(Photo taken in 2007)
By Leigh B for The H City News, 2007
There were some lucky people that packed into the Helena City Hall on Friday, July 6. Many at the free but registration-required event probably didn’t realize the zenith of joy they would experience during the evening. Jane B. Holmes Public Library Director Victoria Ashford had something great in store. She arranged for the legendary author Kathryn Tucker Windham to come and speak or "tell tales" as Windham would say. Initially the event was to take place in the library meeting room, but with an overwhelming response, it was moved to city hall.
Kathryn Tucker Windham, a young 89, spent the evening recalling stories of days- gone-by with the sharpness of someone in their youth. It was as though listeners boarded a time-machine and were transformed back into the past. Today, she is one of America’s best-loved storytellers. Windham was born in Thomasville, Alabama in 1918, but today she calls Selma home. Windham is the author of 25 books, is a playwright, an accomplished photographer and popular public television and radio personality. Her ghost stories, which she first collected in Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, have been favorites for generations. Her thoughtful and poignant stories about growing up and living in the South secured her an audience of all ages when she was featured on National Public Radio. Her commentaries are still heard every Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. on Alabama Public Radio.
Though ghost stories are what brought Windham her fame, she has also written several cookbooks and collections of stories recalling "the good old days" and is a renowned historian. Many in the historical community would agree that her work is documentation of Alabama’s social history. As interesting as her books may be, you really haven’t experienced Kathryn Tucker Windham’s greatest gift until you have seen or heard her "tell a tale." Windham offered listeners stories of yesteryear that were filled with humor and detail as well as words of advice ranging from, "If everyone would take a daily nap, the world would be a better place. Some people need to sleep longer than others" to the ever important, "Never! Never! Never put sugar in cornbread!" Mrs. Windham stood before the crowd and wove a tapestry of vivid tales for two hours which flew by much too quickly.
She was extremely gracious and took questions from the crowd before offering to sign books and calling it a night. Windham’s stories have a way of grounding us in some way. They remind us all of what’s important, of a vanishing way of life now being replaced with shopping malls, computers and answering machines. Windham views telling stories as a common thread linking each of us together. "All southerners are born to tell stories, we need to tell stories. We need to tell them more—a whole lot more, there is something about story telling that binds us all together," she said.
Mrs. Windham’s speaking engagement was made possible by the Jane B Holmes Public Library and its director, Victoria Ashford, the library staff and the following sponsors: FOX6 WBRC-TV, Publix at Crow’s Corner, Best Western - Riverchase Inn and ACE Hardware of Helena. Jane Boyd Holmes Public Library, located behind city hall at 230 Tucker Road, has a staff trained to assist you with your information needs. Drop by the library and practice what Mrs. Windham preaches, "If you can read, you can learn anything you need to know."