The City of Fairhope is kicking off its 125th anniversary celebration this month with a bang.
Citizens can also get involved in telling the story of the City. From now until November, submit your Fairhope story in 300 words or less and let your fellow residents know what you love most about Fairhope and why. Stories can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo of yourself to be used with the story online at www.FairhopeAL.gov. Some stories and photos will be used on the City’s social media channels during July-November.
Before my time the Twin Beech community was a red clay dirt road and on the out skirts of Fair Hope. All the street signs except for 3 are named after families that lived and still do reside there. If you ask some of the older generations about Houstonville or Wilson Neck (Da Bottom) you might get a chuckle or a whatcha know about that.
Houstonville is named after Mike “Big Papa” Houston (Feb 1863), my 3rd great grandfather. I was always told by RJ and Augustine “Flency” Houston, my grandparents that everyone loved Big Papa. Battles Wharf and Point Clear by Florence D’Olive Scott & Richard Joseph Scott spoke of Mike Houston as being a faithful caretaker of Margherite and Sylvester Festorazzi, owners of the Indian Queen Coffee Saloon.
Mike Houston had a dairy farm at the corner of Bell Rd and Twin Beech Rd, his horse and wagon were used to sell produce from his gardens, blocks of ice, and at one time was converted to a hearse. The hand carved mahogany hearse was split and donated to his son Josephs church Saints of the Apostolic Faith present day Good Samaritan Church (Est 1929) on Twin Beech Rd. The other side was donated to Twin Beech AME Zion Church (Est 1867) and is used as the pulpit. In 1907, Mike Houston sold land to Baldwin County Alabama for the purpose of a public school for the Twin Beech community. Everything Mike Houston did benefitted the community because the community was family.
Wilson Neck (Da Bottom) was from Cedar Lane to Da Bottom of Twin Beech Rd. That neck of the woods belonged to Bloom (Mar 1838) and Annette Wilsons (Jun 1850) and their 13 kids. They lived on 40 acres and were very protective of who stepped foot into Wilson Neck. My grandparents told stories and laughed about if you fought one Wilson, you’d have to fight them all to get out of Wilson Neck. When the land around Tatumville Cemetery on S. Mobile St was being acquired from the original owners and the cemetery became less accessible the Wilson family and men of the community clear cut the rest of Twin Beech Rd to allow access to Twin Beech Cemetery.
When I check the weather app and it says Houstonville I smile with pride. If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. As a child I loved the Twin Beech community of Fairhope but as a teen I couldn’t wait to leave. As an adult in the military for 20 years traveling all over the world. I couldn’t wait to come back home to the Twin Beech community of Fairhope so that my husband and I could raise our kids.
- Submitted by Clarice Hall-Black, Fairhope resident
I had lived in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota my entire life (57 years at that point). I had never realized that a place could make me happy until my husband and I moved to Fairhope. We discovered Fairhope when we’d come to visit my uncle who rented a place here for a few months every winter and FELL IN LOVE. When my husband retired, we were able to move to this incredible community. Now I can take walks at Magnolia Beach under the live oaks with swaying Spanish moss and listen to the waves lapping the shore. We can eat at any number of amazing restaurants. We can enjoy FREE music at many different venues like Bone and Barrel, Page and Palette and our favorite – the Live at Five at the amphitheater at Costal Alabama Community College. We can sit in a park overlooking the gorgeous Mobile Bay and listen to the Baldwin Pops and/or the Army band while watching incredible sunsets at the Fairhope Pier. On our first 4th of July here, we got to enjoy what my husband dubbed the “Fairhope Flyover” as we watched groups of pelicans soaring over the bay. We can enjoy the beautiful and creative flower arrangements along our streets. As I say my prayers each night, I thank God for the opportunity to live in this amazing city and hope I always continue to be enchanted by this magical area of Alabama.
