Appalachia

The Strangest Thing that Ever Happened to Me

Today’s guest post was written by Betty Louise Saxon Hopkins

banjo-playing-in-appalachia

In today’s modern age, this story would not seem very strange but for a little girl growing up in Appalachia in the early 1940’s, it was a strange thing.

Daddy loved bluegrass music and was hooked on it from the time he was ten years old when his Uncle Lester Hood taught him the chords on a banjo while sitting on his Grandma Wilda’s porch in the afternoons. The music made his spirits soar and his heart sing once again following the death of both his mother and father that summer. He felt happy again! He focused on his music for the next several years and learned to play a mean banjo while his older brother Vaughn honed his skills on the fiddle. Over the years they played at square dances and events around North Georgia and became quite good and were invited to play in a bluegrass contest on WNOX in Knoxville, TN. Daddy got up early that morning, long before his little girl was awake, feeling dapper in his new Sears and Roebuck suit, and headed to Knoxville with his brother Vaughn.

When I woke up, I wanted to know where my Daddy was. My Mom said, “He’s gone to Knoxville to play music.” Of course, being a Daddy’s girl, I was devastated that I didn’t get to see him before he left. In Mama’s words, I “squalled and bawled” because I thought my Daddy wasn’t coming back. My tears soon turned into joy when we gathered around the old Philco Radio that afternoon to hear the announcer call my Daddy and Uncle Vaughn’s names. I was wide-eyed with wonder as I sat and listened to “the Orange Blossom Special” ringing out over the airwaves. I could not imagine how in the world my Daddy could get inside that little box. Strange!! When he returned home, I was one happy child as I climbed into his lap and checked out his shirt pocket and found a pack of “Juciy Fruit” gum, a treat he had brought back for his little girl.

Daddy’s music continued to bless our family over the years and I’m convinced it helped him through some of the tougher times. There’s a saying that “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I have no doubt it did that for him as well as our family.

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I hope you enjoyed Betty’s guest post as much as I did!

Tipper

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Papaw
    June 15, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    I went to Knoxville once with my Daddy but it wudden to make music. We hauled a load of baccer across Newfound Gap in the middle of the night. It wudden because it was that wacky baccer or nothing like that, it was so we could be at the warehouse early when it opened up. Daddy ended up selling it to a pinhooker who offered him a lot more than he expected to get at the auction and we got back home before daylight. It must have been some good tobacco if a pinhooker would offer more than the market price.
    Mommy always graded the tobacco herself. She let us kids hand it sometimes and stack it around the basket but she kept a close eye on our work. A tobacco basket is about 4 feet across and made of a latticework of thin narrow rough boards with a border that went around the edge and gave it a shallow basket shape. We stacked the hands in a circle around the edge with the tied end showing. When the basket was about 5 feet tall we would cap another basket on top of it and use baling wire or twine to pull the two baskets tight. Each grade had a separate grades. I can’t remember for sure but I think they were Brights, Long Reds, Short Reds, Tops and maybe Trash but there was five grades altogether. Some people had only 3 or 4 grades. This was Burly Tobacco.
    Most of the time we went to Asheville to sell our baccer but Daddy heard they were getting better prices in Knoxville. He did but he never went back that I know of.

  • Reply
    Sylvia Turnage
    June 15, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Love the story! It is very well written. Hope we get to see lots more from this talented writer. Thanks for the post.
    (A devoted fan and lifelong friend)

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    June 15, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I love this story! There is so much power and strength for the soul in music. I also enjoyed the comment by TMC. Very good stories for this Friday morning.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 15, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Tipper,
    And Louise, I enjoyed your story of your Dad and Vaughn going to Knoxville to be on a Radio Program. And when Dad made it home, you finding a pack of Juicy Fruit Gun for his Little Girl. That is so Touching because I have Girls and know the feeling. …Ken

  • Reply
    tamela
    June 15, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I especially like the closing quote, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Music heals. When I feel down I just turn on the music and dance around the dining room table. I feel better immediately.

  • Reply
    Betty Hopkins
    June 15, 2018 at 10:20 am

    What a nice surprise to find the story I wrote about my dad on Blind Pig & Acorn this morning. It brought back such wonderful memories growing up in Appalachia with daddy and his music. What an awesome way to remember him on this Father’s Day. I doubt Shakespeare was thinking about our mountain music when he said “If music be the food of love, PLAY on,” but the message remains the same. There’s just something special about growing up in a musical family as you know, Tipper. Thanks so much to you and your family for keeping it alive!!!

    • Reply
      Brian
      June 16, 2018 at 11:28 pm

      Betty. I thoroughly enjoyed your story. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for another Appalachian site?
      If interested, you can contact me at your convenience.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 15, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Great story! I love the part about the Juicy Fruit gum. Dad always had a pack of gum in his pocket and us kids and then later the grand kids always new there’s was a treat for us in his shirt pocket. It was most always the green pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 15, 2018 at 9:16 am

    This post reminds me of the story of my aunt at her Mom’s second wedding. My step-grandpa was in WWI and lost his right leg to just above the knee. His wooden leg hurt him and he avoided wearing it except on dress up occasions. My aunt was used to seeing him without it so on their wedding day when he showed up wearing it she thought he had grown a new leg overnight.

    The odd things children can think of that are so real to them.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 15, 2018 at 7:08 am

    What a lovely story, thank you !

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paule
    June 15, 2018 at 6:58 am

    A lovely story

  • Reply
    Tmc
    June 15, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Interesting story, Back in the day much like today being invited to the Grand Ole Opry and play your music was next to impossible, my Wife’s Granddad and his Boys had a group and wanted to see if and how they could get on the Opry and play. Well, they drove up to Nashville and walked in and this lady was sitting behind this desk, and He ask how do you get on to play, she reached over and pulled out this long drawer full of applications and said fill out an application and get in line, so he thought about it and before they left to come home he went down to the dime store and bought a piece of red construction paper and attached their application to it and handed it in, a few weeks later got called to come play, I thought that was genus of him to think that one piece of paper stood out among all those applications in that drawer, and got them on to play.

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