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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Joe Hartzog eclipses my career on PBS and Cable Television

   Friends, the family of Joe Hartzog of my Gaffney High class of 71 Tomorrow night, Thursday May 13, will eclipse my standing as a leader from Gaffney on Public television. His older sister Callie, a Gaffney Beauty of the Class of 68; her daughter Carrie Morley will begin a prime time PBS series How She Rolls based on her Callie's Hot Biscuit empire which has been up and running for ten years and more now with stores in Charleston (home base), Charlotte and Atlanta.

   Joe and Callie have a younger sister, Dr. Emily Hartzog. 

    I thought I was the Gaffney big dog on cable with my history of four statewide appearances on Bama PBS and national vignettes on Restaurant Impossible and a response to PBS Doc the Uprisin of 32 aired back in the 90s. I was on a roll myself in the nineties with a July 22, 92 live broadcast statewide from Montgomery on the troubles in the SBC and a year with several appearances and a consultant listing for the Brett Morgen doc Blessings of Liberty. Again in 2001 or so in a statewide doc on the Hispanic Influx into Collinville Alabama you can google for Coming to a Crossroad, and the latest that I can think of, Restaurant Impossible in the late winter of 2014 out of Valley Head/Hammondville Alabama. I broached the word "treacle" on that one.

    Morgen was later to gain fame as an Oscar nominee for his On the Ropes, boxing among the poor on NYC, and then a few years ago as Mick Jaggers best friend with the documentary Crossfire Hurricane. You can google Brett and Mick and the Boys on the red carpet for the London Premiere. Still hard to believe on the back porch of the farm house in Alabama end of shoot party late January 91, Brett and crew were present with a woman who at that time had been a tour manager for the Stones, and later for the Dixie Chicks.

    But this is the Hartzog/Morley show and I'm happy for them and looking forward to the series, again you can see anywhere online. Obvious comparisons will be made to Vivian Howard and her restaurant and longtime show from Eastern NC, but lot of cooking/human interest shows out there and Carrie and Callie have rich culture to plow in Charleston. Previews say one episode is going to center around Carrie's friendship with the BBQ pitmaster of the Charleston Region, as well as her parenting three girls from 11 to 17 or so. You can even see a Little of Joe in the oldest which is better than a resemblance to his friend Danny McClain. Just humoring you there buddies from way back.

    Though named Callies Biscuits, it seems to be the recipe of Callie's Mother Caroline, Bill Hartzog's wife. I always thought they were Presbyterians in Gaffney but it appears Caroline was active in the Episcopalian Congregation with the Mother of Actress Andie Macdowell and her three sisters. Callie and the Macdowell girls ran in same circles. My input into the margins of this show and conversations to follow as they intersect Gaffney is to point out to Carrie and her girls some history of the church and their Grandmother and Great Grandmother's time with the 1956 bombing on College Drive of the Dr Sanders Home. Just quarter mile up College Drive from the Church, the Doctor's wife, Claudia Thomas Sanders, a native of Charleston,  was active in the congregation with Ms Hartzog and the Macdowells. You can find the story by Duke's Tim Tyson online for Dynamite and the Silent South, also included in the collection of essays Jumpn Jim Crow.

   Looking forward to the show tomorrow night. Soon within a week or two will follow up.

   Oh, here was my episode of Restaurant Impossible, But alas I can't find any video clips out there.  Well, looks like you will have to google for Writing on the Wall, Hammondville, Restaurant Impossible.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Levon Helm, Davidson's Frank Price; Three Stories in Southern Religion. An Excerpt

       From the 19th century to the present, Southern musicians and those inspired by southern forms of music drew from biblical apocalyptic imagery, angry prophesy, gentle reasurrances, and archetypical character struggles. The potent combination of the biblically poetic,  set within a literalist scriptural undersatanding and juxtaposed to a violent and inequitable social and economic system, collectively created the tensions that empowered the most memorably explosive music of American popular culture.

   Southern visual and oral vernacular artists inspired musical renderings of biblical texts, which took their meanings far outside the confines of the readings sanctioned by the southern denominations. The tensions contained within the culture, expressed through music, helped to vault southern performers such as Cash and Rosetta Tharpe to stardom and created characters songs memorably voiced by creative artists such as Levon Helm. And sometimes, as in the case of Cash, those tensions and ambitions drove addictions that could destroy lives. At the same time the music also provided one means of the coming southern cultural and political revolution.

