PORCH PATROL: It’s fun watching the world go by when you’re with friends and neighbors on Connally Street
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Friends and neighbors have gathered every morning for the past six years on Barbara Brown's (right) front porch at 738 Connally St. to enjoy coffee and conversation. They never know who will show up to join them, which is why her sister, Pat Bell (left), who lives next door, gave her the "Grand Central Station" sign. Another sister, Mary Alcorn of Yantis, (middle) joins them when she can to rock, talk and wave at passing motorists.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

June 11, 2006 -- With birds chirping, flowers blooming, the laughter of children playing nearby in Buford Park and the smell of fresh brewed coffee permeating the air, it is indeed "a beautiful day in the neighborhood" for those living in the vicinity of 738 Connally St.

Each morning for the past six years, friends and neighbors have gathered on the front porch of Jay and Barbara Brown's two-story home for a good cup of coffee, and even better conversation.

"It's a great way to start the day," said Pat Bell, who has lived next door to her sister since 2000. "The morning is just not started off right without our coffee visits."

All the neighbors know the back door is open, according to Brown, who said everybody comes in and helps themselves to hot coffee before making their way to the rocking chairs on the front porch where they start the day off with prayer, scripture reading and a short devotional.

"We have a lot of people who stop and give us prayer requests," Brown said. "We always try to remember people in the neighborhood and church members who are going through difficult times."

However, according to Brown, they don't delve into politics or world news.

"We try to keep it light,"said Bell. "Anything mentioned like that is usually in our prayer request. We don't dwell much on anything too negative."

"But we have solved a lot of people's problems," Brown added, laughing. "We usually have a pretty good crowd, but even if it's just the two of us, we sit and laugh all morning."

Bell is the regular of the morning group, but several others come by on certain days of  the week or pop in when they can.

There's Rick Avent, known as the Connally Street contractor who has worked on just about every house in the neighborhood, and Lee and Ken Burdzel, who live on the next block, or Al and Naomi Davis, the pastor and his wife from Grace Family Church, who come by on Tuesdays while making the rounds to visit nursing homes and bring fritters from the donut shop. Gary and Deanna Spraggins enjoy stopping in to share news and pictures of their new granddaughter, Sally Brook, and sometimes even bring her with them. Jake Gibson only gets to visit on Saturdays because he works through the week. Bill Watts, "usually on a mission," pops in with a new catalog or ripe tomatoes to drop off. Mary Alcorn, another sister, drives in from Yantis to sit a spell where they all grew up. And Suzy Gibson brings her cross stitch to work on while they "rock and talk."

"We just never know who is going to stop in," said Brown, who often works on her embroidery during the fellowship.

"We'd feel guilty spending that much time just talking, so we do our handiwork," said Bell, who explained they gather from about 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. every morning except Sunday. "That way, we feel like we've at least accomplished something."

Every day is an adventure, according to Brown, but Monday is their favorite day of the week, because they regroup after a busy weekend of being off schedule.

Another one of their favorite days is Thursday. "Show time," they call it.

"Every Thursday Bill Watts gets his yard mowed," Brown explained. "It's almost like an orchestra. It takes them about 25 minutes to do it.  He's on one of those mowers that turns on a dime, and while he mows his pattern, he has one guy weed eating and another one on a riding lawn mower. They finish it off, blow it, and they're gone. It's a performance."

Another thing that keeps them entertained are the animals in the neighborhood. From long-legged opossums with babies on their backs, to squirrel encounters and a family of ducks stopping traffic as they made their way to the pond at the park, the group has experienced a myriad of both wild and domestic animals.

"We know all the cats in the neighborhood by name," said Brown. 

One cat that doesn't belong to anyone gets taken care of by everyone, according to Brown.

"We call him Hobo Charlie," she said. "We all love cats, so we all kind of keep up with him."

But cats aren't all they keep up with.

"We pretty much know everybody's comings and goings," laughed Bell, who explained they've dubbed themselves 'The Porch Patrol.' "We know every delivery that's made, we know when people are on vacation. 

"If we don't see someone in awhile we'll start to worry," she added.

Sometime, however, their concerns do go awry.

"We saw a duck land in Bill's yard one day, and we were afraid his cat, Ringo, would get ahold of it," Brown recalled. "In a little bit we noticed something against his fence and got to worrying that Ringo may have crippled it or something, so we called him. When he went out to check, there was no duck. It was just a pile of leaves. He never did believe we saw a duck land in his yard."

"It's a fun, fun neighborhood to live in," said Bell of the street with close neighbors that also enjoy annual cookouts in the summer and Christmas carolers in the winter. "We grew up sitting under the shade trees watching the traffic go by. Sitting and visiting outside just kind of takes you back to your childhood when things were easier.

"It's kind of a comfort thing, I guess," Bell added. "It's just relaxing and takes us back  to simpler times. We're just trying to keep our lives as uncomplicated as possible in a complicated world."

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