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Remember when: Memories along Three Notch

“Along the Three Notch” is the name of a series of newsletters published by Sidney and Polly Waits from about 1999 to 2003. The stories included “sketches of Covington County and Andalusia, Alabama history.” An annual subscription would cost a reader $10. Many interesting tales of days gone by were told. The Waits couple did a lot of research consulting with their friends and neighbors who grew up in and around East Three Notch Street during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Mr. G. Sidney Waits who is my mentor and consultant when it comes to anything historical around these parts does not mind my quoting him so I will relate some excerpts from their “Along the Three Notch.”

WRECKS ALONG THE THREE NOTCH – Our house where we lived is located on the big curve between Stanley Street and Sanford Road. We have always called it the ‘Lorraine Curve,’ because most of the wrecks wound up in the E. D. Lorraine front yard. Only in later years have traffic control signals been installed at the Sanford Road intersection and also at the Stanley Street intersection. These traffic signals have sufficiently ‘slowed’ the traffic and eliminated many of the wrecks.”

Before the traffic signals, we experienced lots of wrecks. I recall one involving a Model A Ford that did not make it around the curve. It sailed off into the Lorraine front yard and hit one of the small oak trees. The car actually looked as though it tried to climb the oak as the front end was tilted up the trunk of the tree at about a forty-five degree angle. The driver was definitely ‘under the influence’ as he got out and staggered around in a dazed condition. He was frantically searching for his false teeth. It was dark so the search resumed the next morning. Luckily, the teeth were found in a bush some 30 feet from the car.”

The following boys are modeling their new Mohawk haircuts. From left to right (front row) – William Shreve, Bond O’Neal, Bill Eaton, and Jeff O’Neal. Back row – Bill Collins, Lee Chapman, Bob Meredith, and Joe Lewis.
Courtesy photos

“Once a trailer load full of frozen chickens out of Atlanta turned over in the next door neighbor’s yard (the Radcliff yard formerly the Count Darling home). The contents of the trailer spilled out into the street and yards. Everyone around the area had plenty of chicken to eat for several days!”

“We picked peanuts up after one wreck on the curve. Another big trailer load spilled out, and most of the peanuts were salvaged, but there were lots left for those that were willing to pick them up. We also had the opportunity to pick cotton after a truck load of seed cotton spilled in a wreck going around the curve!”

I will add a story or two from my memory of wrecks there on the curve since my family, the Basses, lived next door to the Waits. One night we heard a loud noise. Daddy who was sitting on our side porch looked out the front window and said it looked like a rolling ball of fire. He ran out on the front porch then back inside where he phoned the police. “Come quick,” he shouted. “There’s been a wreck on the Lorraine curve! The driver looks like he is drunk, and he is wandering away!” It seemed like forever when we finally heard the siren and saw the police drive up. Most of the officers were too young to know exactly where the Lorraine curve was located. Guess they finally figured it out after Daddy urgently called back a second time! By then, the driver had crossed the street headed in the direction of the bus station, but he was quickly spotted. It was just another interesting Saturday night.

Just recently, we can recall an automobile not making the curve, and it plowing through the yard and hitting the stone column and front porch of the house. Not too long ago, a garbage or trash truck turned over on the curve in the middle of the day spilling garbage all over the front yard of the former Lorraine property. I notice that there is still not a reflector or arrow signaling the curve in case an out-of-towner unfamiliar needs to be warned especially if they drive Three Notch at night. Most drivers just take a chance as they whiz around the curve!

Waits recalls another incident he calls a “wreck of interest!” “This particular wreck happened on Sanford Road near the Oscar Hipp and Sol Tisdale residences. One of the National Biscuit (Nabisco) trucks side-swiped a utility pole ripping off the side of the cookie truck spilling cookies alongside the street. This driver was ‘under’ too and kept driving through town dropping cookies along the way. He finally stopped when Church Street ended at the Salter Pool gate. Those us that lived in the area took our big red wagons and collected as many cookies as we could load on our wagons. We all had good assortments but for the next week a great deal of trading and bartering took place as we tried to swap a box of chocolate cookies for some of the vanilla ones, or maybe the Fig Newtons!”

For those of you younger people or even newcomers who do not know Mr. Sidney Waits, it is not too late to visit him and get to hear some of his stories. He has written more memories of his growing up years than anyone I know. With the humorous twists he puts on them, they never cease to be entertaining and enjoyable.

This past week, our family hosted a graduation party for our grandson Steadman Glenn. He showed up with a Mohawk haircut to celebrate the approaching AHS graduation event as well as an upcoming playoff baseball game as a symbol of unity since he is the baseball team manager. Well, students of every era have done similar stunts as the Waits wrote about in their newsletter.

“The above photo (Circa late 1950s) was brought to Henry Wiggins at his South Cotton Street Barber Shop. The following boys are modeling their new Mohawk haircuts. From left to right (front row) – William Shreve, Bond O’Neal, Bill Eaton, and Jeff O’Neal. Back row – Bill Collins, Lee Chapman, Bob Meredith, and Joe Lewis. Understand Principal James Arthur Wilson was concerned that these hair styles would upset other classmates. He asked the group to get the rest of the hair cut away. Wonder how they got the ‘Dateless Eight’ name?”

