Ninety-four-year-old Thelma Edge Pugh has worked with yarn nearly all of her life. As a young girl, she was taught by her mother to crochet, a hobby that she has enjoyed since.
Pugh is very well- known for making baby booties as gifts to new mothers, a tradition that started over 30 years ago when Pugh crocheted her very first pair of baby booties for her first grandson,
John David Moore. The pattern to those baby booties has long been discarded. For over two decades, Pugh has stitched the tiny booties from memory. Any booties that she has gifted are certainly unique, handmade treasures.
Pugh and her husband, John Marion Pugh were married in 1943 and lived in the Allen community where they raised eight children. John Marion Pugh died of brain cancer in 1942. Following his death, Thelma Pugh worked outside of the home at the original Vanity Fair in downtown Jackson. When the textile manufacturing company moved its location to highway 43, Pugh continued her work with the company until she retired in February 1987 at the age of 62.
After retirement, Pugh began keeping children in her home. She enjoyed the activity and conversation with the children and she continued to crochet. Several of Pugh’s charges even learned to crochet at young ages. “If they would sit still, I could teach them,” Pugh recalls. Teaching the handicraft to multiple generations has been one of the great delights of Pugh’s life. She taught two of her daughters, several of the children she kept, and some of her contemporaries through the years.
Pugh was a member of the North Allen Homemaker’s Club for many years. This club is still active in the Allen community and is known throughout the region for their focus on handicrafts, such as crocheting and knitting. The club supplies the neonatal ICU (NICU) at University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital with crocheted “snakes” for the preemies to wear to help maintain their body temperatures. They also make caps and blankets for the tiny patients.
Until her health prevented her presence at club meetings, Thelma Pugh was an active participant. When continued health issues forced Pugh’s relocation into Jackson Healthcare Facility, she chose to embrace her setting, build friendships, and teach yarn crafts to those willing to learn. Participants in JHF’s knitting club range from curious teens willing to learn something new to seasoned handcrafters who look forward to the fellowship of the club and the accomplishment of the finished projects.
When Pugh moved into Jackson Healthcare Facility in February of this year and started the knitting club, members of her home church, Tompkins Baptist in Grove Hill kept up with her progress through her daughter Alice’s Facebook posts. Music minister Paul Williams remarked, “Mrs. Thelma is surely blooming where she is planted.” That comment has resounded with Pugh’s family throughout her many health scares. At 94, she still invests in people wherever she finds herself.
On Thursday, July 5, the knitting club at Jackson Healthcare Facility met for the first time since early June when the originator, Thelma Pugh, suffered a stroke. Pugh smiled as she entered the familiar room, with her yarn bag on her lap. She looked at each member of the club and smiled, paying close attention to the projects that each person was working on. Sensing Pugh’s emotion, fellow resident Mary Whitfield encouraged her friend to get out her needles.
“I tried to crochet last night and I just got frustrated. I don’t know if I ever will again.” A chorus of ladies answered, “Yes, you will!”
Pugh took a deep breath and smiled as she pulled her project from her bag and began to examine her own stitches.
Everyone has a favorite team and in America, rivalries are huge at any level. Usually, it takes a tragedy to cause us to be on the same team for at least a few moments. Thankfully, there was no tragedy last week, but the entire world was on the same team, championing the same cause, and celebrating the same victory. This does not occur often. Politics, opinions, cultural differences, and apathy often divide us, not only internationally, but in our neighborhoods, cities and individual nations. Last week was different. The entire world was cheering for the same team, a football (soccer) team, the Wild Boars, a group of 12 Thai children ranging in age from 11 to 17, along with their 25-year-old coach.
Tham Luang Cave was not unfamiliar to this group of typical, adventure-seeking boys. In fact, it was a place they knew well. Exploring the tunnels, nooks and crannies of the cave was something that the boys did often. It was as natural to them as exploring the banks and adjoining woodlands of the Tombigbee River would be to any of our sons here in Clarke and Washington counties.
On June 23, they entered the cave with one purpose in mind—to celebrate a teammate’s birthday. They took their torches and only planned to stay for an hour before returning home to their respective families. After all, monsoon season did not officially begin until July. A flash flood changed the trajectory of the trip and resulted in the group being forced to go deeper into the cave where they remained for 18 days as the world watched.
