“Why, the WHOLE TOWN’S TALKING! About the day Principal Ronald Mayes traveled all over town with only one lens in his glasses. And possibly the same day, Fran Phillips went to the grocery store with her blouse on inside-out. Not a soul mentioned the strange apparel. We know how to treat our citizens. With love and giggles, no one dared mention anything and everyone checked themselves before they went out!”

That’s the way Mrs. Ida Jenkins of the Elmwood Springs News would have described funny incidents in her society column. She would wish a “Happy Birthday” to Miss Charity Mathis, since she (Ida) had forgotten. (Except for Ron and Fran, two beloved citizens of Gadsden). The “reporting” was done by Fannie Flagg in her book, “The Whole Town is Talking,” a wonderful multigenerational novel, and my latest “read.” You will love it!

They came back! “Smoke on the Mountain” with all their kin, bringing a reminder of home that we shall never see again. Sweet, simple, laughter in the summer night; counting stars; listening to the lovely, admonishing call of the hoot owl suddenly drop a “who-who” as he swoops from tree to tree; an old-time preacher who preaches “fire and damnation” while trying to ward off the not so subtle advances of a pretty country girl. You know the story. “Smoke on the Mountain,” presented last weekend by Theatre of Gadsden, was theater at its best, with a glorious down-home message.

The clouds were low and much-needed rain threatened — but inside Wallace Hall, the set of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” waited: The heavy wooden columns, stairs that lead up and back and down, mysterious stops and starts; a maze that will make sense as the play progresses. The actors are hidden; the final adjustments are made. A breathless moment: The music rises; the choir comes through the audience chanting and the show begins.

The story is the same as always — about a horribly deformed man, Quasimodo (Cody Carlton), who because of the treachery of his uncle, Claude

Frollo (Chris Dowdy), is destined to spend his life in the belfry of the great cathedral, which makes him. along with his other infirmities, almost deaf.

His friends — the stones and gargoyles in the belfry— encourage him to go and spend just one day “down there.” Quasimodo goes and starts a domino effect that ends with Esmerelda (Amanda Russell) dying and Quasimodo crushed with grief and guilt.

Themes include infanticide, the many sides of good and evil, and the sinner is the saint (as Esmerelda in the end has the purest heart). A Disney reference of wanting to be in another, kinder world than we see is prevalent. The production was glorious!

I had a wonderful seat mate, G.R. Norton; Dixie Minatre, Brenda Snow and Carol Campbell sat near me, and I got a hug from Quasimodo! Emily Acray said hello. Now, do you see why the whole town’s talking? I’ll see you, ‘round town!

Glenda Byars is a correspondent for The Gadsden Times. Send submissions to glendabyars@comcast.net.