Old fashioned hospitality lives

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2000

Elizabeth Ann and Mary Katherine Miller offer passers by a free taste of Southern Hospitality and a cold glass of lemonade from the front yard of their home. More than 300 visitors to Pine Apple made the second annual Front Porch Tour on May 28 a big success.

Special photo by Don Donald

Old-fashioned southern hospitality is alive and well in the 175-year-old community of

Pine Apple. On Sunday, May 28, the Wilcox County community held its second annual "Front Porch" Tour.

Though the weather was considerably hotter than planners had hoped, a welcome breeze and plenty of hand fans helped cool things down for everyone.

Visitors could sit on nearly a dozen different porches and chat about local history and the story of each unique house on tour. Here are the stories of a few of these gracious hosts and their historic homes.

Mr. James Mills, Jr. offered a helping hand to all the female guests stopping by his home for a visit.

"Careful, now, ladies, there's no handrail and we don't want any falls," he gently warned as he and Mrs. Mills greeted each visitor. Mr. Mills' father built their circa-1890 cottage on the site of an older frame house.

That frame house's front porch served as a post office in the mid-1800s. Coincidentally, Mr. Mills was Pine Apple's postmaster for 21 years until his retirement in 1988.

Many Butler County students of years past will recall being taught by Mrs. Mills (then Mrs. Chappelle) who retired from teaching in 1980.

This delightful senior couple are obviously proud of their historic home and the carefully-tended flowers and plants surrounding it-hydrangea, lilies, hanging ferns, Indian beads, and baskets of geraniums-combining to provide a beautiful "frame" for their charming home.

The Grimes family and their homes were prominently featured on the tour.

The Grimes-Stone-Grimes Cottage, built circa 1900, features a lovely wrap-around veranda with ornate fretwork trim-perfect for porch sitting on a breezy day. Great craftsmanship is evident as one views the work of its builder, WH Grimes.

Today his great-grandson, Harold Grimes III and wife Lynn love living here.

They've done extensive renovation on the home's interior since purchasing it in 1998. The old-fashioned fountain in front with its soothing fall of water lulls the couple to sleep each evening, says Mrs. Grimes.

Next door to the Grimes home is the Greek Revival-style Greenleaves, built in 1852.

It's been in the Grimes family since 1880, when Harold III's great-grandfather purchased it, later adding extensively to the original four-room cottage.

Mr. and Mrs. Harold Grimes, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Dudley now own it. Visitors to the front porch were treated to lemonade served by charming young ladies in antebellum hoopskirts and wide-brimmed straw hats.

Here at Greenleaves there was much more than just a delightful front porch to attract tour guests' attention.

A large hewn barn on the property has been transformed into a museum filled with antique farm implements: hog scalding barrels, blacksmithing tools, old saddles, gas engines and more, even a feed trough dug out from a single 30-foot log.

Outside sits a 1936 model "D" John Deere tractor, complete with wide metal wheels-no rubber tires to puncture.

Several log cabins have been reassembled on the property, including one fully furnished that was originally an 1850s slave cabin from Mt. Moriah.

Its kerosene lamps, cast iron pots in the fireplace, narrow iron bedstead and rustic handmade table and chairs are reminiscent of pioneer days. The State Department of Agriculture now considers this property and part of the old Grimes Plantation a Century and Heritage Farm.

There were several more wonderful older homes in a variety of architectural styles, as well as churches, cemeteries, and other historic places to visit.

Everywhere visitors from far and wide were met with a warm welcome.

A highlight for many tour participants was gathering at the gazebo "downtown" to hear live music and to enjoy the extraordinary storytelling gifts of Kathryn Tucker Windham of "Thirteen Alabama Ghosts" fame.

The delightful author also shared a musical moment with the crowd by passing out combs and waxed paper to everyone and demonstrating how to make and play this simple instrument.

Young and old alike joined in on rousing renditions of "God Bless America", "Old McDonald", and "The Saints Go Marching In."

Later Mrs. Windham graciously autographed many copies of her numerous works, including a book titled "Alabama: One Big Front Porch"-a perfect title for the occasion.

If you missed the welcoming smiles, cool drinks, and fascinating histories of Pine Apple's homes as you rested on a rural Alabama front porch, then mark your calendars for next Memorial Day weekend.

The friendly folk of Pine Apple are waiting to meet y'all.