Ewing Farm beacon shed light on a lot back then

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Ewing Farm beacon was the topic of many conversations in the early 1940s to the mid 1950s. Probably the best driving directions is taking the road west for 3-4 miles near the Jack Springs Highway and Interstate 65 intersection. Located just inside the Escambia County line, it can also be accessed from Baldwin County and the Lottie Community.

For years, the flash of a bright circling light could be seen 15-20 miles away. It served as a beacon for low flying aircraft. But there was a time when the light went dark. This was that peak span during World War II when the entire nation was under blackout from potential enemy invasion. Even window shades were painted with dark paint and the tops of vehicle headlights were darkly covered.

Some of the “older heads” often told stories about the beacon. I remember Ray Zwiffle, a former State Farm agent here, told about a crop-dusting friend who became lost in thick fog near the area. He said the beacon shone brightly through the fog and helped guide the crop duster to a safe landing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Another crop duster told of his similar experience. Geronomo, as he was called by his friends, told a WATM audience in the late 1950s of his using the circling beacon as a means to bring him home safely. “Actually, I landed my plane on Ewing Farms land” he related. He said the fog was so heavy that night that he could barely see the ground.

A news bulletin from Pensacola in the 1940s indicated a Navy training plane had lost radio contact. But before losing total contact notice of his location was given and that he was circling the Ewing’s beacon. The Navy immediately dispatched another plane to guide him safely home.

In the 1940s, a half dozen German war prisoners were sent to work the turpentine trees in the Perdido area. This was the time following the end of the war that many German prisoners came to this country to work. One day as night neared, they worked late and the beacon began flashing. As a young boy, I heard one of the prisoners, who spoke very good English, express fear that we were going to be raided from the air. But my dad explained to them the purpose of the lighthouse beacon.

By the way, my mother often brought them cool water and cookies, which they sincerely appreciated. They, along with the guard, would sometimes rest on our front porch doorsteps to drink the water and eat the cookies. The spokesman of the group constantly expressed his appreciation for my mother’s kindness.

I do not know if the lighthouse beacon still spins today. I suppose I should have found out prior to my writing this column. Perhaps some of you could answer this.

In other news, I wrote about potato shed operations last week. This reminds me a couple other related farm operations I learned about in the 1980s when I was adjusting flood property losses.

I remember talking with an elderly Cajun resident in mid Louisiana and learned about their hot pepper processing. The peppers were graded similarly to our potatoes. They were brought in from the fields, spray washed and graded in a conveyor line. From there, they went to the factories where they were processed into a “real zesty “liquid.

In Cairo, Ga., in early 1980, I worked a big flood in that area. The Rhoddenberry Pickle Company was popular among folks at that time. I learned that farmers contracted growing cucumbers for that company. This firm processed them into pickles. Syrup and peanut butter was also processed by this firm. Many residents were afforded jobs during the processing season.

And, in mid-1980, I worked Hurricane Juan in the Harlingen, Texas area. There I met a Mexican-American businessman who grew and processed various fruits and vegetables. I remember his telling me how well the growing season was there, mainly because the area was at the same parallel as south Florida. He told me that his operation provided countless jobs for residents there. He also told me that members from his distant family, in earlier years, came to Baldwin County to work the fields. That was the purpose for developing his business-so that residents could stay at home and work.

Now let’s take a look at some news from days gone by.

Mr. Lawley, a well admired man, who had connections with the state, led a group of prison labor in building our football stadium. His leadership reduced the costs of constructing the stadium. Murray Johnson and several others contributed to the overall success of the stadium.

Cecil Daniels, over the years, has contributed to Atmore’s recognition for excellent vegetables. Each year, you will find him and members of his family diligently working in his fields getting, all his vegetables ready for the harvesting season. I suppose tomatoes are his specialty, but you can’t overlook all the cantaloupes, peas and watermelons he produces. Folks can drive right up to his sales area and easily stock up on his fine products.

Don’t forget our friend Jimmy Biggs for all his tiring efforts growing vegetable and fruits for his friends.

Yes, it is good that Atmore has fine people like this to keep us supplied with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Some have asked me to write about the Governor (Robert) Bentley situation. But, I cannot do this because I, like many others, do not know the whole story. If I wrote about it, it would only be speculation and could possibly bring harm. I will leave this up to those writers who are “in the know.”

Folks, pull for me. Next Monday, I am having my pacemaker battery replaced. It’s been ticking now for eight years. Sure hope I can get eight more years.

Contact Lowell at exam@frontiernet.net.