“I do not claim to have any wisdom,” is what the 102-year-old Enterprise native said, smiling and shaking her head. “But I do believe we need to get busy taking care of the things that we have and we ought to treat each other kindly.”
Elizabeth Martin Allen will reign as Mrs. Centennial during the Boll Weevil Monument Centennial Celebration Dec. 11 in Enterprise. Chosen by the Centennial Committee for the honor, Allen is the most senior citizen born in the City of Progress. Plans are for her to be at the Pea River Historical Society Building on Main Street in Enterprise from 1 until 3 p.m. Dec. 11.
“I think we need to live by the Bible verse, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” Allen said as she reflected on her centennial status. “And we should enjoy this wonderful life that we have in Enterprise. It’s a great place to live.”
Allen was born Oct. 10, 1917, one of nine children of Jim and Ida Love Edwards Martin. She was raised in a white farm house on what is now Three Notch Road on the south side of Enterprise. “The road was not paved at the time,” she said. “It was a clay road that turned very muddy when it rained.
“I was the baby and yes, I was very spoiled,” Allen remembered with a smile, adding that she was taught to read by elder siblings. “I only went to elementary school five years because I already knew how to read.
“We all walked to the little neighborhood school called Keyton Elementary School,” Allen said. “My mother’s brother, Uncle Bill Edwards, was the headmaster and he taught all six grades in one school room.”
Allen’s mother died when she was eight years old. Her father then married Avionia Morton Martin, the English teacher at the high school in Enterprise and the couple had two children. “They were the nicest children you’ll ever know,” Allen said about her two youngest siblings. “They were so handsome and sweet and smart and very lovable—and, of course, with older sisters and brothers, Philip and Anne
received quite a bit of attention.”
Allen attended Coffee County High School on College Street in Enterprise where she was a cheerleader all four years. “I was always real interested in all sports and we had a tennis court by our house so we kept a game of tennis going just about all the time because there were enough of us that we could get a game going almost any time that we wanted to play,” she said. “The tennis court was by the side of the house so it was very convenient for us to hop out and start playing.”
Allen remembers her older sisters riding the train from Enterprise to Dothan when Enterprise played Dothan High. “I don’t know why they did it except I guess they could ride the train more economically than they could drive,” she said.
Allen attended Alabama College, State College for Women in Montevallo. “It was my father’s rule that as soon as we graduated from high school, we went to college,” Allen explained. “At that time not very many people had the opportunity to go to college but my father’s goal was to send his children to college. “He sent all the girls to Montevallo because he said he didn’t worry about us there because there were no men there,” Allen added.
After earning an undergraduate degree in home economics, Allen earned a master’s degree at Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. “I went there because I had had another sister who went to Iowa State and she said they had the best home economics school in the country,” Allen said.
Allen returned to Alabama to teach at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now called Auburn University, where she married Archie Clayton Allen who she first met in Daleville when both worked with the National Youth Administration Program. “My wedding bouquet cost $25,” she said. “That was a lot of money then.”
A.C. Allen was commissioned in the Marine Corp as a second lieutenant and was stationed at the Jacksonville, Florida Naval Air Station.
Next assigned to Pensacola Naval Station as a flight instructor for 18 months, A.C. Allen’s military service also included assignments in Zamboanga, Philippine Islands and to Peking, China to receive the surrender of Japanese troops. Allen lived with her husband’s parents in Holtville and taught school there while he was in China.
After his military service, the Allens remained in Holtsville where he became principal and she taught home economics. After a stint at Phenix City where he was principal and she taught, the couple moved to Dothan in 1967.
A.C. Allen was principal of Dothan High School until 1975 when he became superintendent of Dothan City Schools. During his tenure, he supervised the building of Northview High School and Honeysuckle and Beverlye Middle Schools. He established the Dothan Vocational Center.
Allen began teaching science classes at Dothan schools. “I liked teaching home ec, but I really preferred the sciences,” she said.
After her husband suffered a stroke, Allen retired from a teaching career that spanned more than two decades. He died Dec. 18, 2007 at the age of 87. “We had a great life,” she said. She has remained in Dothan.
Asked about Enterprise in a simpler era, Allen remembers driving in a horse and buggy with her father one evening. “We saw the lights of a house that was burning and it was the house of one our kinfolks so we stopped to help them,” she said. “We were able to help them from burning the house down. There were no fire trucks, we just used buckets of water.”
Allen concedes that one memory may just be a family legend. “When my father was delivering some fertilizer to a farmer, he was going over some rough roads and hit a bad bump in the road.
“The story goes that my brother James, who was in the back seat of the vehicle, bounced out of the car and my father didn’t even miss him until he unloaded the fertilizer and he had to retrace his steps and go back and find him,” Allen said, with a twinkle in her eyes. “That could be not exactly true, but it’s made a good story for the family.”
Allen remembers going to Martin’s Drug Store on Main Street, now a part of the historical Landmark Park in Dothan. “Their ice cream cones and that soda fountain,” make her smile as she talks about them. “When I was in high school we had a movie theater that we could go to for 25 cents each,” she said. ‘That was one of our main entertainments.
“And with so many girls at home who needed dresses, we went to Colson’s Dry Goods and just bought bolts of materials to sew into dresses. I don’t guess we ever bought any dresses when we were young.”
Allen and her husband are the parents of Clayton Allen of Dothan, Jim Allen of Opelika and Mary Elizabeth Allen Hall of Gainesville, Fla.
Allen said she knows that her childhood growing up in Enterprise was blessed. “I did have a very progressive mother and father,” she said. “That was our greatest blessing and Enterprise has been a very outstanding town for a very long time.”