1970 sees Chief’s passing, education awards

Published 2:16 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

By By Lowell McGill
It was 39 years ago that Poarch Creek Indian Chief Calvin McGhee passed away. His death was one of several events occurring during the year 1970. But, more about Chief McGhee later.
Vanity Fair workers received good news in 1970 when officials announced a lucrative retirement and insurance plan for employees, not only in Atmore, but for workers in several surrounding towns.
Joseph M. Nall, a 1962 graduate of ECHS, received the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal for bravery while pursuing his career in the U.S Air Force. Nall, who later was promoted to Colonel, was recognized for his efforts helping to recover downed pilots in Southeast Asia. Col. Nall is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Nall and is brother to Webb Nall and Elsie Butler of Atmore.
There were a couple education awards occurring in 1970. James Gulley received the President’s award for highest Scholastic average from Faulkner State Junior College and ECHS principal, Aubrey Wright, was named president of the Southeast Principal’s Association.
John M. Jones completed fifty years service at The First National Bank and local vocalist, Chris Barden, was selected to sing with “Pilgrim’s 70,” a well-known pop-rock Group who toured the entire U.S.A. dishing out musical concerts. Chris is the son of Mr., and Mrs. Elwood Barden.
Atmore Little League tabbed Charlotte Hopkins as Atmore Miss Little League Queen. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Hopkins. Atmore’s Rhonda Haley was selected to attend Alabama Girl’s State. The talented ECHS student is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Haley.
Becky Sellers, Shelia Copeland and David Maxwell were recognized for their scholastic accomplishments at the “National Citizenship Seminar” at Harding College in Searcy, Ark. The ECHS trio was selected as Escambia County representatives for the coveted event.
Two Ernest Ward graduates were given college scholarships for their educational accomplishments. Bruce and Ruth Stone, the children of Mr. and Mrs. George Stone, received offers from The University of Florida and Florida Presbyterian College, respectively.
Now getting back to Chief McGhee, I became friends with him through my friendship with Hugh Rozelle. If you are a regular reader of my column, you will remember my writing about Hugh almost two years ago.
I was in Hugh’s office one morning several years ago when Chief McGhee came in. This was during the time that Hugh, Lenoir Thompson and Congressman Jack Edwards were leading the fight for federal recognition of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The next day was the day Hugh would board a plane at Mobile and fly to Washington, D.C. Hugh asked me to drive him to the Mobile Airport. I of course obliged, and I remember his apprehensive conversations as we drove along the way. You see, this was the big day they were waiting for. This was the day they hoped to receive a commitment from the federal government. And, as it turned out, that trip would go down in history as the most significant occasion in the history of the Creek Indian tribe.
I was fortunate to go with Hugh on a few other important meetings, not only with Chief McGhee, but also with Eddie Tullis.
Little did Chief McGhee know then that his tribe of dedicated followers would today be setting the pace for Atmore becoming recognized throughout the entire south as a leader in jobs and opportunity for so many.
And, now I’ll move to some news from this week.
I received a couple of interesting emails and one very interesting phone call.
The lady who called said she lives in the Opp-Andalusia area and told me she was familiar with Lew Childre, the well known entertainer from Opp. If you remember I wrote about about Lew several months ago and she said her daughter found the column on the internet. The lady told me her last name was Bass. She wanted to know if I could tell her the names of any movies Lew had a role in. She said she thought he had “a part” in the Gene Autry movie, “El Rancho Grande.” I told Ms. Bass I would research this for her on the Internet. And, would you know, as fate would have it, I located a TV date for this very movie. It was on the Encore Western Channel on my Dish Network. So, when the movie came on I recorded it on my Dish DVD recorder.
Well, Ms. Bass let me tell you what I found. First, I did not find his name listed in the movie credits. I also could not find any Gene Autry movie listings for him on the Internet.
But, here is what I did find. In one scene where they were playing music (the scene with little Mary Lee dancing and singing with the band), I saw a man with the flat straw-hat, pipe in his mouth, sporty black shoes with white tops , handsome profile-like smile and playing a guitar.
Again, no movie credit was given him in this film or on the Internet, but, I am like you. It did appear to be Lew Childre. It certainly looked the part because this was exactly how he dressed and he had that unique friendly smile that was recognizable by all who saw him perform. Of course that movie was made, I think, in 1940. I wish I could be more sure but I just could not officially document the fact that this was Opp’s own Lew Childre. In any event it surely looked like him.
By the way, that particular movie featured one of the most haunting full-orchestra-choral themes I believe I have ever heard. The sounds from that musical ensemble reminded me so much of that beautiful 1946 radio program, “The Longine-Whitnauer Coraleers.”
I saved that Autry movie and find myself frequently listening to that particular nostalgic three minute segment with the orchestra and chorus depicting those luring “wide open spaces.”
And, you know, now in my later years, I find myself often listening to many other favorite musical selections of years gone by. How can anyone ever forget the David Rose Orchestra’s “Holiday For Strings,” which was the Red Skelton theme song. There was also the theme from the movie “The Barefoot Contessa” played by the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra. The 1953 movie “Return To Paradise,” which starred Gary Cooper was filmed in the tropical islands of Samoa. Another south-sea island movie, “Donavan’s Reef” contained a lingering theme song a.l.a Arthur Lyman and his orchestra.
A more contemporary movie theme came from the movie, “Beaches.” The Bette Midler film used the song “Under the Boardwalk,” a mainstay for the younger generation.
Another contemporary nostalgic instrumental was used in the movie “Raising Arizona.” Many fail to realize this haunting theme sounds just like the song “Way Out There,” recorded nearly sixty years ago by Bob Nolan, Tim Spenser, Hugh Farr, Carl Farr and Lloyd Perryman-better known as the “Sons Of The Pioneers.” Nolan was the actual writer of the song.
I could go on and on with these sounds of yesterday. Many of these songs inspire me when I am searching for column topics. At times I get completely “lost” listening to those “sounds of yesterday”.
Thanks to Sam Hill, former Atmore resident, for his nice and informative email this week. Also, a special thanks to Vic Mabry, a former college friend for his email.
Next week I’ll tell you about, possibly, some good news regarding the Northup Grumman tanker contract earmarked for Mobile and surrounding areas.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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