Former Main Street Director Ann Canon Has Love for Opelika

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Having a love for Opelika, Ann Canon served as the director of Main Street for almost ten years and worked to restore the depot, build the Courthouse Square and other downtown projects. Ann looks back over those years. She is sharing favorite recipes that her mother taught her how to cook. Photo special to The Observer. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

Former Main Street Director Ann Canon has had a love for Opelika since she first drove through the town during the spring with her family when she was a teenager. With the dogwoods and azaleas blooming, she thought it was a lovely place. After Ann and David were married for a year, they moved to Opelika and still think it is a special place.

In her early years, Ann lived on a farm outside Centre in north Alabama. When she was five years old, the family moved to Cedar Bluff for her father to become the principal at Cedar Bluff High School.

Ann has fond memories growing up of going to her grandparents’ home for Sunday lunch. They would go to her grandparents’ farm and pick peaches and gather vegetables from the garden. Her grandmother taught her how to make cornbread, and Ann still prepares it.

When she was in the 10th grade, her father was offered a position at Auburn University, and they moved to Auburn.

Ann recalls vividly the trip to Auburn as they drove through Opelika on Second Avenue in the spring. She thought, “My goodness, this would be a nice place to live.”

Her family settled in Auburn, and Ann graduated from Auburn High School. While she enjoyed living in Auburn, she missed the Sunday lunches with family.

She met David while attending Auburn University. They got married and then moved to Opelika where David grew up, and his family has a history going back to the early 1900s. His great-uncle Griffin P. Butler was elected probate judge of Lee County in 1915 and served until 1932.

After they were married, Ann’s mother taught her how to cook. While her grandmother was an excellent cook, Ann’s mother was the best cook in the family. When Ann asked her for recipes, she would tell her to add the ingredients and cook until done. After a while, her mother wrote the recipes down, and Ann still enjoys cooking those.

After graduating from Auburn University, David went to work at Canon Motor Company, his family’s automobile dealership. He had first gone to work there when he was 12 years old. When the business sold in 1974, David then worked at Farmers National Bank. He started as a loan officer trainee and worked his way up to senior vice president.

He worked as vice president at other Opelika banks and then became president of Eagle Bank as it merged into Charter Bank. Following retirement, David served on the city council for ten years.

After their children, Chris and Kimberly, were grown, Ann worked at several Opelika businesses, including Ware’s, High Cotton, Curry’s and as manager at the Hallmark Shop.

She then went to work as the third director of Main Street, which was her favorite job. She was the director for almost ten years, starting in 1991 and retiring at the end of 1999.

During that time, the depot was restored, the Courthouse Square was constructed and two phases of the streetscape project were completed. When she started, there was only a 40 percent occupancy rate at downtown Opelika shops.

“We had a lot of people help us,” Ann said. “The Courthouse Square and the depot were my main interests.”

When she read that the depot was going to be torn down, Ann went to the mayor’s office and asked if she could apply for grants that would help restore the depot.

While she was working on this, Ann received a call early one morning that a bulldozer was unloading at the depot. She went and stood in front of the bulldozer. She told them they were not going to tear the building down. After negotiations, the railroad donated the depot to the city of Opelika.

“It was a long process because I had to work with the railroad, the city and the Arts Association that helped with it,” she said. “It took five years. We got the first ISTEA grant for the depot from the state of Alabama. Two years later, we received another ISTEA grant for the Courthouse Square.”

The Alabama Historical Commission was a big help to Ann while she was the director and worked with shop owners. While she was director, Bobby Freeman and Barbara Patton were mayors.

“Every time we drive by the Courthouse Square it does my heart good to see kids playing around the fountain,” she said.

Ann retired in order to take care of her mother who had lost her vision. She feels so much has happened downtown since she retired. The number of restaurants has continued to grow.

Both Ann and David are enjoying retirement with six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Their son Chris and his wife, Kandy, live in Auburn, while daughter Kimberly lives in Opelika.

Almost all the family were together at Christmas, and Ann enjoyed cooking. Two of their children’s favorite dishes are the Spaghetti Casserole and Chocolate Pie. Chris’ favorite is the Macaroni and Cheese that goes well with ham.

Ann is sharing these recipes and other favorites that are ones her mother taught her to make.

“I was happy to move to Auburn with my parents, but Opelika is where my heart is,” Ann said. “It is the best city you can live in, and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.”

Artichoke Dish

This is an excellent appetizer for a crowd.

2 large cans artichoke hearts, packed in water (not the ones in oil)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Garlic salt to taste

Crackers

Drain artichokes and tear apart. Mix mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Add artichoke hearts and stir. Pour into long narrow dish (Pyrex dish is ideal because you can cook in it as well as serve).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or bubbly. Serve warm, if possible. It is better served with crackers.

Pot Roast Meat Loaf

1 lb. ground chuck

1 small can evaporated milk

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

¼ cup catsup (or chili sauce)

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp. pepper

Combine and mix above ingredients. Shape into loaf in center of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan. Then add the following.

Peel and slice ¼ inch thick:

3 medium potatoes

3 medium onions

3 medium carrots, quartered

1 tsp. parsley flakes

1 tsp. salt

1 pinch of black pepper

Mix together parsley flakes, salt and 1 pinch of pepper.

Place vegetables in layers around meat. Sprinkle each layer with part of parsley and salt mixture. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour until vegetables are tender. Cut slit over meat loaf and bake 10 minutes longer to brown meat.

Spaghetti Casserole

16 oz. pkg. spaghetti noodles

1 lb. ground chuck

1 jar Ragu sauce

8 oz. container sour cream

16 oz. container low fat cottage cheese

6 oz. pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil noodles. Drain and spread on bottom of 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

Cook ground chuck and drain. In mixing bowl pour Ragu sauce and ground chuck. Stir until mixed well. In separate bowl, mix sour cream and cottage cheese together.

Layer on top of noodles:

Sour cream and cottage cheese

½ bag shredded cheese

Meat sauce mixture

Sprinkle other half bag mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees until bubble 25-30 minutes

Stuffed Green Peppers

6 large green peppers

1 cup cooked rice

1 lb. ground beef     

1 (15 ½ oz.) Ragù spaghetti sauce

Salt, pepper and garlic to taste

¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cut thin slice from stem end of each pepper. Remove seeds and

membranes; rinse. Cook peppers for 10-15 minutes in enough

boiling water to cover. Drain.

Brown ground beef in a skillet; drain excess fat. Stir in Ragù spaghetti sauce and rice. Simmer 10 minutes.

Stuff each pepper with meat mixture and stand upright in ungreased baking dish. Cover; cook in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. Makes six servings.

Chicken Casserole

6-8 chicken breasts, boiled and boned

1 can celery soup

1 can mushroom soup

1 carton sour cream

1/3 tube Ritz crackers

1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

½-3/4 stick butter, melted

Mix soups, sour cream and chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Mix crackers and poppy seeds. Put on top of first mixtures and drizzle with butter. Bake 10 more minutes.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Sift in large mixing bowl:

2 cups sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 cups flour

Put in saucepan:

½ cup Crisco

4 Tbsp. cocoa

1 stick margarine

Add 1 cup water and bring to a rapid boil.

Pour hot mixture over flour mixture and stir well.

Add:

½ cup buttermilk

2 slightly beaten eggs

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. cinnamon

Mix well and pour into greased 16 x 11 inch greased pan.

Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Icing:

Start making before cake is done. Put in saucepan:

1 stick margarine

4 Tbsp. cocoa

6 Tbsp. milk

Melt together and bring to a boil stirring constantly.

1 box confectioner’s sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts

Remove from heat and add a box confectioner’s sugar. Add 1 Tbsp. vanilla and 1 cup chopped nuts and beat well. Spread over cake while hot.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 cup sugar

1 cup cold water

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 Tbsp. strawberry Jell-O

1 pint fresh strawberries

Cool Whip or whipped cream

1 pie pastry, baked

Bring first 3 ingredients to boil, add Jell-O and cool. Place sliced strawberries in cool pie shell and pour Jell-O mixture over strawberries. Top with Cool Whip or whipped cream.

Mema’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

8 oz. carton whipped butter

5 eggs, separated (whites beaten stiff)

3 cups sugar

3 cups sifted cake flour

1 cup sour cream

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Blend butter and sugar.

Add egg yolks 1 at time, beating well after each.

Sift flour 5 times, add to egg mixture, alternating with sour cream.

Add soda and vanilla.

Fold in beaten egg whites.

Pour in greased and floured pan.

Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Don’t open door.

Pineapple Casserole

4 large cans pineapple chunks, drained

10 Tbsp. flour

3 cups grated sharp cheese

2 tubes Ritz crackers, crushed

2 sticks butter or margarine, melted

Place pineapple in bottom casserole dish.

Mix sugar and flour and sprinkle over pineapple. Sprinkle cheese over this. Mix crackers and melted butter and sprinkle over top. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sausage and Egg Casserole

This is great for brunch.

2 slices bread, cubed

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 lb. sausage, cooked and drained

Beat together:

6 eggs

2 cups milk

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dry mustard

Put bread cubes in the bottom of a 9 x1 3 inch Pyrex dish.

Sprinkle 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese over bread, then sprinkle cooked sausage over top of cheese.

Pour milk-egg mixture over all the cubed bread.

Cover dish and refrigerate overnight.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with fruit and sweet rolls.

Grandma’s Cornbread

1½ cups plain corn meal

½ cup flour

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp. oil

1½ cups buttermilk

2 eggs beaten

Combine meal, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.

Mix milk, oil, eggs and stir into cornmeal mixture

Pour batter into a baking pan greased with Crisco or butter.

Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

Mema’s Cornbread Dressing

5 cups cornbread

5 cups Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix

4 cans chicken broth

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped bell pepper

½ cup melted butter

3 beaten eggs

Salt and pepper

Combine cornbread and stuffing mix and crumb together in a large bowl. Pour chicken broth over and mix well.

Combine celery, onions and peppers in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Cook on low until tender. Drain and add to crumb mixture. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add melted butter and eggs.

Pour mixture into greased casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.

Sweet Potato Casserole

6 cups cooked sweet potatoes

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. vanilla

2 sticks butter, room temperature

Mix ingredients with mixer and pour in casserole dish. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top.

Topping:

2 cups dark brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped pecans

2 sticks room temperature butter

Bake in oven 375 degrees until topping is melted and slightly browned.

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