- Submitted by Terri Sharpe, Fairhope Resident
In what other community can a one-legged Cape Codder transplant himself to the Deep South, write for The Fairhope Courier, dig into Fairhope History as a volunteer, get schooled in the South while working at the Fairhope Public Library, and top it all off by writing a book? My wife Susan and I began our New South adventure with family already nearby in 2005. I arrived in town like I arrive anywhere sporting a below-knee artificial leg. When I saw the late Bob Youens getting around swimmingly on his wooden peg leg, I knew I was in the right place.I landed a job writing for The Fairhope Courier. Sheila Propp gave me the keys to 325 Fairhope Avenue. I learned about my new city from the inside out. I met so many wonderful Fairhopers in a very short time.Less than a year later I decided to leave my position at the newspaper to further my education.That’s when I met Fairhope’s historical character. In 2006, Donnie Barrett gave me a key to the old Bell Building, the original home of the Fairhope Historical Museum. Since we had so few visitors, I studied the exhibits and spent my time writing about Fairhope founders.In 2007, Betty Suddeth hired me to work at Fairhope Public Library. Twelve years ago today, Betty handed me the keys to the Fairhope community. What an amazing journey I’ve been on! The library, my coworkers, patrons, and volunteers transformed my life. So what did I do? I wrote a book about it.Stump the Librarian: A writer’s Book of Legs is the culmination of my journey as an amputee, a writer, a librarian and a Fairhopian, thus far.I’ve just begun my next chapter as the new keeper of keys at the Fairhope Museum of History. What’s your Fairhope story?
- Submitted by Alan Samry, Fairhope Museum of History Director
I had begun to show and sell my artwork at art festivals. A friend told me to apply to a show in the Fairhope area. It was the Grand Festival of the Arts. I had never been to Fairhope and found the town charming. On the first day of the festival, a woman ran to my booth shouting snd pointing, "I want that painting!" I was shocked and thrilled that she actually bought it! She was Maggie Mosteller-Timbes. That was my first taste of Fairhope's excitement. I returned to that festival and the spring art festival. When I retired from teaching college art in Dothan, AL, I sold my house and moved to Fairhope! I love it here, continue to create, and am still friends with Maggie.
- Submitted by Jane Hinton, Fairhope Resident
We have been visiting the welcoming colony of Fairhope for about ten years. The friendly residents coupled with the picturesque downtown made this village a perfect choice for our retirement.We grew up and raised our children in small towns that had beautiful homes, friendly people, and quaint downtown areas. Moving to Fairhope offered this idyllic setting again for us. We are thrilled to be close to family and are making many new friends. Our lovely home is surrounded by lush woods and is a short three-mile trip to the bay. Fairhope offers many activities to its residents such as monthly Art Walks, outdoor movies for families, Farmer’s Markets, frequent musical events, and outstanding events during various holiday times. We have thoroughly enjoyed participating in many of these events and activities. Our grandchildren have prospered in the excellent school district and have been able to grow in talents of dance and martial arts in academies in the county. As we learn what it means to be a member of the colony, we hope that we can become more involved in this outstanding community. We have entertained out-of-town guests in our few months here and several more families plan to visit this year. Perhaps they will also love this town the way we do and will choose to make Fairhope their destination frequently.
- Submitted by Debby and Jim Hackbarth, Fairhope Residents
Paul Molyneux in early Fairhope
Edward Thomas Molyneux and Anna Mary Bever Molyneux moved to Fairhope in either the late 1890s or before 1903. The exact date is not known but occurred after 1897 when their child Hugh Gordon died and before 1903 when their oldest son, Paul, turned twelve. Edward Thomas, Anna Mary, and youngest son Charles Edward are buried in the Fairhope Colony cemetery; Hugh Gordon is not.
The Molyneuxs had three other children, Paul born in 1892, Marc born in 1893, and Gladys born in 1901. The father, Edward Thomas, moved the family to Fairhope after starting a pine stump rendering business in Mobile. They had a small farm located east of Fairhope. The farm’s exact location is not known.
Edward Thomas was an Englishman who as a boy served on a British blockade runner during the US Civil War, at 16 taught school in St. Augustine, Florida, went back to England to complete his education, returned to the United States, and worked as a mining engineer in Oklahoma and Colorado. Anna Mary was a schoolteacher from Indiana. They lived in Joplin, Missouri, prior to moving to Fairhope.
Anna Mary became ill and virtually on her deathbed received a promise from her eldest son, Paul, that he would become educated in a profession. In the early days of Fairhope there were no opportunities for rural children to receive an education to prepare adequately for university studies. Being the family lived a significant distance from town, arrangements were made for their son, Paul, to live with a family in town and receive a classical education under the tutelage of Mrs. Marietta Johnson.
