Remember When: The Dear Hearts and Gentle People of Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2018


     “I love those Dear Hearts and Gentle People who live in my hometown” –  The song published in 1949 and recorded by Dinah Shore and Bing Crosby fits like a glove in the reporting of events and happenings in Andalusia that appear in The Andalusia Star News in that same year. I continue to be amazed at the enthusiasm of the energetic and industrious young men and women who came back from World War II or who moved to Andalusia at that time. So many were involved in starting up new businesses, in becoming involved in civic club projects, in worshipping in the vast array of Christian churches, and in participating in all of the social activities a small town offered. Their visions to establish home and hearth and the lasting traditions they set helped to build up this fine town, the “heart of South Alabama.”

     July 21, 1949 – “The formal opening of the Martin Theatre chain’s new 970-seat Ritz Theatre on South Cotton Street will be staged on Friday with the showing of the feature film, ‘Sixteen Fathoms Deep.’ Final touches on the new building erected at a cost of $150,000. are being made prior to the opening. The new Ritz is being established on the part of the property that was formerly the City (Brunson) Hotel.”

     “A green velvet curtain has been installed on the stage. (reminiscent of ‘Gone With the Wind’ maybe?)  The theatre is completely fire-proofed with an automatic sprinkler system. The building which measures 45 X 165 will be cooled with a washed air conditioning system.”

     “The lobby has a fountainette where Nehi products, ice cream, and popcorn will be sold. A candy bar is conveniently placed for the pleasure of patrons. A special bubbler has been installed at a 3-foot level so the ‘half-pints’ can get ice water on their own. It will not be necessary for a parent or grown-up brother or sister to accompany the kiddie for ice water.”

     July 28, 1949 – “Plans for the $10,000. field house at the new Andalusia City Airport have been placed in the hands of Carl Cooper, Montgomery architect, for drawings. City Councilman, Charlie Bass, took the plans to Montgomery Monday and held a conference with Mr. Cooper. Dedication of the airport will be an event of the early fall after the field house is completed.”

     July 21, 1949 – “A Domino Tournament is scheduled at the Post Home of the American Legion on Friday, July 22, at 7:30 p. m. All Legionnaires are urged to attend and participate. There will be prizes for winning teams according to J. T. Raley, Chairman of the Tournament Committee. A tournament for the public will be held at a later date this summer.”

     “The 25th anniversary of the J. J. Moates Auto Company will be marked on Monday, August 1, with a special day at which patrons and customers will be provided gift packages. The firm founded in 1921 by the late J. J. Moates is now owned and operated by his two sons, Speller and J. T. (Jake) Moates.”

     “One of the oldest and most popular garages and service stations in Covington County, the J. J. Moates Auto Company, offers a varied supply of vehicular maintenance services, auto parts, radios, and electrical home appliances. It is situated just across the street from the Post Office on South Three Notch Street. (It was often referred to as Moates Garage.)”

     Be sure and check out the Speller Moates radio collection when you visit the Three Notch Museum on Historic Central Street. It is open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9:00 – 2:00. Admission cost is free.

     May 26, 1949 – “NEW $32,000. CHURCH STREET SWIMMING POOL OPENS THURSDAYYoo-hoo, Skinny and Fatso, too…It’s the good word about swimming in the new Church Street pool. The Recreation Board is going to be compelled to make a nominal charge for admission to the pool. But for kids who have no dimes to spare in order to enjoy a cool dip as the weather warms, there are to be no worries. Dimes are going to be provided for admission of these children through civic clubs. That pool is being constructed for recreational purposes and the big-heartedness of the civic club members is going to make possible swimming for all. (That’s what I’m talkin’ about!)”

     “Rules formulated by the Recreation Committee will be enforced. No more than one individual will be allowed on the diving board at one time. There will be no smoking by swimmers within the fenced sector. All bathers will be required to take a shower before entering the pool. Horseplay within the fenced area of the pool is outlawed.”

