1964 was a year with several highs and lows
By Lowell McGill
Using 1964 copies of the Advance as some of my sources I found some interesting news articles for my column today.
I remember when Tom Miniard and I rode over to Mobile to watch the USS Alabama Battleship anchor down in Mobile Bay. It was towed from Seattle, her former home, and countless congregations of people were on hand to see the event. The big ship arrived via the Panama Canal and took several weeks to get to its present resting site. Of course everyone knows it today as Battleship Parkway and it draws tourists from the world over. One of my favorite baseball players, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians, served aboard the vessel during the war.
I think I witnessed one of the largest house fires I ever saw in 1964. The home of Sally Horne on South Presley Street caught fire one night about dark and Marshall Robinson and I came along about the same time. There were a couple of other local residents whose names I fail to remember also there. One of them ran to a neighbor’s house to call the fire department. We all tried to help remove valuables and contents but the heat was too much. The house was completely burned down in no time at all. Thankfully, no one was injured.
Speaking of fires that was the year the McCullough School was destroyed by a fire that was believed to have started from old wiring in the attic.
People through out the Atmore area experienced a day or two of extremely stormy weather in early spring that year. It rained heavily, winds blew very briskly and it became very overcast. One man from Dyas said his chickens went to roost early, apparently thinking night had come early due to the darkness caused by the low dark clouds.
Atmore was beginning to take on a new look as The Mitchell Company completed construction of Kwik Check in the new Church Street shopping center. It would later become known as Winn-Dixie.
Long time mayor H.H. Dees stepped down from his position after serving Atmore for many years. Oris Davis was elected to fill the mayor?s post. Davis had served on the Escambia County School Board for a number of years. Oris always kept the public informed with news to both the Advance and to WATM.
That year construction began on the new Atmore City Hall and the Canoe Water System announced plans for its construction.
Ed Rabon was selected to perform in the big Alabama High School Band festival in Tuscaloosa. He was one of several from south Alabama counties to participate in that event. “Uncle Bill” (B.W. Lee) retired from the Florida Fresh Water and Game Commission after many years of service and announcement was made for a new 50 bed hospital here.
Bowling was popular during this period of time and I remember several local outstanding bowlers. John Guy, a local nurseryman, captured some prize money in a Pro-Am Tourney that year. His pro partner was the well known Earl Johnson.
Sadly, one of the highly regarded newspaper columnist Earl Tucker, passed away. Earl was affiliated with the Thomasville, Alabama newspaper for over 20 years. His column, “Rambling Roses And Flying Bricks” was carried in several weekly newspapers. He was close friends with Phil Sokol, Martin Ritchie and Bob Morrissette of the Advance.
This was the year the “Pink Ladies” had its organization here. Today they are still going strong. They work closely with hospital and patient activities. Their work is a vital part of our community. Many thanks should go to this much needed organization.
The Atmore Saddle Club made its debut with a big rodeo attracting spectators from a three county area. Many riders and ropers showed off their saddle skills in the Hwy. 31 arena.
I think one of the best popular songs to come along in several years was “Dominique.” It was performed by a lady known as “The Singing Nun.” Sam Phillips of Sun Record continued to turn out hits. “Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison, was one of those hits.
Atmore received a big snow storm that year. If you remember I wrote about all that snow Doctor Wilson and I encountered during our Sugar Bowl trip. By the way I received two emails after I wrote that column. It seems those who emailed me use the same thyroid doctor that I use, Dr. Mike Davis. These two did not realize it was Dr Mike’s brother Tim (now Dr. Tim Davis) who kicked those four fields goals to hand the Bear and his Crimson Tide football team a win over then highly rated Ole Miss.
Finally, this was a very joyful week for me. You see, back in the early and mid 1950s we had such a talented staff of announcers and related workers at WATM. They included my friends the Miniards, Jimmy Cruise, Wayne Butts, Jim Campbell, “Bruce the Roost” and the man who taught me how to do play by play sports, Sam Ford. Well, after 54 years I located Sam, through the help of his former sister-in-in law Annie Sue Keller Newman. This was just a couple of days ago that we had the opportunity to renew our friendship. In fact our initial contact was only to exchange email addresses and phone numbers. I learned that he has been living in New Orleans for a few years. His son, “Little Sammie,” is now a medical doctor. We enjoyed many good times back in those days, not only in radio, but in family and mutual friend functions. I plan on sharing some of these memories with you in a future column. He and I will be exchanging many emails over the next several days.
You know, you never forget friends like Sam. I understand he is near 80-years-old now, but he sounded real upbeat and alert when I spoke with him briefly just a day or so ago. And speaking of age, 80 is young in today’s world. If you don’t think so ask Haskew Middleton and Charles Lowery who are still active and are also good friends of mine.
So, Sam, you and I have much to talk about and I am looking forward to our becoming “reacquainted” over the next several days.
In closing, it looks like we have lost the NG contract for Mobile. Pundits say now the very final decision will come after the fall election. Politics, indeed, did become involved it appears. Chicago based politicians seem to be leading the charge for NLG’s competition to secure the contract. Shame, shame, shame.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org