At 12 years old Paul moved into the home of the Mershon family on Fairhope Avenue west of Section Street. Dr. Mershon was a family doctor and owned the drugstore which was located on the south-west corner of the intersection of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street and is now known as Fairhope Pharmacy. Paul lived with the Mershons as a member of the family, and their young sons cried as they became older and realized that Paul was not their real brother.
Paul was a typical boy getting into trouble as boys will. The family had a small goldfish pond in the back yard in which the boys attempted to raise their small “pet” alligator, but with no success being the critter choked to death on a t-bone in the table scraps on which the gator fed. Another episode for which, as Paul described, “they caught the devil” from Dr. Mershon involved sailing out to the Mobile ship channel in a 12-foot cat boat. Also, the Doctor frowned heavily when Paul upon finding a large flock of black birds on the school grounds, ran down Fairhope Avenue to home, retrieved his shot gun, came back to school, and shot once leaving 60 or so wounded or dead birds on the ground.
When not attending school, Paul worked in Dr. Mershon’s drugstore sweeping the floor, making ice cream, and filling prescriptions. (In those days there were no laws restricting who could fill prescriptions.) Often, he would accompany the doctor making house calls to the families east and south of town. In addition to working in the drug store, Paul had a side business which now would be very much frowned upon but served a need of certain members of the community. Not only frowned upon, but highly illegal today.
Paul ran his own self-funded loan shark business. Very likely, he knew well most of the people in the small town between 1903 and 1909 so the risk of business losses would likely have been minimal. His method of operation was as follows: He would loan a working man $20 and the debtor would pay Paul $1 interest only each week. This was done until the loan principle was repaid. (You may calculate the interest rate if you like.)
During the six or so years Paul lived with the Mershon family, his mother died, and Paul saved his money. As he worked in the drugstore, he developed a love for the pharmacy business. About 1909 Paul left on the train from Mobile and went to Auburn. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1913 and still had $700 in the bank. At the time he planned to be a college professor and remained in school to complete a Masters of Bacteriology. But, and this is a major “but”, he learned how little college professors were paid and regretted spending the $700 on the MS degree instead of buying 90 acres of land. The property was an area north of Fairhope called Volanta on which is now located the Fairhope Yacht Club, marinas, a restaurant, and many very nice homes along Fly Creek. (Needless to say, several of his descendants also now regret his decision.)
Paul’s first job after college was as county chemist for Mobile County. One of his responsibilities was to verify the quality of the water provided by the city. Once as he tested the city water down-town, he found a rising bacteria count, so he drove out to the city reservoir at Spring Hill where he found a hole in the fence surrounding the reservoir and a dead goat in the water. He removed the goat and repaired the fence, and the bacteria count dropped to safe levels. Another of his tasks was to analyze moonshine and bootleg alcohol confiscated in raids and provide testimony in resulting criminal cases. He found this line of work to be dangerous to his personal safety and resigned.
As World War I was underway, he went into the army. A requirement for all recruits born south of the Mason-Dixon line was to routinely be wormed. Being he knew the unpleasantness of such treatments, he quickly informed those in charge he was born in Missouri thereby avoiding the treatment. In the wisdom of bureaucracy, he was assigned to be a machine gun instructor. When influenza savaged the camp, he and a doctor were the only ones present with medical experience. He said when a soldier succumbed all they could do was embalm him, stack his coffin on the railroad depot platform, and ship his body home.
He married a young lady from Mobile, Ruth Lott, and they had two daughters, Ruth Elizabeth and Marjorie. He was a salesman for a drug company for a short time and then opened a drug store at the corner of Dauphin and Hamilton streets in Mobile. He was the first registered pharmacist in Alabama to be a graduate of a school of pharmacy and was the president of the National Board of Pharmacy in the early days of World War II. Needless to say, he was well known and respected within his profession.
