Southern Style by Randall Franks

Helping millions smile or reflect since 2001…

Randall Franks began writing the newspaper column Southern Style in February 2001 sharing boyhood stories, humor, commentary on daily life, tales shared from my mother and folks from the Gravelly Spur Mountain, features on friends from TV, Music and Entertainment. Since beginning in one local newspaper, the column has become a mainstay in newspapers across the South and Midwest from the Carolinas to Texas. Franks was awarded over 20 state and one national press association awards.

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Welcome to RandallFranks.com…

 

Friends,

Thank you for sharing a bit of your time with me. On one of the pages of this website, I hope you will find some aspect of my acting, music, writing or simply experiencing life that will inspire, encourage, or entertain you in a way that will bring you back to randallfranks.com again and again.  I wish you all the best and hope to see you somewhere along the path.

Randall Franks

Visitin’

In the past, I concluded that the art of visitin’ is a thing of the past for much of America.

With the onslaught of the pandemic and its various restrictions, I fear that this traditional pastime of folks across the U.S. has now seen its end.

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A drive that made my heart beat faster

I pushed on through the mountains, my Lumina maneuvering the curves with great accuracy. Snow lay along the roads as I watched diligently for patches of black ice on the interstate.
I had hit a patch of black ice before when I was about 20. I exited Atlanta’s 285 at Doraville returning home from a concert in Marietta. About 20 feet into the circular ramp I found myself spinning out of control. Using every bit of knowledge gained a few years earlier in driver’s ed, I simply did all I could do to not fight it, giving in to the scenario, allowing myself and the car to be out of control by turning into the spin and praying as it eventually came to rest facing the oncoming traffic.
I was blessed that it was about 2 a.m. and no other car was coming off behind me, so I slowly allowed the car to slip backwards off the ice until I was able to turn around and continue my journey feeling like I had just walked out of the scariest scene in a horror film.
I looked in my rearview mirror and headlights seemed to be on top of me. My heart began to race as I realized that the Jim and Jesse song I once recorded – Diesel on My Tail was becoming a reality. As I hugged curves, speeding along trying to stay out of its way, I was not going fast enough in the dark icy conditions to suit the trucker.
I looked at my alternatives and decided to get into the other lane, though there seemed to be a higher probability of hitting ice there.
It seemed in my mirror, no matter where I was, the truck was behind me in my lane. Maybe it was an illusion of the turning roads but needless to say, I continued to do my best to get out of this stretch of the mountains and make it to the flatlands as quickly as I could.
Finally, as we cleared the Appalachians, the truck passed me and sped off into the night.
I continued on the journey home from North Carolina now much more relaxed as the icy conditions were behind me and my greatest concern was keeping my mind occupied and my eyes open.
Before I faced the potential perceived metal peril of tons of truck careening out of control with me in it’s wake, I was thinking of how my ancestors had crossed that same section of mountains making their way westward without the advantages of modern travel.
I am sure that my heart pounded much as that of my ancestors as they perceived the danger of a bear coming close or as they avoided a party of Native Americans out hunting through the area.
I guess the passage of time and the advantages of technological advancement do not change the basics of the human condition. We still find ourselves facing fears, sometimes simply imagined, sometimes real in nature. What makes that experience worthwhile is it reminds us that we must never forget that while the world is beautiful and filled with God’s amazing creations, we can still find those moments and situations that make our heart beat faster, and our mind rush to fear.
It is how we react to those moments knowing that God is with us in every thing, that shows whether we have the ability to continue on that brave path my ancestors walked one step at a time pushing forward into the unknown.

