Homecomings good for reflection, reuniting

Published 10:54 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
This is the season for homecomings.
Church, high school, college and special interest organizations hold dear this time of the year.
I am sure many of you have experienced your homecomings while some are waiting for your big events later on in the year. My church recently hosted over 250 members and friends at our big homecoming service and lunch. We had a special solo by Teresa Brown and group singing by church members including two special groups known as “Friends” and “The Singing Laymen.” The latter group, which formed in the 1970s, came out of retirement to offer their voices in praise. One thing for sure, everyone had plenty to eat.
I regret that I was unable to attend my childhood church reunion in Perdido last week because of prior commitments.
You will notice the Advance lists announcements each week of churches and organizations celebrating their annual homecomings and I am sure your church or organizations are among those listed.
When the ECHS classes of 1952, 1953 and 1954 celebrated their reunion a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit with many old friends whom I had not seen in fifty years. My wife was a member of the 1953 class and she was re-united with several old classmates. I talked with a couple of friends who played football at ECHS back in those days and I can remember Sam Ford and I broadcasting their Friday night games on WATM.
Speaking of broadcasting, Lou Vickery does a great job each week at his radio station in bringing together friends of the past. I was honored recently to be invited to sit in on one of his “homecoming shows.” Doc Sutton Carl Madison, Floyd Adams, Weldon Vickery, Bobby Davis and Jim Kiser provided sentimental discussions of 1940s and 1950s ECHS sports and other activities.
When my dad retired from Brookley Field some of the former employees would have annual reunions just to renew old acquaintances.
Members of the USS Alabama Battleship gather each year for their reunions. I fondly remember reading about the great Cleveland Indian pitcher, Bob Feller, returning to the Mobile Bay-anchored ship to greet his old shipmates who all served together during World War II.
College and high school students and graduates share great times together at their big homecoming games each year.
But this may not be the case for some college coaches. Those homecoming game losses sometimes find head coaches looking for other coaching jobs. This is especially true for Southeastern Conference coaches. I am afraid some SEC coaches will fall into this category at the conclusion of the college football season.
Two homecomings, which occurred back in the early 1980s, stand out in my mind.
In 1982 I worked a big flood in the bayous of Louisiana and I remember an elderly couple, whose claim I worked, prepared to travel to their former homeland for a big family homecoming. Their family had earned a living for fifty years or more in southern Louisiana building small Cajun boats, better known as peros. (pereaus by some) Unlike most residents of the area with Acadia ancestry, they were born and raised in France.
The couple, who suffered much flood damage to their Louisiana home, did not become dismayed, however. Their children took care of getting the home back in proper order and they were “in good hands,” so to speak. You see, these two people were born in the city of Lourdes, France. This is the city famous for Saint Bernadette Soubirous who, reportedly, saw 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858. This man and woman were getting an opportunity to return to their birth place for the first time in over fifty years. They shared with me stories of younger days of their lives in Lourdes and told me of the pilgrimages that attracted thousands to this city year after year. Now, they were happily awaiting their homecoming trip back to their old home land.
I told them I remembered seeing the movie “The Song Of Bernadette,” which was filmed in this city in 1943. The movie, which starred Jennifer Jones, depicted the life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous. That movie still pops up today on some of those “nostalgic” movie networks.
I attended another work related homecoming in the hills and valleys of eastern Kentucky in 1984.
In and around Pikeville, the largest city in that Kentucky area, a gigantic flood damaged many homes, businesses, schools and churches. After weeks of work and my completion of settling claims I was invited to one of their church homecomings. The small,solid wood church was situated on a beautiful hillside with a babbling small river flowing through the foothills as far as the eyes could see. The homecoming featured singing and music by local Bluegrass bands. But, the food was the most intriguing aspect of the entire homecoming. Barbeque goat meat was their specialty. I believe it was the best tasting barbeque I have ever tasted. But, those nice, gentle people made me feel right at home. It was a glorious homecoming Sunday for them, and for me, too.
While working in that area I had the opportunity to visit Butcher Hollow, the home of Loretta Lynn. Her home town was located not too far from Paintsville, Ky.
I also worked in the area where the famous Tug River flowed. This is one of the locations where the Hatfield-McCoy feuds occurred. It was situated between Pikesville and South Williamson, West Virginia
I still remember those winding narrow highways situated in the towering hills and slumping valleys. Trucks loaded with fresh mined coal made it almost impossible to pass vehicles in front of you. A destination 25 miles away may sometimes take an hour or more to reach. The friendliness of all those people lingers in my mind today.
I close now with a non-nostalgic note.
I saw a very classless act of film journalism on the internet Wednesday. Immediately after Tony Franklin was dismissed from his job as Auburn offensive coordinator, a video stream of his departure was carried online. I am not sure who did this and I don’t think it was endorsed by Auburn University. But, the piece depicted a very downtrodden man who learned at 3:30 p.m. that day he had been fired. You could see the hurt and sadness in his face. Only a couple of friends were shown bidding him farewell as he loaded his personal items into his car before driving away. It was a journalist piece I think I will never forget. But, you know, I’ll bet Tony was feeling much better after seeing the outcome of that Auburn-Arkansas game Saturday.
By the way, the guy who does those “yella wood” commercials looks real trim now. Seriously, I enjoy his commercials as he rides off into the sunset on his trusted horse. He does a great job and I believe he would be highly successful as an actor.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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