He ran his drug store until he sold it at age 65 with the intention to retire. Numerous area drug store owners persuaded him to work relief for them periodically. When his friend, Mrs. Cogburn, opened a modern nursing home in Mobile, she convinced him to staff a pharmacy within the facility. When asked, “Mr. Paul, why do you come here every day?” He replied, “I just as well. Everyone I know is either in here or dead.” He worked in the little pharmacy until he was 83. As most will appreciate, working from age 12 to age 83 in a single line of work is a rather long single occupation career. He died at 86.
- Submitted by Paul Crigler
For some, there are no better stories than the ones you remember from childhood.Helen Nichols, one of Fairhope’s Centenarians, it rings true.Nichols’ parents were Albert Weeks and Estella Houston Weeks. Michael “Big Papa” Houston was her grandfather.Helen was born, raised, currently lives in the Twin Beech community.“We would ride our bikes to the Denton place on the bay,” She said. The Denton’s lived on Denton Lane, south of the American Legion is located on Scenic 98.“The Denton’s had a lot of children, that’s where we all gathered to play and swim in the bay.”She went to the Anna T. Jeans School, which was located on the northeast corner of Twin Beech Road and South Section Street. Later, she attended Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic School in Mobile. While in school and after she was nanny to many children.
In 1940, She married a “Mobile man,” Douglas Nichols, and spent a few decades living in Mobile raising a family. They moved to the Twin Beech community in 1959, raising a total of five children on both sides of the bay.Nichols remembers taking care of her grandchildren, who called her “Mama Helen” and her daughter, Rickey Thornton, said she became very active in the ministry.“We were among the first Jehovah’s Witnesses here in Fairhope,” Nichols said.Nichols remembers, “Early on we met at the Mason’s Lodge on Young Street.” The lodge, built in the early 1900s, was the leading African American fraternal organization in Fairhope. It served as meeting space for women members of the Order of the Eastern Star and many other community organizations over the years.Looking back on her 100 years, she was asked what she’s most proud of. Nichols grinned and said, “Well, I raised a lot of children.” Perhaps that’s why, though she walks with a cane, she still has a spring to her step, a warm smile, and friendly hello for people she meets.
- Submitted by Alan Samry, Fairhope Museum of History Director
I’m a home-grown ‘bay boy ‘. What I love most about Fairhope are the memories formed during the 60’s and 70’s when the unique combination of the bay, small town life and its people were what nostalgic movies and books are written about today.To reflect on these memories is sweet. It’s hard to select the most memorable. Where do I begin?Maybe it’s the story of Jubilees when crabs and flounder were so thick you couldn’t step without old shoes protecting your feet. Sometimes I would wake up so fast that I found myself in underwear as the sun came up on the bay, hours later. The joy extended into the afternoon when my mother boiled the crabs and the whole house smelled like Old Bay.Maybe it’s our neighborhood church (where I was baptized with my dog Sweetie by my side) and characters like Mr. Robinson and his seeing eye dog, Tommy, the special needs man that said hello to every car that passed his corner.
How lucky I was to be able to run the bay on June mornings to be fishing the Gulf by 7:30. We trolled the “tornado clouds” of minnows where Spanish mackerel fed. I reflect on the landmarks that have come and gone: the Dixie drive-in burger joint, the Greyhound station, the Casino, the Colonial Inn, Jack Ellis diner, The Elbow Room and the old “big pier”. Can’t forget the Fairhope Movie Theater where my friend and I snuck in to see “Easy Rider”, “Barbarella”, “The Graduate “and where I first held a girl’s hand. The Elementary School (now the empty K-1 bldg.) where every Friday we filed in the auditorium row by row to sing patriotic songs. I could go on and on. I have been blessed more than most. I grew up in Fairhope, AL.
