Looking back at friends from Perdido

Published 8:25 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
This week I have some interesting stories of some of my early friends and associates from my early days in Perdido.
I first want to tell you about a young lady who is establishing an outstanding career in television. She is Chassity Byrd who does reporting and weather casting on WALA TV Channel 10. A brilliant reporter she can be seen most every day or evening on this station. Her grandparents are C.(Jimmy) and Willie Byrd. They now live near Bay Minette. Jimmy is a successful businessman. Willie came to Perdido back in the 1940s as a teacher. Another teacher, who also came to our school about the same time was Noline McManus. Some alleged she was related to the famous writer and illustrator George McManus who drew the comic strip “Bringing Up Father (Jiggs) and Maggie.” However, I was never able to verify this.
Barbara McCoy, the daughter of Katherine and the late Hugo Rogers, and the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Rogers is a local historian. She is also the niece of Mrs. Joe Lalak. Her father-in law, Bucky McCoy is a renowned writer in his own right. He writes nostalgic columns for various publications near his Midwest home.
Barbara is a volunteer member of The Alabama Historical Association. One of her current projects is developing information on the Sullivan Cemetery located near Nokomis.
Anyone wishing to contact her with this information can call her at 251-446-1026.
She has also gathered much historical information on the Rogers, McCoy and Havard families of Perdido. The research was sparked by a Methodist organization that has presented a history of 28 Methodist churches in Baldwin County. A former high school classmate of mine, Perry (Foster) Zarr, spearheads that organization.
Barbara says, “I regard myself as a ‘Perdido girl’ at heart who didn’t wear shoes in the summer while growing up.”
I well remember as a very young boy Barbara’s grandparents teaching me in Sunday School at our “little Methodist Church on top of the hill.” George Weekley, Norman Carr and I would take turns each Sunday ringing the church bell. The gongs could be heard all over Perdido. That bell can be seen even today adjacent the church building
Other friends include Ray Chambliss who I wrote about earlier. He was the gifted artist who “lettered” all the fire trucks and painted murals and signs in Mobile for many, many years. Still others I remember are Noel Arnett, Leo Mills and my “hero” first cousin Arthur T. McGill, Jr, the older brother of Atmore teacher Terre McGill A.T. who served in the Navy medical corps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I’m reluctant to list my friends of those long ago years because I know I will leave out some of them. But I do remember some that I grew up with. They are Ray James, Beryl(Dunn) Robinson, Cecil and Calvin Hayles, Doris Linam, Louise Hayles, Cleo Drew, Mabry Long, Jerry Cochran, Deitrict Ficklin, Daniel Brown, Curtis White, Archie James, Jimmy James, Roy Slay, Ruth and Marie Little Leon Langley and all my classmates from Nokomis. Some of these have passed on, some I still see around town and some live in other states.
Perdido can boast of having three attorneys. Mary White, who allegedly was married to Atmore’s Tarzan White at one time. She had a law practice in Atmore back in the 1950s. Her brother, Lenoir Thompson, along with Hugh Rozzele, were instrumental in helping the Poarch Creek Indians gain their independence which led to their establishing the Creek Nation. Reuben McKinley was another lawyer who had a practice in Bay Minette.
Several railroad people came from Perdido. Two of my uncles, Bert and Albert McGill were station agents. Albert later lived in Canoe and was neighbors to Charles Lowery and Robert Hill. Bert’s wife, Norma, was a local school teacher and was active in Atmore First Baptist Church. John Weekley, father of Eulene Cargill, was also a local L&N depot agent. My very good friend Freddie Centenni, who is still living today worked as a depot agent. Dewitt Parker, who became a resident of Atmore in the 1950s, was a railway agent. Other railroad friends who have now passed on were Hugo Rogers, J.C. Wright and Perry Wright. Perry tragically lost his life while working for the railroad near Biloxi Mississippi. A younger cousin of mine, Murray Bryars had a successful career with the railroad. One of Hugo and Katherine’s sons is also employed by the railroad.
Thomas Coleman teamed up with Bay Minette pharmacist George Lambert back in the 1950s, and received a patent for a Hadacol-like cure all medicine. Coleman was a turpentine producer and sources stated he, reportedly, used this pine tree sap as a vital ingredient in the medicine. Those who used their medicine swore that it cured many ills.
Jimmy Eddins, who was originally from Atmore, but attended some high school classes with me in Bay Minette in the early 1950s, settled in Splinterhill, a community just out of Perdido near I-65. Jimmy, as many of you know, operates the Perdido Winery. In fact he will probably be opening his vineyard for hand picking as he does about this time each year. His family formerly operated Cliffs Landing, a well known boat launch on the Tensaw River.
Beulah Weekly, whose son Glen passed away last year, always gave my parents remedies using honey and vinegar. I still drink this mixture today. It is good for cholesterol, arthritis and various other ailments. Glenn was the renowned pastor of Hendersonville, Tennessee First Baptist Church. Many Grand Ole Opry stars are members of that church.
Billy Mingus and I were classmates through the sixth grade. His family moved to Mobile and he went on to become one of Mobile's most outstanding police chiefs.
Yes, many of these were friends and associates in my younger years. They all were talented and respected in their respective fields of work. I wish I could say the same about me. I suppose there is always one who never makes it. Maybe, someday, they will include me as one of those Perdido natives who did ok. I hope so.
Last week’s column about the Northrop Grumman tanker contract was apparently well received based on the favorable emails I received. One person told me to “keep politics out of my column.” He told me I should not talk about Barack Obama in a negative manner. I told this person, who contacted me by phone, that I was not negative about him. I said I thought BO was unwise to take a stand for Boeing. In fact, it was purely dumb for him to say Boeing should receive the contract. I also told the caller to “get a life” and support all our local leaders who are pushing for the contract. I gathered I was talking to the wind as the caller was bent on advocating politics and not jobs. Isn’t it odd that some people place politics ahead of community needs?
Oh, by the way, that same caller blasted me about my statement about NBC news anchors. “Just the facts,” as they said on “Dragnet,” I have the documentation to back up what I said about the NBC cable affiliate. And, I will say it again, this is the network that is “cow tailing” most of the other cable news network. That caller wanted me to explain what I meant by “cow tailing.” I asked him if he had ever picked cotton. He said, “of course not.” I explained that as a young boy I often heard those cotton pickers refer to the last picker in from the field as the “cow tailer”.
His conversation reminded me of an English class slogan I learned when in Jr. High School. “And ten dull words oft slip into one low line.” What does this mean? Well, read it and count the words. Ten words are uttered but nothing said.
You know, maybe I should forget nostalgic stories and become a political pundit.
Overlook that last statement. I am happy just as I am.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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