Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 3, 2007


It is fun to slow down and sit on the porch for a few days


      Mentone is one of Alabama’s best kept secrets. When I mention going there, I must explain to most people that it is on Lookout Mountain, way up in the northeastern corner of Alabama.

        We have made two trips to Mentone and found it delightful both times. It is a good place to escape the heat in Montgomery and enjoy the cool, fresh air Mentone folks brag about. It is like going to the mountains without leaving Alabama.

        In the winter Mentone seems dead. There is not much to see. But in the spring the place comes alive. One big attraction is the Rhododendron Festival in May. The little town fills up with tourists who drive in to view the floral beauty, especially the lovely mountain laurels in bloom.

        My old friend Fred Thomas knew about Mentone. He remembered going there as a boy, in the days before air conditioning. He said people came by train loads to enjoy the cool air in Mentone. That must have been fun a hundred years ago.

        On festival weekends local artists display their wares. Craftsmen offer their handcrafts for sale. Amateurs, who will never make it the big stages, provide what they bravely call “live entertainment.” The quaint “storyteller” left much to be desired the Friday night we heard him. We were mighty thankful there had been no charge to listen to his feeble attempts to be funny.

        For ten bucks a nice young man will take you on a 45-minute boat ride on Little River just above DeSoto Falls. The view is worth the trip. Blankets of rhododendron and mountain laurel cover the banks on both sides of the river. These colorful plants are at their peak in mid-May. If you are as lucky as we were, a wild turkey will fly across the bow of your boat.

        The restaurants are not fancy but the food is excellent. We were surprised by the quality of our meals. The seafood and steaks were as good as we have found anywhere. And the people who serve you make you feel glad you dined with them.

        We stayed out in the woods at a splendid Bed and Breakfast called the Mountain Laurel Inn. Without a map we would not have found it. But the owner and hostess, Sarah Wilcox, made us feel most welcome. Her breakfasts are out of this world!

Our trip was even more special because we were in the company of my brother Seth and his wife Pearl, and my sisters Neva Williams and Margie Flomer. Trips with my siblings have been a delightful benefit of my retirement. Chances are the six of us will slip back up to Mentone to enjoy Miss Sarah’s hospitality.
        There is something invigorating about spending a little time in a rocking chair on a porch in Mentone. The mornings we were there, the temperature was in the low forties. A sweater felt good. I came home convinced I need to slow down and sit on the porch more often.

        I am not the first to fall in love with Mentone. The poet, Sidney Lanier Gibson, found it and loved the little town long before I did. I wish I had known him. It would have been fun to learn the background of his poetic praise for Mentone. I can imagine he wrote these lines after rocking on a porch one cool morning:


Mentone, a place the Great God built,        

Up near the sunlit sky,

There life is new and friends are true           

   And days too quickly fly;

Where wearied souls regain their power     

              And sorrows leave in the night.

Where peace is born with each new morn, 

       A haven of joy and delight.

        If you think you may not make it heaven, try to make it up to Mentone for a few days before you depart this life. + + + +