- Submitted by Ack Moore, Fairhope Resident
Fairhope, A Perfect Fit
In the late 1930s, when Fly Creek was a flying creek and Fairhope was just a village, my parents, Wellington “Windy” and Lucile Johnston, lived at Sea Cliff (on the northern edge of Fairhope). Sea Cliff had been my father’s boyhood summer home. In 1919, his family bought property on the red bluff above Mobile Bay and Fly Creek. At that time, there was only a bluff-side road. It wasn’t until the late 1940s that the City of Fairhope built a road behind the homes that faced the Bay which today is known as Sea Cliff Drive. Driving along the edge of the crumbling bluff road was often quite an experience; driving with my father on that crumbling bluff road was always a harrowing experience! So, when my parents wanted to go into town, it was much more sensible to take their 20-foot sailboat, “Windy”. Their Springer Spaniel, Lucky, accompanied them as a “navigational aid”. My parents and Lucky would sail south from Fly Creek to Fairhope’s “Big Pier”, dock at one of the finger piers, and trudge up the hill to downtown. There, they would visit friends, buy groceries, or catch a movie while Lucky would wait patiently on the boat. Often, when they returned to “Windy”, it would be dark, so sailing back to Fly Creek would be quite a challenge. There wasn’t a channel or any lights marking the mouth of the creek then. Standing like a figurehead on the bow of the boat, with an innate familiarity with the darkened shoreline, Lucky would bark and whine as they approached the mouth of Fly Creek, delivering them safely home.
- Submitted by Sarah Cox, Fairhope resident
There’s a Pelican in the Basement
Imagine, in the morning before school in the early 1950s, going down a cliff to the beach with a crab net and a bucket and catching enough softshell crabs for breakfast. Picture a ten year old girl having the freedom to sail your own Sailfish up and down the shoreline all by yourself. How about coming home from school and finding ‘Joe the Pelican’ living in your basement. Joe had a broken wing, so my father brought him home to recuperate. We found out that pelicans eat lots of fish: he ate all the fish out of our freezer and all the fish we could catch. When his wing healed, he was released where he was first found—the Grand Hotel pier—where he returned year after year. Like my parents, my home was Fairhope—not the City, but an isolated strip of land on a cliff nestled between Mobile Bay and Fly Creek. As a child, I rarely talked about where I lived or the awesome experiences I had living there. It seemed like an idyllic life in a perfect place. It couldn’t be explained. So, here I am, one hundred years after my family first purchased land in Fairhope, not living on a bluff surrounded by water, but living high in a condominium surrounded by shops, restaurants, parks, galleries, playgrounds, parades, lights, visitors and friendly Fair Hopers. My second Utopia.
- Submitted by Sarah Cox, Fairhope resident
How I came to be in Fairhope, Alabama...
I was born on September 19, 1946 in Des Moines, IA. I lived there until I graduated from high school and married my first love three days later. Raised my two girls and unfortunately my marriage didn't last and I became single at the age of 40.In 1987, I met my present husband Robert.
We moved to Gadsden, AL in 1993 and lived there for 16 years building a business and awesome life in the beautiful northern part of the state. That was the beginning of our life in Sweet Home Alabama. In 2008, we decided to move further south and ended up on a 4.5 acre property in the Summerdale area. While we lived there, we always loved visiting the town of Fairhope and dreamed of moving there someday. In 2017, our dream came true and we moved into a wonderful community (Old Battles Village) south of town. On November 15 that year, we decided to go to the Fairhope Founders Day at the History Museum. Watching the fun little play in which many docents and residents performed, I discovered the original founder, Mr. E.B. Gaston was from Des Moines, Iowa... the town that I gre up in! Wow, a light bulb went off in my head and I just knew that I needed to volunteer and a docent at this wonderful museum and learn as much as I could about this lovely Utopia of a town that we now lived in. I have been a docent now for two years and I love everyday that I am there and able to tell the story about how Fairhope began.
So, that is how my husband and I landed in Fairhope, and we can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Ilike to tell everyone that we became "Southern by the Grace of God.: I truly believe that is was my destiny to be living in this beautiful town called Fairhope, which our founders once said would be a "Fair Hope" chance to succeed! Little did they know how amazing and beautiful it would be today! I am Blessed beyond belief!
- Submitted by Patricia Welty, Fairhope resident
Fairhope - By Choice
In 1971, while returning to our home in Washington, D.C., after a visit with friends in Mobile, my wife, Anita and I decided to meander along the northern Gulf Coast to scout locations where we might live after my retirement from the Marine Corps. After crossing the bay, we took the scenic route down the Eastern Shore, arriving by chance in Fairhope near lunchtime. A friendly native recommended "The Bakery". A tasty lunch later, we took a stroll and, spying the Chamber of Commerce office, went in to learn more about this seemingly charming town.
