Remember When: The Andalusia Tale of 1917

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2018

Do you REMEMBER WHEN you first heard the names Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton Tail, and Peter? Yes, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” was read to children far and wide at bedtime by many mothers back in my day. Beatrix Potter was the English author of this story published in 1902 and of 23 children’s tales in all. After the success of many of her stories, she purchased Hill Top Farm in Sawrey, a village in the Lake District of England. She became a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep, a prosperous farmer, and illustrator of landscape, flora, and fauna which she closely observed.

After her death in 1943 at age 77, Potter’s estate was left to the National Trust. Her books continue to sell throughout the world in many languages with her stories retold in song, film, ballet, and animation. Potter is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park.

It was my privilege to visit this property with a tour group from Samford University and to walk in “Mr. McGregor’s garden” beside Potter’s cottage. Couldn’t wait to bring back the little books I bought in the gift shop to my grandchildren!

From the April 13, 1917 edition of The Andalusia Star that was housed in the Three Notch Museum and once delivered to C. M. Wiggins on Baisden Street. I read, “Don’t get the idea in your head that someone else will raise the vegetables that you will require for your food. Plant a garden and raise them yourself!”

Other news in this edition was typical of the times – “War is a terrible thing. Our nation is at war (World War I). Our soldiers and our civilian population must be fed. We can help do this by feeding ourselves. There are a number of families in this county who have not yet planted a garden. You should not let another week pass without doing so.”

“The girls’ Tomato Club and the boys’ Pig Club have been organized at the Covington County High School by Professor Williams. The Tomato Club has 32 members, all of whom are very enthusiastic over the work and are anxious to do their part in reducing the high cost of living. We appeal to the fathers and mothers to assist them by providing the necessary plot of ground and fertilizer. A canning outfit will be purchased and when the tomatoes are ripe, the club members will meet at the school to do the canning work together.”

“The plan for the boys’ Pig Club is that each boy shall buy a pure bred pig and plant an acre in corn and peanuts. A pig show will be held next fall and prizes awarded for the best pigs. The man with plenty of hogs to sell next fall will be independent, and the man without hogs will be a man without meat for his table. Boys, let’s get in the game! It is our duty as patriotic citizens to see to it that Covington County feed herself at least. Let’s get busy and do it! Prizes will be given for the best showing in both Tomato and Pig Clubs.”

The Red Level, Route 6, news reports, “The people in this community are getting ready for the planting.” Beda news reads, “Farmers in this community are very busy planting this week.” Andalusia, Route F, columnist writes, “Farmers of this section are busy planting corn and beans.” The Opp reporter pens, “The farmers are about through planting in this community.” The Red Level, Route 2, reporter writes, “We have had some cold weather on this route. Everybody seems to be busy planting penders and beans. (Wyley Ward informed me that “penders” are “peanuts.” They were also called “ground peas” and even “goobers” back then!)The egg hunt at Mrs. Jack Chessers was largely attended and enjoyed by all.”

Andalusia, Route C, reports, “After Sunday School last Sunday, a short Easter program was carried out by the little folks. Some eggs had been hidden in the woods nearby and all marched out and enjoyed an egg hunt. It was enjoyed by all.”

NO GLOOM IN ANDALUSIA – Under the caption, ‘Andalusia, The City of Big Fires,’ The Tuscaloosa News says: Associated Press dispatches today tell of another big fire at Andalusia. This time, it is the magnificent new Opera House costing $36,000. and many other stores. A few weeks ago it was the 3-story Masonic Temple, law offices, and the city’s big picture theatre.”

“Previous to that, it was the big plant of the Sessoms Wholesale Grocery Co. bringing a loss of $75,000. A few months before that it was the great plant of the Southern Cotton Oil Co. Our sympathies go out to Andalusia – sorely tried by fires, cyclones, and floods.”

