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Donna Watts: Living 5A

I've called Baldwin County home since the day I was born. So much has changed over the years but there has never been a greater season of change than what we’ve experienced in the past couple of months. As a sixth generation Baldwin Countian I cannot remember a time when our car tags did not identify us as 5A. The historian at my house tells me numbering the counties by largest to least population began in 1941. When I was a child we would occasionally drive to Clay City, outside of Fairhope, to visit my aunt and cousins. One of my favorite games was trying to spot tags from different places. We would quiz the adults to determine where the people were from with different tag numbers. Unlike today, there were very few cars on the two lanes of highway 59 and it was unusual to see someone from outside the county. But it fueled our imagination to consider what other communities were like and made the time past faster on that seemingly endless journey. I’ve always loved to listen to other people’s stories and I still do. My grandmother was born in 1887 and I enjoyed listening to her talk about what her life was like growing up. One story I particularly enjoyed was about a ferry boat that took people from Baldwin County over the bay to Mobile because there were no roads connecting the two areas. They would take the ferry over to watch the ships arriving at the port. This was not something they did often but when they did, it was an all-day adventure. They would dress up in the finest clothes they owned and watch as workers on the ship unloaded food and goods from around the world. It was an opportunity to hear different languages and catch a glimpse of cultures much different than their own. While I never saw pictures, I held all the pictures I conjured up in my mind of what they must have seen Growing up in Baldwin County, the City of Mobile played an important role in my young life. It was the only city I had ever seen until my mid-teens. Once a year mother would take my sister and me to Mobile, always around Christmas, to see the lights and decorations and shop in a big department store. I rode my first escalator in Mobile at Gayfers department store. Traveling to Mobile was an adventure in itself. There were only two lane roads with lots of bridges and I would cover my eyes each time a big truck came toward us. As we approached the Bankhead Tunnel I would always ask if I could give the guard a quarter. That was the price we paid to go through the tunnel and I couldn’t figure out how we could drive under water and not get wet! There were always exciting stories and countless memories from living 5A. A lot has changed but the old saying remains; “once you’ve gotten Baldwin County sand between your toes you never want to leave.”


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