Jim Folsom was awful kind to come here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When Big Jim Folsom ran for office of Governor of Alabama in 1954, he campaigned around the state with a country band known as the Strawberry Pickers.

They came to Atmore that year and 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.’

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And, the band did just that.

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.”

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 numbers. Population determined the first three numbers. They were No. 1, Jefferson County; No. 2, Mobile County; and No. 3, Montgomery County. The numbers that followed were determined by alphabet — for example, Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, 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” almost occurred a few years ago when Madison County made a run at becoming number three in population. It would have been very interesting if this had played out. What would have happened to Montgomery’s number three on the car tag? Would Escambia County have become number 31 or 29? Fortunately, it apparently all worked out because we are still number 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. Francis 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. I always had a full load of riders and the money I made from their riding with me helped pay for my college expenses.

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 young trainee. The small plane crashed on the Tenant Farm.

Friday and Saturday parking on North and South Main Streets was addressed by cit 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. 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 6.58 inches in circumference, had two yolks and weighed 4.5 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.

Next week we will have more news from the years gone by 1954.