Published 7:55 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008
When social correspondents were the reporters
By Lowell McGill
Most old, established, successful weekly newspapers like the Advance have always carried news from neighboring communities. They did this with columns written by community correspondents.
These community writers usually wrote about families visiting families for Sunday dinner, those in the hospital, students home from college, hosting the preacher for lunch and other subjects of interest to each respective community. Their columns were so valuable to Bob Morrissette and Phil Sokol that they would sometimes hold up the press run until the columns were received.
Today I am writing about some of those community correspondents and I will refer to them as CCs. If I fail to mention any CCs today I apologize.
Mrs. J.H. Biggs was the Lottie CC for several years. Not only did she send her column to the Advance each week, but she also sent it to the Baldwin Times in Bay Minette. Lottie, located in Baldwin County even though it has always identified with Atmore, had appeal to readers in both papers. I knew Mrs. Biggs and have been life long friends with all her children. I see her son Benny on occasions and we always enjoy talking about our younger days in north Baldwin County. She even reached out and wrote about happenings in Rabun, Splinterhill and Perdido.
Another lady whose column was carried in the Advance was Mrs. C.F. Hadley from Uriah. Mineola news and sometimes news from Little River were also included in her writings. She also sent her columns to the Monroe Journal. Gene Garrett would often talk about Mrs. Hadley coming into the store each week to gather all the news from the Uriah area. Knowing Gene, who was liked by all, realized the valuable communication vehicle Mrs. Hadley was. Jettie Everett and Roy Burkette told me they always look forward to reading her column each week as they grew up in that area.
Mary Beth White wrote the news from Pollard and sometimes Flomaton. When I founded “The Tri-City Ledger” in Flomaton in 1971 she became a valuable source of news for me. Her son Skippy was also helpful. At one time her columns appeared in “The Ledger,” the Advance and The Brewton Standard.
Mrs. C.P. Greene was also a wonderful writer and supplied us with interesting news from Flomaton.
Tola Fickling, who came from a large, well respected family, was the Advance CC for Perdido for several years. She also sent her column to The Baldwin Times. Tola was a close friend of my family. I went through school with several of her fine children. One son, Charlie, married Mary Bryars, the daughter of former Atmore Police Chief Clarence Bryars. I received a very nice email from Mary recently. Her son, Detriet and I finished school together.
Mildred Hall, who has great writing talents kept us informed with news from Walnut Hill, Oak Grove and that particular area of Northwest Florida. She even kept us up to date with the sports from that area. She, her brothers Big Boy and Little Boy Hadley and sisters and all her family go way back as they came from the Perdido area. Her CCs were carried in the “Ledger” as well as the Advance.
At one time Mrs. Annette Tolbert wrote news for the Huxford-Butler Street and State Farm area. I would sometimes talk with Mr. Carl Dredin who lived in this area. I always wanted to know where Butler Street began and where it ended. He would tell me it ran from north of Sardine to Goodway. Some says it actually ends near Excel. I think, even today, a Monroe County portion of this area carries an Atmore route address.
Mrs. Chester Watson was the very reliable CC for the Enon, McKinnonville and Bay Springs area. She lived right in the very heart of the deer hunting country and she often reported the big buck kills in the hunting clubs located there. Her columns were used in the “Ledger” and the Advance.
Mrs. Coleman was our faithful CC for the Byrneville area.
We, at the “Ledger,” added a new CC in 1971. She was Lillian Sutton of Molino. Lillian was the mother of Don and Ron Sutton. Each Monday I would drive down to the Molino post office, where she worked, and picked up her weekly column. I always enjoyed talking to her and how proud she must have been with the success that Don achieved in Major League Baseball and announcing. But she never failed to mention the success that Ron enjoyed. He retired a few years ago after many years of service with an important position with the Alabama Department of Corrections.
One Monday morning when I went down to get her news she had a visitor. It was her grandson Darren, Don’s son. She introduced the young boy to me and I learned that he was the same age as Bryan, my youngest son. Now little did I know then that one day Darren and Bryan would play on the same college baseball team.
Darren, who was living in California, came to Auburn University of Montgomery in 1988 to play for The Senators. Bryan received a scholarship to AUM that year following his two years of college ball with Wayne Larker at Faulkner State. Darren came to AUM because he wanted to play with Coach Q.V. Lowe. Q.V. and Don played Junior College ball together. Don went into the major leagues after Junior college while Q.V. went to Auburn University and set records as a pitcher which still stands today.
Darren also had another talent. He became an excellent play by play announcer for Major League Baseball. We saw him on Fox Sports a week or so ago doing the TV baseball game. I understand he is one of the main announcers for one of the west coast major league teams.
In addition to the CCs weekly papers carried regular columns by social editors. These ladies always wrote those lengthy wedding stories. They also wrote about bridge club gatherings and wedding engagements. Their columns were highly regarded by those interested in the social scene. All weekly papers had social editors.
It was also tradition to carry columns by political activists. Those political writers presented viewpoints from both the right and left. You will find they are still active today.
Next week I will tell you about a couple of well known local organizations that had its beginning in the very same year. Those organizations are still in existence today and are going strong as ever.
Also, James Norris and Edgar Norris ask that those who plan to attend that big 1952, 1953, 1954 ECHS class reunion must get their paper work in by July 10 to them or any of the chair people I mentioned last week.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org