“The Other Geneva” – by Debbie Ambrous

Since the big 50th wedding anniversary announcement people have asked me, “What did you do on your  Golden Anniversary?” I am almost embarrassed to admit the simplicity of our special day when they gush on with flowery words saying it is an amazing achievement and a precious gift, just like gold.   Aww shucks!!  I’m grinning and blushing.  No gold, diamonds, or flowers, were exchanged on the momentous day, but for those folks who are waiting to hear the latest hot spot for celebrations, here is the next trendy place to be: Geneva!  No, I’m not talking about Geneva, Switzerland, with its expansive lake and snow-capped mountains.  That is yesterday’s news, been there, done that.  (Read “On Geneva” by clicking here.)  The town of the moment with notable, celeb visitors is Geneva, Alabama, the other Geneva!

Before you book your flights, or fill your gas tanks to drive on down, let me explain where it is.  Since our hometown of Opp, Alabama, is center of the world for us now, we will start from there.  The capitol of Alabama is Montgomery, which is one hundred miles north of Opp, give or take a few rolls of the tape measure.  Allow for stops along the way to aim your camera for shots of old barns in the fields with cows and bulls growing strong on the hay which you may see in giant rolls in the pastures, seeming like a big breakfast of champions for the livestock. Allow plenty of time to see Opp, the City of Opportunity, and then head on south along highway 52 toward Kinston, and you will be on the 50th Anniversary Trail, named for Jim and Debbie Ambrous.

You might be a redneck if you had to remove a toothpick for the wedding pictures.” – Jeff Foxworthy

An old frame house shaded by massive pecan trees with wide fields spreading behind the fading homestead is alongside the road before the Kinston city limits.  I remember when people lived inside the cobwebbed doors and windows and sat on the front porch.  The lady of the house probably swept the porch clean each day and grew begonias in flower pots and petunias at the front steps.  Now the floor boards are molding and rotting away.  I love old houses.  This one has caught my eye many times when we rushed past without time for a photo opportunity, but on our 50th I knew that Jim would be in an agreeable mood to stop for me.  His good nature didn’t include joining me to traipse around in the July heat.  No, he stayed cool and comfy with the AC blasting in the Jeep and music vibrating his outlook by the country road.  The grass was recently cut with that newly mown smell, and a gray-haired lady was mowing her front yard across the road at a steady pace with not even a glance in my direction.  I carefully looked around for dogs and snakes, a smart idea in old places like this where they could lie in wait to bite my leg off.  I aimed for a shot with my camera from the front and it was fairly adequate picture, but I thought the view from the side would be best.  The grass mowing had been fast and furious with most of the grass uncut and lying sideways on the ground.  I couldn’t see clear enough, so I moved very cautiously in that direction.  Suddenly, I saw a thick rattlesnake moving in the grass!  I could see only the mid-section, thick as a hose on a fire truck, moving in my direction.  I didn’t wait to meet the business-end of the snake before I was leaping airborne with my feet only touching the ground two or three times before I reached the Jeep, out of breath from screaming, “SNAAAAKE!!  The little, old lady across the street kept on her merry way and never looked my way.  Jim’s cool music vibe kept my snake scream outside, so he didn’t know why I was flapping my arms and imitating Usain Bolt.

I’m not sure he believed me until a few days later when we saw a rattlesnake just like the one that scared the living daylights out of me, same size and edition with same markings and speed.  Speaking of speed, Jim was surprised that his wife of 50 years could move that fast!

Snake pit stops are not required if you visit.  There are less scary attractions.  We drove on through Kinston, allowing my nerves to settle before we stopped in Samson.  A friend mentioned sometime ago that the hardware store had an amusing sign advertising armadillo traps; except, the sign wording was: ARMY DILLER TRAPS.  I love to find old, rusty signs or funny signs like that.  However, it seems that I missed this one.  We wandered around the corner and found an old, rusty water tower that seemed to have “50” fading in the rust on the tank.  Look closely at the photo and tell me if you see it.

While I aimed my camera I mentioned to Jim that I felt calmer since I was shooting photos in town, safe from the snakes.  He didn’t help at all when he said, “What makes you think a snake couldn’t be curled up at the bottom of the rusty legs of the tower?”  I found my way to the Jeep, exercising my newly acquired Usain Bolt sprint.

Shortly before our final landing in Geneva, Alabama, the other Geneva, we made a stop-over at an old service station with an original, colorful sign.  Once again I was in the heat unattended by Jim, who kept cool as a watermelon on ice, watching me strut around the big pickups fueling at the pumps.

I found my shots of the sign and an old non-functioning Coca-Cola machine with a rusty chair entwined with weeds by its side.  I thought I was cool and clear to move on out to the Jeep, but a fellow called “Hey” for me to halt for a minute.  Jim motioned that I needed to turn around for the meet and greet.  Talking with folks like this can add interesting history, humor and understanding of local and distant culture.  Except, on this day I didn’t want to linger too long.  The nice fellow told me that his dad installed the gas station sign when he was a kid back in the fifties, and he had been offered top dollar for it.

I was questioned about where I was from, which always happens around here whether you are paying the electricity bill or buying butterbeans, it’s always essential for folks to know where you grew up, went to school and all about your family background.  He was very surprised when I said I was from Opp, likely expecting some out-of-state tourist.  The not-bad-looking fellow gave me a big grin which lit up his ruggedly handsome face, and he said, “If you’re from Opp, how come I never met you?”  I heard Jim rev’ing the Jeep’s engine.


Finally, we reached the other Geneva with the antique store I wanted to browse.  Downtown Geneva Antiques, 708 E. Magnolia Street, Geneva, Alabama  I found a doll like one I had when I was very young.  Plastic wasn’t around then.  We knew nothing about electronics and the future plugged-in world.  Jim found a Roy Rogers guitar and told me that his Uncle Andy bought a bright yellow guitar for him in Dean’s Pharmacy in Opp.  The image of him as a little boy with his blonde hair and green eyes filled with happiness for his new guitar was priceless.  Hope you don’t mind if I share a few, cute old photos of Jim, his sister Virginia and his dad.  I couldn’t resist the barefoot cowboy!

My only purchase for the day was a tiny cream pitcher with a golden wheat design, but the store is just brimming full of good buys!  The dinnerware was a grocery store promotion years ago.  Mama probably had the entire set.  I remember setting the table with the white plates with the autumn, golden wheat design.  That is what I love about antique stores, the memories that surface when I see stuff that I had totally forgotten.  I know I am not alone on those thoughts.  Have you bought something on impulse because it brought back poignant memories?I passed up several photo opportunities when we drove through the old town including one of a unique sign.  The sign was for a night spot called Someplace Else, and the wording said the favorite place for entertainment was Someplace Else.  Oh, I understand that feeling completely when I wish I could transport myself out of here at times.  I’m not saying that I don’t love my hometown because I do, but there are times when I wish I could be in the mountains, at the beach or traveling in France!!  Someplace Else!!

Jim and I finished our day at the restaurant Santa Fe Cattle Company in Enterprise, Alabama.  I know it isn’t a typical place for a golden anniversary, but it worked for us with hopes for a celebration in the future someplace else!  The nice staff brought cake and ice cream as a surprise and gathered to sing, not happy anniversary, but instead they sang loudly a big YEE HAW!!

We hope you enjoyed our day of reminiscence, and the trip to the other Geneva.  France is waiting for next time.  Jim and I thank you ever so much for your messages, e-mails and cards for our 50th anniversary! 

I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes in this story since I am recovering from a bit of surgery to my right eye.  That is also the reason it has been longer since my last post.  I hope everything is fine with you and thank you again for traveling along with us!