A look back at some colorful characters

Published 1:44 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In the early sixties Advance Publisher Bob Morrissette and I attended a luncheon at Bug Albert’s Restaurant just west of town where the Happy Palace Chinese Restaurant is now located.

We joined other friends who came to honor Red Vickery and Scotty Byrne for their recent county election victories. They were receiving particular honors for having never lost an election.

As we set around the table waiting for our food to be brought out we watched a tall, lanky man attired in somewhat drab clothing slowing making his way from a sidetracked L&N freight train. Upon entering the restaurant he took a seat at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee. He did not order any food but sipped on his coffee and seemed to glance at our table as he sketched on a tablet that he had brought with him. After about fifteen or twenty minutes he walked over to our table and handed us the sketch of the four of us. Amazingly his sketch was created with the use of only a small pencil.

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We were all so impressed with his drawing of us that we chipped in to buy his lunch and food for him to take out.

He told us he was a professional hobo with a doctorate degree in humanities. He also showed us contents of a small cloth bag that he was carrying. There was a small plastic pan, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, one mirror, comb, a few changing of underwear and a tiny round tin of deodorant. He said, “even though I ride the boxcars I still maintain decent hygiene”.

Speaking very intelligently, he related he had taught college courses for several years and five years ago he began his open road treks on the freight train. “My art sketches are my meal tickets,” he said.

Red mentioned to him about “Tarzan” White, the Atmore native who gained success as an outstanding player in college and pro ranks and who journeyed the USA in boxcars. Interrupting Red he told us he knew Tarzan. “In fact the entire hobo world knew of Tarzan,” he said. He was overjoyed to learn that Atmore was “Tarzan’s” home town.

It was obvious he wanted to talk more about “Tarzan” but out on the railroad tracks rumbling and shaking sounds of the long train gave an indication it was beginning to move out. Well, the hobo quickly bid us bye and hastened away to jump on board. We were somewhat startled to see his faster exit as opposed to his “meandering” entrance.

I am not sure who kept the sketch. It was, indeed a masterpiece. Perhaps one day we will find it and we can put it in the paper for everyone to see.

In the early sixties, I rode up to Monroeville with Bill Hendrix and James Walter (Jim) Ash to attend an area Little League Tournament meeting. Atmore was hosting the tournament that year and teams from Monroeville, Brewton, Opp and Andalusia were participating.

Everything went fine in the meeting until the question of umpires came up. For some reason Monroeville wanted us to use their umpires and it appeared they were going to get their wish. But Bill and Jim convinced Brewton and Andalusia to vote for our umpires. On the way back home I asked them, “have you ever thought about running for office?” I said that was one of the best political moves I have ever witnessed when you convinced those others to use our umpires.” They laughed and said, “just looking out for what is best for Atmore.”

You could set your watch at exactly the same time Alvin Slay would take his morning seat on the bench in front of I G and Joyce Nichols North Main Street family clothing store. Following his retirement he was there every morning. In fact, city police officers Stewart and Phillips synchronized their watches by his arrival and departures each day.

Mr. Alvin was what we called an “old head.” When you needed information on someone or some event of the past he was one of the few “old heads” who could help you.

Only a very few of those “old heads”’ remain today. In an email from a friend a few days ago I was startled as I read the opening line…”Lowell, you are an ‘old head’ here…I need to know etc, etc.etc…”

Well, it soon dawned on me that perhaps I am now considered an “old head.”

This cool snap has had no apparent damage to Jimmy Biggs garden. When I took out the garbage one day last week I found two bags of his freshly grown garden goods on my front porch. It was a “mess” of big green sweet peas and some small round Irish potatoes. For supper that night Ouida cooked them together in one big pot, adding some fried corn bread, baked ham, sides of sugar beets and crispy bread and butter pickles.

So, Jimmy, thanks again for including us on your “delivery route.” You are, without a doubt, Atmore’s treasured green thumb gardener.

Atmore’s Pink Ladies will become an occasional feature in my weekly column. This week Marlene Forester is our featured Pink Lady. She will also be helping me gather news about this fine group of dedicated women who donate their time and service at the hospital and in the community.

The widow of Curtis Forester Marlene has been involved with these Pinks since she retired as executive secretary at Vanity Fair several years ago.

The mother of two children, Cheryl and Darrell, she is particularly involved in Pink Lady related Christmas events and jewelry sales. She also delights in her little dog, Scooter.

Finding enjoyment in tours and cruises with friends and relatives, Marlene particularly enjoyed a recent cruise to Alaska.

Active in Presley Street Church, she has a coveted reputation as an outstanding cook. Her tasty cake and pie recipes are frequently copied and pasted on face book.

She cherishes public contact she has with so many in her duties on the job as a member of this highly respected group of women.

Another admired Pink Lady will be featured in my next column.

I’ll have more news of Atmore’s people, places and events next week.

Lowell McGill exam@frontiernet.net.