Everett family true friends to many

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back in 1954 there was a neat little cafe known as the Torch, located on Hwy. 31 just a short distance from the entrance to the airport and cemetery. That road was well traveled in those days because Interstate highways had not been introduced to our state.

One cold, rainy morning, I had my breakfast break there because I enjoyed their hearty servings of grits, eggs, thick pork bacon and extra large biscuits. I cannot remember who operated the café, but the cook was known for the unique taste of those delicious grits. I think she cooked them (or, is it cooked it?) in milk.

Willard Everett was having breakfast that morning and I sat down at his table. No sooner than we began to eat when a man and his wife came running in very excited and upset. They told us their car had run into a ditch filled with water near the café. Willard quickly jumped up, went to his big truck-rig, hooked it to the immersed car and pulled it from the water.

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He was completely soaked when he came back in, but he did not let it show. Well, this deed impressed the New York tourist couple so much they paid for his breakfast and ordered a meal for themselves.

Apparently they had never had a Southern meal like this. They fell in love with the taste of those grits. And they were simply overwhelmed at Willard’s kindness.

Over the years, Willard and I would often talk about that experience and he always got a kick at the couple’s introduction to grits.

Willard did long haul trucking and mechanic work. In later years, he worked on lawn mowers including my wife’s mower.

One afternoon I called him at his home and apparently awoke him from his nap. I said, “Willard this is Lowell. Can you run down here and get my wife’s lawn mower started?” He told me he would be right down.

Well, we waited all afternoon and he never came. The next morning he came into Buster’s where several of us always gathered for early morning coffee. I ask him “You must have gotten busy yesterday when you didn’t get down to fix the mower? I called you and you said you would be right down.” He said, “You know I thought that call was from Lowell Harms and I went down and tuned up his mower.”

Not long after Lowell Harms came in and we joked with him saying “Lowell when you go back home see if your lawn mower is running smoother.” All of us at the table got a big kick out of it and Willard laughed when we told him to lighten up on his afternoon naps.

I knew all of Willard’s brothers, Joe, Junior, Smith, Grover and Gordon. In fact, we were close friends and had diverse associations over a long, long span of time. I even knew their sister, Alma, when she and her husband, Robert, lived in Perdido.

I first met Smith in 1952 when I was in high school in Bay Minette. He and his wife, Mabel, would visit her sister Ollie who lived across the street from my high school girlfriend. (I hope my wife is not reading this column). Of course, at that time I did not know him, but I knew Ollie. She is the sister of Willy Lois Troutman, the wife of my wife’s late brother, Leon Troutman, and Ruby (Shelton) Luker. I talked with Ollie and her sisters and nieces and nephews at Leon’s funeral last year. In her 90s she is still very alert and remembered me from my girlfriend visits. I also remember Smith selling me a slide-tray toaster when he worked at a local hardware store. We still have that toaster.

Joe was president of our Little League organization back in the 1950s and 60s. I was also active in the organization too. Joe was self employed as a major gas and oil distributor and served several local and area service stations.

One day he held a Little League meeting at his distributorship office for the purpose of making arrangements for our team to participate in a regional tournament in Oxford. I do not remember all those at the meeting, but I do remember Shorty Holland attending.

After the meeting was over we were walking down the steps when we saw three 13-14-year-old boys squatting down in the sandy yard near his office. The boys were having a game of marbles. In fact one of these boys had two front pockets bulging with marbles. Joe told us to watch “this big tall boy when his round to play comes up.” Well, that boy squatted outside a round circle and one by one he knocked out every marble inside the circle. I don’t know who he was, but he was so good the other two boys did not get an opportunity “to shoot their marbles.” Joe said “now watch this.” He squatted down and shot all the other marbles from the ring, an amazing event like I have never seen. Of course he handing the marbles back to the boys and they gave him a big pat on the back. It was evident those boys thought the world of Joe.

I ask him how he learned to shoot marbles like that and he told me “that’s all we did when we were young boys.” Joe was truly one of best Little League “chiefs” we ever had in Atmore.

I didn’t really get to know Junior until I was assigned his Hurricane Frederic disaster claim in 1979.

His claim and two claims for Snap Melton were assigned to me. Snap was a former Atmore resident. Junior, who was a very successful salesman of school buses to school systems in several cities and counties throughout the south, had just completed a new small business building near the coast and it was destroyed by the winds and surge of the storm.

Unfortunately he did not carry flood insurance, but he did have adequate wind insurance.

Since I was certified only in flood adjusting I was not qualified to handle his wind loss. I did adjust Snap’s two flood losses, however. So I went to an adjuster friend, Fred Hillier, who came down from Rhode Island to handle losses. I asked our supervisor to let Fred handle the loss, which he did and Fred, in a very thorough manner, wrote up the loss giving Junior a fair and favorable settlement. After that, Junior and I were good friends until his death a few years ago.

Grover was also active in Little League and Atmore Pee Wee Football organizations.

An outstanding high school athlete, Grover held LL and PW offices and coached young boys for several years. He coached Mark, my middle son, and contributed to Mark’s success as a high school quarterback. He coached many other boys and helped them become good ball players. A member of my Sunday school class, Grover passed away last year following a lengthy illness.

Gordon, who still lives in Atmore today, can be regarded as one of the most dedicated church members I know.

Much of his inspiration comes from Jettie, his talented piano-playing wife. Her style of play is like combining those of Jo Ann Castle, Jackie Marshall (Blackwood Brothers Quartet), Floyd Cramer and even Liberace. She is just that good. And, Gordon has lent his voice to his church choir for many, many years.

His dedication to help care for his sister, Alma, and his late brothers is surpassed by no one. A very serious facial injury at his work cost him the sight of one eye several years ago. But, now apparently well, he carries on with his dedication to his church and his family.

Columns like this originate from friendship and from personal memories and experiences.

This is not one of those columns requiring interviews or notes. It is one of those columns I can truly say “.…..yes, it always whispers to me,… those days of long ago….”

More next week.

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