Published 11:22 am Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Fishing trip with Ernest Weekley
By Lowell McGill
I sat under the comfortable pavilion at Lower Bryant’s Landing as the sun began to sink behind the horizon Friday enjoying the fellowship of friends and family.
One hundred yards away a dozen 16 year old boys swam and dove into the river, having the times of their lives. We were all there to celebrate Haden, my grandsons’s sixteenth birthday.
A nice cool breeze ushered through the open pavilion as most of my family, Bill and Ann Staff, Roy and Peggy Riley, Hooper Matthews and several of the Staff family enjoyed a very delightful evening. I don’t think I have ever seen as many scrumptious hamburgers and hot dogs, prepared by Mark and Suzanne, for a hearty group.
As I gazed down the river, seeing the countless riverside homes and mobile homes, I could not help but remember the last time I visited there.
In fact, it was the spring of 1945 when my dad and Ernest Weekley took me fishing with them. If I remember correctly this was merely a boat ramp during those days, no riverside homes or modern mobile homes.
Prior to our leaving for home and after my dad paid for the boat rental that April day I wondered off into a nearby thick brush area high on the riverbank.
My shoes were red, ankle high tennis shoes. I also carried with me my “Red Rider” BB gun. As I moved through the brush I stepped on a thorny bush and a big thorn penetrated my heel. The pain was really severe. We had no medicine but I was able to handle the pain until we got back to Perdido.
After traveling the twenty miles of bumpy unpaved roads we crossed the Perdido railroad tracks and noticed a very large crowd of people gathered at Ernest’s store. As soon as we pulled up, Foncie, Ernest’s wife said “President Roosevelt has just died.” The crowd was listening as the radio, which was positioned atop stacks of soft drink crates, was carrying the story of his passing. It was a somber occasion Most of that crowd remembered the role that president played in getting money into their hands following the recovering times of the great depression.
Many friends and relatives of my dad were there. There was Alvin Slay, Criel James, Harvey Rodgers, Perch Wilson, Clyde Dunn, Charles and Percy Weekley, Ike Hadley, Jordan “Jerd” Ammons, Florence McGill, Lizzy Havard, my uncle Albert McGill from Canoe and Joe Brock from Atmore, who was married to Ruth McGill, Foncie’s sister.
As I grew older I thought of the many occasions I would sit around and listen to these same people tell of things that happened in the past. In other words these people were the “old heads.” They were knowledgeable they remembered people and events of days gone by.
These were not the only old heads my family knew. My dad often talked with Steve Hubbard and Royal Johnson in Nokomis. Dr. McKinley of Atmore also spent a lot of time in Perdido.
When I came to Atmore in the early 50s some new old head friends were cultivated. They included Theria and Les McCoy as Les had kin folks in Perdido. Others were Carey Powell, Joe Everett, John Holland and many more.
But, you know, as generations vanish so do all those old heads. In fact most all of those I mentioned are now gone. Now, just having a birthday I am realizing that I will soon be an old head.
I remember one day about a year ago I went with Arnold Hendrix to Perdido to talk with 90 plus year old "Jerd" Ammons, the last survivor of the old group I once knew.
Arnold wanted to learn more about his relatives who were natives of Perdido. His grandfather was Percy Weekley, brother of John Weekley and his grandmother was Dottie (Hadley) Weekley. He was also cousin to Eulene Cargill. I remembered his grandparents but I could not correctly trace their ancestry.
Without old heads much will pass us by. We will be left with vagueness and the inability to retain important events and people of our past.
Today, if you know of elderly people from your community go to them and find answers of interest. They will be gone one day and those answers will never be known.
Last week in my column I inadvertently listed our living in District 4 during the period Jack Edwards was our Congressman. This Congressional District was and is District 1.
I want to thank Robert Maxwell for bringing this to my attention. I also want to thank him for his nice compliments and for being a regular reader of our column. I remember all the fine work he did in the 1950s when he helped civic organizations raise money for the underprivileged annual Christmas shopping tours. He served as emcee on the WATM Christmas fund raising drives, and did a wonderful job. Because of our vast number of listeners and having no radio competition in those days many called in their pledges donating to this cause.
It’s amazing that column last week did not carry more mistakes following that four day stay in the hospital.
But, you know, as I watched TV the first night in the hospital, I saw and heard a very interesting commercial. The commercial was about a national well known motel chain and featured the voice of Johnny Cash singing the song “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
As I listened to the lyrics I heard ATMORE as one of the towns used in that song.
Tell me now, did I really hear these lyrics correctly or was it the medicine working on me that night? I always thought Hank Snow was the original vocalist of that song.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org