In keeping with May graduations upon us, this article appeared in the old Andalusia Star, Sept. 25, 1941. “SENIOR CLASS (1942) VISITS MONTEZUMA – On Friday morning of last week, the entire senior government class visited the site of old Montezuma near the present Gantt’s Shack. This excursion was in connection with the large amount of research done by the government classes in regard to the history of Andalusia. Teacher Miss Grace Huff and Judge R. H. Jones accompanied the class. Judge Jones who is very much interested in the history of Covington County was able to give much information about Montezuma, the first site of the county seat.”

“In the course of nearly one hundred years, all traces of the old town, the one-mile racetrack, and the two ferry landings have been fairly obliterated. However, after searching for a while, some of the boys found the remains of what was probably one of the ferry landings.”

“Each student was asked to take notes and write a theme on this excursion. Due to the fact that there is much dispute about the date of the centennial of the founding of Andalusia where it is now, several enthusiasts are dusting off old records. This work will continue for several weeks more.” (Little did one of those students (Sidney Waits) know in 1941 that his work on the history of Andalusia would go on for a lifetime! His love for history began in high school as a student and staff member of the Andy Hi-Lite!)

From the Covington News of Sept. 18, 1930, the Waits quote the editor, “ANDALUSIA IN 1880 – A picturesque description of Andalusia as it was a half a century ago is given in the news article: In the center of the square there was a little hut used for a courthouse. Around the square there were several bar rooms supplying any quantity of pure whiskey at cheap prices. Probably within a radius of one mile from the square, a dozen families resided. The square was covered with weeds as high as a man’s head, fully matured and taking on the golden glory of Autumn. No noise broke the stillness save an occasional whoop from an inebriate or the poop of a teamster’s whip or the hoot of the owls at night.”

From the Andalusia Star 1920 – “THE VERY FIRST COUNTY FAIR The Covington County Fair is now a matter of history. After a week of ideal weather which enabled thirty thousand visitors to enter the gates and view the splendid exhibits, witness the attractions and mix and mingle with friends, the curtain was rung down at an early house Saturday night on one of the best county fairs ever pulled off in a southern state.”

“Much credit is due Mr. O. L. Benson who had charge of the construction work, for the splendid arrangement of the exhibition buildings, and for the superb race track. Col. G. O. Waits and Secretary (John) Scherf are each entitled to a full mead of praise for the attractions which were secured for the big event. Mayor Trammel Henderson and the city council deserve a word of commendation for the manner in which order was observed in the handling of the vast throngs and in keeping the streets and sidewalks open for traffic. In fact every one connected with the fair and every citizen of Andalusia so far as we observed made it a point during the week to see to it that the visitors carried away with them a good impression of Andalusia.”

“The (horse) races were an excellent feature of the fair, perhaps the strongest drawing card. The community exhibits evoked favorable comments. The livestock was a delight to every member of the association as were the poultry exhibits. The woman’s building was under the supervision of Mrs. Oscar Duggar – the needlework, culinary, fancy work and curios were the marvel of all who saw them.”

“The Midway claimed the attention of everyone particularly in the evening. The free acts including the aeroplane flights, the musical numbers, and the acrobatic stunts along with the immense fireworks were features that would have done credit to the state fair. The Star is highly pleased with the Big Fair, and we congratulate the management on the success achieved the first year. We shall look forward to the 1921 fair with assurance that even greater things are in store for the people of Covington County both in the way of agricultural and household exhibits as well as future attractions.”

In the last stages of writing this column, the loss of a landmark occurred through fire today. An almost 100-year-old structure on Through Street burned to the ground. Almost no one living remembers when the Andalusia Armory was headquartered there. The Three Notch Museum has a picture in their files of the interior of that building which shows the large room decorated up possibly for a dance. The large wood-beamed ceiling was a masterpiece. Over at the Covington County Mapping and Appraisal office on Hillcrest Drive, the old property record card (PRC) was located thanks to Jackie Williams. This archival PRC lists the date of construction as 1925. After the new armory referred to as the National Guard Armory was built on Prestwood Bridge Road, the old solid and stately building was used mostly for construction and building supply purposes by Southern Craftsman Furniture and the Banks family, Jack Jay, and later the Pollock family in their plumbing supply business. Mike Noel is the current owner.

The Fairground which site was just across the street in the land behind the present Catholic Church ended up being divided into lots at some point in time and was named the “Fairground Subdivision.” The old Armory building that burned is in the Fairground Subdivision, Lots 5, 6, & portion of Lot 7, Blk. A.

It is sad to me that our town history just seems to pass us by. So little of it is known especially by the younger generations – where we’ve been, what has happened in a particular location of town, who made it happen. Somebody and someone before us made Andalusia what it is today so there is a lot to be mindful of. I just searched to find this old postcard of the entrance to the first Covington County Fairgrounds that was directly across the street from the burned building. Thanks to those who back in a time long ago exhibited the civic spirit to help citizens enjoy life then and now.

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 suebwilson47@gmail.com.