Get your fifteen minutes right here.

By Anita Garner

As soon as our family landed in a town, top of Daddy’s list of things to do was to find a radio station for our show. He preferred a Saturday morning program.  That way he could promote any nearby Singings or tent revivals or concerts where we’d be performing through the weekend.

When we stopped in Louisiana to pastor a church, the station Daddy chose was playing only country music records. No Southern Gospel. But a live show could be had if you’d bring in enough fans and if you came in fully sponsored. Those were the rules.

Since we traveled constantly, The Joneses had built up a good fan base.  It was a surprise though, when our first sponsor at WHXY turned out to be “The Beautiful Pine Tree Inn,” the very building where the radio station was housed.  Mr. and Mrs. Pine Tree Inn weren’t even members of our denomination, but they were fans of Southern Gospel.

Then came our fifteen minutes. Each show opened with a theme song with Daddy on guitar and Mother on piano or accordion. The four of us sang that one then a few more songs from all of us and sometimes a guest, like Brother Gene Thompson, an Arkansas evangelist who came to visit and heated up the airwaves with his guitar solos.  A brief devotion from Daddy, short and sweet and gentle, like the blessing before a meal, then out with the theme, which Kousin Karl, the deejay n duty, faded as he resumed regular programming.

We packed up instruments while Karl reminded listeners they could send in their cards and letters with requests and he’d make sure The Joneses got them before next week’s show.  Daddy stopped by the station during the week to pick up fan mail and true to Karl’s promise, we always performed at least one request each week.  In the 1950’s, songs were so short we packed in lots of music in our fifteen minutes.

Karl entertained my brother and me with his dramatic readings of Hadacol’s outrageous cure-all commercials that aired shortly before we went on the air – way too close according to Daddy.  Daddy knew the magic liquid in the bottle was  mostly hootch.  Karl messed around with different versions of the commercials, changing them every time, performing them with and without his Louisiana accent, sometimes with a deep voice, then next time a high squeaky, anxious delivery, as if nothing would help cure that voice except this product.  He’d pretend to take a swig, and magically his voice returned to normal.

Karl’s career took off.  As we were leaving Louisiana, he was becoming a successful concert promoter and a scout for record labels. He continued encouraging  Mother to get the songs she wrote to people who could record them. And onstage, when he had occasion to introduce “Sister Fern” his build-up to her performance was so flowery, we were surprised Daddy wasn’t jealous. Karl helped make Sister Fern’s fifteen minutes last a good deal longer.

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Just before Hadacol went out of business (false advertising, owner was a swindler, numerous other charges) it was huge.  Hadacol was said to be one of the biggest advertisers in the Deep South with a budget second only to Coca Cola. Here’s a sample of the kind of commercials Kousin Karl had to read.  Click the bottle to listen.

 

 

Calling on the saints of lost objects

By Anita Garner

I’m sharing office space right now with stacks of scrapbooks and photo albums, with boxes and bins filled with photos, searching for pictures meant to be in my new book.My forthcoming book (“forthcoming” is such a lovely word) will contain photos and the publisher’s waiting for me to decide which ones.  I’ve decided.  I just can’t find them.

There’s no shortage of pictures available, but I have specific memories in mind.  Later, The Glory Road website  will be updated for the book’s release and there’ll be room for lots more there, but where are the ones I’d set aside for the book?  They were here a few days ago.

It’s time to invoke St. Anthony (specializing in finding lost objects) and St. Jude (specialist in hopeless causes.)   When we lived in Louisiana Bayou country, all my friends were Catholic.  I envied them their array of saints who are apparently available all the time.  We little Pentecostal preachers’ kids were advised to talk to Baby Jesus, but then we were also cautioned about when we should and shouldn’t be specific with our requests so we weren’t always sure we were doing it right.  With St. Jude or St. Anthony you can say, “Will you help me find my keys?” and sometimes they will.

I don’t want to put things away until I find what I’m looking for.  In old movies, Irish characters sometimes said, “Saints preserve us!”  If the saints know exactly where my misplaced photos are, this would be a good time to show me. I’ll be most grateful.

