Rosetta Howell Waltman, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Howell, was a school teacher at the first Allentown School which was moved in 1917 to sit beside the new Semmes School Stucco Building when the schools were consolidated into one school.
Another interesting fact is that in the olden days in Alabama, women could not be married and teach. When Rosetta Howell and Forney Waltman got married, they kept it a secret till she finished teaching the year.
Another beloved teacher who taught at Semmes High School was Mary Ellen Ward. She was teaching at Wilmer School when she got married and had to stop teaching in Alabama. Mississippi did not have a law against married women teachers and she began teaching in Mississippi. When the law changed in Alabama permitting married women teachers, she returned to teach at Semmes High School. She was my high school science teacher and sponsor to the Alabama Junior Academy of Science.
When the new school was built on Howells Ferry Rd. Helen Caldwell, one of the daughters of Rosetta Howell, was asked what did she think would be a good name for the new school? Helen said, “why not name it after the first school in Allentown?” The new Allentown School was built in 1997.
There was a gentleman by the name of Mr. Zeuch who lived close to the Allentown Cemetery and the Caldwell home. According to Tom Dodd, Jr. he and the boys were coon hunting in the woods by oil lamps and began to hear music. They thought the music was coming from a radio as this was about the time electricity had come to Semmes (around 1949).
According to Helen Caldwell the mother of Charlie Caldwell, on another occasion, Charlie heard music coming from Mr. Zeuch house. He knocked on his door and ask if he might come in to listen. Mr. Zeuch asks him to come back later. When Charlie returned, Mr. Zeuch had put on his Tuxedo and gave Charlie a private concert. It turned out that Mr. Zeuch was a classical concert pianist.
Why did Semmes grow? Mobile was an important railroad city and prosperous growing seaport. The demand for lumber for shipping overseas was growing.
Ox carts were used in the forest to move loads of logs to short run rail road lines, called dummy lines. The dummy lines were used to move logs to saw mills and the main railroad line to Mobile. Wooden ships were built in Mobile. Lumber was exported around the world in wooden ships. According to family legend, some of the lumber from the Howell family was shipped to England and used in a dance floor.
Another interest citizen was Will English Allen who had jumped ship in Mobile. He was a plain spoken man. Mr. Tom Dodd, Sr. and Mr. Will had gone to Montgomery to try to get some stock laws. The legislators made the comment that the land in Semmes was so rich you don’t need stock laws. Mr. Will spoke up and said “the land is real poor. I expect we will have to put cow manure in the ground so people could rise on judgment day.”
One legend goes that there was a Mr. Dawn, who was a self appointed guardian of Semmes. He went down to the train station every day to meet the train and inspectwho got off. If he did not like the way anyone looked when they got off the train he would tell them to get back on and keep on going.
There were railroad section houses near the railroad station in Semmes where maintenance railroad workers, Gandy Dancers, lived. Trains hauling heavy loads would cause the rails to come out of alignment. Gandy Dancers using Songs and chants to synchronize their movements together were able to move heavy rails back into alignment using simple hand tools.
Aunt Millie who was the custodian at Semmes school lived in a section house. She had a pet pig that she brought to the school everyday which the children loved and shared their lunch with. The pet pig was killed on the railroad tracks. Folklore passed down, is she greased the tracks to get even with the train for killing her pet pig.
The Fear of God lived in most citizens in Semmes. There was one man who did not believe in God and was very vocal about it. All the boys in Semmes were afraid of him and would run from him especially when there was a thunder storm for fear that lighting might strike him down.