October 1952: Eagle's oldest readers recall changes they have witnessed

Posted 10/19/18

This week we're revisiting October 1952 to share some of the stories that were gathered from The Mountain Eagle's octogenarian readers during the paper's 80th anniversary celebration."For those …

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October 1952: Eagle's oldest readers recall changes they have witnessed

Posted

This week we're revisiting October 1952 to share some of the stories that were gathered from The Mountain Eagle's octogenarian readers during the paper's 80th anniversary celebration.

"For those looking out of the Western window of life, it was joyful occasion and it will linger long in memory," Mrs. Frank Bates of Jasper wrote in a letter to the editor published on Oct. 16, 1952.

Eighty readers ranging in age from 80 to 104 attended the day-long festivities. One notable absence was R.D. Prescott, who helped haul the paper's first press from Tuscaloosa to Jasper by ox cart when he was a boy. Mr. Prescott could not attend because he was confined to the hospital with pneumonia. 

E.P. "Ed" Rosamond, 85, a Birmingham resident raised in Jasper, said he could remember the Rev. John Anthony, who established the Eagle in October 1872.

The youngest of these special guests were born seven years after the Civil War (or the War Between the States, as they referred to it). 

Mrs. Lou Banks, 97, recalled that the Yankees had bells on their spurs that tinkled and that some Union soldiers took her brother's horse one day while he was plowing in the field.

Her one encounter with the enemy soldiers came the day that she was dipping water for them from a spring near her home in Randolph County. One of the officers quickly instructed the men to get it themselves.

The guests were asked about the biggest changes that they had witnessed in their lifetime. Several discussed advancements in transportation.

A.T. Drummond of Dora and Zack Pruett of Jasper recalled when there was no bridge spanning the Warrior River at Lynn's Park. They rode Sanders Ferry, which did not run at night, or crossed about a half-mile upriver where rocks formed a line of stepping stones.

John R. Davidson, 87, told Eagle editors that it used to take a week to travel from Jasper to Tuscaloosa. He "marveled at the ease and convenience of travel today by cars over the paved highways." 

John R. Rutledge, 82, cited modern conveniences such as mail delivery to rural homes, modern appliances, TV, radio and electricity as the greatest change he had noticed.

Mr. Rutledge reminds me of Aunt Elner Shimfissle, the octogenarian heroine of several Fannie Flagg novels. In "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven," we learn that Aunt Elner is a big fan of Thomas Edison and is quite upset that there is no national holiday for him. She addresses this oversight by turning all of her electrical appliances on each year on his birthday (Feb. 11) and leaving them on all day.

"Why, he lit the whole world," Elner told a young man doing a survey for the power company near her farm. "Without old Tom Edison, we would all still be sitting in the dark, no lights, no radio, no electric garage door openers. I think, after the Lord, of course, I'd rank the Wizard of Menlo Park number two, that's how highly I think of old Tom."

Aunt Elner would have been an interesting interview for Eagle Women's Page editor Carolyn Hayne. Hayne interviewed 22 female party guests for the article "Lady octogenarians have interesting hobbies, live just like other folks."

Mrs. Missouri Herron, 91, of Oakman, remembered when The Mountain Eagle consisted of only two pages. (The Oct. 16 edition was 22 pages and packed with more local stories than we churn out in a week's worth of papers today.) 

Mrs. Martha Harden turned 80 on Oct. 9, 1952, two days before the Eagle turned 80. 

Mrs. Mary Studdard, 83, said she had picked cotton each year since she turned five with the exception of the previous two years. 

Mrs. Tom Pate, 80, a former Walker County resident, traveled from Dallas, Texas, for the party.

Mrs. N.A. Grace, a Walker County native who had moved to Birmingham, said she still read the Eagle every week.

A subscription at that time cost $3 a year, according to an advertisement that ran near the back of the paper.  Single copies were 10 cents.

Newly-named assistant publisher Bill Jones contributed an article for the Oct. 16 edition on recreation for older citizens.

"One of the activities which is developing is the establishment of day centers for the elderly folks," Jones wrote. "These centers are set up and many cities already have them so that the old ones can come to them, spend the day doing things they like to do and then return home in the evening."

By "cities," Jones meant places like New York City.  More than 65 years later, senior centers are scattered throughout Walker County. 

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.