Fight to keep Little River open begins

Published 3:05 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2010

By By Lowell McGill
The news last week about the possible closing of Little River State Park was most down heartening.
Several news sources stated some employees had been terminated and more were expected to be let go soon.
It was learned, however, that the Alabama Forest Commission will make every effort to keep the park open. This organization says insufficient operational funds are the reasons for a bleak outlook.
Let’s hope a solution can be found because this memorable park is treasured by all us. In fact, since its beginning back in the 1930s and right up until today this luring park has been a nostalgic segment of our life. We went there as youngsters and we continue going there now.
The family picnics, swimming, diving, boating, camping and zestful aromas of smoking grills cooking tasty meals will only become memories if this park is closed.
Even the girls looked forward to meeting the “forestry boys from Auburn” each summer as they studied forestry courses in the park. That old CC Camp house, now torn down, was located adjacent the entrance to the park and served as their summer headquarters.
We all came from surrounding counties to gather for family reunions, birthdays, parties and “days and nights of just plain fun.” As teenagers we danced to the jukebox tunes at the main house. We swam all the way across the lake to the old boat house situated “on the other side.” We even washed our cars and pickup trucks at the water spill.
The park, formerly known as Claude D. Kelly Park, was named after Atmore’s popular ambassador to nature. Built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the 1930s, it is located in a unique setting right on beautiful Little River.
Perhaps a solution can be found to keep it open. I certainly hope so, and I know many of you feel the same.
Should the park close, it would become another passing symbol of our life here in Atmore.
I often think of many other events, people and places that were once a part of us.
At the “potato sheds,” we experienced the sounds and aroma of fresh Irish potatoes carried along the grading trays, the rattling of those trays with workers constantly “culling out” the bad and smaller potatoes. The sounds of L&N freight cars moving in and out of the grading areas as graded bags of potatoes were loaded for shipment to destinations all across the USA and the ice trucks brought blocks of ice for the simple refrigerated “box car” sections.
At Marshall Robinson’s “cucumber sheds” we sniffed the aroma of cucumbers soaking in the huge round vats of salty brine.
Buster’s “Dairy Bar,” State Farm Peach orchards, the Frisco train on the overpass while the L&N train traveled under it, “Up in Norman’s Arms” three story hotel and the “old high school” on Pensacola Avenue are now embedded as memories of long ago.
Finally, there is one more event that is very meaning for me. Almost each day and night I hear and sometimes watch the “hospital helicopter” fly over my home to and from Atmore Community Hospital. It is extremely suspenseful because I never know who that plane is taking to either a Mobile or Pensacola hospital. I always stop and say a one line prayer “God be with them.” I never know if it is a friend or even a love one in that copter.
On a few occasions I learned that some of those flights did, indeed, carry friends who were ill or injured. I suppose it is because I live right “in the line of the flight” that I think about this. It maybe because at my age I could one day be that person on board. It is especially chilling in the still of night as the copters seem even louder and closer to my home.
Three years ago, I wrote a column about “Riding Backwards in an Ambulance.” Some of you may remember it, but I tried to paint a picture of words about being transported to an out of town hospital in an ambulance.
I drew comparison to seeing familiar objects, homes and trees passing away from you as you viewed them through the rear window of the ambulance.
Riding backwards created a different prospective. It is something about that backward ride that sends vivid “pictures of your past” rapidly flowing through your mind. But, you are quickly eased in your ride by the capable and diplomatic EMTs who travel with you and look after you all the way. These EMTs are to be appreciated and held in high regards.
That particular column, after it was published on The Advance’s Internet Web site, was recognized by an EMT organization in France and excerpts were published in their national EMT magazine. This brought me gratification beyond words knowing it was recorded in some archives of that country.
I also have received response from local and area residents who have taken that ambulance ride.
As stated, you never know when you will be a patient in that copter or ambulance. I have taken three ambulance rides over the past few years, bypass surgery, pace maker, heart cardio version (shocking the heart) and prostate cancer. But, I am thankful to say God was with me. He gave me excellent EMTs, doctors, surgeons and proper medications, which has put me back like new.
Next week we will take a look at some more news from 1966.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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