While family members, teachers and friends held vigil at the mouth of the cave where 13 abandoned bicycles served as a reminder of the missing children; the boys moved deeper into the cave with only their torches. A former monk, Coach Ake, taught the boys meditation techniques to both keep them calm and to use as little air as possible.
Can you imagine children in this age group being forced to lie still for survival? This was the reality. The children had to conserve their strength. The also had to conserve the air. The cave offered nothing in the form of nourishment, but a trickle of fresh water offered hydration and hope.
It would be eight days before divers were able to locate the group and to determine that they were all alive. Millions worldwide would watch the video of the divers speaking to the boys and leaving lights with them. The divers promised to return, but the reality of this seemed both impossible and improbable. Rain, murky waters, darkness and the treacherous, narrow contours of the cave all posed safety and logistical threats. Oh, and some of the children could not swim. Remember, they were only going to play in that familiar place for an hour.
A gathering of international volunteers assembled at the mouth of the cave. Scientists and military personnel met to determine the best strategies for rescue. Time and oxygen were of the essence and according to the locals, the cave was usually completely flooded by July 10. And so it was on Sunday, July 8 that a decision was made. The rescue attempts would begin.
As many around the world left home and headed for their places of worship, their minds were half a world away, wondering how and if the rescue efforts would be successful. The rescuers brought individual children to safety, one at a time, through the most unimaginable of conditions as the world watched, holding its breath.
It was Tuesday, July 10 before all of the children and their coach were brought to the surface of the earth. July 10, the date by which the cave is usually flooded. As the last of the rescuers were leaving the site, the floodwaters rushed into the cranny of the cave that had held the team for more than two weeks.
The world cheered. For a few days, we were all fans of the same team, the Wild Boars. We applauded the resiliency of the boys and their coach. We hailed the tenacity of the scientists. We cheered the valor of the divers. We mourned the loss of Thai Navy Seal and volunteer, Saman Kunan, who lost his life while delivering oxygen tanks to the boys. We stood united in the hope that 13 lives would be saved.
The Thai Navy Seals posted the following on their social media outlets, “We are not sure if this is a miracle, science or what.”
As a fan of the Thai Wild Boars, I am a bit more thankful for science and technology, and always, always grateful for miracles.
I love birthday parties. I especially love planning them down to the tiniest detail, and I am happy to say, I was like this WAY before Pinterest. Birthday parties are celebrations of anther year of successes, achieved goals, and surviving the stuff of life. It doesn’t matter to me if the party is simple or elaborate, just as long as the person of the hour is truly celebrated and the guests enjoy themselves.
Last week, our country had a “birthday”. July 4 marked 242 years in existence as a sovereign nation. There were celebrations throughout the country that included barbecues, watermelons, rodeos, swimming, outdoor activities and of course, fireworks. John Adams, the first American Vice President and the second President of our nation once remarked that he hoped the anniversary of American Independence Day would be celebrated with “guns, bonfires, and illuminations.” The first July 4 fireworks actually took place during the American Revolution and the cannons were fired as a morale booster. Over time, the cannons and firearms were phased out for safety concerns, but the noise, the bonfires, and the illuminations continued.
The city of Jackson, like thousands of American municipalities planned and presented a great American birthday party last week. Jackson’s party took place at the McMullen Fairgrounds. The guest list included everyone from the youngest patriot to the most decorated veteran. This party offered a little something for everyone who entered the gates.
The music of local band Sunny Vaiden entertained the crowds with covers of well-loved songs from a variety of genres and decades. SMASH Hits 94.5 also provided excellent music and emceeing. (Aren’t you glad that 94.5 is back? I am!) A walk through the vendors’ area gave visitors both a literal and figurative taste of Jackson. Members of the Chamber of Commerce were on hand to offer any necessary assistance. Mayor Paul South enjoyed visiting with residents of the city. Members of the Jackson Police Department provided security, but also stopped to talk to curious children and to visit with their neighbors.
Jackson merchants brought out their wares and the crowds received them well. One of the city’s newest businesses, Bigbee Coffee Roasters, sold various flavors of iced coffee; while The Lucky Duck Boutique, also a new business, hosted a tent sale. A representative with Usborne Books displayed the beautiful, quality products. The ARC of Clarke County sold nachos and drinks.
