Taller than life governor visits in 1954

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The “Strawberry Pickers” came into Atmore about an hour before Big Jim Folsom arrived that day back in 1954. They played several songs to get the overflowing crowd in a receptive mood for Folsom’s arrival. Many in that crowd already knew their votes would go to Alabama’s loveable big tall man. And, when Folsom arrived they leaped on top of parked cars and trucks. Some even perched on top of South Main Street buildings. All were trying to get a close up view of him.

It was easy to see him mingling in the crowd because he was so much taller than those who turned out. After taking a seat on the sidewalk he leaned back on his hands and said to his band leader ‘boys give these nice Atmore folks a little bit of Y’all Come.” And, the band did just that. You see, Folsom had ridden that “Y’all Come” slogan to gubernatorial wins on earlier campaign trails.

Big Jim said very little that day. He really didn’t have to. He did tell us “Y’all can always come to see me up in Montgomery anytime you are up there.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In his down-home folksy manner he shook a few hands with some of those near him and then he told his band to “get us out here boys with that Alabammy Bound tune”.

Yes, all of us here got a big thrill that day just to see and hear that big man, a tall man-a very tall man. Yet, he was a man of few words who had the uncanny ability to charm an audience. And, we were, indeed, charmed by his visit one day back in 1954.

That was the year that our automobile license plates were changed in color and design. Large hearts containing the county numbers were imposed on the left side of the plates. The hearts were conspicuous as they “stood out” in the new green and white colors.

Up until recently plates depicted counties using numbering methods. Population determined the first three numbers. They were Jefferson County No. 1, Mobile County No. 2 and Montgomery County No. 3. The numbers that followed were determined by alphabet. For example, Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount etc.

I’m sure many of you learned these plate numbers in school. I did because it was taught to us in our Alabama history classes. But, the state apparently did away with this numbering system a few years ago. I don’t know why and I really don’t know if we have returned to that old system. It was always a lot of fun riding down the highway identifying the counties by the numbers on the license plates.

A somewhat “scare” occurred a few years ago when Madison County made a run at becoming number three in population. It would have been very interesting had this played out. What would have happened to Montgomery’s No. 3 and all those other counties? Would Escambia County have become No. 31 or 29? Fortunately, it apparently all worked out because we are still No. 30.

In other 1954 news, Sandra Francis Henry, a former ECHS student, was selected a basketball cheerleader at the University of Alabama. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Henry III. Sandy would occasionally ride home with me and my riders on weekends. I sometimes become forgetful when I try to remember those who rode with me. I do remember Martha (Moorman) Staff, Sam Jack Cassidy, Joe Osington, John Graham, Carolyn Kearley and Jimmy Deavers from Grove Hill.

Atmore Farm Bureau agent, J. Wilson, completed five years of service to his policyholders and Claude Bristow opened a section of his pharmacy to a hearing service. A rep would come in once a week to test those who had developed hearing loss.

An unfortunate accident involving a Pensacola Air Station training plane claimed the life of the trainee pilot. The small plane crashed on the Tenant Farm.

Friday and Saturday parking on North and South Main streets were addressed by city councilmen. Outlying and local residents filled these parking slots when they came into town to shop the many stores located on and adjacent these streets. An area near old Byrne Field was made available for additional parking.

Jack “Boo Boo” McKinley brought into The Advance office a huge hen egg. Martin Ritchie, Advance publisher, snapped a photo of it and commented on it in his “A.T.Moore” front page column. The egg, laid by a Red Hampshire Red hen, was six and five eight inches in circumference, had two yolks and weighed four and one half ounces.

In other 1954 news, over 100 family members and friends attended a birthday party for Mr. J.J. Sharpless. He was 91.

Cliff Frazier was named the new manager of Stallworth Cash and Carry Store. This firm, which specialized in fine clothing, had been operated by the Stallworths for many years.

Atmore First Baptist Church staged a gala “Sweetheart Banquet.” Several local singers and musicians participated in the event. The duet of Virginia (Keller) Ford and Glenn Jernigan rendered a couple of very pretty songs and a quartet consisting of Robert Maxwell, Alan Davis, Tommy Forte and Glenn Jernigan made the evening even more delightful.

Everyone was pleased to learn that a contract was let for the new A.C. Moore School. Mitchell and Nall contractors of Bay Minette were awarded the contract.

The Rev. George Merkel officiated the dedication of Trinity Episcopal Parish House. This house added to the beauty and design of the Episcopal Church.

Two Alabamians were honored in the musical world for their songs and music lyrics. Nat “King Cole” was recognized for his haunting song “Hadjji Babi,” which was used in the movie of the same name and Hank Williams recordings soared into the millions in sales both in the popular and country fields.

Next week we will have more news from the year 1954.

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