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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.16

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

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.

From the halls of Montezuma – to the shores of Tripoli

—“Marines' Hymn”

That's the opening lines to the “Marines' Hymn”, introduced by Francesco Maria Scala, the first director of the United States Marine Corp Band. Adapting the song to my own personal history—living in Tripoli, Libya with my Air Force family from 1958-60—then moving to B & S Trailer Park in Albany, Georgia, where Daddy was stationed for the next four years—the lyrics could've read, “From the halls of Tripoli – to the Shores of Albany”.

L-R: Miss Teddi, Dick, Tris, Brian, Brenda. Inset: Baby Becky. Albany GA, 1964.
L-R: Miss Teddi, Dick, Tris, Brian, Brenda. Inset: Baby Becky. Albany GA, 1964.

Richard Shore was a lifetime Marine, serving in World War II, China, Korea, and doing two tours in Vietnam. He met his future wife, Theodora Eaton of Ogunquit, Maine—also a Marine—at Parris Island, South Carolina.

The Shores moved into the trailer next door to us in 1963, bringing with them a brood of three kids—Brian, Brenda, and Tris—and Mr. Dick's pipes and SAIL cherry-flavored pipe tobacco. We got along famously! Brian was my age—and, as far as I know, he still is—Brenda was a couple years younger, and Tris, five years younger.

The Shores—Dick and Teddi and kids—and our family became lifelong friends. My older brother, Gary, and I watched the United States debut of The Beatles next door at the Shore's trailer—they had CBS and The Ed Sullivan Show—we had NBC and Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, which still showed up black and white on our 1964 television set.

Donna Ream, Uncle Dave love interest in 1963.

So enthralled were we with the four moptops from England that Brian, Tris, Gary, and I built homemade guitars out of plywood and clothesline wire, then stood under the trailer park street lights serenading the neighbors—one of whom was Donna Ream, a thin, dark-skinned brunette with a cute overbite, who I was enamored with (as was Brian).

B & S Trailer Park housed mobile homes on two sides, with a dirt road entrance that went all the way to the back, looped and carried down the other side till you were back where you started. Between the roads was a grass median, filled with Albany pecan trees and Albany sandspurs—both equally famous. Behind the 25 or so trailers on our side was a field of weeds—behind those on the Donna Ream side was a small patch of pines, perfect for 10-year old Army maneuvers. The Shore and Griffin boys built up some handsome fortifications—basically, it was a couple of foxholes dug in the ground, then camouflaged with throwaway boards and pine branches. We were mighty proud of 'em.

One winter evening, just after supper, Tris and I were tweaking our military holes-in-the-ground, when the Wardlaw brothers—Jimmy and Randy—and a gang of four more from the other side of the trailer park made their way toward our precious turf. I don't know if it was because the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh in our minds or if it's just a male species thing; but—it was ON!

Young Tris and I were outnumbered from the start; but, we boldly took up position behind a slab of tin and picked up every rock and brick missile they hurled at us, hurling them right back. Knowing we could not hold them off for long, I made a battlefield decision and told Tris to run back to the trailer for reinforcements—Brian and Gary.

He trotted back a minute later and said, “They're watchin' TV”. Watchin' TV? Hell, I says, Huckleberry Hound can wait! “We're under attack! Tell them I said they have got to come...NOW!” Off he ran like a scalded, south Georgia rabbit; and, minutes later, brother Gary was by our side, makin' the battle a little more even-sided.

I'll never forget the rock striking Gary on his forehead. With tears of anger welling up in his eyes, he cooly bent down and picked up a jagged shard of asbestos siding and frisbeed it through the air, jugging into the chest of one of our unwelcome trespassers.

The tide began to turn as we pressed forward, forcing them into a panicked retreat and chasing them down to the rear of the trailer park, where they were attempting to make a last-ditch stand.

It was down to hand-to-hand combat—brothers against brothers. Gary was wearing out Jimmy Wardlaw's face when his little brother, Randy, jumped on Gary's back, clawing and slapping.

I yanked him off, turned and saw another member of the Wardlaw Gang stab the barrel of an air gun into the ground, raise it to his shoulder to fire a lethal clod of Albany dirt when—cue the cavalry bugles—long-legged Brian Shore leapt across a fence and tore the weapon from his hands.

The would-be adversaries did a hasty walk of shame from whence they came.

Our war was over—we had prevailed. A few months later, Daddy was sent to a real war in Vietnam for a year; and, our family packed up the pink house trailer and moved back to Waycross, leaving B & S Trailer Park, the Shores, and the foxholes in Albany.

Tris's birthday party.  L-R:  Deb Griffin, Tris Shore, Gary Griffin, Brian Shore, Uncle Dave, Brenda Shore.  Waycross, 1964.
Tris's birthday party. L-R: Deb Griffin, Tris Shore, Gary Griffin, Brian Shore, Uncle Dave, Brenda Shore. Waycross, 1964.

The two families never lost touch with one another—beach trips, backyard cookouts in Waycross, and birthday celebrations kept us close. The Shores finally relocated to Merritt Island, Florida, where Brian and Tris learned to surf and Brenda married a surfer and raised surfer babies. In the summer of 1987, Mama and Miss Teddi flew Piedmont Airlines for a week-long visit to Miss Teddi's home in Maine—those two women really loved each other.

Mama passed away in December of 1994—way too soon—and, Brian Shore, pastor at Hope Church Jax in Jacksonville, Florida, delivered a beautiful eulogy at her funeral. Mr. Dick Shore left a big hole in this world in 2002. Last weekend, members of the Griffin and Shore families got together for a long-awaited reunion in Waycross.

54 years later.

Time passed slowly with every memorable story, as the years slipped away, leaving me with a smile in my heart, the aromatic memory of cherry-flavored pipe tobacco, the sound of The Beatles echoing in my head, and the friendly warmth of a foxhole—under a blanket of pine needles—on a winter's day in Albany, Georgia.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns

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