place my mom and aunt really loved – home.
As we rode around the court square, the talk would be about the park that used to be in the center before all of the parking meters were installed. We would ride up and down South and East Three Notch Streets, River Falls Street, South Cotton and Rankin Streets. There would be remembrances of the hat dresser who trimmed hats for the ladies. Mrs. Ward lived on the curve of River Falls Street. They would speak of the friend who played the piano like none other and who never returned home after she left for college and went to Europe with the USO to entertain the troops in World War II, Ella Reid. They would laugh about Mama’s classmate and class clown, John D. Prestwood, who answered teachers, Miss Clyde Simmons and Mr. James Arthur Wilson, the same way when he was asked a question – “I just don’t believe I know that one.” He attended his senior year more than once! He actually later became very successful in Birmingham. As we cruised down Rankin Street, they always pointed out the house where another classmate lived who went off to the city and became a famous newspaper cartoonist, Charles Brooks. My aunt would almost cry when we rode by the house of her friend who died in a house fire. All I remember is the name Josie. They spoke of fashionable parties; of the “war” (WWII) and those times; of the “Flood of ’29” when their maternal grandparents moved over from Coffee County after being rescued by boat from the second floor of the Elba courthouse when the Pea River rose; of going to the drug store on the square after school and jitterbugging in the back room; of swimming in the freezing waters at Salter’s Pool. My mother said that cold water was why she never learned to swim!
The sisters recalled the old boyfriends and their cars; of school days and romances and elopements; of riding the train to visit relatives in Columbus, Georgia or to Montgomery traveling back to Huntingdon College on Sunday afternoons. “Dad” Brunson would have to drive Mama to Greenville to board the train. Getting the newly invented telephones in their home brought on lots of laughs when they thought of their brother Charlie wiring an extension under the house and listening in when they talked with boyfriends. He always knew when they were going to have a date that night!
They discussed the family’s gathering around and listening to musical entertainment from Radio City Music Hall as well as world news on the radio after supper at night; of childhood illnesses and medicines like Scarlet Fever, blood poisoning, and castor oil; of getting baptized at the old First Baptist Church behind the courthouse; of strings of relatives visiting in the summer time for days on end; of their paternal grandparents’ downtown hotel where their father had been reared with eleven other siblings; of their parents’ downtown bakery that operated for 45 years where bread was first baked in brick ovens and where if you told customers that they offered apple, peach, cherry pies, then the customer might reply, “Oh, I wanted a blackberry pie today!” They remembered the excitement of when the first bread slicing machine was installed and that their dad gave away a lot of bakery items to the needy during the Depression!
The girls remembered the neighbor’s parrot that sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and when the parrot mimicked their mother calling out the back door at dusk, “Marjorie, Caroline, come home.” Especially memorable was the preacher’s saying “holy macaroni” instead of “holy matrimony” at eventful wedding services. They talked of corsets of their aunts and corsages they have received which were pressed in keepsake scrapbooks; and of eating fried chickens whose necks had been wrung in the back yard chicken coop!
Being the oldest granddaughter in the Brunson family, baby boomer born in 1947, I suppose I heard more tidbits of family history than the two sisters and brother that followed me. I was certainly interested, entertained, and receptive if not enthralled to say the least! Listening to a good story is still exciting today. I would love for someone to read a Golden Book to me every night at bedtime as my mother did!
Being reared first on Doyle Street then on East Three Notch Street, my earliest neighborhood friends and classmates were daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons of Andalusia furniture store owners, car dealers, hardware store owners, teachers, engineers, attorneys, main street grocers, bottling company owners, Alatex employees, building supply owners, salesmen, educators, dentists, physicians, and other professions and occupations that kept the cash registers jingling in our hometown banks, pockets, and purses!
Never did I know that my great interest would be studying and reminiscing about the old buildings and the old businesses as well as memorializing the people and personalities who worked to build up our city contributing their hearts and souls to earn a living, support their families, and educate their children as well as they knew how to.
Unsure of what I would write about this week, I remembered when I wrote of my mother and aunt in the Foreword of my “Historical Riding Tour Through Andalusia, Alabama” and thought it might be good to expound on the introduction to the riding tour booklet which story began on what was once called the “Bee Line Highway” or Devereux Hill which used to be a lot steeper according to the old timers I have interviewed. That hill which led settlers up to higher ground in the 1840s from Montezuma to the New Site is still making history as it has this chilly week with automobiles sliding on black ice, getting stuck in the snow, and having to be towed in the winter event of 2018!
Thanks to all of you Facebook friends who send their memories to me of days gone by. I will include these in upcoming articles.
Ronnie Kilgore has asked me to announce that his mother, Lucy Kilgore, will turn 100 years old January 28. On that Sunday from 2-4:00 there will be a meet and greet birthday party held at the River Falls Baptist Church. “Miss” Lucy has sewn more yards of thread in her day than anyone I know. She created Sub-Deb and prom dresses, altered cheerleader uniforms, and sewed dresses from patterns for many a lady in Covington County through the years, 3 generations of my family for sure! She is a master seamstress and designer extraordinaire! Come and honor her milestone on the 28th!
Sue Bass Wilson (AHS Class of ’65) is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.