Remember when: Miss Pinkie’s well on Central Street
Published 1:54 am Saturday, March 3, 2018
“Don’t know much about his-to-ry; don’t know much bi-o-lo-gy; don’t know much about a science book; don’t know much about the French I took; but I do know that I love you, and I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world it would be.” Sam Cooke recorded this popular song on March 2, 1959. The song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 and number 2 on the Billboard’s Hot R & B hits.
My grandson Steadman Glenn, who is a senior at AHS, recently wrote on a scholarship application, “I want to be a history teacher, because I want to touch people’s lives just like my teachers have touched mine. Teachers will always be needed in this world.”
Sidney Waits wrote in his book “From the Halls of Montezuma,” – “My first real effort to unravel some of the mysteries of our past came when I was a sophomore at AHS. Miss Grace Huff was my teacher, and she inspired us to write about our local history. I have always been intrigued by the early history of Andalusia and Covington County. It has been a challenge to find new facts about those early years. Following my retirement in 1987, I began working as a volunteer at the Three Notch Museum. With other loyal and helpful volunteers, we opened the museum to the public in May 1988. At the museum, we gather facts and items that reflect our local history. I have always been proud that I am an Andalusian from birth. I would not want to live elsewhere. My heart and soul will always be in the town that emerged from old Montezuma down on the banks of the Conecuh (River). There are many unanswered questions about our past, but perhaps we can learn more as we look to the future and this past.”
Upon reading this Foreword in his book, it occurred to me that the Three Notch Museum has been open now for thirty years. Visitors have arrived from just about every state in the union and from several foreign countries including Germany, Canada, and England to name a few.
My childhood friend Marjorie Darling Russell and I first met up with Sidney Waits out in my front yard on East Three Notch Court when we were probably 10 years old or younger. We were probably turning cartwheels or roller skating. He was out in his mother’s yard. Mrs. Nannie Belle Waits lived next door to my parents. Mr. Waits showed us some of his magician tricks including one where his thumb disappeared! We giggled and giggled. The Waits, the Hair, and the Rue families would often gather on the front porch as they dearly loved the matriarch of their family. Marge and I were friends with all of the grandchildren that showed up for Sunday dinners and other visitations to hear Mrs. Waits whose maiden name was Shaver tell stories about her growing up days in Herbert. The young daughter of my sister Sally even named her doll “Nannie Belle” after Mrs. Waits since she was so enamored with the name! I wish I could sit on Nannie Belle’s porch today and listen to her fascinating stories about her travels and her grown children.
There was a sundial in her back yard that I regularly passed walking through the yard headed for the Radcliff home which was next door to the Waits home. That sundial was surrounded by daylilies, if I remember correctly, and my neighborhood friends and I were always adjusting and turning it experimenting with the sun and the Roman numerals.
Sidney Waits who is still writing stories about old Andalusia sent me a story this week about the Bensons. I will combine this latest story with the version he wrote about in his 1991 book.
“The O. L. Benson home place was located on the corner of Central and East Three Notch Streets. From the census record, the Bensons were in this house prior to 1910. Mr. Benson (Oliver L. known as ‘Ollie’) operated an extensive hardware, furniture, and funeral home business in this area for many years. I went there with my dad to buy Union Hardware roller skates. The business was located in the two-story building behind his home place. The building was adjacent to and alongside the tracks of the old Central of Georgia depot. At one time bodies of deceased persons were embalmed in the back of the building. This was prior to the establishment of Foreman Funeral Home in the late 1930s.”
“Mrs. Benson (nee Pinkie Henderson) known affectionately as ‘Miss Pinkie’ had a well near the back portion of her house, and she was very proud of that well. Not only did it supply nice cool drinking water but also it provided water for other household needs. The well was her pride and joy.”
At that time, homes on East Three Notch Street were situated on both sides of the street reaching within one block of the Public Square. Prestwood family homes and the Prestwood Hotel were directly across the street from the Benson home back in those days.
“Many years after the death of Mr. Benson and in her later years, Mrs. Benson was approached by businessman Mr. Count Darling. As the town developed, businesses along the street began to take the place of residences. Because Mrs. Benson’s home was next to the downtown development, it became the target of new development.”
“After a short visit and brief discussion, Mr. Darling offered to buy her home place. She told Mr. Darling that she did not wish to sell her home place because a business development would destroy her nice well. With that Darling left there in disappointment since he had plans for a beautiful new Chevrolet dealership for that location. After some time, he decided to make one more effort so he obtained another appointment with Mrs. Benson.”
“This time Mr. Darling was successful. He came away with a promise that he would preserve her well and always take care of it. As we all know, Mr. Darling did build his dealership there and protected her well. During his lifetime, he would keep his fresh buttermilk and eggs purchased from farmers in this well to keep them cool.”
“Prior to the construction, he cleaned the well and did some curbing. All during construction of the new building, the well was temporarily protected. As the building progressed, he built a new masonry cover. To this date, the well is still protected with a removable cover inside the building which has been occupied for a number of years by the Taylor Parts Company.”
“The City of Andalusia is now the owner of the building which is planned to be restored soon to its original Art Deco architectural style. ‘Miss Pinkie’ would be pleased that her well is still there.”
I believe that Mr. Count Darling would likewise be pleased that his building on the main street will be preserved to serve as a museum annex and interpretive learning center which will hopefully attract tourists to our town. Can’t you just picture an antique car in the show window where we all REMEMBER WHEN the newest automobiles were once on display for passersby to dream about the possibility of being the proud owner!
Mr. Benson according to Dr. Bill Hansford in his book “Andalusia” owned and operated many businesses in Andalusia: Benson Hardware, Benson Funeral Home, Benson Foundry, Andalusia Brick Company, and Benson Insurance Company. His front page obituary was published in The Andalusia Star News and The Covington News in April 1934. Mrs. Benson’s obit appeared on the front page of a June 1961 edition of The Andalusia Star News.
Yes, according to the motto of the Covington Historical Society, “There is a history in all men’s lives” according to Shakespeare. Women, too!
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 email@example.com.