Grandmothers don’t always have to be kin

I opened the can and took a big breath through my nose. There was nothing quite like the smell of barbeque Charles Chips. I sure loved those chips as a boy; they were delivered like milk to the house and replenished into that metal can kept in the pantry. I took just one and placed it on my tongue and let the seasoning dissolve.
Then I took out a handful and placed them on my plate and on Millie’s plate beside the sandwiches with thinly cut beef, brown mustard, tomato and lettuce.
It was lunchtime and I was on a stay over with my adopted grandmother – Millie Dobbs.
Millie was our next-door neighbor when I was a youth. When I was about six, our neighbors the Bounds moved to Florida and to the initial disappointment in moved a family with no children – Fred and Peggy Gross and Peggy’s mother Millie.
I am sure in many respects especially early on; I became a Southern Dennis the Menace to the Grosses as they settled in to their new home. Despite the lack of someone my age to play with, I soon found myself the focus of Millie, a retired nurse from New York City. On a side note, she told me about assisting Marilyn Monroe on a hospital stay. In just a short period of time, we had both found our way into each other’s hearts.
Millie was what I would describe as puffy when I hugged her.
Since my folks had relocated to Atlanta for business, I was hours away from my grandparents, so it was wonderful having Millie in my life.
Often when Fred and Peggy went out of town, Millie would invite me to stay over. I would get to stay in the master bedroom suite. It was always an adventure. I remember on one of my earliest visits, I opened the wrong door by mistake and began a head over foot tumble into the basement. I didn’t get hurt though. I landed on my head. So if you wonder why I am still a bit off, that would be the reason. Actually, I limped away from the fall with a stumped toe.
Later I would learn the basement was Fred’s domain where he kept his model train and 78 rpm record collections. I seldom got the chance to see those things, although it was a treat when I was allowed.
Millie was an amateur artist who loved painting and making crafts with her hands, and she often brought me into what she was doing helping to teach me and giving me a try at it. She loved to play cards and she taught me as well – solitaire and gin rummy. We would often pass hours playing especially when my Uncle Waymond came to visit, Millie would always join our family for evenings of card and game playing.
Another one of her passions is still part of my life – mysteries – Agatha Christie among others.
Every few months, Millie would treat us both to a lunch out and we would walk a little more than a mile to Brannigan’s Irish Restaurant and have lunch. I would get this huge hamburger covered with mushrooms and everything imaginable.
As I grew and our family celebrated the milestones, Millie was there, birthdays, elementary graduation, Eagle Scout ceremony, and awards until one day, Fred, Peggy and Millie moved to Florida. I was in my teens by then and our connection remained via letters, cards, and holiday greetings.
One day mother received a call from Peggy to let us know that Millie had died. My initial impulse was to go and be there with them. That is after all what we did in our family, we gathered, sat up with the dead, ate a lot, remembered and cried as they were buried.
Peggy thanked me for the thought but there was no need for us to make the trip down. As best I recall Millie was cremated.
My adopted grandmother Millie was gone. My mom encouraged me to put away the things that she had shared with me, some paintings, needlepoint, an afghan, her letters, a handmade bell she had gotten from her friend Willie. So I did. You know I am still saving them, like I simply put Millie’s things away where I could keep my memory of her just the way it was.
I know that my childhood would not have been as full without the New York prospective that Millie brought to me – an appreciation of seeing more than what was just at my fingertips.
Millie gave me something no one else had before outside my family –  she taught me that unconditional love didn’t have to be born in blood. She became part of my family and shared time, encouragement, some of my greatest childhood moments, and an amazing love for life.

A little Goober each day is a must

As we watch television classics, there are many character actors that have made their marks and found niches that have allowed them to keep in front of the American public for years and years.

One of those actors was introduced to the American television family in the 1960s.

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Brighter days are coming

A new year brings the promise of starting over. After 2020, we could all use that!

Many folks see it as a point to make a resolution to complete or change things in their life. Perhaps coming out of the Christmas season gives them hope to make their lives better.

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Lights are flickering and the halls are decked

Flickering lights shimmered in the breeze hanging from trees, light poles, porch eaves and buildings as I drove around my hometown last week.
It is such a heartwarming sight to see the efforts made both by our city staff and individual property owners to raise people’s spirits during this Christmas season. For me the warmth generated within by the beautiful decorations helps to make my hopes swell watching to see the goodness and kindness that so many exhibit during the season.
Many years ago, I wrote a song called “Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas.”
The sentiment for me still rings true today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the charity and good will that we see shown in the weeks around Christmas were part of our lives each and every day?
I have been blessed to know so many people in every walk of life, rich and poor, well known and unknown, mean-spirited and generous beyond measure.
I have seen some of the greatest of charity come from those who have the least to give.
I have seen some of the kindest actions given by those who are otherwise detestable.
Each year I watch countless individuals gathering toys to change the lives of children in our community. I saw my parents do this time and time again trying to encourage families who needed more than we did.
I have watched our church family gather to provide food and supplies to hundreds of families that would otherwise have a less merry season.
I see people smile more by the twinkle in their eyes; they stop to open a door for someone with an arm full of packages, or allow another driver an opportunity to go before them.
Now that is not to say, there aren’t those who selfishly push their way around the season trying to get what they want without consideration for others. Many times, unfortunately,
these folks do live that way all year around.
It would not only be nice to live every day like it was Christmas but to remember that the greatest gift shared with us during the season was God’s love for all of us through the gift of His son, Jesus Christ.
Peace, love for one another and hopes for a greater tomorrow is within our grasp if we only strive for it within our own lives, our own families and our own communities. When we put them all together, wouldn’t the world shimmer in the glow of Christmas lights that each of us might hang to raise spirits.

“Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas”

