Here are two pictures of Mr. Cecil Fain and one of Mrs. Louis Fain from the 1940's:
(Click on the pictures to see larger versions)
Historic Huntsville Foundation’s “Old-Fashioned Trade Day on the Square” for 1991 is now history. This year’s event – the third – was the most successful to date with more vendors (199), more entertainment, more attendees, and, we trust, more fun!
It was particularly gratifying this year to see the “History Day” aspect of our Trade Day receive such an enthusiastic response. The ceremony honoring Mr. Cecil Fain with the Foundation’s first Honored Citizen Award was truly a special time. It could not have been so without Richard Van Valkenburgh’s emceeing services, Tony Mason’s wonderful music, and the participation of Congressman Bud Cramer, Mayor Steve Hettinger, Commission Chairman Mike Gillespie, and Mr. “Pud” Chisam.
We wish to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the many volunteers who contributed so many hours of their time, talent, and energy to the planning and execution of the event. There could be no Trade Day without your efforts. Likewise, our appreciation goes to the city and county officials and employees who advise and assist, to the media – print and electronic – who are so generous with publicity, the vendors, and, most assuredly, to those who attend.
Because of all the above elements, we feel the “Old-Fashioned Trade Day on the Square” has truly become a community event. We look forward to 1992!
Chairman, Trade Day Committee
--GERALD W. PATTERSON
Chairman, Historic Huntsville Foundation
CECIL V. FAIN
Teacher, principal, coach, tennis player, civic and youth leader, and humanitarian…a World War I veteran, began his teaching career in 1914-15 and taught for more than 50 years in schools of Huntsville and Madison County…served as principal of Madison, Rison, Lee and Whitesburg schools…for 40 years, coached local baseball, football, basketball, tennis, softball and track teams…Known as “Mr. Tennis,” he was the foremost pioneer in establishing the sport in the city and county…inducted into Huntsville’s Athletic Booster Club (ABC) Hall of Fame…received Presidential citations from Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy and Nixon…taught Bible and Sunday School classes for 50 years…born in 1895.
They pitched a party for Cecil V. Fain the other day, and the place was packed by former students and teachers who came to study at the master’s feet one more time.
There’s this event called the Rison-Dallas Association reunion held every first Saturday in August, where alumni of the old Rison School and past and present residents of the Dallas mill village get together and honor one of their peers.
This time it was Cecil Fain’s turn, and because of who he is, and because it also happened to be his 90th birthday, the big auditorium at Jackson Way Baptist church was jammed.
It’s not often that people get to honor someone who is a legend in his own lifetime, which is what Cecil Fain is.
FOR THE RECORD:
Mr. Fain, called “Professor,” cast a giant shadow in the early years of Huntsville and Madison County educational circles.
As a principal, he ran his schools the old-fashioned way: with an iron hand.
Like Paul, he became all things to all men, and women so that he might make something out of some of them.
Doctors, lawyers, educators, businessmen … many are they who were pointed down the path of success by the stern, but fair Professor who administered his brand of justice with a smile on his face and a cigar clamped in his teeth.
One of his former students, Elmore Scoop Hudgins, who for many years was public relations director for the Southeastern Conference, wrote this about the man:
“He didn’t see us as the underfed, poor, uneducated mill village children that we were; he saw us as what we could become – and showed us how to achieve it.”
Mr. Fain was among the first educators in the nation to begin school safety patrols. He organized the Huntsville Education Association. He championed track and basketball for girls in the school system.
Some of the finest classroom teachers this county has ever known honed their skills under his guidance.
THAT IS the record. The cut-and-dried statistics.
This is the blood-and guts, the heart-and-soul:
Professor Fain achieved great success because he had a brilliant mind, believed in discipline, and would not be beaten.
Hear from two men who spent many hours with him on the tennis courts of Huntsville when Mr. Fain was one of Alabama’s best tennis players:
“He was a competitor if ever there was a competitor,” said Paul Anderson, of the City of Huntsville transportation department, who once was the Professor’s doubles partner.
“He put out whatever effort it took to try to win,” Anderson said.
He added, “He was a great promoter of athletics in the schools and his girls’ teams won many championships because he pushed for a winner.”
“I remember him as a fine person who took up a lot of time with us young kids,” said Brick Warden, pro at the City of Huntsville tennis center.
“He never lost his temper and was always a gentleman, and he would stay at the courts for hours hitting balls with us and showing us how to improve our games.”
SATURDAY, the day they had the combined reunion and birthday party, Mr. Fain still proved to be the fierce competitor. He got in his car and drove himself to the site.
Then he graciously, gentlemanly accepted the praise and presents heaped on him by the large crowd, and drove himself home again.
Monday, after he’d had time to reflect, he mentioned the “love” displayed by those gathered to honor him, and he said, “This meant more to me than anything in my life.”
If that be the case, it was justifiable payment for the positive influence Cecil Fain has been in this community.
“The Proof is in the Life he Lived"
During those infrequent periods when I call myself exercising, long neighborhood walks always make juices flow and joints jangle. Many of the reasons are aesthetic, from beds of azaleas blooming in springtime to leaves changing color in fall.
The trail leads up busy boulevards and down quiet streets, and one particular leg of the stroll has always been livened by the prospect of maybe seeing a legend. You don’t get to see one every day, you know, but in good weather chances for a sighting were better than average. He might have been on the porch reading a newspaper and smoking a cigar. He might have been working in the yard and smoking a cigar. Or he might have just been doing nothing and smoking a cigar.
Whatever he was doing, he always had a friendly wave or a comment about something on his mind, whether he recognized you or not. Recognizing you wasn’t a factor, anyway, because he knew if he didn’t know you, you knew him. That’s how people get to be legends? Anyway, part of the fun of the walk was wondering whether or not he’d be outside when I reached his house. Well, that part of those walks won’t be quite as much fun now, Cecil Fain died Monday at age 96. He sure handled being a legend well for a long time, But, then, he always handled things with a gentlemanly grace and Southern dignity that set him apart from the herd.
Cecil Fain was many things, but most of all he was a school teacher. He was a principal and an administrator and all that other stuff. But in the deepest recesses if his kind and generous heart, he was a school teacher. There’ll be many Cecil Fain stories dusted off and recycled by the time he’s buried Thursday, and if you don’t think they’re all true, well, act like it, anyway, because he’ll be tickled.
He didn’t do much: started the first student safety patrol, was principal of eight schools, coached every sport, brought tennis to Huntsville, taught Sunday school for 60 years, organized the county’s first PTA group, first Boy Scout troop, first American Legion post … and taught God knows how many boys and girls how to be men and women.
One time some of us slipped across Oakwood Avenue at noon to eat at Mullins. Just when our bowls of chili, oyster crackers and soft drinks were delivered, he walked in. He made us pay, then herded us like cattle back across Oakwood to Rison School, hungry, defeated and a whole lot wiser than when we started.
Paul Anderson remembers Cecil Fain as being a great competitor, whether it was in a classroom or on a tennis court.
“We were playing Florence in one of those independent league matches one day, and Fain was paired against a college kid,” Anderson said. “How old was Fain? He was about 60. He’s always been 60, I reckon. Fain hurt himself, but to show you how his mind clicked he wanted to put a sub in to finish the match so we wouldn’t lose the point.
Of course, Florence wouldn’t hear of that. But that’s the way he was. He hated losing.”
Cecil Fain never lost too many, in anything. The proof of that is how he lived his life, the positive things he accomplished and the many true friends he made along the way.
(January 29, 1992)
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