Sue Boone looked up from her desk, and with a friendly smile, asked how she could help us. We explained we were passing through and were intrigued by what we had seen of Fairhope so far and could she tell us more. She talked about the town's origins, Single Taxers, the artistic and intellectual pursuits of many of the residents, Organic School, etc., etc. By the time she :finished we were convinced that we wanted to return for a closer look after my retirement.
Five years later I did retire. Anita and I loaded up our 26 foot sailboat and headed for warmer climes on the water: first stop--Fairhope! We left from Long Island, N.Y., where had been stationed for the past three years. I had intended to take the usual route south: down the East Coast. However, Anita, having more imagination that I, suggested the inland route, which took us up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes to Chicago where we entered the Illinois River which flows into the Mississippi. From New Orleans, the Mississippi Sound carried us to Mobile Bay and Fairhope. We arrived on October14, 1976, four and one-half months after leaving Long Island.
- Submitted by Barbara Brown
Fairhope's "Treasured Moments" Book Club
Our Fairhope story begins six years ago as ten gorgeous characters from across our nation came together in love of a good read and the hope of making new friends as ‘newcomers’.
And what characters we are: diverse in background, religion, career, politics and hobbies…in all things but our collective infatuation with Fairhope.
Our tale takes place in this happy place as bright flowers bloom at every corner and majestic sunsets on the sparkling bay captivate. One cannot take their eyes off the romantic Spanish moss kissing the ground from oak trees of grand majesty. The small town ‘feel’ surrounds us, as folks are welcoming, full of life and caring.
As the years have gone by, the plot has thickened as our “Treasured Moments’ book club has shared laughs, tears and fears as we’ve explored many a genre and life events, growing in our friendships along the way. We mirror the special Fairhope culture of acceptance, whimsy, progress, and enthusiasm for the arts. We are grateful for each other and Fairhope literature lore that brought us together.
As one of our own heroines, Elizabeth Gurley (former ballerina) said it best: ”There is so much to be thankful for. Knowing and growing in our friendship is so important to me. I consider this fondness, acceptance and respect for each other to be another of Fairhope’s charm. I only wish our nation had this opportunity.”
- Submitted by Kermit A. Simons, Fairhope resident
As a victim of Hurricane Michael I was evacuated to this beautiful quaint town of Fairhope. The friendly folks in this area were just great accommodating and supporting me – even fixing up my battered little car for free! I was so impressed by their warmth, kindness, and manners that I moved here. I am glad I did and so something very good came out of something very bad!
Prior to the hurricane I had never heard of the Fairhope Colony Founders or Henry George. Through the Fairhope Museum this all soon changed and I was amazed at the rich, progressive, inclusive fraternal foundation these Founders left us to build upon. I was particularly impressed with learning that the “Single Tax” advocate Henry George our Founders followed was not only one of the largest read authors of his time (“Progress and Poverty”, 1879) but also one of the most respected and beloved public figures of his era whose funeral attendance in New York City rivaled that of Abraham Lincoln!
Indeed we are blessed to have such a rich legacy that still has lessons for our challenged time as much as it did for the turbulent times of the 19th. Century. We can only pray and hope that the next 125 years of Fairhope will be bright ones full of accomplishment and progress worthy of our founders and their great hopeful vision of a better future for themselves and the colony!
- Submitted by J.P. Camden
A TRUE ORIGINAL
I read in a book once, “While an original is always hard to find, he is easy to recognize.” I immediately thought of my Uncle John Yancy Metzger. I’m not exactly sure of when I first suspected that my Uncle John was different from others, but I know it was at an early age. Sure, he was tall, bald, and loud like the other family members, but he had a certain childlike exuberance not found in others.
Aunt Marian, Uncle John’s wife, is from South Carolina, and he would take her there to spend a few weeks each summer. Upon his return our family would pack up and move in with him at his big house in Point Clear. The main reason for this change of venue was fishing. My father loves to fish and hardly a day would pass that we were not out at the old Zundel’s Wharf at daybreak fishing for specks, flounders, or white trout. Everyone knows that many fish bite if you’ve got good bait, and it was while we were getting bait that I learned for sure that Uncle John was an original.