It was just over 30 years ago when two-time Dove Award nominee Mark Wheeler of the Marksmen Quartet and I created a Christmas song beckoning listeners to do just that – “Let’s Live Every Day Like It Was Christmas.”
Millions around the world have heard songs or tunes I penned for radio, movies or television but none has had the widespread impact on listeners that it did.
Perhaps it was the simple message based in experience and the easy reminder that Christmas is about “the baby king who gave us all a chance.”
For me, I always get caught up in the sentimentality of the season, the lights, the songs, the parades, the church services and programs. They always seem to take me back to my childhood and the excitement that mounted as Christmas day drew closer.
That anticipation of what surprises would be in store under the tree.
Since becoming an adult my focus changed upon those who might not have anything under their tree or no one to share the season with.
Even as a boy, my parents taught me to create gifts by hand such as cookies and cakes to share with the neighbors, especially those who were by themselves.
We also gathered up old toys throughout the year, fixing them and making them like new for children who had little or nothing to find under the tree.
For many the Christmas season brings a reminder of especially how lonely things can be.
Folks tend to visit more but once gone the silence can be deafening as it can be throughout the year.
In the song, I wondered why we wait until Christmas to visit our loved ones because loneliness abounds throughout the year. The season seems to make us more giving but people are just as hungry in July and there are still needs to be met in which we could make a difference.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year but wouldn’t it be wonderful if each and every day we carried with us the spirit of Christmas.
What if, we had a kinder word for our neighbors, every day?
What if, we saw the good in those we meet, every day?
What if, we put others before ourselves, every day?
What if, we made a difference in someone else’s life, every day?
What if, we walked in the way we would want the baby king to know, every day?
So, let’s live every day like it was Christmas and if we do, what a wonderful world it could be.
If you would like to catch a video of my vintage top-10 country vocal collaboration of this song with Grand Ole Opry stars the Whites, Jesse McReynolds and Jerry Douglas, simply visit Randall Franks TV on YouTube or donate for its CD “Christmas Time’s A Comin'” with the cast of TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” at https://randallfranks.com/store to benefit drug abuse prevention efforts.

A Teacher’s Gift

Have you ever watched a child cast one toy aside and reach for something else? A friend of mine once told me he had watched his grandchildren open gifts and cast each one aside looking for the next one while spending no time with the one they just opened.
He shared with me that at that point he knew his grandchildren had come to expect too much, wanting more and more — rather than being satisfied with one gift, they wanted to rip through dozens and then simply cast them aside.
I looked at my watch as mother drove by the old Colonial Grocery Store saying, “Hurry, Mom, we are going to be late.” Of course we were not going to be late. The piano store was just next-door. I picked up my books and rushed inside. I was always amazed at a store filled with pianos — I really wanted to get there early so I could go through and try out several of them while I waited my turn with piano teacher Jean Stiles.
I do not know what made me want to go from instrument to instrument playing. Perhaps it was the same desire that made those children my friend had described ripping through more and more presents. Although the pianos were not mine and would not be.
The talents of gospel pianist Hovie Lister, Eva Mae LeFevre and classical pianist Victor Borge intrigued me. Several of my cousins had the knack to play piano along with their singing, so I had hoped the gene passed to me as well.
Of course, as a child of eight, my repertoire was a bit slim. In spite of the best efforts of my teacher, I was not the most proficient student who worked through “The Minuet” and “The Entertainer.”
No matter my deficiencies, I had a true desire and my mother supported that to no end. She worked overtime to afford a walnut Currier Spinet piano and pay for my lessons.
One day while sitting in my elementary school room, the entire course of my life changed. Dr. Donald W. Grisier (1918-2008), DeKalb County orchestra teacher, came into the room and played Ervin Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special” on the violin. I have not been worth shooting since.
I had heard my great Uncle Tom Franks play the violin like his father had done before him at family gatherings, but now there was someone willing to sit and teach me.
After convincing my parents that I wanted to learn violin, I signed up. My mother once again went out of her way to see that I got the opportunity by renting an instrument. I also continued my piano study, but eventually it did fade away in the shadow of the fiddle. I realized I was not going to be the next Hovie Lister or Victor Borge. The fiddle would stick and lead me to some amazing places.
Dr. Grisier was someone that took great patience in sharing the string instruments. I applaud the foresight of the school system I attended in allowing him to travel between elementary schools building a base of students that would one-day form an orchestra when they reached high school. Just like with the piano, I really wanted to learn to fiddle and slowly passing through the basics and into the classical masters such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach was tedious for me. My early training actually relied on my ear as I mimicked what I heard the others play. I did so well, it took a while for Dr. Grisier to catch on and then make me buckle down to learn to read music.
Because of the gift of knowledge he gave I stayed with the orchestra all the way through high school, eventually scoring well in countywide competitions. My heart however was with the fiddle and it was through the common link of Dr. Grisier though he didn’t teach me to fiddle that gained me the invitation into that world. One of his other students was John Daniel. John was what I could call a voracious fiddler, consuming all that came his way. His father inviting other youth together at their home began the environment that fostered my growth as a musician and my creating my first act from those youth. 
While I would never consider myself a pianist, the knowledge I gained while learning about the instrument has served me extremely well in every musical endeavor. The experience prepared me for a lifetime of lessons in almost every pursuit I’ve chosen to follow.
So, while at times children may be spoiled by piles and piles of material gifts that simply get laid aside, if a child shows interest in music, even if the child has absolutely no talent for it, and may someday lay the expensive instrument aside for other pursuits, remember as the child’s practicing causes the paint to peel in the family room, love of music is a gift that will last a lifetime and can span the generations.

Seeing through the masks

Have you ever wondered what is beyond the face someone is showing you?

Is there another series of thoughts running through their head that is different than the words coming out of their mouth or the expression on their face?

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Digging out from beneath

Sometimes there are points in life when one reflects on topics that bring worry, sadness, concern or even depression.
They can pile up on our mind like leaves falling from the trees in autumn covering the roots that feed our soul.
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