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Windham shares new year with friends

Very few people who entered Kathryn Tucker Windham’s house on Thursday were strangers.

Those who were got to know each other in just a short amount of time. It could have been the food. It could have been that fitting a few dozen or so people at one time into her modest house left little room for shyness.

The star of the show divvied her time between making pleasantries and tending to the kitchen.

“I think this is a center of love in Alabama,” said Bill Fuller, a former representative in the Alabama Legislature and friend of Windham’s. “Kathryn Windham has a warm spirit, and that spirit draws people by the hundreds. This is a refresher course in love on New Year’s Day.”

Windham has held a New Year’s Day party at her house for more than 35 years, keeping firm to the Southern belief that eating black eye peas, hog jowls and cornbread brings good luck for the next 12 months.

Some people make the party a yearly event, and a lot of them aren’t from Selma.

“We’ve had people from all over state — from Greenville, from Anniston; a crew from Montgomery just left here,” Windham said.

For several people, though, it was a time to catch up with old friends.

The Barrontons moved to Selma several years ago and struck up a friendship with Windham soon after.

“We met through the church — Church Street United Methodist,” said Nan Barronton. “Our sons were in school together at Parrish High. That’s been 43 years ago, or something like that.”

After signing the guest book, shaking a few hands and passing out hugs, visitors invariably made their way to the food table.

And the food didn’t stop coming. Marie Barker, Liz Taylor and Dilcy Hilley, Windham’s daughter, helped out in the kitchen and kept on the lookout for low bowls on the serving table.

For those wondering, yes, the 90-year-old Windham does her fair share of the cooking. But she remains adamantly against sweet cornbread.

“People need to quit putting sugar in their cornbread,” Windham said earlier. “If they want sugar they can bake a cake.”