In order to have a good supply of bait (live shrimp) you could either buy them or you could seine for them. My father would rather quit fishing altogether than to pay for shrimp. When Uncle John got off work, we would go down the lane and seine for bait. Our august group consisted of my father, William Joseph; Uncle John; my younger brother Billy, who today insists on being called Bill but he was always Billy Joe to Uncle John; and myself. My father was without a doubt the director of our merry band. The adults would unroll the seine once my father had picked out the right spot. They would wade out in the water to about waist deep and pull the seine parallel to the beach. My father would be constantly telling Uncle John how and what he wanted him to do. “John Yancy, pay attention, keep the pole straight, keep the lead line on the bottom.” Billy and I were assigned to the bucket brigade, which meant that we were to have the bucket where the net was hauled in, when it was hauled in. Being about six and seven, respectively, and having the attention span of a gnat, we were easily distracted and quite often failed to fulfill our job requirements. This lack of concentration on our part did not go unnoticed by my father, who would gently remind us to hurry up with the bucket. When the adults pulled the net onto the shore, it would contain varying amounts of shrimp, eels, baby croakers, crabs, and lots of seaweed. It was our job to help get the shrimp out of the net and into the bucket. We would diligently go about the job but the shrimp rarely cooperated. They would pop and try to make their way back into the bay and freedom. It was during this activity that Billy reached into the net and came out screaming with a crab attached to his hand. It’s a fact and I not boasting when I say that Billy and I were quite possibly the biggest crybabies in all of the Mobile/Baldwin County areas, if not the whole state. Billy yelled and screamed for some time before Uncle John asked him what was wrong. Through tears in his eyes Billy told him that a crab had bitten him on the hand. Uncle John said something to Billy that he evidently didn’t understand because Billy said, “What?” Uncle John then repeated what he had told him, “Bite him back.” Billy looked at Uncle John as if he suddenly couldn’t understand the English language and then he sort of arched his back, went limp and fell yelling and screaming to the sand. It is what happened next that set Uncle John apart from mere mortals. He picked that crab up and bit his claw off. For two young boys, it was truly a magical moment. We had seen a man disarm one of the sea’s most deadly creatures using only his mouth. Tattooed into my brain is a picture of Uncle John, goofy smile and all, standing there with that crab claw sticking out of his mouth. Billy was so surprised and amazed that he quit crying. As best I can remember my father said something like, “John Yancy, quit fooling around; we’ve got work to do” and just that quick it was over. I knew then and there that I was in the presence of greatness.
As I have grown up over the years and met new people, they would quite often say, Metzger, are you kin to John Metzger? It always has and still does give me great pleasure to say. “Yea, he’s my uncle.” To which they always smile and say something like, “He’s something, isn’t he.” He was something. He was a humble, unpretentious, loving, caring, cheerful, giving, husband, father, and friend. I loved John Yancy Metzger and I miss him.
- Submitted by Mike Metzger, Fairhope resident
For me the most special thing Fairhope has to offer will always be the people.?? Our grandmother Clara Jane Bishop was born on May 10,1900 in Barnwell to William G. (Beudreau) and Mary Steele Bishop. She lived there with her eleven sisters and brothers until she married Augustus Ryder in 1920 , they wound up in Texas because of his work. The family with five small children returned in the early 1930's to Fairhope in the face of the great Depression. The children were Hardy, Frances, Augustus D., Raymond and Aubrey. In 1932 Augustus Sr. left for New Orleans looking for work with his electrical union, he never returned, nor was he heard from again.?? Clara Jane was left at 32 years of with five children to raise alone. She offered to house keep and care for the farm of Mr. Jardeen, an elderly gentleman who had a farm off County Rd. 32.?? Clara and the children cared for Mr. Jardeen until his death after which some of the kids were able to help her buy the old house on Bancroft St.?? As a matter of fact?? last year I drove down Bancroft to find the three very tall Japonica's she had planted in the front yard close to the street way before I was born are still there and flowering. Clara's children represented our city, state and country well. Hardy Ryder was on the ARIZONA in Pearl Harbor, Augustus D. served in World War ll as well, Raymond managed to get into the Merchant Marines along with Frances' husband Boyd Langley. A few years later Aubrey served in the Navy until his death.