     Mrs. James Green has been designated director of the pool. Lifeguards are Noble Diehl, Raley Thornley, and John C. Wright. Barbara Ann McCommons and Annie Ruth Kirby will help with ticket sales. Admission is 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.”

     July 28, 1949 – “Dr. C. D. McLeod, County Health officer, reports that a middle-aged resident of near Wing is in a critical condition from a siege of typhoid fever. It is the opinion of health officials that he had been drinking contaminated branch water. Any individual can receive typhoid shots free at the county health office. Covington County is free of both polio and diphtheria so far this year.”

     Do any of you who were around in the early 1960s remember having to go to the health department to get a typhoid shot before you could swim at the City Pool?  I do. That same City Pool, now gone, was the place that a lot of teenagers who worked for the Summer Recreation Department under the direction of AHS teachers, Merilyn Jones and Patricia Seymour, in the early to mid 1960s held their first jobs – teaching swimming lessons. I was one of those students and still remember the strong scent of chlorine.  It turned some swimmers’ hair green! 

     WOOD AMUSEMENT COMPANY – Summer Record Sale – 10 assorted records – 98 cents – Hillbilly – Popular – Sacred – Blues – InstrumentalSouth Cotton Street.”

     INVEST IN REST – Better Bedding Since 1918Andalusia Mattress Company

     ORANGE CRUSH BOTTLING COMPANY – River Falls Street – Phone 990-J”

     BUY NOW BIRTHDAY PARTY – Our celebration of Hudson’s 40th Anniversary Year – Phone 298 – Church Street”

     Miss Flora Underwood – Society Editor – Phone 287-J”

     COME TO THE ‘ELECTRIC FAIR’ – First in the State of Alabama – Members and patrons of the Covington REA Coop are urged to come to town and see the electrical wonders at the Coliseum on River Falls RoadJuly 8-9, 1949 – Bring the whole family”

     July 14, 1949 – “Bids will be opened at 2 p. m. Tuesday on the new Coca-Cola Building that is to be erected at the corner of Church and Baisden Streets. Joe Hilson of the Andalusia Coca-Cola Bottling Company said that it was planned and hoped that the new building will be ready for use by January 1, 1950.”

     “The newly organized Comer Wilson Post No. 11 of Amvets composed of service men of World War II will stage an invitational dance Saturday night, June 4, at the formal opening of the Amvets Club, formerly Gantt Beach. Johnny Mann, Amvets Commander, announced that membership rolls of the new organization now tops 250.’

     Do you remember the swimming pool at the Amvets Club? The sides were slimy! It was very cold water and refreshing, probably from some underground spring.

      June 9, 1949 – “Episcopal Bishop C. J. Carpenter of Birmingham will officiate at the initial service of the newly erected St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Thursday night, June 15. Completion of the building project marks realization of a dream for the 35 church members and the Building Committee Chairman, Walter Merrill, Jr.”

     “The striking white New England Colonial structure is situated on Second Avenue. Episcopalians have paid high tribute to church people of other denominations and other contributors who have donated funds for the new building.”

     June 16, 1949 – “The public is being cordially invited to attend the confirmation and evening prayer service when the first rites will be held at the newly built St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Among new members that will be confirmed will be Walter Merrill, one who has contributed much time and effort towards the erection of the new church. Merrill has been aided in preparing the altar by Pete Banks of Southern Craftsmen Furniture.”

     Looks like St. Mary’s will be celebrating 70 years in 2019, the Alabama Bicentennial year!

     Many of you readers will Remember When there were more raids on stills back in the woods in the “good old days” such as the one mentioned in the June 16, 1949 newspaper.

     A 120-gallon moonshine liquor still with some $500. worth of mash and 120 gallons of illicit whiskey were confiscated by Covington deputies this week. Sheriff Tom Head reports that two men were arrested at the still site below Watkins Bridge on the Yellow River.”

     Like I stated at the beginning, citizens of Covington County, those “dear hearts and gentle people,” were energetic, enthusiastic, and industrious in 1949 in more ways than one!

     Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at