Published 4:39 am Monday, May 12, 2008
Newspaper archives bring back many memories
By Lowell McGill
People and events of 1961 and 1962 stood out in my mind this week as I browsed the Advance archives.
In 1961 Southland Telephone Company changed over to the dialing system after many years of operator assisted phone calls. I remember when that change was made because we all had to refer to the new telephone book to look up numbers of friends, relatives and businesses. Prior to the changeover we would simply pick up the phone and give the operator the number we wanted to call and she would “plug” us in.
That was the year our Senior Little League program was chartered. Atmore and Birmingham were the only cities in Alabama to receive charters that year. Wheeler Crook was president of our league and Claude Steele was officer in charge.
R.L. Brown Construction Company was awarded the contract to build Atmore’s new library on South Trammel Street.
The Rev. George C Merkel, long time Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church, retired. Rev Merkel was active in many civic and community affairs from 1943 until 1961. He was always a fixture at the ECHS football ticket office taking up tickets as you entered the ball park.
Many University of Alabama alumni members traveled to Monroeville to hear Paul “Bear” Bryant speak at the Monroeville Community Center in June of that year..
Byard Swift received the Boy Scout Silver Beaver award for his leadership in Boy Scout work. Jack Ward won first place for fly casting in an Escambia Wildlife Conservation contest and Perdido became the first Baldwin County Raritan Club in Baldwin County. Harold McGill and Ellison McDuffie were elected to head up that organization.
Some residents were still perching on the sidewalks in early evening watching TVs in the display windows of Watson Hardware Company. Mr. T.C. Hurd, an officer at First National Bank, was injured when a large glass encasement fell from a brick wall at the new drive in window. The drive in was being added to the bank at time of the accident.
In 1962 Atmore residents pitched in to help Tornado victims in Milton following a deadly disaster in that Santa Rosa County town. A.R. Holmes resigned his head coaching position at ECHS and took another head coaching job in Georgia. “Wild Bill” Etheridge was named to the SEC All Conference Baseball Team after winding up a successful season at Mississippi State University with a .429 batting average. He is the son Mr. and Mrs. Earl Etheridge.
The nations No. 1 steam locomotive, “The General,” made an overnight stop here. The train, consisting of an engine, fire car and one coach, was said to have been stolen from the South by “Yankees” during the Civil War and used in an attempt to destroy Southern railroad tracks.
Two high school students, involved with media work, laid the foundation for outstanding writing careers Bonnie (Bartel) Latino and Pam Middleton wrote a teen’s column for the Advance. Bonnie, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Bartel, advanced to become an accomplished writer and author. Much of her work has been featured in several national well known publications. She now enjoys success as a local writer, displaying excellent writing skills and interesting news and feature articles. Her worldwide travels with her husband are vividly depicted in many of her writings.
Pam Middleton, daughter of Haskew and Gladys Middleton, owns a communication company in New York. She has designed and published many specialty publications for national and international firms. Her business has taken her to Europe and other countries for extended periods of time. She has a highly successful website on the internet.
Lavan Martin, who today writes columns of church, patriotism and community interests, was advancing in his writing career during this period.
Two WATM radio announcers were up and running with broadcasting careers. Jimmy Cruise went with WEAR TV in Pensacola where he worked for a number of years.
Mike Roberts, who worked in WATM sports, received sports broadcasting experience here that eventually took him to the University of New Mexico where he became the play by play announcer for the “Lobos” football games. Bill Lowrey, son of Charles and Katherine Lowrey, furnished me some interesting information about his career. According to Bill, who now lives in New Mexico, Mike recently completed 40 years of dedicated service as a broadcaster for that team. Bill said that Mike, in a recent interview, credited his experience in Atmore as beneficial to his career at New Mexico He, like I and all those who worked for Tom and Ernestine Miniard, held them in the highest regard.
By the way I spoke with Ernestine a few weeks ago and she said she would really like to see some of her old friends. She still resides at Westminster in Spanish Fort.
Well, next week I will be writing about our Senior Little League trip to Williamsport, Pa. where Atmore competed in the very first Senior Little League World Series in 1961.
I hope all of you have a memorable and happy Mother’s Day.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org