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…



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 again and again.  I wish you all the best and hope to see you somewhere along the path.

Randall Franks

Beloved community

As I came through the most recent week in my life, I marked a one-year anniversary of an unexpected fall outside my home while working in the yard. That fall on the driveway resulted in a broken hip which yielded a couple of friends responding, our local fire department, and an ambulance ride to nearby Memorial hospital.
Where would I have been without the friends who dropped everything and came that day. Safe to say, still laying there for some time. Dan Wright and Stephen Middlebrooks were there in minutes to help me access my status and get me the help I needed. Neighbors began coming out to support and help as well.
After 24 hours, a surgeon mended my fractures and in a couple of days I began the process of learning to walk again and whipping those now befuddled muscles back into prior form. When I was brought home, my friends Terry and Pat Crawford were there the next morning with a load of groceries to fill the freezer and keep me going. They were just the first of dozens from my friends and church family who began the process of delivering meals, keeping up my yard, helping me with suitable medical equipment and then driving me to rehab and medical visits. Gary Knowles and Bill Copeland became my constant road companions over the next three months.
The medical professionals made a huge difference in guiding me through the process.
In addition to the process of getting back into shape, I also was dealing with the fact that I was uninsured and now had a very large bill that became a focus in a year when all the areas of my normal income in music and acting had been derailed by the pandemic. As a result, my hometown community as well as fans from music and acting from around the U.S. stepped forward to aid in that process.
When all was said and done, thanks to many prayers and the kindness of so many – every bill was taken care of, allowing me to return to focusing on my health in a time when the future was so unsecure.
If I had lived in a big city rather than a small town where I had actively joined in creating opportunities to build our community, I don’t think I would have faired as well through this adventure. If I had not for years been an active member of an amazing church family at Ringgold United Methodist Church, working alongside so many in mission to make a difference in other people’s lives, I would not have faired as well.
I did my very best to share my thanks to all who made a difference during these moments in my life, if I missed anyone, and you see this, please know you made my life better. For the gift you gave me, I will continue to make every effort to pass along the kindness to others.
The community we call home, the people we surround ourselves with can certainly decide what our lives will be like when dire circumstances arise. I once heard a wise woman say, “If you want a friend, you should be a friend.” That is so true! You should spend your days helping and making a difference in the world around you – creating Beloved Community. If you love others without expectations, you will be loved in return.
Create the world you want to live in…. I am blessed that the one I found myself living is more beloved than I could have ever dreamed. I thank God for that!

A heart for home

Have you ever wondered where the heart of a community lies?
Is it in its elected leadership? Is it within the works of the members of its local churches? Perhaps within the framework of the civic clubs and fraternal organizations?
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Faces from the past and present

Have you ever sat down and looked through your photo albums or boxes of photos and not known whose face you were looking upon?

Just the other day I was looking at images from my kindergarten.

You would think I would be able to name every one of those kids; I mean it was just yesterday that we were sliding down the stair banisters at the Presbyterian Church, fighting in the church playground and arguing over who got to sit with Julie Badger, my kindergarten sweetheart.

Other than Julie, the rest of those kids’ names have just faded away. As I looked at photos of birthday party after birthday party, I saw so many classmates I could not even begin to remember.

You would think I could easily remember when, while blindfolded, I accidentally pinned the tale on the wrong donkey.

I never liked Jamie Winston much anyway. He was only invited because of diplomacy. If I left him out, then I wouldn’t get invited to his house. There would have been a crushing domino effect which could have set my second-grade social life on its ear.

I often sit and peruse photo albums that feature faces of people who I do not know. The photo had or has some significance to my mother, late father, or late grandparents or another relative, so it found its way into the family collection.

In my room hangs the portrait of a great, great, great grandfather that meant much to my grandmother.

I will say it was not a favorite of my mother’s, as she saw this stern man whose eyes almost follow you as you enter the room. It reminded her of the haunted house paintings that scared Don Knotts and Jim Nabors to death on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

It took me years of coaxing to finally get grandma to part with it and let me be its caretaker. The same is true of so many other images I have gathered through the years.

I once forwarded a photo from the collection of my grandmother Allie Bunch Franks to a distant cousin via e-mail.

I was hoping it may be one of her ancestors. All the information I had was that it was my grandmother’s cousin Dave Bunch, who had an affinity for building different creations inside bottles. Three were featured in the postcard. Grandma even had one that sat upon the mantle.