   The list of southern performers with religious backgrounds or connections who fed the globalization of southern sounds could go on......The sounds of the South became a part of the soundtrack of the globe in ways few could have imagined in an earlier era, whn the region seemed to be a hopeless backwater. With regards to cultural production, no place could be seen as more important. In the twentieth century Southerners shaped the soundtrack of the Globe.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Tim Scott, Chic Fil A and a new way forward for Georgia and America

    Dan Cathy was in my freshman Religion class the fall of 1971 At Furman University. His Father Truett, named for the greatest Baptist the first half of the 20th Century George W. Truett was the founder of Chic Fil a of which son Dan is soon retiring as CEO. A deeply religious family, Truett was a trustee of Mercer University in the 80s and Dan matriculated after a year and a half at Furman to Samford from which he graduated.

     Tim Scott referenced Chic Fil A last night in his Republican response to Joe Biden. Given the race baiting of Donald Trump, and the legacy of Lee Atwater and his "Nigger" memo, the first chapter flash point of Stuart Stevens It Was a Lie; Atwater's fellow South Carolinian Scott was an interesting point for certain for a Party who were given the goods this last week in The Atlantic.

       I think Scott has a point about race in America. But he will carry the virtue the GOP wants to place on him when every public school in South Carolina starts telling at least the truth about the state's history and american history, at minimum what SC's Walter Edgar and Vernon Burton have been recommending for 20 years or more now. Go to Woodruff or Cowpens or Union or Batesburg and bring us a report Senator Scott about how true American history is being taught in the state's schools. How many people on your staff, and interns, of the last seven years have a working conversational knowledge of Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America or Jill Lepore's These Truths

    Show me a Republican in South Carolina who is telling the truth about abortion politics or the dark money of the gun lobby. What Republican in SC passes the Viola Davis or Chadwick Bozeman screening for truth telling.

    I have hope for Senator Scott bi partisan work on the George Floyd bill with Cory Booker and others. Peggy Noonan was giving the committee a shoutout Sunday on NBC Meet the Press.  But that is a world away from what Brine Kemp and MT Greene are doing in Georgia and Jeff Duncan in SC's 3rd District and Ralph Norman in York and Cherokee County.

     Chic Fil A has seem to have been struck mute on a lot of matters swelling up in Georgia including the voter suppression of Brine Kemp, the foolishness of the current Ga Southern Baptist Convention, not to mention Doug Collins and Qanon Prom Queen Marge Taylor Greene.

    There were credible reports Truett Cathy, as did many Georgia baptists, flirted with the John Birch Society in the 50s and 60s. I am convinced he evolved into a more discerning Christian by the time my first cousin by marriage spoke at his funeral.

    Dan has ready and willing counsel among discerning Baptists all across the Southeast to help him navigate this moment fogged by Tim Scott last night.

    I am not boycotting the chicken sandwich. The Cathy's are good people and I had the number one combo maxxed up Monday afternoon. Spent the night when the Ft Payne Alabama unit opened in July of 2017 to get my hundred free meals for a year. Saw Dan about five years ago. On several occasions my immediate family has been the recipient of their kindness.

    But this is a pivotal moment. Chic Fil A has had the spotlight before, but Scott last night is a new inflection point. Here is a public challenge to Chic Fil A and it s wide network of influence in to the guts of the Trump Base to be more like Lincoln than Jeff Davis.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Dad's Thirty Something Helton cousins Plus Aunt Virginia and Fremont

      I was talking to Lloyd Ivey and his grand daughter Lilly of the internationally known Ivey family of Liberty Church in Henegar alabama of Sacred Harp fame, talking to them a couple years ago during the dinner on the grounds and it came out Lloyd has 45 first cousins just on the Ivey Side. I thought that was amazing and then a few days later at Jacks in Collinsville Doug Simpson said he had 45 first cousins. His Dad was Otis Jackson Simpson, or OJ, and his Uncle (Harding was Church of God) and had about six exceptionally pretty daughters so it's not hard to imagine how you get to 46 in a hurry. And I think there was nine children in the OJ generation.

   Doug son Pup, OJ's grandson was pretty decent HS baseball player, Doug said got a look from the Kansas City Royals.

   Then I got to thinking my own Dad had numbers comparable and a note from Uncle Prentice last week bore that out.

