Tail of the Weak 4.5
Updated: Jan 28
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.
Growing up in the Baby Boomer generation, children in the 50s and 60s were afforded luxuries beyond what our parents and grandparents dreamed of. Television sets replaced the big radios in living rooms and dens across America—but we never stayed glued to the boob tube for too terribly long before we had to get outside and go places.
In and around Waycross, Georgia, there was plenty to do for entertainment. Just an eight mile car trip from the house was the Okefenokee Swamp Park—in all its vegetative vastness and Seminole splendor. There, I would climb the rickety old Lookout Tower and gaze out over the cypress-covered land that was home to my great-great granddaddy, Peter Griffin.
Boat tours through the narrow waterways were always fun—especially if you encountered an alligator or three. There was also a little black bear whose claim to fame was chugging a Coca-Cola from a bottle, packaged locally at the Waycross Coca-Cola Bottling Company, owned by L. B. Harrell.
About four miles out the Brunswick Highway on the right stood Lake Tuffy's—offering a bowling alley and roller skating rink. Five miles further was the turnoff to Laura S. Walker State Park, a beautiful lake with picnic tables and a big building that housed a coin-operated spaceship ride for the younguns, a jukebox playing Mr. Acker Bilk's “Stranger on the Shore” and Ernie K-Doe's “Mother-in-Law”, pinball machines, and a snack bar. The old swimming pool there was where I found the nerve to go off the high diving board—much to the dismay of my cousins who didn't get out of the way in time.
My great-uncle, Clyde “Bo” Tuten, used to manage the Ritz Theater downtown, where you could get in with a Mercury-head dime. Once inside, we were given kinfolk privileges at the concession stand—always heading to our seats with Cokes, a cardboard box top loaded with popcorn, and my favorite, Butter Rum Lifesavers.
We divided our time pretty evenly between the Ritz, Lyric Theater, and U.S. 1 Drive-In Theater, catching every bad movie Elvis ever made, along with classics—Hatari, The Longest Day, and A Distant Trumpet. After I turned 16, I recall reveling in the risque story lines at the drive-in—Candy, Fritz the Cat, and Pretty Maids All in a Row, featuring Gram Parsons's wife, Gretchen Burrell.
Once able to drive, our weekend rite of passage was to “ride around”—circling the Dairy Queen, Burger Chef, A&W Root Beer, and Graham's Dari Kreme in Blackshear nine miles up the road.
When I was still a freshman in high school, Mama and Daddy forced my older brother, Gary, to take me riding around with him and his buddy, Virgil Huggins. They didn't think it was too cool; but, I'm sure I was in hamburger heaven in the back seat the first time I heard Paul Mauriat's achingly beautiful instrumental,
“Love is Blue”.
Another of our favorite teenage places to land was the bowling alley, located on Memorial Drive, sandwiched between A&W Root Beer and Shoney's. While we did bowl occasionally, we preferred the lighter ball on the Foosball tables, spending most of our time and money spinning those little soccer men silly.
Following high school graduation and my 18th birthday in 1971, the state of Georgia lowered the legal drinking age to 18 and there were plenty of places a young man could act like somebody. I didn't know a fool thing about drinking on the night I eased into Steve's Pine Room, over the Satilla River bridge towards Blackshear.
I ordered a Tom Collins—probably because I heard somebody order one in a movie—and spent the rest of the evening trying to get the taste of pine trees out
of my mouth, while watching older blond-haired women with bouffant hairdos slide around the dance floor under the ultraviolet glow of black lights in the ceiling, illuminating their dentures and their Playtex bras to a brilliant white beneath their sweaters.
As far as entertaining memories, I'd just soon that last one be forever replaced by the innocence of a kiddie spaceship ride—with Mr. Acker Bilk's dreamy clarinet song taking me to the moon.
9th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival
March 15-16 : Okefenokee Fairgrounds : Waycross, Georgia
For Early Bird Weekend Passes:
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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