1955, The Friendly 40 and the Forester Sisters

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
We are winding down the year 1955 with some events and a look at some of the people from that period of time.
In mid-1955, Chester Barton introduced us to his new ambulance, which would be used for transporting the injured and sick to and from Greenlawn Hospital. Barton, who owned Barton Funeral home, was awarded the city ambulance service by the City of Atmore. Equipped with an oxygen supply system and various first aid supplies, the vehicle had the capacity to travel at high rates of speed. In case of a severe emergency, one of Barton’s hearses would be used in transporting patients.
A new portrait studio, owned by Advance publisher Martin Ritchie, opened for business in September 1955. The studio was situated directly over the Sweet Shop Caf/ on South Main Street. Morgan Little, who later worked as editor with Ritchie at the Advance, assisted him in the operation of the portrait studio.
Former ECHS standout football athlete Carl Madison transferred from Texas Tech University to Troy State where he continued his successful career playing college football. Madison later went on to establish successful high school coaching careers in both Alabama and Florida.
Mr. and Mrs. Vester Stokes, who formerly operated Stokes Dry goods, returned to Atmore to purchase Stallworth’s Cash Store.
C. Williams and Ernestine Miniard were named directors of the local branch of the Ground Observation Corps. Headquarters for this Civil Defense program was in Washington D.C. Organized during World War II, the organization’s main goal was observing the skies for enemy planes. Several local volunteers participated in this program. The Air Force did away with the program in 1959.
In late 1955, “The Phenix City Story” debuted at theaters across the country. The movie, which had a few film clips from Georgiana, told the story of corruption in Phenix City. Albert Patterson, who advocated the cleanup of crime in that city, was the victim of assassination. His son John Patterson was later elected to the office of Governor of Alabama.
A new automobile repair garage began operations that year. Louie Hardy and Julian Kearly purchased the old Coca Cola Warehouse and converted it into Hardy-Kearly Garage. The business remained in operation for a number of years.
Next week, we will conclude our look at the year 1955.
And now some nostalgic news.
For the past 50 years or so, I have been a part of group of men and women who shared jokes, pranks, fun and overall good friendship at various local coffee shops. This group, sadly, has seen over forty of its friends pass away. So, for the next several weeks I’ll be writing on these former friends and acquaintenances. I’ll tell you about humorous and serious memories of these friends.
I have already written about a few of them including Willard Everette, Bill Moseley, D.V. Johnson, Albert Brown, J.P Madison and Otis Miller.
Those initial coffee sessions began years ago at Bristow’s Drug Store, Rex Sporting Goods, Escambia Drug Store and Reid Drug Store. Today, most of the remaining members have their coffee at Escambia Drug Store and at Busters.
Curtis Forester was one of the “Friendly 40” we will call it. Curtis, who passed away a couple of years ago, was the area agent for the Farmers Home Administration. His wife, Marlene, told me recently that they moved to Atmore in 1958. She, incidentally, worked in the office at Atmore Vanity Fair for 30 years. She retired from that position a few years ago. He was instrumental in establishing and overseeing 13 rural and city water systems between Bratt, Davisville and Walnut Hill all the way to the Gulf.
The Foresters were from north Georgia. Marlene was raised in Rome and Curtis was from Trenton. Curtis always told us that he lived on the top of Georgia’s Lookout Mountain. Marlene said Curtis’s dad helped build a mountain top road that was “cut through the mountain” providing a shorter distance of travel to some of the surrounding towns.
One morning back in 1984 Curtis came into Busters and told us four of his cousins had “hit it big” in the music industry. He said the girl quartet who had been singing at churches and local events, had finally signed a major recording contract. He said they called themselves “The Forester Sisters”. Well, we knew then who he was talking about because their recordings were beginning to become very popular over the radio stations. In fact only a short time after he told us about the group we began hearing their songs more and more on the radio. After their first single, “That’s What You Do When You Are In Love” was released, they went on to record over fourteen Top 10 hit country and popular records. The singing group, which consists of Kathy, June, Kim and Christy Forester, has received three Grammy awards over the past several years.
Even today songs by this group can be heard on the radio and they can be seen on TV and at concerts throughout the country,
Curtis often told me about that area located “on top of the mountain”. He said just down the mountain at Fort Payne the singing group “Alabama” found musical success and just outside Fort Payne “The Louvin Brothers” began their careers.
Curtis said he closely followed the careers of his cousins and would see them from time to time when he and his family “went home” for family reunions or funerals.
Next week I’ll bring you more stories about our coffee drinkers from years gone by including a story about Buck Jones who was also raised on Sand Mountain.
Now, we have to get our local coffee drinking club in sync and have them realize that “Yes, Santa, there is another football team in this state.’ Troy Byrd, Woodrow Pettis and I are having a difficult time convincing Johnny Coker, Joe Pennington, Leon Lyles, and “Big Dave” that the Auburn Tigers are not the only team in the state. I will say they have become a little more contented here lately since they hired a new coach.
Now, let’s see. What’s that coach’s name?
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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