Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 25, 2004


Going back in time to Union Springs


          Seniors love to travel. Being retired, they have time to go places, as long as their health is good. At St. James Church, I have the honor of working with seniors. My wife and I are having fun getting to know some wonderful older folks who are not dead yet by a long shot.

          Friday morning we met at the church, loaded our luggage, and began our trip – not to faraway Vermont but to Union Springs, Alabama. Our “Young at Heart” leader, Betty Cates, called this trip “Conecuh People: Back in Time to Union Springs.” Fortunately, we traveled by van. Had this been a bus trip, I would have been a “no show.”  I am allergic to bus travel. One trip to “see the leaves” in Maine was enough for a lifetime.

          Union Springs has a lot of history. We did a “drive by tour” of many lovely old, and historic, homes, some of which date back to the 1840’s. People settled in Union Springs after the Indians, bless their hearts, were moved west in the 1830’s. Today the town leaders are proud that 45 of their commercial and governmental buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

          After lunch, we checked into the “breathtakingly beautiful” Sedgefields Plantation. It is known everywhere as the Field Trial Capital of the world. Its owners call it the world’s most famous bird hunting plantation.

Without question, it is “a place of awesome beauty” with a rich and colorful history. Told that the plantation was on the market for seventeen million dollars, I was not surprised.

          Friday night was a night to remember. The ladies at the historic Baptist Church prepared an old-fashioned dinner for us. Baptist women know how to cook. It is not every night that Methodists get to enjoy a nice meal prepared by our Baptist friends, so I enjoyed every bite.

          That evening we were treated to a delightful play, performed by local people in an old church building now owned by the town. Playwright Ty Adams wrote the play, drawing his material from the book, Conecuh People, written by local author Wade Hall. The focus of the play is the culture of the people of the Conecuh Ridge during the mid-1900’s.  It gave us an interesting and often humorous look back at life in Alabama’s black belt during the 20th Century.

          Saturday morning we ate too much again, this time a southern breakfast served in the Old South tradition by our Sedgefields hosts. Later we toured Bonnie Farms, a remarkable local industry. The firm sells and distributes plants in 32 states from this home base.  Then came time for what my wife loves so much – checking out the local arts and crafts. There were many beautiful quilts to admire. Once again, my wife saved me some money by snatching up some genuine bargains.

          Some of our group wandered around in the historic Confederate cemetery to look at the graves of soldiers from both the Blue and the Grey armies. I passed on this part of the tour; I have seen enough cemeteries.

          Dean and I wanted to share this trip to Union Springs because of our own history. Our second son, Matt, was born in Union Springs on December 23, 1957, delivered by Dr. O. Emfinger. We were so pleased to learn that the good doctor still resides there. One of his sons is a local judge now.

          I well remember the night. We were living then in Midway, Alabama, about 13 miles southeast of Union Springs. That week I had begun in earnest reading a paperback book titled Childbirth.  I had gotten barely into the third chapter when Dean suddenly said, “It’s time to go to the hospital!”

          I said, “You are kidding. We can’t go yet; I haven’t finished reading the book.” She replied, “Forget the book; you have got to get me to the hospital in a hurry!”

          We grabbed a few things and hurried off to Union Springs. Wisely, I brought the book along. In those days, dear old dad was not allowed to view the birth of his child. I had to park myself in the wedding room and wait for the nurse to say, “You can come back now; you have a son!” Back then also, we had no idea whether the baby would be a boy or a girl until the baby was born. That baby is now a Methodist pastor serving the Trinity United Methodist Church at Weoka, north of Wetumpka, AL.

          During the hours in the waiting room, I finally finished reading the book about childbirth. Dean was so proud of me. How else would I have known how to help her with this delivery had I not read the book?

          I tried to get our tour group to drive by the hospital so I could show them the place where Matt was born 46 years ago. Why they were not interested baffles me.

          The residents of Union Springs consider their old town a valuable piece of Alabama’s past. Its history is important to them, and to us. Dean and I will always have a warm place in our hearts for Union Springs, for one of our sons was born there.

          Many good memories were stirred by our visit and the recollection of a hurriedly read paperback book. + + + +