News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists

Steve Stewart

$10 a show was plenty at the Opry

Huntsville native Ernie Ashworth told Ronnie Thomas about the “contract” that he got when he joined the Grand Ole Opry on March 7, 1964.

“Opry Manager Ott Devine said, ‘We’re going to make you a regular member. We’re going to shake hands on it. That is a lifetime contract with the Opry.’ And that was it.”

Calling the Opry “the highlight of anyone’s career,” Ernie said he did two shows on Saturday night and the Opry paid him $10 for each.

“You made your money on personal appearances elsewhere,” he said. “But the Opry is what put you on the road. I never forgot that.”

Mississippi bird lady

Judy Toups of Decatur, who died Feb. 27 at age 77, was a renowned bird lady on the Mississippi coast.

She married a local sailor and moved there in 1965, according to writer Jean Prescott in The SunHerald of Biloxi.

Someone bought Judy a bird feeder, and that got her started. She watched birds, rescued birds, developed a birding trail map, and wrote about birds, producing two books and a weekly newspaper column. She moved to Decatur following Hurricane Katrina.

“My opinion is that all of nature has lost a very dear friend, especially our avian friends,” said her friend Don McKee. “She will be remembered always as the mother of birdwatching in Mississippi.”

High finance, low math

State Finance Director Jim Main rattled off complicated information about the state’s oil and gas reserves and negotiations with the country’s top bond rating firms to a legislative committee.

One lawmaker asked about future costs if the state raised the limit on the amount of money it borrows through bonds.

The finance chief said it would be easy enough to figure the tallies. “It’s like 7 times 8 equals 42,” he said — before the room burst into laughter.

Others yelled out numbers of their own before someone came up with the correct number, 56, M.J. Ellington reports.

Never at a loss for words, the finance chief said: “I said from the beginning I’m not good with numbers.”

Federal education

A teacher at U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s town-hall meeting in Somerville told him that the No Child Left Behind program should be called “No Teacher Left Standing.’’

The teacher, who told Ronnie she did not want to be identified, informed the senator that children of illegal immigrants pack the classes, making it difficult for them and other students to learn.

“I support the program,’’ the senator said. “The local teachers, principals and school boards ought to have more leeway. You have a mandate with inadequate funding.’’

Bewigged and bemused

The Rev. Cameron Douglas was the preacher as usual at First Christian Church, Decatur, even though it was Women’s Sunday.

Females led in music, collected the offering and served at the Lord’s table, Melanie Smith reports. The preacher donned a woman’s wig.

“We didn’t make him wear it throughout the message, but a lot of fun was had when he stood up in that wig,” reported the Rev. Carol Hallman, assistant minister.

Send stories for You Don’t Say to, or call Weekend Editor Steve Stewart at 340-2444. Or write P.O. Box 2213, Decatur, AL 35609. Daily staff members contribute many of the items you see here. This column appears Sundays and Wednesdays.

Steve Stewart Steve Stewart
DAILY Weekend Editor

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