Remember When: Sixth Avenue reunion
Published 2:00 pm Friday, August 11, 2023
How many former residents of a city street in Andalusia show up from out of town to meet and greet each other after some sixty years? That was the case on Sixth Avenue recently. I am talking about a long time ago – some 60 plus years.
Families who once lived on Sixth Avenue in the 1950s and 1960s that could still be found and contacted included the Williams, the Adams, the Godwins, the Mahones, the Spicers, the Carrolls, and the Kyzars. They were all provided the date, the time, the place to show up. Low and behold on that late Friday afternoon, a good many of the former friends and neighbors arrived for the “neighborhood reunion.” They came from afar – from the panhandle and way down in Florida, up somewhere on the Alabama-Georgia line, to the waters of lovely Gantt Lake, and to the two souls still residing in the Sixth Avenue area, bless their hearts, Frances Godwin Cauley and Jenelle Godwin Ennis.
The “grand dame” who proposed this idea for the get-together was Sue Williams Wiggins who was the youngest of Vernice Williams. They resided in the Wilder home halfway down the street. Sue recently moved back to her hometown, and the thought kept surfacing to gather the old neighbors together to reminisce. So we finally made it happen.
Sue had three older brothers, Howard, Terry, and Enoch. Now Sue was the one who climbed most of the trees in the yard. Her memories of growing up in the J. W. Shreve Addition neighborhood are primarily of being a part of a bed and breakfast household where school teachers resided in the upstairs apartments. We can all agree that it would have been a treat to have sat at the dinner table with all of those knowledgeable women and men of wisdom and to have heard all of the intellectual topics discussed. Her mother, a widow, sent all four children to college boarding teachers in her home while at the same time exposing them to exceptional opportunities for learning.
Linda Sue Adams and Jenelle Godwin remembered playing dolls after school in the grandmother’s bedroom making doll clothes, a consuming hobby of the little girls. When they grew older, they remembered rocking on the porch for a long time on Linda’s wedding day.
“Everybody in the neighborhood would come home and play outside every afternoon including Janice and Al Adams,” Jenelle said.
The Adams family owned the Variety Store across from the Alatex on River Falls Street. It was a favorite place to browse and shop for colorful and unique items that could be purchased there similar to the downtown ten cent stores like V. J. Elmore, Christos, L. M. West, and Woolworths, but the Variety Store offered so much more like candy and practical yet irresistible treasures for gifts and collectibles.
All of the neighbors remembered hearing the chimes and carillons at the Methodist Church daily one block up the street. “That’s where I learned to tell time,” Jenelle Godwin Ennis stated. “The playing of the hymns was beautiful.”
The Godwin children were Frances, Hilda, Sybil, Paul and Jenelle. A barn was behind their house and a cow named Bessie provided the milk. Everybody took turns. In the back yard was a swing set made by their father that featured 3 swings, a slide, a see-saw, and a jumping board. All of the children played on it and enjoyed it so much.
Jenelle recalls, “My mother never learned to drive. She also never wrote a check. Daddy took her to the grocery store every Friday. As well as I remember, all of the husbands on the street died before their wives. Those wives became ‘Steel Magnolias.’ They carried on and set an example for all of us.”
Most of the older “boys and girls” remembered when the street was dirt. They didn’t recall exactly when it got paved but they remember it being said that it was once the widest street in town.
The East Three Notch School was just one block away and was so convenient being within walking distance for all of the children.
Years ago, a Mr. Daniels lived on Sixth Avenue. He had a candy factory in his back yard. He made blackberry nectar and always had boiled peanuts.
If anybody got bored, they could always walk up to the corner of College Street to the Andalusia Public Library and check out a Nancy Drew mystery book or one of their many biographies on historical characters. Mrs. McLeod was the name of the memorable librarian. Whispering was not so easy!
How could any child growing up in that neighborhood not love flowers living so close to the Benson family right around the corner? Leon Benson was a Camellia enthusiast, and there was even an official Camellia named after him. “Aunt Ruth Malcom” next door to the Bensons even had a greenhouse in her back yard. The English nursery rhyme comes to mind – “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?” Aunt Ruth had an azalea trail winding through her back yard among the wisteria and magnolia blossoms.
On the corner of Sixth Avenue and College Street stood the Green Shingle Apartments where the local Class D professional ball team of the 1950s, the Andalusia Arrows, rented rooms. Paul Godwin who became a coach himself was probably a frequent visitor to some of those athletes. “Chick” Earle, Little League coach for over 40 years, was probably the last tenant there before the complex was restored and refurbished.
Coach Godwin remembers practicing his trombone outside especially using the slide at maximum volume when unsuspecting cars drove by jamming on their brakes on thinking a truck or train might be side swiping them. Someone along the way must have talked him into being a coach rather than a band director.
Let’s not forget the Mahone family. Father Comer was a Justice of the Peace. Visitors to his house might be daytime or evening knocks at the door of couples wanting to get married. His wife Myrtle would wake up daughter Molly and her spend-the-night company in the middle of the night (a true story) saying, “Wake up girls. Let’s blow the dust quickly out of the champagne glasses. We’re going to have a wedding!”
Myrtle would greet Molly and friends coming in from school each day with “Come on in girls, and get yourself a candy bar and a Coke.”
Myrtle was one of the wives on the street that did not drive a car, not unusual for that generation. She regularly walked to the Kwik Chek on Three Notch for groceries. She could usually be seen walking down the sidewalk in her house dress and high heels. On one occasion she shopped for her groceries and as she approached the check-out counter, the clerk said, “Mrs. Mahone, did you know you have two different shoes on today?” She replied, “Oh, my goodness. I thought I was crippled!”
The Mahone son Patrick loved the neighborhood so much that when he grew up, he bought the house across the street from his homeplace on the corner of Second Street. He and his wife Charlotte, both such talented historic preservationists, lived and raised their daughter in the old neighborhood. They created many stained glass works of art in their back yard workshop.
The Tom Carroll family lived in the sidewalk neighborhood on Sixth Avenue. Mr. Tom and Vivian were a studious couple who married a little late in life. They enjoyed reading books and experiencing a quiet life after days in the classroom. Then all of a sudden they had three rambunctious boys all in a row who might be seen jumping in and out of the windows. According to some reports, they might have been known as the “Little Rascals” of the neighborhood. One neighbor said “There were always lots of shenanigans going on over there with Tom, David, and Andrew!”
According to Terry Kyzar, he and his younger brother Jimmy and the Carroll boys enjoyed playing in some old school buses on blocks in the Carroll’s back yard. Mr. Carroll, the county school superintendent, had brought them there to be used for playhouses for the neighborhood children.
As you readers can imagine, all of the old neighbors still living could not be reached for their remembrances. Those who came were photographed on the front steps of the Williams house now owned and occupied by Roger and Cathy Powell, “artists-in-residence” themselves. I think we can all agree, it is nice to have lived in a neighborhood especially a sidewalk neighborhood of long ago, and to Remember When.
Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a former choral music teacher and local real estate broker. A long-time member of the Covington Historical Society, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.