Looking Back

February 9, 2013 - 9:15 PM

This morning I was thinking back to the earliest days of my remembrances and how things have changed since I lived in that little house on the Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington, North Carolina, the first home I can recall.

It had four rooms, but we only used three, one bedroom, the living room - or front room as we called it - and of course the kitchen where my mother cooked our meals on a big black wood stove. Our front yard was sand, which was pretty common in those days. Folks would sweep the leaves and trash away with bunches of stiff twigs tied together and referred to them as yard brooms, taking pains to see that all the marks left by the broom ran in the same direction, making neat patterns in the sand.

We had electricity, but no running water, and we had the kind of sanitary facility you had to walk to. And, yes, it's true folks; the back issues of that big old Sears-Roebuck catalog did spend its dotage on the floor of the little house behind the big house, growing thinner by the day.

I remember the day we got our first radio, a table model Zenith that soon became the center of the family's evenings and my afternoons as my imagination was titillated by programs like The Lone Ranger until they were rudely interrupted by the dreaded soap operas, which I developed a genuine distaste for that lasts until this very day.

I never watched television until I was in my middle teens and looking back I'm thankful for that fact. With radio you had to put a face on each character and imagine the surroundings, drawing mental pictures that I think helped develop a vivid imagination that has played a crucial part in my creative process.

But the biggest influence radio had on my young life was to introduce me to a myriad of music. Those were the days of the big bands, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey were huge stars and crooners like Frank Sinatra were teenaged idols.

Sundays were a buffet of gospel music, from soul stirring black gospel to the formal sounds of big church choirs and when you're born in the Southeast you're always exposed to the blues.

But my favorite, by far, was a Saturday night institution called the Grand Ole Opry, broadcast live over the fifty thousand watt clear channel voice of WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys played about a "Night Train to Memphis", Uncle Dave Macon picked his banjo and sang about "Eleven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat," Cousin Minnie Pearl cracked the crowd up with her tales about the goings on in Grinder Switch and the square dancers sashayed around the stage, the taps on their dancing shoes beating out the rhythm of some old time fiddle tune.

It was the most exciting, down-home, uplifting piece of Americana to ever grace the airways and everybody in our neighborhood listened to it every Saturday night. I used to listen in awe and try to imagine what it all looked like, what it would be like to sit in the Ryman Auditorium on a Saturday night and actually see Ernest Tubb, Eddie Arnold and the Fruit Jar Drinkers.

Jumping over about fifty some years to a very special Saturday night in 2008, when I was inducted into that same Grand Ole Opry, I told the crowd that the Bible said God would give you the desires of your heart and they had just seen it happen on stage that night.

Thank God for the Opry and for making so many of my dreams come true, I thank Him for a wonderful wife, a loving son, two beautiful grandchildren, 30 faithful employees and for the fact that at 76 years old, I'm still pursuing my dreams, still excited, still creative, still rockin'.

Oh yes... Thank You, God, for that old Zenith radio.

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