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.
Almost half a century has passed since I crossed the stage of the Waycross City Auditorium to collect my diploma as a 1971 graduate of Ware County High School. Looking back on it, I wasn't fazed or unfazed with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding me. I was expected to graduate—I did graduate. It felt like I was just going through the motions.
As most everyone who has been through a graduation commemoration—as a student or attendee—will vouch, it's quite a tedious affair. We were granted a bit of comic relief during our ceremony, when one of our prideful classmates collected his sheepskin, strolled across the stage, and tripped down the steps, landing on his nose.
When it was over; and, all the mortarboards were tossed high in the air in celebration—after the golden Gator gowns were dispensed with—it was off to Fernandina Beach, Florida and several days of teenaged debauchery for many.
I stayed around, receiving salutations and congratulations from my parents, grandmother, and family friends from South Carolina, Richard and Frances Wilson, with their daughter, Jeannie.
I spent a great deal of time sleeping and lolling around the house that first week. At some point, me and my high school buddy, Robbin King, eased his blue Ford Mustang down the road to Fernandina for a one-day, post-graduation week visit to see what was going on. My most vivid memory is sitting on the steps outside Billy Ray Herrin's rental cottage with an acoustic guitar, trying desperately to force my fingers into a B-major seventh chord, while maintaining a steady rhythm.
I missed out on all the booze-drinking, high-getting, and girl-chasing; but, I came to know all three quite well in the near future. Now, it was back to Waycross, Georgia for a summer job—at Pic N' Save, just up the road from my home—before heading up to Georgia Southern College in the fall. My future Oxford Hall dorm roommate and Pic N' Save employee, Robbin King, had been working there for a couple years already; and, I'm certain he played a part in getting me hired on.
They outfitted me in a gold vest with a Pic N' Save name badge and I started out bagging groceries. All the cashiers were black or white females, and wore gold frocks, matching my gold vest. I recall working with Montine (Smart) Peacock, Vertdale Hughley, a Kicklighter girl, and Babs, an older black girl, who was my favorite cashier. Babs was a sweetheart and invited me to her church one Sunday—I've never seen such gettin' down in a place of worship before or since.
Donald Beard, father of two south Georgia beauties and manager of Pic N' Save, chose me, Robbin, and Robbin's future brother-in-law, Cecil Justice, to wax and buff the store floors over three consecutive nights that summer. We paced ourselves with the task at hand, finding ways to break the monotony of the long nights any way we could.
Pic N' Save was a full-fledged department store with groceries, toys, electronics, shoes, soft goods, hardware, jewelry, tobacco, clothing, record albums, a pharmacy, and sporting goods—a precursor to Walmart. For starters, we climbed aboard three bicycles, one of us wielding a football, and pedaled all over that big store playing tag.
I hurled a beautiful, 20-yard spiral, hitting the rear tire of Cecil's bike as he was turning down aisle five. The impact of the ball sent him spinning out of control, as he plowed into a six-foot section of breakable baby food jars. We cleaned up the mess and restocked the shelves as if nothing had happened.
Also, inside Pic N' Save was a restaurant and grill, where I ate many a hamburger during regular job hours. On one of those three nights, though, it was decided that we'd have steaks from the meat department, grilled to perfection.
Although I do not condone these unsavory acts, coupled with my youthful disrespect for authority, I must remain true to my memories and blog on with sincerity, begging forgiveness all the way.
The summer of 1971 finally came to an end, along with the job at Pic N' Save—followed by one uneventful quarter of college—then followed by more jobs, three years of nightclub stages and music, more school, still more jobs, and the inevitable responsibilities of adulthood— marriage, mortgage, children, and grandchildren.
Lord, how time does fly. My advice to the high school graduates of today? Follow your dreams, stay true to your heart, and don't blink—it's gone before you know it.
22nd Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival
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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin