Sipsey family produces 10 singers; new bowling alley opens in east Walker

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The Livingston family of Sipsey produced not one but three popular musical acts in the middle of the 20th century.

The Rev. and Mrs. V.M. Livingston sang as a duet. Mr. Livingston was also a composer and had more than 100 songs to his credit by January 1961.

More popular than mom and dad was the group called the 5 L's — Larry, 19, Laura, 18, Lyman, 14, Lana, 12, and Linton, 10.

"Larry and I began singing many years ago as the 2 L's and I insisted that they be named so they could join our 'L' group," Laura Livingston told a Daily Mountain Eagle reporter.

The 5 L's had been together since young Linton was 4 years old. They had made two records in as many years and were making plans for a third in 1961. 

The year before, the 5 L's had taken second place in a the national singing convention in 

Birmingham. The Eagle reported that they would have placed first if they hadn't been disqualified for singing a second song to get the crowd to quiten down, which was against the rules.

One of the L's was missing at the time the article was written; Larry was in the Army. 

"We still manage to sing with him by attending gospel concerts close to Fort Gordon, Ga., where he is stationed," said Laura, who had taken over in Larry's stead and worked as a secretary for Jasper attorney Joel Robinson. Young Lyman, Lana and Linton attended school in Sipsey.

The youngest Livingstons — Laurinda, 8, Lamona, 6, and Londa,5, were part of a trio called the 3 L's. They were so in demand that Laura reported she was thinking of combining them with the 5 L's so that the siblings wouldn't be competing for gigs. 

The big news in east Walker the week of Jan. 27 was the opening of Hillview Lanes, a bowling alley co-owned by Charles Phillips, 22, Leslie Black, 32, and their aunt, Siddie Ballenger.

Phillips and Black were both veterans and had graduated from the Brunswick Bowling Equipment School in Chicago. Ballenger, who had once operated a grocery store at Dora Junction, was in charge of the snack bar.

Hillview Lanes was located on Highway 78 at Dora Junction. The mayors of Dora, Sumiton and Cordova attended the grand opening. 

Hillview Lanes opened with eight lanes, but Phillips and Black were already preparing to add two more. The automatic pin setter installed by the Brunswick Company was touted as "an electronic marvel" by the Eagle. 

At the other end of the county, the inauguration of President John Kennedy was still the talk of the town. The Carbon Hill High School band had marched in the inaugural parade.

Celia Davis, who was in the sixth grade at the time, told me that band members had been told not to look at the nation's handsome new president as they marched by, but the temptation was too great. 

"We were told to look straight ahead. We didn't move our heads, but we just had to glance up at President Kennedy. Everybody else said they did too," she said.

Bill Jones, a former Eagle employee who would work for both Congressman Carl Elliott and Gov. George Wallace, accompanied the band and later presented a color slide show at Carbon Hill High and the elementary school. 

Mrs. Woodrow Wyers, an Eldridge resident and president of the Carbon Hill Band Boosters Club, began working to secure an invitation to the inaugural parade in September 1960, two months before Election Day, according to an article published in the Eagle on Jan. 23, 1961.

When the state inaugural committee finally extended an invitation, the Carbon Hill City Board of Education placed Wyers in charge of a fundraising committee for the trip. Gov. John Patterson gave the band $2,000. Over $6,500 was raised to cover the band's expenses.

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