Welcome To Peach Country
Welcome To Chilton County News in Clanton, Alabama, "Chilton County's Best-Read Weekly Community Newspaper" located in the center of the State of Alabama in the Heart Of Dixie. This web site contains local Peach Country information, news and happenings about the people of Clanton, Jemison, Thorsby, Maplesville, Isabella, Verbena and Cooper in Chilton County, Alabama.
Chilton County's First Peach Queen
This interview with Mrs. Donald is from 2008.
The other contestants in 1947 were Marjorie Bentley, daughter of E. N. Bentley, Thorsby; Inez Cox, daughter of E. C. Cox, Thorsby; Dot Dennis, daughter of J. N. Dennis, Clanton; Mary Ann Deramus, daughter of D. I. Deramus, Verbena; Marietta Hamilton, daughter of J. W. Hamilton, Clanton; Norma Jean Hunnicutt, daughter of Arthur Hunnicutt, Thorsby; and Edna Lane Johnson, daughter of W. G. Johnson, Clanton. The fathers of all of these young ladies were peach growers in the county. The next year, the pageant was opened to any young lady in the county who wished to compete.
The week prior to the festival the contestants were photographed for a special Peach Festival Edition that was printed by Alabama Magazine. A great deal of time was put into photographing interesting scenes in Chilton County to get the word out about the peach industry.
The first Peach Queen has many fond memories of growing up the daughter of a Chilton County farmer. “My father was an entrepreneur farmer who had cattle and raised cotton, sweet potatoes, wheat, almost anything. He worked closely with the Chilton County Extension office. Whatever they suggested, he would try such as rotating crops, planting vetch and turning it under. My mother worked equally hard and was involved with the Home Demonstration Club through the Extension Office. She worked along side my father and remodeled her own kitchen at one time. She learned progressive ways of cooking.”
Mrs. Donald continued by saying “our family peach farm was so beautiful. It was located down the road from Alpine Church. The farm no longer exists today and it is mostly forest land.”
The youngest of eight children, Mrs. Donald was given her nickname of “Chick” by her father at a very young age. Her siblings included Jack, Woodrow, Arra, Lennett, Bama, Cleo and Peter. Both Bama and Peter died as young children.
Arra B. Adams, the Queen’s sister, taught school at Thorsby Institute, Isabella and Maplesville where she retired as a first grade teacher. She and her husband, Barney owned and operated a business in Maplesville. They had two daughters who are Clanton residents, Martha Houston and Joy Traywick. Mrs. Adams resides in Clanton also. Another sister, Cleo DeLaney, resides in Mobile.
Remembering back to the Peach Pageant, the Queen continued, “the judges were a group of businessmen.” That group of men who choose the first Peach Queen were: Erskin Ramsey, a millionaire philanthropist from Birmingham; Jim Bert, Vice-President, First National Bank of Birmingham; W. C. Bowman, President, First National Bank of Montgomery; L. M. Smith, Vice-President, Alabama Power Company, Birmingham; and Tacky Gale, City Commissioner of Montgomery. Grover Palmer of the First National Bank of Tuscaloosa served as Master of Ceremonies for the Pageant. She was crowned by Lt. Governor J. C. Inzer of Montgomery. “I remember everyone was so very kind to me. All of the people connected with the pageant were just wonderful.”
The parade started the Peach Festival activities on Wednesday, July 16. Mrs. Donald stated, “the parade started in Clanton and ended in Thorsby. It poured rain on the parade as it arrived in Thorsby. I guess we didn’t think about carrying an umbrella or anything. I had to go to the beauty parlor that afternoon to get ready for the peach dance that night.”
The parade itself was a grand affair, over a mile in length. All floats used the theme “Chilton County Peaches Are Tops.” The parade was led by the Air Force Band from Maxwell Field and the Parade Marshall was T. G. Brabston. A second band from the Boy’s Industrial School in Birmingham was in the parade. The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce charted a bus, decorated it and drove it in the parade. The Peach Queen was accompanied on her float by Cecil “Chick” Carlton who was made King For A Day. He was the Assistant County Agent at the time. Others on the float included Marjorie Bentley, first alternate, along with the other contestants for Peach Queen.
Upon arrival in Thorsby, the Queen was presented at 11:00 a.m. as thousands of anxious spectators gathered on the Thorsby Institute Campus. Honored guests were also presented and basket lunches were spread at the noon hour. Lunch for the honored guests, the Queen and King, was served in the dining hall of Thorsby Institute.
The afternoon consisted of awarding prizes for the best peaches, band concerts by the parade bands, baseball games and tours of peach orchards by M. R. Glasscock, county agent.
The first bushel of Chilton County peaches auctioned off at the festival as purchased by Representative Lee Hornsby of Eclectic for $250 and given back to the festival committee to be sent to President Truman in Washington. The prize Hale Haven peaches came from the farm of W. H. Lenoir of Maplesville. Second place was grown by the Queen’s father, A. B. Jones with third place being grown by Houston Headley of Clanton.
U.S. Senator Lister Hill sent a letter from Washington to the peach committee telling them that President Truman said, “the peaches were unquestionably the finest I’ve ever seen and the President was delighted over them. He asked that we express to the grower, buyer and the people of Chilton County his deep appreciation for the beautiful and thoughtful way you remembered him. The President knows what we have always known, that the finest peaches are grown in Chilton County, Alabama.”
Essie Lou “Chick” Jones graduated from Maplesville High School and moved to Tuscaloosa where she became a student at the University of Alabama. There she met her future husband, got married and settled into becoming a homemaker. She later returned to the University and obtained her degree.
The Donalds had three children, William III, an attorney in practice with his father in Tuscaloosa; Mary D. Hunter, a social worker at the VA Medical Center in Tuscaloosa; and the late Grace D. Falls, who passed away a few years ago from cancer.
During our visit to her lovely home in Tuscaloosa, some delicious Jerry Harrison peaches were presented to her. “Our family and the Harrisons knew each other well with our farms located on the same side of the county. Jerry’s peaches are just the best,” Chilton County’s first Peach Queen says with a smile!
Contact The News
Chilton County News
Post Office Box 189
Clanton, Alabama 35046