Remember When: Southern Craftsman’s master carvers created timeless furniture

Published 2:47 am Saturday, April 13, 2019

Thank you, readers, for your interest in last week’s column. According to Mr. Oscar Page “Pete” Banks’ granddaughter, Gayle Banks Merrill, Southern Craftsman Furniture Co. operated in Andalusia under the business expertise of the Banks family (Pete, Zig, & Bill) from about 1937 to 1971. Many of you have provided names of those who worked there at the factory. It was located first on Coffee Street in the former Andala building then later on Through Street in the former National Guard Armory building that used to be across from the original fair grounds that cornered Sanford Road.

Some of the workers’ names have surfaced thanks to social media, friends, and relatives far and wide. They include so far Thomas Castleberry (Red Level), Elbert Williams, Leon Morgan (Red Level), G. H. Holley, Cothin Killingsworth (Opp), C. W. Williamson (Dozier), Marce D. Cassady (Red Level), Leon Stone, Ed Sturgis, Melvin Eugene Jeffcoat, and Roy Taylor.

Thomas Castleberry learned the art of upholstery and refinishing wood working in the Banks furniture business according to his wife, Caudie Faye. He later worked out of a building on Baisden Street. Ed Sturgis gained experience at Southern Craftsman and later worked in the wood trade building cabinets, doors, windows, etc. at the Andalusia Manufacturing Company.

One of the “master carvers” was Roy Taylor who later had a shop on South Three Notch Street, according to Gwen Bonner, a lover of Victorian furniture. Taylor will long be remembered for carving the Boy Scout emblem out of four pieces of mahogany which finished product Mr. Banks presented to the Southeast Alabama Boy Scout Council. This masterpiece is still on display at Camp AlaFlo in Ozark, Mrs. Merrill believes.

Merrill is not certain where all of the patterns for the furniture were acquired, but a catalog, “Victorian Reproductions,” displayed all of the designs of chairs, sofas, coffee and end tables, dining tables, dressers, mirrors, rocking chairs, and straight-back chairs.

A few of the creations were named “Elizabeth Melton, “Lizzie Cutler,” “Caroline Ball,” and “Emma Browne” settees, “Sarah Brock” and “Anna Dennis” hassocks, “Evelyn Byrd” chair, “Governor Carlton” chair, “Betty Zane” dining room chair, “Gooseneck” rocking chair, “Colonial Scroll” rocking chair, “Sheraton” side and arm chairs, “Sophie Reed” rocking chair, “Anne Pennington” straight-back chair, “Abraham Lincoln” rocking chair, “Sheraton” card table, “Sheraton” tester bed (with springs), and “Jefferson Davis” arm chair.

Mr. “Pete” Banks donated the beautiful carved baptismal font at the First Presbyterian Church. He was a Presbyterian himself and served as superintendent of the Sunday School department.

The local Rotarians should be interested to know that Banks held a perfect record with the Andalusia Rotary Club from 1944 when he was inducted until his death in March of 1971. It was with admiration and high regard that the founder was lauded by The Andalusia Star-News Editor Ed Dannelly, who reported that Banks had worked at his furniture plant up until the day before he suffered a stroke at his home at 300 Third Avenue. He passed away a few days later in the hospital. Master furniture carver and friend Roy Taylor was among the pall bearers.

Banks, a Mason, was a veteran of World War I where he served in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. He had been associated with banks in North Carolina and Florida for several years prior to moving to his wife’s hometown of Andalusia. He was at one time a bank examiner for the State of Alabama as well as being employed by the U. S. Rubber Company for seven years in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Indianapolis, Indiana

The factory is now a part of Andalusia history. The building on Through Street burned to the ground in 2018. The workers are gone, but many pieces of their work with exquisite  craftsmanship still exist around the town and the country. Look for some of those pieces in the cowboy movies on the Grit Channel. If you own one of the creations, consider yourself fortunate and cherish it.  A lovely settee and side chair are on display at the Three Notch Museum thanks to the late Harmon Proctor who donated the set from his mother’s living room.

According to a 1950s Montgomery Advertiser article, Banks had a policy of “building comfort into period furniture.” So as you dream of days gone by, get real comfortable! Prop your feet up on one of the SCF hassocks. Rock your children in your “Gooseneck” rocking chair like my mother did. Photograph your babies lying in the middle of your four-poster bed. Enjoy Easter dinner at your SCF dining table and “Betty Zane” dining chairs. Play a card game on your Sheraton card/game table. Learning about the past helps us to appreciate the present when we can think back and Remember When.


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