A tour of what once was

Wilsonville celebrated its history with walking tours during the month of June. Local citizens Frances Phelps, who grew up in the town, and Alan Revis, a life-long resident, led the tours.

Phelps kept her followers entranced with trivia and tales of long ago.

&8220;Our school had no bathroom and no cafeteria. We carried our lunches, most likely biscuits and sweet potatoes,&8221; she remarked.

Halloween was a really fun time. She laughingly recalled many outhouses were tipped over, and, on one Halloween night, a group of young people planned to take the porch furniture from a local farmhouse and hoist it to the top of a big oak tree. Just about the time their mission was accomplished, they were surprised with a hail of stinging buckshot.

Revis drove the bus and interjected historical stories of his own. The bus, a loan from the RSVP agency, was an added luxury as the tours were publicized as walking tours.

The gathering place was the Shear Elegance Beauty Shop in a remodeled 1950s building. Patty Barnett showed the visitors her antique styling tools, Coca-Cola memorabilia and hat collection dating back to the 1940s.

Phelps explained that Wilsonville was once the largest town in Shelby County. She said it was a bustling community with three hotels, four doctors, a clinic and three general mercantile stores, which sold everything from food to coffins. She explained, &8220;In those days, there were people who were born in Wilsonville and never left the community. Everything they needed was here.&8221;

The tour group was shown the three hotels that are still standing; two of them are now private residences, and the Densler House is a tearoom and special occasion facility.

The first official stop was the new City Hall where the walls are lined with pictures of the town long ago. Images show buggies crossing the river on the ferry, Pope General Merchandise Store, and a clearly legible copy of the 1902 Wilsonville Gazette.

The next stop was the First United Methodist Church built in the 1870s with stained glass windows donated by R. F. Worrell.

The final stop was a visit to Sammy McEwen&8217;s grocery store where he displayed his collection of vintage tools and appliances in Sammy&8217;s Nook. Also shown was the old worn wood block used for meat cutting when the store first opened in 1943.

Wilsonville, along with Columbiana and 27 other Alabama towns, participated in the Alabama Bureau of Tourism&8217;s Saturday Walking Tours.

Catherine Legg can be reached at mailto:clegg2@bellsouth.net.