Nostalgic Notes

Published 3:58 am Monday, May 5, 2008

By Staff
Columns generate buzz in former Atmore natives
By Lowell McGill
There must have been something in last week’s columns that generated a lot of emails.
I heard from several people who formerly lived in Atmore. I’ll mention a few that I received. Raymond Conway, who lives in Orange Beach, wrote to tell me about his little league coaches mentioned in last week’s column. John Holland, his father-in-law was one of those coaches. He is now enjoying retirement in a great and relaxed atmosphere
Shannon Simmons McWhorter, who now lives in Wetumpka, informed me in her email that she was born here in 1964. She, of course was referring to our 1964 theme last week Shannon is the daughter of Loraine Simmons and the granddaughter of D.V. Johnson. D.V., if you remember, was featured in our piece about shape note singing.
The Rev. Arnold Hendrix commented on his father having worked at Brookley Field prior to its closing in the late 1960s. He made some interesting comments about Boeing’s holding up the awarding of the tanker contract to Northrop. I, like, Rev. Hendrix, surely hope politics will take a backseat and let Mobile get the contract it deserves.
Another interesting email came from Coach William Hill. He stated he was a resident of Atmore for two years in the late 1990s. He mentioned some of his friends Randy and Melissa Nichols and Todd and Dana Vickery. He said he always enjoyed returning for Williams Station Days.
Speaking of Williams Station and Mayfest now upon us, I am reminded of the Johnny Mack Brown Festival set May 9-10 in Dothan. I became friends with his cousin 1n 1953 when I spent three months at Troy. His name was Gene Granger and he lived in Grangerville, a small community near Dothan. He played in a dance orchestra at Troy and invited me to go with the band to Dothan where they performed at the Peanut Festival. Brown was honored that night and he came up to Gene, wearing his guns and holster. Gene introduced him to me and several other friends who were in attendance. I also remember Evelyn Aye, the 1953 Miss America was at that event. One of the songs the band played was “I Can Dream, Can’t I” and she wrote on Gene’s sheet music “You certainly can.” Douglas Edwards, the CBS News anchor, who attended Troy, was also at the festival.
Gene told me that he had heard his family often talk about Brown and his lengthy career beginning from his football playing days at University of Alabama through his movie career. Being in the spotlight for all those years brought about a lot of pressure he said.
Jeff McGhee, who was affiliated with the local telephone office for many years, let it be known of the tremendous pressure involved in his job. This was especially so after he was promoted to the Minnesota office. At our coffee sessions he would tell us of those many plane trips from that office to home and having to fly to important meetings all across the country. It was a sad when I learned of his passing at such a young age. He died not too long after he retired and moved away from Atmore. Our family will always be grateful to Jeff because he was responsible for my wife’s getting benefits after she retired from the phone company. All those telephone employees held Jeff in the highest regard. He really “looked after” his employees and did so much for their insurance and retirement benefits.
I remember Martin Ritchie, the owner of the Advance telling me in 1955 “never be caught in the newspaper business in your middle or late age.” He was referring to independent small time papers. He said “if you do remain in this business be sure you are affiliated with a solid chain organization that generates sustaining advertising revenue and blanket circulation”. Sadly, it took me two weeklys to heed his advice. “The Tri City Ledger,” which I founded in 1971 and “The Atmore News Journal” in 1985. The pressure was unbearable. Week after week, getting one paper our and then start putting together the next weeks’s paper. Those long trips to the press and the worry of not having enough advertisement were filled with pressure. Phil Sokol, a great newspaper man who was affiliated with Ritchie and Bob Morrissette at the Advance, worked under pressure of newspaper deadlines died in the middle of his outstanding career. He was a wonderful writer and great friend.
But all jobs and professions have pressure and problems. You just have to know when to get out it if it hinders your health.
But, having said all this I cannot tell you how gratifying it is for me now in my semi retirement years. It is so relaxing working in the comfort of my home writing columns and reworking a few unsettled storm claims. There is no more pressure. It is simply indescribable to be able to express the enjoyment I now have. Writing for Mr. Boone, Adam, Michelle and the entire Advance organization truly makes my semi-retired life a pleasure. I often find others my age who have retired and yet they spend long days with nothing to do. I give praise to God for his allowing me to continue working. Actually, I feel like I will work forever. I just don’t want to quit.
You may have seen the insert in our Sunday edition which featured the RFD TV Network. I’m preparing some columns on this network and other family related entertainment shows. For those of you who have not seen RFD TV, you are missing some great entertainment. As described in that news article it is, indeed, “TV, the way it used to be.” It reminds me of the early to mid 1950s at WATM when we had “listeners galore,” at a time when you could actually hear the “melody” in every song played.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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