Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
I went to Georgia Southern College straight out of high school in the Fall of 1971 because that was the logical next step. I'm thankful that my parents had the resources to allow me this privilege; but I was just not ready. That fact proved out big time when my grades came in the December mail. So, I started looking for a job.
My dear mother was a paraprofessional kindergarten teacher at Memorial Drive Elementary in Waycross, Georgia; so I considered making a little money as a substitute teacher at my former school.
My first and only attempt at teaching was stifled by a class of normal second graders. They chewed me up and spit me out; and in less than two hours, I ran down the hall to Mama's class begging surrender.
On July 12, 1971, President Richard Nixon signed an Emergency Employment Act, which earmarked billions of dollars for the creation of public service jobs at state and local levels. One of those jobs ended up being mine.
It was as an Environmental Technician at the Ware County Health Department, where my daddy worked with a pair of other gentlemen. I don't think either Daddy or I really relished the idea of working together; but, we found solace in that I would spend Mondays through Thursdays working out of neighboring counties' health offices. Friday was to be the only day we shared office space and duties.
Daddy is a wonderful man and I love him dearly; but, in 1972, he was 44 and I was 18. We had our social and ideological differences; but we made the best of it.
Monday and Tuesday would find me on the road to Folkston, Georgia, where I worked out of the Charlton County Health Department, along with a large county nurse and a frail, elderly receptionist. Wednesday and Thursday I did the same in Nahunta at the Brantley County Health Department.
Every morning I'd point the family Pontiac down U.S. 1 South and dial in the Mighty 6.90 out of Jacksonville—WAPE—the Big Ape radio. Music was my life even if I was doin' somethin' else.
“Conquistador” by Procol Harum—“Hold Your Head Up” by Argent, named after the original keyboard player of The Zombies, Rod Argent—“Small Beginnings” from Flash, an English progressive rock group formed by Peter Banks, Yes's former guitarist—and Jackson Browne's classic debut, “Doctor My Eyes”. These were but a few of the songs that filled my head with dreams of playing in a band as I went racing along, past the wiregrass and palmettos bordering the Okefenokee Swamp.
My boss on the first four days of the week was a flashy, gum-poppin', slick-dressin', middle-aged hipster by the name of Vac Hammond. He drove a Ford Maverick, dressed in flare leg double knits, and combed his wiry, redneck hair over his ears for the ladies.
Vac showed me the ropes and before long I was inspecting restaurants and school lunchrooms, approving septic tank permits, and taking water samples like a pro.
I took my job seriously; but, it wasn't easy being seen as a young, long-haired government boy coming into a rural establishment with clipboard in hand. One such case was a restaurant owner in Nahunta, who was negligent in meeting the state health standards.
Month after month, I was required to inspect his place, from the kitchen to the tables to the grease trap out back. Month after month, I found roaches in the flour, poorly washed utensils, and grease on the counters. I graded him accordingly and eventually, he was forced to close the doors. Looking back, I'm probably lucky to have made it through with no limb breakage.
But, back in those days, I was young, impetulant, and unafraid of anything that could possibly go wrong. I could talk shit and deal it right back. After all, I was an Environmental Technician; and I knew a lot about septic tanks—and shit.
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival
Advance Weekend Passes:
REFERENCES Wikipedia Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin