Local pair celebrates lifelong bond on International Friendship DayPublished 10:42am Monday, August 5, 2013
International Friendship Day, started in 1935 by a Congressional proclamation, will see Alexander City natives Eugenia Lumpkin Maddox and Dorothy Weathers (Foshee) Toals celebrating 69 years of friendship. The two were placed side by side on a pallet as infants and have been devoted to each other ever since.
“From the beginning, it has been a relationship of unconditional love,” Maddox said. “Complete acceptance, knowing that we were right there for each other, in the highs and lows. We can always rely on each other.”
“It’s a friendship that had no beginning and will have no end,” Foshee said. “I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t there.”
From their earliest days, they were connected through family. Maddox’s father worked for Foshee’s father at Russell Pipe and Foundry. The families employed the same maid, Maxine Wycoff, who carried the girls with her to each other’s houses.
As they grew, the two became inseparable.
“I remember the adults around me talking about Eugenia, and I thought they were saying ‘Your-genia.’ Oh, I would cry and say, ‘No, My Genia!’” Foshee said. “I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t in my life.”
They spent the night at each other’s houses and were together from sun up to sun down, they said.
“We spent a lot of time pretending together,” Maddox said. “The foundry is gone now, but it used to be across Washington Street from the area around Ridgeway and those streets. It was a wonderful neighborhood life. We would wake up every day and just see what we could bring to the day. There were a lot of woods, and we would play Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea.”
Another favorite game was Cinderella, often played in Mr. Weathers’ car.
“We would hide the mice and birds and in the rear lights,” Maddox laughed.
They used to sit between the pumps at the gas station and pretend they owned the cars that came by; or watch the trains and talk about all the places they would visit.
On several occasions, they did take the train to Camp Hill, where Maddox’s grandparents had a farm.
“Oh, I loved going there!” Foshee said. “Eugenia’s daddy would sit behind us on the train but back a few seats, so we could be like big girls traveling. When we got there, Eugenia’s grandmother took us on picnics to the waterfalls. And we would set up a store in the hall and take turns being the shopper and the shopkeeper.”
When they were a little older, Foshee’s mother took the girls to Birmingham to teach them to be young ladies.
“She would take us out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and we ordered Shirley Temples,” Maddox recalled. “There we were in our heels, clomping around Birmingham. And when we got back home, we would play in the closet like we were shopping in Birmingham.”
“One time, the foundry had a big company picnic, and all the dignitaries went up to the microphone and gave speeches,” Maddox said. “When they were done, Dorothy and I went up to the mic, along with Ricky Robinson, and we were singing and dancing. We didn’t see anything wrong with that.”
“Eugenia’s daddy came up and took us off the stage,” Foshee laughed. “I think she was punished for that, but I wasn’t.”
“Oh, we loved to dance. We used to make grass skirts out of mimosa fronds. We couldn’t wait for those trees to bloom,” Maddox added.
The two fed each other’s creativity into adulthood; making jewelry out of clover blossoms grew into working with flowers, and their pretending fed a love of writing.
“Dorothy writes the most beautiful letters,” Maddox said.
And Maddox writes poetry, one of her most treasured pieces being an ode to their friendship.
“There was a time when Dorothy moved away, and I was so sad,” Maddox recalled. “I didn’t know if she was ever coming back, and I was grieving, and then one day, I looked up the street, and there she was walking toward me. My world lit up.”
They were in each other’s weddings; raised their children together; and helped each other through their husband’s deaths.
“The death of our husbands was six months apart,” Foshee said.
The two credit the longevity of their friendship to staying connected. They talk every day, though Foshee now lives in McDonough, Ga.
“If I can’t get hold of her, I call one of her children to make sure she’s all right,” Foshee said.
“The older you get, it’s hard to do, but it takes time to nurture any relationship,” Maddox said.
“You have to nurture a friendship,” Foshee added. “Just thinking about someone isn’t the same as doing something about it. You have to do something.”