News from ‘66, today bring back memories

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

I had planned a full column this week filled with news from the year 1966 but some late developments have sent this column to my stack of standbys for future offerings.

One item of interest that year was the discontinuation of two popular L&N passenger trains. Known as No. 5 and No. 34 these trains were sent to the growing graveyards of L&N’s no longer profitable trains, leaving only four passenger trains serving the Atmore area in their daily treks from New Orleans to Montgomery. As we learned in literature and English classes events of this nature are called “fore shadowing,” which gives us indications of things to come. And, sure enough, as the years passed by those remaining passenger trains became obsolete.

In other news that year Bratt Baptist Church christened its new pastorium and Mrs. Henry Rodgers was elected president of the South Alabama 4th District Dental Auxiliary.

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That was a good year for coffee drinkers as Kwik Chek sold one pound cans of Astor coffee for 49 cents.

Now I must comment on some sorrowful news.

You probably read last week of the passing of Jimbo Johnson. A fine young man from a wonderful family, Jimbo was a very good baseball player. He was a member of my son’s teams and we went to several state Little League tournaments. Jimbo played in an era when Atmore was noted for having outstanding teams. His brother, Hal, received a scholarship to play with Coach Q.V. Lowe at Lurleen Wallace Junior College in Andalusia. Dudley, Jimbo’s dad would make all those “All Star” trips with us. And, he never missed a game when his boys played in those state tournaments.

News came just this week that Dudley passed away only a few days after Jimbo’s death. The Johnson family lived here for many years in their home out on Bratt Road. Having lived in Dothan for the last few years his funeral was held here this week.

And then the tragic death of Donnie Rotch this week also brought back memories of those years he coached in our area Advanced Babe Ruth Leagues.

Atmore, Brewton, Monroeville and Andalusia were the league members. Donnie, who coached the Brewton team, joined with Atmore’s Melvin Middleton and Andalusia’s Larry Tubbs and Q.V. Lowe in those All Star tournaments. He bought most of his team sports equipment from Tony Albert at Rex Sporting Goods. He often said he liked his team association with Atmore’s teams because he admired the talents of our local players. Over the years he turned out some good baseball players from Brewton.

It is at times like this that interviews are not needed from other sources for stories of this nature. In fact I could write all day in this manner because I was a part of that era. No other requisites and no pictures are needed, just let me sit at my computer and the words flow on and on and on. It is difficult to write sad stories about friends especially when grief’s like these are stacked one on top of another.

On a brighter note, how many of you read about that unique “Yard Sale” which ran from north Alabama all the way to Michigan? Moreover, how many of you went to it? You know or you may not know that U.S. Highway 31 ends in north Michigan and begins at Spanish Fort in Baldwin County.

I am not sure if yard sale sites were stationed on any sections of this highway but I did read that those sales extended to northern Michigan. I bet many of those avid yard sale buffs experienced ecstasy beyond explanation buying and selling just about any and everything related to this lore.

In addition to merchandise for sale there were musical groups featuring blue grass pickers and polka bands. These musical styles are always enjoyable. But, have you ever noticed some blue grass pickers never smile, often displaying a somewhat somber expression? This is a direct contrast to polka accordion players who smile all the time.

I bet you never saw Lawrence Welk frown when playing his accordion. (If you want to watch smiling according players take a look at “The Big Joe Polka Show.” It is carried on The RFD TV network at 9 p.m. on Saturday nights. Or, better still, tune in to the fabulous “Jimmy Sturr Polka Show” Friday nights at 6 p.m. on the same network.)

I read where one woman was trying to find a rare bowl to complete a matching set. She found it at one of the sales along a Tennessee highway. The person selling the bowl was from Cincinnati. I told my wife about it, and believe it or not, she uncrated a shaving mug given to her years ago by her 100-year-old grandfather, Rue Mason. I removed it from a carefully wrapped wooden box and found some numbers on the bottom of it. I went to the computer and Googled in “rare shaving mugs” and found that same set of numbers. I was then referred to “prices and values” and discovered it had a value of $185. I guess that mug would have sat there and never garnered research had I not read about the nation’s longest yard sale.

Next week I’ll have more news about people, places and events from 1966.

“…..yes, it always whispers to me….those days of long ago….”

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at