Star-News Editor Oscar Duggar reports, “Tuscaloosa Editor Doty (formerly The Andalusia Star editor) paints a rather gloomy picture of our town. If he will make some investigation, however, he will find that Andalusia regardless of any fire, flood, or cyclone is in no sense an object of pity or commiseration. “

“True, we have had some fires. The Sessoms Grocery Co. had a fire last year in which their frame warehouses were destroyed, but this company has already rebuilt increasing their warehouse space and their mill capacity more than 300 per cent. Every one of the frame structures were replaced with brick. They now have 5 acres of warehouse space and before this fire, they had one acre. Another fact about this establishment is they have now installed automatic sprinklers and all modern fire extinguishing apparatus.”

“The Cotton Oil Mill lost an old building and old machinery. When the new building is completed in the next few weeks, they will have a concrete building and new equipment to take the frame structure’s place.”

“As to the Masonic Temple, while its loss is much regretted, we are glad to report that the Board of Revenue has purchased the site on which the building stood and this will be added to the grounds around the new courthouse and square. There is a plan on foot to have all the local lodges unite with the Masons and businessmen of the town to build a modern, up-to-date office building for Andalusia.”

Andalusia is fully alive to her needs in the way of a more adequate fire protection, and the city council, three months ago, placed an order for one of the most modern fire engines.”

Andalusia is neither discouraged nor depressed. Her two big banks show an increase in deposits each quarter for the past year of more than $100,000. Business is increasing at a phenomenal rate. We are three miles from any river and have not had a flood since the general deluge referred to in the book of Genesis. As to the cyclones, the Ruler of the winds has been good to us, for our city has never suffered serious damage from the storm. Property values are high here as Editor Doty will testify. For his own bungalow (where he previously resided prior to his move – the stone house now occupied by Dr. Reid Kerr, I might add) which is far removed from the business section of the town is advertised at $12,000. No, there is no gloom in Andalusia!”

“She is marching in solid phalanx toward the goal of her future greatness. She will encounter obstacles and have reverses, occasionally, no doubt, but reverses will neither revert her in her course nor diminish the ardor of her businessmen. For we all have faith in our growing city, because she is building on a sure foundation.

Gardens and food certainly seem to be the theme of this Semi-Weekly newspaper printed over 100 years ago. “The citizens of Buck Creek, Red Level, Pigeon Creek, and adjoining communities are requested to meet at Buck Creek Church Saturday April 28, 9:30 a. m. to discuss the shortage of food supplies in our families. We are not crying ‘Wolf,’ but it’s time to consider this question right now. We invite a representative from the capital city, Andalusia. The editor of The Star is especially invited.”

“The Chero Cola Bottling Company ordered a (train) car load of bottles by wire Wednesday, and the bottles left the factory Thursday for Andalusia. Even the manufacturers who make those bottles have the Chero Cola spirit of doing things promptly. Every lover of the drink in this territory will be glad to know there will be no shortage of this popular beverage on account of the recent building fire in the city. The new brick edifice replacing the concrete building will be occupied by Chero Cola and P. B. Chewning’s Tin Shop.”

“Delicious and Refreshing Coca Cola” bottled by Coca Cola Bottling Company, 5 cents a bottle, seemed to be in competition with Chero Cola at this time in history. Both businesses have large block ads in the April 1917 edition of the newspaper.

“Play Safe – Drink Chero Cola in a bottle through a straw. Sold everywhere in sealed sanitary bottles – dust proof and germ free! There’s none so good – 5 cents.”

I don’t know if the Chero Cola Company is still in business. Do you? Coca Cola surely is in business all over the world thanks to the Candlers of Atlanta and the Bellingraths of Mobile who owned franchises in Andalusia and other Alabama towns. Back to Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail who got to eat their bread and milk with blackberries for supper while Peter Rabbit had a dose of chamomile tea. I’ll bet Peter Rabbit would rather have had a Coke! I REMEMBER WHEN I had my first taste of Coke as a child playing out in the back yard. My mother punched holes in the caps of the Coke bottles with an ice pick for us neighborhood children on Doyle Street and McRainey Loop. When they sizzled, it was the “Real Thing!”

I wonder if those glass bottles had ANDALUSIA stamped on the bottom. Some of them are on display in the bottle collection at Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street. Check it out one day and visit your local history museum! In the meantime, Peter Rabbit, watch out for Mr. McGregor!


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