Giant inflatable water slides were the draw for children. Squeals of delight could be heard throughout the arena. After a few times down the slide, the children would head to Ice’s Pop Shop’s booth to choose a homemade, gourmet popsicle, or to Rod’s Sno-Cone trailer to pick one of a variety of flavors. Brooks’ Motors was on hand with a few of their Jeeps for anyone interested in purchasing and their booth had lemonade.
Beautiful ladies from the International Girl organization sold tee shirts and assisted their mothers with face painting as fund-raising activities for the upcoming national pageant. The Dawg House, a new pet grooming business partnered with the Clarke County Animal Shelter by raffling off a pet gift basket. The animal shelter was present with kittens, puppies and dogs ready for adoption. Volunteers walked the dogs on leashes, introducing them to the crowd.
Most birthday parties have a cake that depicts the theme of the party. The Jackson Fire Department presented the “cake”. It was not a literal cake, but a giant American flag hung from one of the ladder trucks. I do not know the dimensions of the flag, but it was massive. At dusk, all attention was turned to Old Glory as she hung dignified over the celebration. Instead of “Happy Birthday”, the crowd sang, “The Star Spangled Banner” and then the fireworks show began.
I think John Adams would have approved of Jackson’s American birthday party. I think that every guest enjoyed the party and our nation, the honoree, was celebrated most appropriately.
Well done, Mayor, Council, Chamber, JPD, JFD, merchants, and party-goers.
Driving by the sign that reads “Maubila Boy Scout Reservation” on Highway 43 in the Antioch community north of Jackson, one would never assume the rich history and simplistic fun that is nestled just a few miles from the busy state highway.
Peet Wert has been affiliated with Camp Maubila since the property was purchased by Boy Scouts of America in 1964. Wert is a native and resident of Mobile, but loves serving at Camp Maubila. He says that the most rewarding part of his job is the opportunities he has to invest in the lives of the young men who come to camp.
The sprawling 400-acre reserve now covered with thick pines was once flat farmland and at one point every area of the camp was in plain sight. Shortly after the land was purchased 1,000 longleaf pine trees were planted. Peet Wert remembers assisting with the planting. Now, there are an innumerable number of trees that have grown from pine cones that fell from the original 1,000 pines. The entire camp is encompassed by these trees and one can no longer view the entire acreage from one vantage point.
But underneath these pines, there is a rustic, traditional camping program that is run by volunteers. The waterfront area is one of the first items of notice when driving into Maubila. Scouts are taught swimming and waterfront safety as well as proper techniques for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Scouts can also be certified in CPR during their camp experience.
While both campers and staff do have cell phones, these are not their primary focus. Scouts played a variety of outdoor games and were engaged in crafts and in classes. Traditional games like tetherball and ping-pong rank among the Scouts’ favorite free time activities. The rustic rocking chairs that align the outside of the original (and current) camp office provide the perfect place to reflect or to make new friends.
Lodging for the boys is primitive tent camping sites for which the Scouts are responsible for the set-up and up keep. A visit to the camp sites reveals traditional Boy Scout tents, clothes lines, and nearby bathhouses. The American flag, the flag of Alabama, and the Boy Scouts of America flag are all displayed in the campsites.
Above left, Boy Scouts gather for assembly at Camp Maubila. At right, an outdoor classroom setting is popular with the Scouts.
Clarke, Washington, Mobile, and Baldwin counties are served by Camp Maubila. Two week-long camps are hosted in June and students from all four counties attend. During their time at Maubila, scouts attend classes in communication, citizenship, ethics and project planning in addition to traditional camping activities such as swimming, hiking, and kayaking. Merit badges are pursued and many Scouts set their aim to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.
The rank of Eagle Scout is a distinction that requires service, leadership, commitment to the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America. Eagle Scout candidates must complete an extensive service project.
In the heart of the pines, tradition, respect, citizenship, outdoor skills and the importance of a personal value system are shared with young men from four counties and a variety of walks of life. Character, integrity, patriotism, bravery, and faith are taught and exemplified within a 400- acre gem that is passed by each day as we are rushed to get to the next place and accomplish the next task.
But for the approximately 125 young men and leaders who attend the week-long camps, there is no furious hustle, but a quiet resolve to learn, to challenge themselves and to achieve their goals. Founder of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Baden-Powell stated, “The open-air is the real objective of scouting and the key to its success.”
At Camp Maubila, the open-air experience is topnotch and the enjoyment of it can be seen on the faces of every camper.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.