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Follow the song.

By Anita Garner

I’m unloading the dishwasher.  Music is playing.  Randy Owen (Alabama Band) sings one of my favorite old hymns with The Isaacs and I’m right back there in places where I first learned the song.  Follow the music to the Deep South during the ’40’s and ’50’s and find a story.

Off the highway and down a dirt road, nearly impassable during heavy rains, in a clearing just big enough to embrace a small building, stands a sweet little church.  It was built long ago by a community who walked miles to get here or rode in wagons carrying food to share after worship. We make the trip decades later in our big old very used sedan.

This church has no full-time pastor.  It’s not much different from the circuit-riding preacher days of Little House On The Prairie.  Daddy, one of several ministers from other towns, travels here to conduct worship or sometimes to say words over a departed member of the congregation.  They don’t meet every Sunday.  They meet when a minister is available.  Today it’s our family’s turn.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, after Daddy has already preached at our own church.  Mother’s home resting, waiting for the birth of our new baby.  If she’s well, she sometimes comes along to sing, but today it’s Daddy, my brother, Leslie Ray and me.  A visiting preacher might bring his own guitar, but it’s not necessary. It doesn’t take many souls to fill this chapel with song.

Today, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, when I hear families blending like Randy Owen and his cousins in Alabama and The Isaacs’ exquisite harmonies, I think of my family singing our own homey version when any one of us started off with this song.

Click the picture for Randy Owen with The Isaacs,  I Need Thee Every Hour

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Quilting on The Glory Road

By Anita Garner

After childhood years spent hanging around with prolific quilters, I remain untalented in that department, but I’m an appreciator.  When Leslie Ray and I were little, quilts were a big part of our lives.  We touring Gospel Gypsies slept on pallets on the floor made of piles of old quilts.  When Daddy pastored, congregations furnished the parsonage with everything we needed.   Colorful quilts arrived, many of them made from scraps of cloth that had already seen several lives.

Those were my favorites.  Each square came with stories attached. Stories were vital for young children without roots. I remember specific quilt squares. I remember tears in the eyes of a woman piecing together a tribute to someone recently departed.

The quilts in our life weren’t fancy patterns.  They were patchwork, a piece of a skirt a little girl wore to school, a snippet of one of her brothers’ shirts, flour sack remnants. Some quilts were thicker than others, stuffed with batting inside for warmth, and while they did the job during cold winter nights, the insides eventually separated and formed clumps. Nobody cared.  Nobody treated the clumpy quilts different because of their shape.

We traveled the Deep South in the 50’s with old quilts in every condition. When they were finally no more than shreds, Daddy and Leslie Ray wrapped them around the amplifier and guitars and microphones and other equipment in the trunk.

When we stayed a while in parsonages, we kids went along to Quiltings.  A Quilting was a regularly scheduled gathering of a group of women in the home of whichever one had a quilting frame.  The frames were big wooden things suspended up near the ceiling and lowered by a rope pulley.

Quilts-in-progress came down when the ladies arrived and chairs were situated all around, where a roomful of women making tiny stitches connected colorful pieces of cloth.  Their hands moved in age-old rhythms while they engaged in conversation.

In addition to plain old everyday necessary quilts, a quilting group took turns working on each other’s special items. A quilt for a new baby. Graduation. Engagement. Hope chest. Wedding. Shut-ins.

We kids were allowed to stretch out on the floor under the quilting frame and because we were out of sight, the ladies forgot little children were  listening.  After any Quilting, my brother and I left with more information than we should have.

When it was time for refreshments, we made our presence known.  In every Southern home, whatever the economic resources or lack of them, some cook had a specialty that showed up when the quilting sisters came over.

A few years back, I mentioned to friend, Barbara, that I no longer have even a remnant of a family quilt.  She, a San Francisco jazz singer with many other talents, took my sad story to heart and made me this lovely piece.  She handed it over saying, “Now you have a quilt.”

I still love most old things better than most new things, but this wall hanging Barbara made is the exception.  Not long after she completed it, she was gone. Another quilting story for another time.

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