Dinner bell rings true at Pioneer Museum of Alabama

Published 7:33 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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The Pioneer Museum of Alabama has received the donation of an old-time dinner bell from Pike County Master Gardner Nell Haigh.

The dinner bell was accepted with great appreciation by the museum’s board of directors and staff, said Barbara Tatom, museum director.

“The dinner bell is wonderful addition to the museum and is standing at the dogtrot house which is a most appropriate place,” Tatom said. “What makes the dinner bell even more special to the museum is that it was donated by Nell Haigh, who is a longtime member of the Pike County Master Gardeners and is currently president.  Nell has contributed much to the museum through her knowledge of plants and the work the Master Gardeners have done to improve and enhance the museum grounds.”

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The dinner bell that Haigh donated belonged to her dad and was a fixture at the family’s home place in Montgomery when Haigh was growing up.

“Our home was surrounded by pasture land and farmland,” Haigh said. “When we played outside, the dinner bell was the way my parents communicated with us. When it was time to come inside to eat, to go to church, just anytime we were needed by our parents, the dinner bell was rung.”

The dinner bell was also a way of communication throughout the neighborhood. The ringing of the bell at an unusual time would bring neighbors to see what was needed, Haigh said.

When Haigh went away to college at the University of Alabama, her parents moved to the Hope Hull community.

“Later, when my children were there fishing or roaming in the woods, the ringing of the dinner bell would bring them ‘home,’” Haigh said.

In time, Haigh’s parents moved back into town and she brought the dinner bell to her home on Glenwood Avenue.

“I never put the bell up so it stayed in storage,” Haigh said. “I have plans to move from Troy and I wanted the bell to stay here. I thought, at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, the dinner bell would be a reminder of times gone by, especially with it there at the tenant house.”

Haigh said the clanging of the dinner bell would remind, or alert, museum visitors that the dinner bell was a way of communication before newspapers and telephones became realties in rural America.