Those of you who were around in the 50's will remember our Clara Jane Ryder as the Popcorn Lady at the Fairhope Theater our favorite place to go on Saturday morning. A large number of the Ryder family descendants remain in Fairhope the older ones may be in Brook Cedron Cemetery in Barnwell and the younger ones are multiplying. In addition to direct family my memories direct me to a good number people who have rewarded me with their friendship and enriching personalities over these 75 years all walking down Fairhope Ave.
- Submitted by Barbara Pinter
What's a Fairhope
“What’s a Fairhope,” we asked our friends when they asked us if we’d like to join them. They said it was an interesting town on the shores of Mobile Bay in Alabama and they were going to drive over from the RV resort we were all staying at in the Florida panhandle.
My husband and I were full-time RV’ers at the time and had been traveling in the United States and Canada for several years and we were always ready to see new places. Since Fairhope was only a couple of hours from the panhandle of Florida we decided to go.
There was nothing special or even notable about the sign on Hwy. 98 that announced Fairhope or the surrounding area. It was like so many other signs we’d seen announcing hundreds of towns across the United States. But then, our friends turned off of Hwy. 98 onto Fairhope Avenue. As we drove along Fairhope Avenue in the direction of the bay, we began to like what we were seeing. Although the first houses we saw were older, they were well kept and the yards were very tidy. As we progressed down Fairhope Avenue, the houses and yards got bigger. We were beginning to feel impressed and then we came to the business district of the town. It impressed us even more. “Wow! Here’s a REAL downtown,” we thought.
There were quaint, charming shops lining the streets on either side of Fairhope Avenue and, if one got hungry, there was a plethora of restaurants offering a wide variety of food from which to choose; down home comfort food, Japanese cuisine, Italian fare, pizza, sandwich places, Greek delights, etc. We couldn’t decide if we wanted brunch or wait until lunch. Maybe both! We decided to put off eating and browse around the streets until we made up our minds.
There weren’t that many streets after all. It wouldn’t take us very long to see everything because Fairhope is, after all, a small town. We started walking down the street and the more we browsed, the more we were compelled to check out everything. We were struck by the variety of colorful flowers everywhere and took lots of pictures. Turning right or left at the corners we came to, we spent two or three hours leisurely wandering around. Not only were the shops interesting, the people on the streets actually spoke to us. We felt welcomed and warm. We were starting to like this place a lot.
“Oh, well,” we said, “Let’s go eat lunch and continue looking around after we’ve eaten and rested a bit.” We decided to eat at what was proclaimed to be the oldest restaurant in Fairhope – a meat and three kind of place. The food was SO good, the price was right and the service courteous. We felt contented and happy. We also felt ourselves falling in love with Fairhope.
A few months later, we were casting about looking for a place to build our new house. We’d been on the road for five years and thought it was time for us to settle down again. We, of course, remembered Fairhope so decided to make the trip to Alabama again.
It was November and the restaurant we chose to eat in had the French doors wide open so that passersby on the street could greet us as they walked by. Many did, in fact, say hello and we were so impressed that right then and there over lunch, we decided to make Fairhope our new hometown.
That was almost 20 years ago and we’re glad we did.
- Submitted by Jane Sellier, Fairhope resident
Why We Love Fairhope!
We moved to Fairhope in 2000 to escape the winters in the Midwest. That alone was reason enough, but we found many other reasons to call this home. We found new doctors to serve our health requirements only minutes from home. At our last house in Missouri, it was a forty-minute drive to our primary care physician. The nearest hospital was an hour away, Thomas Hospital is so much closer.It took only a few minutes at the Satellite Court House to get new Alabama Driver’s License as opposed to a 30-minute drive to a License Office in Missouri with a wait of who knows how long to get served. This facility is also very convenient for property tax payments, auto tag renewal and other business with the county.
The opportunity for volunteer service is fantastic here, so many civic organizations doing great things for the community need volunteers so you can surely find something that whets your appetite to serve. The library and the history museum offer interesting and educational programs that you can enjoy or participate in if you desire.We frequently run into people we know while grocery shopping, having lunch or attending an event. Something rarely experienced in large metropolitan areas. And these are just a few of the reasons we love Fairhope!
- Submitted by Gene Sellier, Fairhope resident