I always remember marveling at how he could have gotten his creation inside that bottle when I peered in it as a child. I thought he must have had very small fingers to reach up in there and do that.

Beside him in the photo were two girls, one younger than the other, and unfortunately paint had covered the older girl’s face years ago.

From my cousin’s review, she made the educated guess that due to clothing styles, it was likely her great uncle rather than her great grandfather who shares the same name.

I have recently been going through many of our family photos collecting the right shots for an upcoming book I am preparing.

It is amazing how we can easily forget the names of those kids who were at our birthday parties or the cousin we seldom see. It is so important to take the time to mark your photos in pencil not pen as to the details of who, what, when, and where.

Through the 60s and 70s, many film developers were kind enough to put the date of development on the photo, which helps. I think many of those new developing machines may include that info in the code it leaves on the back of the image.

As I look at the fading images, it is amazing to me how older images from the 30s, 40s and 50s endure literally unchanged while those of the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s are already fading into obscurity.

It is hard to imagine birthdays and Christmases simply gone because of poor film or film development, but that is much like our memories, they will likely fade with time as well.

Many now exist in the computer era, I encourage you to scan your photos from every era into a computer database. Generally, you can include information about the photo right in the file in many programs. Make several CDs of the completed photo files and disperse them to your children, grandchildren. Put a copy in your safety deposit box.

Many even take the time to create little photo documentaries of the family history and their lives. Sit down and share these with your young grandchildren at the computer.

The main reason is to disperse the copies to make sure that many people have them in their collections in case of a natural disaster or fire. Then you might have a better chance of rebuilding your family photos.

When you consider all the time and money we spend on photos, you would think we would take the time to document the events that surround them.

Whenever I go into Cracker Barrel, I look up at the large portraits hanging on the walls and wonder if only someone had taken the time to write down a little about that person and put it with the portrait if they would now be staring out at thousands of Cracker Barrel customers or on the wall of a relative who knew they had an important life.

Like a newspaper documents the story of a community through its coverage, a well-kept photo collection documents the story of your family’s life. Will your teenage children or grandchildren care you took the time to do this? probably not until they have children of their own, but who knows, the effort may prove beneficial to each of us as we look back later and get the benefit of knowing who is staring back at us.

I am still wondering who that blonde kid with the flattop, big ears, with my birthday cake on his nose is, oh wait, that’s me.

Can the wisdom of a lifetime be shared?

I was out buying tomato plants for the garden the other day and it brought back memories of my thirteenth Summer. I was in Boy Scouts and took on a project to teach crafts at Ashton Woods Convalescent Center a few miles from my home. I remember being excited to get to teach leatherwork and other crafts to the residents. While a few took part, I remember after a while my interest turned from teaching to learning.

Many of my free hours at the center were spent helping Mr. Farnell with the community vegetable garden. He was confined to his wheelchair, but with his knowledge and my arms, we raised an outstanding garden that year. I don’t think I’ve ever been that successful with tomatoes, peppers, squash and the like. That Summer he shared with me many stories of his life, his work with A&P grocery. But largely he taught me how to appreciate the beauty of life. The joy of helping God make something grow.

Many of the gardening techniques he shared with me are still with me today.

Many of the residents made a lasting impression on me that year.

Mrs. McMahan was a simple joy to be around. She was the type of person who could just make you smile when she walked in the room. In spite of her battles with bad health, her outlook was always uplifting. From her I learned that even the worst day can be faced with a smile.

Mr. And Mrs. Boxley both lived in the center. To me they seemed like a wonderful couple. They both had a spirit to enjoy life. They took each moment and did all they could with it. They both shared a passion for bird watching. They shared it with me. I still have a bird book Mrs. Boxley gave to me after Mr. Boxley passed away. Yesterday I saw a most unique bird with blue back and crimson front. There’s not a day that I see a bird I’ve never seen before they those two don’t cross my mind.

Mrs. Petit was one of the first severe stroke patients with which I spent time. She had lost the use of one side of her body and spoke only with great effort. I learned the importance of perseverance from her. No matter what craft project we undertook, she made every effort to do her part.

There were dozens of patients that Summer who I met and who became a part of my childhood. Many shared with me bits and pieces of their knowledge, their wisdom. Many were glad to share the company of a young person who was sincerely interested in them.

A boy scout project brought me there, but it was the people who kept me coming back for years to come. Eventually the folks I had grown close to were all called home. I often wish we could visit today, talk about where I’ve been and how they played a part in making me who I am today. I guess they are with me, even though I cannot speak with them. They speak to me in memories, in the things they taught me. When I’m digging in the garden to plant the tomatoes, I can still envision Mr. Farnell sitting next to me saying “Dig a little deeper son, those roots need room to grow.”

I often wonder what wisdom I will leave on this earth once I’m gone. Who will remember the things that were important to me? Will I leave a legacy of Wisdom? I hope so, because within me, there are so many people who I would like to see live on in what I share.

If you have never took the time to visit with older members of your family, church, community. I encourage you to spend some time with them. Listen to their stories, even though you think you may have heard them a thousand times. When they are gone, you will struggle to bring those moments back in your mind. You may even wish you had written the wisdom they shared down.

Often times with the people that we see the most, we neglect to cherish the times and wisdom they are sharing.

Wisdom can be shared. It can be passed from one to another, if only we are open to learning. Sometimes, only with age the wisdom of what has been shared with us will become apparent. But it is never too early to start accumulating shared wisdom. Someday it will come in handy.

Communication is the key to life

Communication – the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior.
Most of us begin this process from the first time we point at something to indicate we want it. After we slowly master “Mama” and “Dada,” we eventually grow our vocabulary and with the right training we become equipped for life.

Over time we gain experience and add to the tools that help us establish the ability to in some cases to communicate clearly with a minimal amount of effort.

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What happened to people of character?

When I was a child, my parents instilled in me a lengthy list of expected behaviors for a man in training.
Behaviors such as stand when shaking a man’s hand and look him in the eyes, a woman’s hand is taken not shaken, a promise made is a promise kept, speak truth and dispel lies of others, secrets are meant to be kept; and stand against a bully and protect those they seek to harm. These are just a few of years of lessons intertwined in my raising to adulthood.
I was also a devotee of the Arthurian legends and codes of honor adhered by early knights and heroes who were inspired by those stories. Ultimately, I discovered many of my ancestors were among those inspirees.
In addition, a great influence were the films and television shows of the 1940s-1960s which taught us lessons and provided models in life to inspire us to be more than we are such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Rifleman,” and so many more.
With each passing year, I look out upon those who find their way into our view, so-called celebrities, politicians, athletes and so many whom this world now places upon some kind of pedestal. I have to shake my head as I see images, films and tv shows, hear comments they say, see actions they do, and wonder what has become of the men and women who once inspired us, who led us to greater heights in life and various fields of endeavor.
I know there are many good and decent people who live their lives and make a difference in their communities. I have met many. As a journalist, I have tried to tell their stories. Unfortunately, those are not the people who our culture uplifts onto pedestals.
I long for the days of heroes who strived to lives of character. No matter what the reality, the public face was kept appropriate so not to destroy how the public perceived who they were.
We have actors, singers, and social media celebrities who wallow in excessive behavior that reflects an inability to understand right from wrong, indulgence in sin, and existing in pettiness.
I have seen elected officials whose deeds are not honorable, words are not true, who are accoladed in their efforts as their actions hurt those they serve.
I do not know what the answer is, except, the future of character is within our hands. We have the ability to make ourselves better in how we carry ourselves and interact with other people. We can raise the next generation with better role models and stronger life influencing guidance that uplifts others rather than tearing down. We can turn off the movies and television shows that degrade the quality of our lives and not support the advertisers which make those possible.
Any who feel they are among those whose character reflects all things good and inspiring, should place themselves in situations so others can see their lives and be inspired. Run for political office; become involved in major activities and events in your community; take on a community problem and solve it; and mentor youth and adults in talents where you excel.
Modern culture is only our friend if it reflects our expectations of what life should be. Shape it, don’t let it shape you and yours.

Barefoot freedom

One of my favorite feelings as a kid was achieved by walking barefooted through the cool grass in the early morning.
I think for most of my childhood, shoes were simply an accessory wore when you went to town. Otherwise, there was nothing covering the bottoms or the tops of my feet. The bottoms were always a little tender as the transition from cold weather shoes happened but once the soles of the feet were hardened a bit, the only thing that became problematic was crossing blacktop in the heat of the day. You would cross the road like a duck on a bed of tacks exclaiming “Ow, Ow, Ow” for however many steps it took to get through. Then you would stand in the grass until the burn lightened up.
Despite this minor inconvenience, walking barefooted would carry us everywhere we went from neighbors’ homes, on bike rides, to the pool, to the local store, to the creek and the woods and everywhere in between.
Maybe once or twice a week, my mom would call me in from play saying we were going to town and then I would have to remember the last place I put my shoes, take out a fresh shirt and get ready for an afternoon of “lookin’ and feelin’.” This usually meant a little fun along the way, maybe an ice cream sundae from Woolworth’s lunch counter or maybe even an afternoon movie matinee.
If I was lucky enough to have a friend along, to my mother’s chagrin, it could mean a game of hide and seek around the clothing department as she and one of her friends looked through the racks. The games would be short lived as soon as my mother noticed with a promise of discipline if we did not settle down. In most cases we did. However, there were a few times which pushed the envelope and developed a hand-shaped red tattoo on my posterior.
No matter the experience, I cherish those memories of the days when bare feet strengthened my understanding of the world. Each step toughened my soul and took me to so many adventures which fueled my imagination and gave me hope that another adventure was always just a few steps away.
If you are far away from these days, why don’t you take your shoes off in the morning and walk across your back yard in the cool of the morning, or drive to a nearby creek and stick you bare feet in the water as it rushes by. Find that barefooted hopeful youth who once fueled your dreams to uplift your spirit.

The honeysuckle pull

The sweet smell of honeysuckle lightly drifted over the back porch steps as I sit at the top of a thirty-step descent to the ground below. At three-years-old this was a surmountable achievement to navigate these without tumbling to the bottom. And in reality my mother was always watchfully standing by looking through the porch door as she ironed to make sure I did not rush beyond my abilities and go scampering down the steps.

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Recognizing Sacrifice

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,”
the book of John tells us.  There are many professions that include in their description the possibility that their duties might place the person in harm’s way while serving others. Some we see regularly are police and firefighters. I have known police officers who have died in the line of duty and firefighters injured. We as a nation saw hundreds who were impacted 20 years ago in New York following the attack on 9/11.
This week in my hometown of Ringgold, Ga. we shared the unique opportunity to welcome home the remains of one of our hometown heroes from 71 years ago in Korea – Cpl. Henry Lewis Helms. Cpl. Helms and his family farmed south of the rural Georgia town when he volunteered for service during WWII. He would return to the service again in the late forties landing in Korea and in December 1950 he was reported by telegram to his folks that he was Missing in Action.
Family members remembered how his story and photos remained part of their lives as their late grandmother continued to wonder what became of her son. She would never learn his fate, but her daughter Evelyn Snyder of Ringgold, who was seven when he went missing was able to receive closure on her behalf, now as the survivor among her siblings.
Helms was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Following the battle, his remains could not be recovered.
On July 27, 2018, following the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently accessioned into the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify Helms’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
Several of Helms’ relatives contributed DNA for review to the identification process.
Helms’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for. He is also included on the Catoosa County Military Heroes War Memorial.
His sister Evelyn rode to Atlanta with Wilson Funeral Home personnel to bring her brother home on his final leg of the journey and on Saturday, May 22, the city came together to support his sister, nieces and nephews and cousins as they eulogized his sacrifice with a funeral and an interment in the city’s Anderson Memorial Gardens. The chapel was full, neighbors lined the procession route as Evelyn once again sat down in the passenger seat of the antique hearse that carried him.
The town gathered around the family in the cemetery as the military saluted his service with rifle fire, taps and the ceremonial folding and presentation of the coffin flag and musically bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”
Evelyn shared that she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love.
The work of local officials including Catoosa County Chairman Steven Henry brought together an amazing community salute which included honors by fire, police, emergency, veterans, motorcycle groups, and scouts.
There were many elements that helped to reflect our community’s respect for this family in recognition of Cpl. Helms sacrifice given for us. Saying that I was happy to see it would be an understatement. Seventy-one years is a long time, but I am thankful that the hearts of our town never forgot what it means for one of our sons to leave to serve our country and not return. Well, now Cpl. Helms did return and we were there for him, because he was in Korea for us.

Some days you should stay in bed

As I turned the key and the engine on the gray Murray riding mower was balking, I sort of knew it was going to be one of those days.

With a little prompting though I was off and running. Many people love to mow, although I started mowing other people’s yards at about age nine, I really am not a mowing fan. In fact I sort of take the Los Angeles film set approach, let’s kill it and paint it green.

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