   My Dad's youngest brother Prentice, ten years younger who most in the family consider a mistake is the last of six children still living of Mary Alice Helton and WD Shorty Fox. He sent me a list of all his Helton cousins last week and I think they deserve to be named for posterity in a public platform. I may say a few things about some of them and maybe more later. 

    Nanny Helton Fox had one sister, Ina and nine brothers, Bill, Herman, Clyde, Jack, Bobby, Roy, Jim, E;mer and  Henry

     Nanny had the first child about 1917 my Dad's oldest sister Virginia, then Katharine and Daddy was born in 22, Billy D. Fox, Aunt Juanita 24, Fremont in 26 and then Prentice in 32

   Uncle Bill's Daughter Louise and then son Charles were born after Virginia and then charles after Aunt Katharine.
   Which brings us to the fifth Helton grandchild, my Dad Billy D Fox in 22 a preacher
   Six is Myrle Helton of Uncle Bill the lone Democrat on Waldens creek.
   Seven Aunt Juanita
 8.Howard Helton of Uncle Jim
  9.Betty Helson of Henry was 8
  Which gets us to Ten Laverne Helton of Uncle Jim
   Eleven, Uncle Fremont Fox, A grand fellow who punched the clock early every day and married a beauty from Wisconsin, a Lutheran

   12.Ray and Faye Helton of Uncle Bill

  14.Robert Woody

   15,Ralph Helton

    16Joan Helton, Of Uncle Henry, my Dad's double first cousin cause he married WD Fox Sister, Mary

   17Herbert Woody

  18 Wayman Helton of Uncle Roy. Wayman died in Russia in early 80s and had two outstading scholary grand daughters.

   19 Harold Helton of Uncle Jim

  20Kenneth Helton, Roys son, great quartet singer

   21Shirl Helton, Bill

22Prentice Fox, 1932 still living and voting Trump

23Charles Woody

24Ronald Helton, Roy

25Norma Helton, Clyde

26Iva Lou Helton, Uncle Jack

27lloyd Helton, Jack

28JD Helton, Jack, I think he's the one retired at Hilton Head

29jeanette Helton,Henry

30 Wanda Helton, Herman

31 Helen, Elmer's daughter

  32Sue Woody

33Henry Helton, Henry's son

34Gene Helton, Jack

35Bobby Helton, Elmer's son named for his Brother

36Phyllis, Bobby

37Max Helton, Herman's son. Max was chaplain for Nascar and on first name basis with some of the legends including Big and Little E and spoke at Davey Allison's funeral in Bham and made a column by my friend the novelist who I introduced to Daddy at the Bham CBF in 93, Vicki Covington.

38Judy Helton, Roys Daughter and one of my sister's favorite Great Aunts. I think she helped raised Waymon's children after his early exit

 39 Patsy Helton, Bobby

   40Joe Helton, Elmer

   41 Wilma Woody, She used to bring Aunt Ina down to Rome to visit Nanny

42 Joyce Helton Elmers and the last one born Feb 28. 1945 only eight years before me.

   My Grandmother was born in 1900

  So I guess everybody can't run up numbers like the Simpsons and Iveys of Dekalb County but this is pretty good fertility rate and all Grand American citizens. I claim em all even if maybe one or two have a little nudgin to claim me.  PS like the Iveys though we never made it to the Oscars for a soundtrack, Great Grandfather RP Helton, the father of Nanny's eleven was known as Singing Bob for his love of the Sacred Harp Tradition. There was a famous family singing for a good forty Years annually at the Helton Reunion that went strong to the early nineties, fourth Sunday in August every year at the Waldens Creek UMC outside Pigeon Forge. In 1983 it was my Dad's turn to preach the annual sermon, and Presidential Candidate George McGovern himself was in the audience and stayed for lunch.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Prince and the Shooger Booger 15 years and counting

    They were all there in the Collinsville Baptist Church on April 1, 2006 for the marriage of the Prince and the Shooger Booger. David Larussa was there (and his wife), Aunt Katie and Meg, Paul Scarpa son's Doubles partner Ross, All American Raymond WEaver, Koch Brothers Casey Mattox and JoJo, Burgeoning screenwriter Russ Beene and Trusted UPS buddy Andy Myers, a designation of Jubilate from UVA, David Ryan in the balcony and Laura a few folks down; all there high and low for the betrothal of Prince John Morgan the Third and his Intended Susan R. Weaver,  aka the Shooger Booger.

