Swift gala picnic brought 100s of visitors

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This week we are taking a look at people, places and things from 1975 and 1985.

In the early months of that year Swift Lumber Company, one of Atmore’s oldest business firms, held a gala picnic for former employees. Staged at the Atmore City Park, the event drew over one hundred participants. Some of those former employees in attendance were in their 90s.

Another historic event that year was the closing of Bristow Drug Store. For years, this was one of the favorite early morning gathering places for coffee drinkers and the soda fountain was a popular lunch gathering place for many who worked in the various stores and businesses in town. Claude Bristow, who moved here from Bay Minette in 1942, was quoted saying “I am the only pharmacist, soda jerk and chief clerk in Atmore.” His store was one of the leading drug stores here for 33 years.

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Residents were saddened in mid-1985 at the death of Bob Vail. The former publisher of The Baldwin Times and founder of The Atmore Record Newspaper was best known as the administrative assistant for Congressman George Grant. He was the father of Sarah (Mrs. Buster Joyner) Vail.

Rev. Albert Kennington was ordained at the Trinity Episcopal Church. The former ECHS graduate also held degrees from Troy University and the Theological Department of Sewanee University.

Connie Torrence of ECHS won first place in the Escambia County 4-H Speech Contest. Her speech was selected tops over 50 contestants.

Mike Amerson was named to the Alabama Junior College All-Conference Baseball team. The Ernest Ward High School graduate played at Faulkner State in Bay Minette.

Another EWHS grad ended his professional football playing career. Guy Dennis, who was a standout lineman with the University of Florida, completed a successful playing career with the Detroit Lions. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and played with them for a number of years. He was coached in high school by Joe Latham.

McArthur Davidson resigned as Atmore police chief to take a job as investigator with the Alabama Board of Corrections.

One of the area’s largest rodeos was staged here in the spring of 1975. Cindy Flowers of Nokomis was selected queen of the event.

Barnes Football Stadium underwent a complete renovation. Three new bathrooms, one new shower room and two air-conditioned dressing rooms were added.

Debbie Bolden captured the annual Brewton Tennis Tournament. Others from Atmore finishing in the winner’s brackets included Jack Madison Jr., Joyce Wearren, Glenn Carlee and Pat Eddins.

I remember several summers ago while sitting on my front porch and looking over at the ECHS parking lot I saw a woman clinging to a light pole.

Detecting she may be having a problem I jumped in my car and drove over to offer help. She was tightly clinging to the pole, almost drooping onto the hot cement parking lot. It was obvious she was suffering from the intense heat. Her face was as red as an overripe pepper and she was as breathless as Weather Channel meteorologist Al Roker.

“Lady, may I take you to the hospital or get you some water?” I asked. She replied, “No, please take me to my car at the Byrne Park running track.”
As we drove to the park the coolness of my car air conditioner boosted her composure. I insisted that she let me get her some water but she said she had an ice chest filled with water in her car.

During the short drive she told me she had been running in the park and was overcome by the intense heat. “I lost my sense of direction and I really don’t know how I got over to the school,” she related. She kept saying, “Where is Jim? Jim was supposed to meet me here. Do you think he passed out in this heat?” She did not tell me who Jim was, or how to contact him. At this point I could tell she was still somewhat affected by the heat.

When we reached her car and after a few sips of water she immediately sped away. “I suppose she will be OK,” I thought. I did not get her name or where she lived. I had never seen her before. I could only detect a Florida license plate as she drove out Lindberg and turned south toward Florida on South Presley.

On my way out I flagged down a city policeman and told him about the encounter. I am not sure what happened after that.

Heat does strange things. Many fail to recognize that only a short spell
can cause heat strokes and fainting. I appreciate those workers whose work environment is the outdoors. They know how to protect themselves by wearing protective clothing, drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks.

Why is it in my older years I recognize the dangers of excessive heat? I don’t remember worrying about it back in the 1940s and 1950s. Do you?
Well, that’s it for this time. Next week we will take a look at another nostalgic year here in Atmore.

You can email Lowell McGill at exam@frontiernet.net.