Tail of the Weak 2.37
Updated: Jan 25
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.
Happy 90th Birthday to Joseph R. Griffin—the man who made me who I am!
In the summer of 1966, we were in the final countdown to Daddy's retiring from the U.S. Air Force. For 20 years, he had been stationed all over the world—from Guam and Goose Bay, Newfoundland to the shores of Tripoli and Vietnam.
My older brother, Gary, was born in 1950, when Daddy was assigned to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Three years later, I came into the world at the Army Hospital on Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, where a young Faron Young was stationed. Then, in 1960, my sister, Deb, was born while we were living in Tripoli, Libya. Back in the states, we spent time in Albany, Georgia and Tampa, Florida.
After Daddy returned from Vietnam in '65, he was ordered to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. We packed off again to Lutz, Florida, a sleepy little town just north of Tampa, and put down roots in a desolate trailer park surrounded by palmettos and pine trees. Right before the '65-'66 school year started, we were approved to move into base housing at MacDill—so, move we did.
Through all the years spent traveling as the son-of-a-serviceman, this was the only time we ever lived on the base. I had been to military bases many times—shopping with Mama in the grocery Commissary, the Base Exchange (BX), movie theaters, toy stores, restaurants, and ice cream parlors—all the while, admiring the neatly-trimmed, freshly-manicured fields of grass and the well-laid-out network of streets and buildings. Mind you, I'm not OCD; but, I have been organizing my record albums in alphabetical order since I was 16.
Alright, I'm OCD; and, it's all because of Air Force bases!
We lived in an upstairs apartment unit on Kenwere Loop. I would walk about a half-mile to catch the school bus at the Little BX, where I bought The Beatles' “Yellow Submarine” and Monster magazines, and listened to Billy Joe Royal singing “Down in the Boondocks”, written by the great Georgia songwriter, Joe South, every morning on the jukebox for at least three months straight.
The school bus took me to Monroe Junior High, home of the Crimson and Gray Rebels! After spending the entire sixth grade in Waycross at Memorial Drive Elementary, Tampa and Monroe Junior High was quite a culture shock; but, I eased into it well, shopping for my 7th grade wardrobe at the Zayre Discount Store and coming away with a lot of polka dot and paisley—styles of the mid-Sixties.
Older brother, Gary, was firmly enrolled just up the road as a sophomore at the home of the Black-White-and Gray Knights of Robinson High School, where, during the Thursday after-school pep rallies, he first heard “The Animal Cheer”.
Hiss-Hiss Ha-Ha Gee-Gee
In the summer of '66, Gary headed back to our home on Doghill in Waycross, and Daddy went on one last Tour-of-Duty, leaving me, Little Deb, Mama, and our dog, Sport, behind.
“Man of the House”—that was me—a short, skinny 12-year-old with a penchant for Marvel comic books. Our first crisis was immediate. Between the 4th and 13th of June, Hurricane Alma wound her way along the Gulf Coast of Florida, forcing our downsized family to evacuate the Air Base to a safe haven in downtown Tampa. Poor Sport wasn't allowed into the shelter and stayed behind. Outside of some minor flooding in low areas, everything was fine when we returned the next day—including Sport, who was the new “Man of the House”.
The summer of 1966 came to a close, Monroe Junior High had an 8th grade desk for me, Daddy returned from assignment, promptly retired from the Air Force on December 31, and we moved back home to Doghill for good.
Meanwhile, Brother Gary, had reentered the student ranks as a junior at Ware County High, home of the Golden Gators, bringin' “The Animal Cheer” with him. He introduced it to his fellow Sigma Delta Hi-Y classmates; and, they debuted the cheer in the stands of the Gator Den during the basketball season of 1966.
It became an instant hit among the class populace; the cheerleaders were a little unsure of it at first because it wasn't “Two bits – Four bits – Six bits – A dollar”; and faculty members were confounded by it in a “Louie Louie” sense—“What are they saying? Is it sexual? Is it not?”
Courtesy of Gary Griffin, by way of Tampa's Robinson High Knights, “The Animal Cheer” caught hold, survived, and lasted for decades, echoing through the misty memories of dusty basketball gyms and noisy, cigar smoke-filled football stadiums—with neatly-trimmed, freshly-manicured fields of grass.
20th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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