   Becky Kennedy flew in from Waco to direct the choir. Mark Petty was an envoy from Terrapin Hills with the daughter of Ronnie McReynolds. Joni Gant of the fun Pacers Summer of 2000 came back.

    Becky was chosen as a product of the Collinsville church where she interned after college. I think she was in the foundation of the group Pure Heart, which she and the Prince's Mother directed, a very good youth choir for a small town church in NE Bama. They had a good run in late 80s through mid 90s.

     I sang in the choir. The other two members  of the Shooger Booger Adoration Society UPS Andy Myers and screenwriter Sam R. Beene were in charge of the candles. They were in the church at 1 pm CDT for a six pm Betrothal.

    Place was packed. I sang my best, even Mark Morgan made a rare appearance in the choir, the lesser brother of Duke. Was a very humid afternoon, I was kinda sweating on the front steps of the church waiting on the choir processional into the sanctuary. I remember an exchange with Casey and a frown from Jennifer Wilkins.

     The night before the brother of the groom professed adoration and lifelong devotion to both his older brother and his heroine, the bride, whom it turns out he had adored all along as a woman two years older who navigated the pitfalls of coming of age in a small town where a football coach and a babdist preacher were always under the microscope with aplomb. Well mostly aplomb.

    I wanted to tell the story of the scarf, but the bride asked my silence as it might provoke other comments. Most spoke of the Prince. I wanted to tell a shooger booger story. I'm still dying to tell Aunt Katy. I told Peg several years ago at lunch in the cafeteria of the school. She had a most memorable and witty reply.

     Jackie Weaver donated his 57 Cadillac convertible for the victorious ride of the couple from the church east toward the RR Tracks to the Reception at the Library under construction. Nessa's catered. The Snoopy song awaited them, the Booger's favorite, and a fine jazz band from a local juco was the sound track. By that time everybody was sweatin as no AC in the shell of a building. The Weaver males, cousins and Uncles took their food and refreshment on the sidewalk across the street sans Jackets. I remember a short exchange with them there and Joni Gant who I saw for the first time. that evening.

  Something of a food critic in addition to his screenwriting, Russ Beene volunteered Nessa's food was very good. Beene's culinary standards go so far as to appreciate the aromatic appeal of used tea bags when placed in the right cans of emptied Campbell's Noodle Soup, appropriately positioned for atmosphere.

 Dr  Brooke Shepard crashed the Reception to see her high school friend Matthew another brother of the groom.

     President Clinton's Secretary of Education's Dick Riley neighbor in SC Aunt Katy, the oldest sister of four of the bride's mother, pronounced it all Storybook. They had their own row, the Coplin row, at the FUMC of Guntersville, Alabama in the 60s.

    And with that review and those credentials, so it was.

    There was a honeymoon and the couple was back the following weekend for Palm Sunday; and on to good works With Habitat for Humanity in Americus, Georgia, the next chapter or as Denis Johnson said at the end of Train Dreams: And that time was Gone Forever.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Casey At the Bat: My Dad, Baseball, Big WAGI, and Raymond Parker

  Janet Belvin, a daughter of early 50s  FBC Gaffney SC pastor Frank Morris, has had some nostalgic stories  in the Chronicle about Gaffney and her short stay there. She is author of a  Front Porch milieu book and retired English Teacher. 

    My Dad came later and was in Gaffney from 62-78 at the mission of FBC, Bethany about three football fields down Wilkinsville Rd from the Union Hwy split. Like Frank he was a good friend of Raymond PArker and would visit the radio station often and go on air during Carolina in the Morning.

    He Called in from Portland Oregon once from a Baptist Convention. He roomed with Bobby Crocker of the Draytonville BC on that trip. Crocker was a High school football star in Union in the 50s, had a scholarship to Furman but his days ended early when Doctors discovered a heart condition.

     At the weekly preacher's breakfast and after they got back from Portland, one of the brethren asked Crocker if he was able to sleep given my Dad's snoring. Crocker said it wasn't a problem at all. Said they got to Portland without motel reservations and ended up in a king size bed about ten miles out of town. Crocker said first night we had our Bible Reading and Prayer and got in the Bed. Crocker said I just turned over and Gave Sweet Billy a kiss on the cheek and he didn't make a sound the rest of the week.

    Daddy loved Baseball growing up in a Mill Village in Rome Ga. His Mother had nine brothers and they had their own team in Wears Valley outside Pigeon Forge Tn. And my Dad claimed his sister Aunt Virginia almost married Leon Culberson, the grandfather of the Braves clutch player Charlie Culberson. Culberson subbed in for Joe Dimaggio's brother Dom in the 6th game of the 46 World Series between the Bosox and the St Louis Cards. Look up the Mad Dash on wiki.

     So over the years Daddy memorized the first verse of Casey at the Bat. In the 70s about every year the first day of baseball season he would drop by Big Wagi to do some poetry which Parker would start anouncing late March. Next week he would say, we should have Rev Billy Fox drop by to open Baseball season.

    So Dad third year in or so got to thinking he could do the second verse. Raymond would tell Daddy Billy that was great on the first verse you ready for the second. And Daddy would get about three lines into the second, start hemming and hawwing. Raymond Would say Keep working on it Billy , Maybe next year.

    As hinted above, Daddy's team was the Red Sox. I was watching the All Star game early 80s right after Yazstremski retired and was announced Coaching Third Base. The announcer is working it strong: "And now Ladies and Gentleman, coaching Third Base for the American League, the Legend, the thirty year left fielder for the Boston Red Sox, the Great Carl Yazstremski. Camera's on Yaz, he's clapping and breaks down crying. Daddy's standing up in front of the TV Clapping, and he loses it, basket case crying too  like a Baby for his hero.

   I tell friends the fat guy at bat , end of the movie MoneyBall Brad Pitt is watching on film. That's my Dad. You can find the clip online.

     One more Gaffney inflected anecdote. My Gaffney High Friend Grady Sizemore became the father of consensus greatest MLB player of the first decade of this century Grady Jr. He was a 30 30 guy one season, batter and base stealer. Developed serious problems with his knees but the Red Sox picked him up in 2014. First day of Baseball I was in the Sears in Gadsden Alabama and Grady comes up to bat, first time with the BoSox.

     He hits a home run in Fenway Park. I started crying that time. Wish my Dad coulda seen it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Momma gone from the Earth 33 years now

  Momma died on March 17, 1988. My sister texted me and my brother this morning to say she has been gone now longer than she was with us.

    But  Momma made her mark. I have blogged about her often most colorfully when she made a display of the state of Alabama to some good church women in Gaffney, to the time she outwitted me in 85 in the Atlanta Constitution before I did.

      When My dad left his first church outside Newport Tn in 55, Bethel Baptist, Mose Freshour told him we liked you Billy, but we can always find another preacher. The woods are full of em, but we're gonna have to get six people to take Louise's place.

   After Momma Died Daddy told me about six sermons into Bethel Momma told him Billy, if that's the best you can do, we're gonna have a rough go of it. She started helping with his sermons, giving it some construction, beginning middle and a conclusion, and building his anecdotes and gifts as a storyteller around a basic framework.

     She typed his papers in seminary as she typed my six short story reviews for Miss Chadwick so I could graduate Gaffney High School in 71.

    Her father ran for school superintendent in Dekalb County Alabama in the second decade of the 20th Century and her Mother had three brothers, all medical doctors.....Momma kept the family afloat as her Dad was stricken with Arthritis during WWII, her brothers were in the war, and her sister had tuberculosis. All that drama played out in the house Noah Hall is living in now.

   She went to Celanese in Rome Ga to get a job; met my Dad and here we are. In a better world more of the manor born I'm convinced she coulda taught English at the college level or ran the SS Department for the Baptist Sunday School board in Nashville though the Heifner boys would say they are proud of the work their Dad and Forrest Jackson did there.

    She played ragtime piano on Saturday and the hymns of the Christian Faith for the Sunday Morning worship service. She gave an inebriated Doc Holliday the support to lead the singing one Sunday morning after he partied too much at a Furman homecoming and came to church on two hours sleep the next morning. She talked a neighbor into puttin his gun down one spring day in Gaffney when he was threatening suicide. When he put the gun down, his wife said what are we gonna do now, Louise. She said go pick it up and hand it to me.

    One time, the white boys and the colored boys were about to brawl in the back yard over a rebound dispute. Momma came out. The Black boys said we going home cause Mrs. Fox is a lady and we're not gonna fight you honkies in front of her.

     A Statue oughta go up somewhere.