Tri-City Ledger -

By Earline Smith Crews
Guest Writer 

ECB shows more than customer appreciation


December 12, 2019

Escambia County Bank of Flomaton hosted a celebration for Customer Appreciation last Friday. I was invited to sell my book alongside the Alger Sullivan Historical Society group who were selling books; all things historical and local. So, the doors opened for business and the gathering of area folks who enjoyed refreshments and reconnected with friends and family. WPFL 105.1 Radio brought news, announcements and live interviews with many that shared their memories and talents from days current and bygone.

The coveted historical calendars were stacked for the taking by everyone. I watched as almost everyone took one or two--the intent of some being there for the calendar and a cup of delicious punch. So many folks clogged the lobby at times that it sounded like a long-delayed family reunion with all the gleeful greetings and guffawing. The mood lasted all day.

Santa Claus sat to ask the wee ones what their wishes were and have pictures taken. Only one meltdown while Grandma was held by one hand and guided another to Santa. Gretchen McPherson came with her camera to record pictures and comments for The Tri-City Ledger. Gretchen always uses her million-dollar smile to get the best results.

Retiree ladies took shifts to keep the beautifully decorated Christmas tables loaded with cakes, cookies and assortments of deliciousness. Whoever made the punch should be promoted. The Bank staff kept us informed and encouraged. I saw graciousness rounded to the highest power at the yearly ‘Thank You’ fest.

Let me share my own personal touch here by sharing some of my memorable moments of that celebration. I met Santa Claus (AKA, Webb Nall). I'll need to take the reader back to a chance encounter at Railroad Junction Day when I was rushing past a man as I headed over to where the BBQ smokers were located. Webb called out to ask me why I was in such a rush. I announced my intentions. That sparked a question of where I come from, my name and if I was here to sell or buy. Names and history were exchanged. We were surprised to find out we are just days apart in birth, and the kicker was we both had lived in Atmore just a few blocks apart as very young children. I lived on 3rd avenue, he had lived on Horner St. Imagine discovery of that fact after 78 years.

I walked over to speak to Santa when the photo op for the little ones had given a moment for our greeting. Myself just wanting to say "Hey Sandy Claws" while looking through all that white beard, those bushy brows and wire rims. He took my hand to say, "You know me."


"I'm Webb Nall from Atmore, we met at Railroad Junction Day."

Stunned, I stammered about trying to say something logical. He tells me our recent found history. I'm off and running. Hot Dang, I knew where Santa lived before he moved to the North Pole from Atmore, Alabama. Ain't life just grand sometimes?

I sat talking with my friend Kevin McKinley, writer for The Tri-City Ledger. We discussed the world we now live in and what happened to the life of little towns. What caused the change? Kevin hasn't had my experiences and I love sharing them because he is genuinely interested; being the writer of historical books and articles. He listens intently before he offers up his opinions. That is the sign of someone who wants to get it right the first time. Great sign of a good lawyer also, of which he is. Kevin opened the conversation to let me share my memories of seeing downtown Flomaton as it was on Saturdays, circa 1945/59. I suggested to Kevin that the towns faded when the bras were burned. Shame and disrespect…

Insert ‘funny/Ha,ha’ here.

I told him I remembered seeing the sidewalks crowded with people shuffling up and down, looking into store fronts, going into those stores to shop for clothing, hardware items; to get haircuts and weekly sets. Teenagers and kids of all ages waited in line to buy tickets to see the matinee at Jackson's Theater. The bag boys helped folks load groceries that had been bought from Albert Watson's grocery store. Many, many of those groceries were never paid for because Albert owned a heart bigger than himself. Albert was my first cousin by marriage to Myrtice Smith. Parents did banking and some walked up the stairway to have Dr. Purefoy do his magic with a huge deadening needle, a drill or plyers. My first dental experience happened there in that place of strangling fear and relief of an abscessed tooth, circa 1947. It still is there in a space above the old Rexall Drugstore, directly across the street from the Escambia County Bank where I look out to remember that place of my childhood.

My fondest place was the Five & Dime. My most vivid memory was being there with my cousin Peggy Bell, looking at the paper doll books and seeing two little boys with a pair of cap pistols clicking the hammer. It may have been the Christmas season while we looked at wishes. I remember a teenage salesgirl singing, "You Belong to Me."

"See the market place in Old Algiers,

Send me photographs and souvenirs"

I think that song made me fall love. Sigh!

My cousin Sandra Watson Pettis and husband Gene stopped by to say hello before heading out to do a museum crawl in Washington, DC. Sandra is the daughter of the above-mentioned grocer, Albert Watson. I met a new friend, Mr. David Matheny who played his harmonica on the radio, giving us some sweet Christmas music. He topped it off with doing an imitation of a train leaving Flomaton Junction. He and I sat and visited for a long time. He bought my book. I had asked if he could do a train whistle.

Oh, how he made that harmonica leave Flomaton, giving us a head of steam as it headed on down the tracks towards Wawbeek, Canoe and Atmore. He made the whistle blow long and mournful while it caused the clacking of steel wheels on steel rails. That takes talent.

I always loved hearing a train whistle. I believe that was imprinted on my heart from my very birth as I was born in a little bungalow that sat trackside in Flomaton. Has to be that reason. Blessings come in the most wonderful ways. God loves you, Mr. Matheny and so do we.

Friends forever and new came to have me sign their books. Some came to buy my book, some walked up to tell me how much they enjoy my weekly articles in The Tri-City Ledger. That was good y'all, really good. I got to visit with my friend Lou Vickery while he brought me up to date on my lifelong friend/classmate Donnie Faye Graves Vickery, the mother of his sons. Lou and I gifted our books to each other.

I was interviewed on the radio to talk about my book. I hope they didn't think my vocabulary was too far country, but it is what it is. I must tell everybody that Jerry Fischer has added something special to this celebration with the historical pictures we see on those treasured calendars. I must tell, also, that in my humble opinion, Jerry Fischer could sell Acne Med to a newborn.

Folks darken the door and Jerry is off:

"Hey, come 'er, you like to read?"

"I got a book here I don't think you have."

"Let me tell you about Hank. Hank couldn't read, but he was a genius."

"Hear that lonesome whippoorwill.

He sounds too blue to fly,

The midnight train is whining low.


"He really was a genius, you need this book."

"Well I reck'en."

Book sold…

Jerry can read and he can tell us everything in every book he ever read. I can't sell my book because of watching a master salesman working his magic. Jerry Fischer knows everybody; he hugs every neck he sees. He doesn't discriminate. Jerry loves people and people love Jerry.

How great is that.

I close with saying, I know I only scratched the surface with the celebration enjoyed by the efforts of Escambia County Bank. Im'ma go next year, count on it. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

You can check out Earline’s blog and buy a copy of her first book “Life With the Top Down” at:


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