Miss Mittie even knew about Wallace's ketchup
Many of you seemed to enjoy my story about Miss Mittie last week and her legendary prowess as the oracle of Goat Hill. She was such a peculiar looking sight in her floor length black dress and hat, always knitting and never looking up. It was like she had eyes in the top of her head. Miss Mittie would hardly look at you, much less talk to you, unless you had won her trust. She almost whispered when telling you where a legislator was or what was going on in each legislative chamber.
However, if you got to know Miss Mittie you knew she was very opinionated. She would tell you in a heartbeat if she liked or disliked a certain politician. She definitely had her favorites. As a youngster I often thought to myself how I sure would not want to be on Miss Mittie's bad side because I quietly wondered if she was some kind of witch because no ordinary human could know what she knew without some sort of magical power. It was mind boggling how she could tell you where any legislator was at anytime.
I will share two stories with you to illustrate Miss Mittie's prejudice.
The first concerns Sen. Joe Goodwyn from Montgomery, who Miss Mittie adored, while the second involves George Wallace who she really disliked. Her not liking Wallace made me think that she probably was not a state employee, but instead a volunteer, because her job would have been a political appointment and Wallace was governor.
As I mentioned, Miss Mittie loved old Joe Goodwyn who served in the 1960s. Goodwyn was a real power in the Senate. It was known around the Capitol that old Joe had developed a drinking problem. One hot summer night in Montgomery, the Senate recessed from 5 to 8 p.m. and as the senators were settling into their seats around 8 p.m. old Joe had not returned. This was the night in Montgomery political lore when old Joe Goodwyn, while coming back to the Capitol from supper, drove his car up the Capitol steps. His car made it almost to the top of the steps before it was finally demolished. Some say he would have driven it up past Jefferson Davis' star and onto the Senate floor if the steps had not destroyed the car first. The picture of old Joe's car perched on the Capitol steps made every newspaper in the state the next day. It was a nightmare of a scandal for old Joe.
I did not know what had happened, nor did any of the senators. We just noticed Joe was missing around 8:30 p.m., so I meandered out to ask Miss Mittie where he was. She simply said, "Somebody parked in Sen. Goodwyn's parking place, so he had to park his car on the Capitol steps. The Capitol police are helping him with his car right now, but he'll be there in a few minutes."
She loved Joe, so that was the slant she put on the situation. Needless to say, Joe never made it back to the Senate floor that night.
On another occasion my best buddy, a page from Anniston, and I were hanging around outside the governor's office when lo and behold Wallace bounded out of his office. He looked at us and said he was going downstairs for lunch and asked if we would like to join him. Can you imagine how excited two young pages were to be invited to lunch with the governor?
We were too nervous to eat our lunch but we sat with the governor in a booth down in the old Capitol cafeteria. As everybody came over to speak to the governor we were on cloud nine.
He asked about every barber in each of our hometowns of Troy and Anniston, calling every barber by name. I remember to this very day what he ate. He had hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, and black-eyed peas with cornbread, but he put ketchup on every single thing.
I was so proud to have eaten lunch with the governor that I told anyone who would listen. Later that afternoon I saw Miss Mittie sitting alone knitting, so I sat down by her on her bench and told her I had lunch with the governor.
Without looking up or batting an eye she said, "I bet the little sawed off runt put ketchup on everything he ate."
She even knew how the governor ate his food. Miss Mittie was an amazing institution.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.