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.

Read more

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

Did you ever wonder if 1+1 really is 2?

I often wonder what happened to math in America. I know I had my own trouble with it when I was in school. They always wanted you to follow some method of reaching the answer and show how you reached the answer. Even if you got the right answer, if you didn’t go at it the right way you were wrong.

I realize that we were taught these approaches to aid us in developing a sense of reasoning and help us learn to solve problems.

I greatly admire those underpaid, under supported patriots of education, our teachers. I know many of them took their time to help me through some tough subjects. I have seen first hand, as I have spoken to children around the country, teachers going above and beyond to help out a student. So, please do not take what I am about to talk about as a commentary on the ability of teachers.

I recently went into one of those grocery stores that gives you a card. They scan it before ringing up the things you are buying. If you watch those prices closely as they ring items up, this store is particularly frustrating because the register shows the full price and then shows the deduction for their store savings.

After watching all the prices, the tally had overcharged me around one dollar and twelve cents. I then proceeded to customer service where I shared with them my problem.

I had bought six or twelve of one item which was on discount and one other item. Adding the cost up in my head, I told the clerk what it was suppose to be plus whatever the tax was in that county. This figure subtracted from what I paid the cashier would have been the amount of my refund. The next twenty minutes involved two clerks and either an assistant manager or store manager. They all took the figures I had given them from my head and repeatedly added them up on their calculator. In the end they gave me a refund of over two dollars.

In spite of my attempts to convince them they didn’t owe me that much; I could not convince them. I even took a piece of paper, wrote the numbers down and added them for them. I finally took the refund and went on my way. I figure that twenty minutes must be worth that extra little bit.

Unfortunately, what I have just described is a sad trend all across our country. Folks just don’t seem to be able to do basic everyday math problems without the aid of a calculator or cash register. How many times have you walked into a store to buy a candy bar or something, handed the cashier a dollar, and they had difficulty figuring out your change. Now, I’m not saying that we all have to be math geniuses.

My granddad Bill was a farmer most of his life. He went west and was a cowboy in the late 1800’s. If he went to school, it was the school of life. When it came to the math, he needed to raise cattle and hogs, grow and sell crops, buy and sell land, in his head he could figure better than most accountants could with a calculator.

When I was little, my parents made sure I could add, subtract, multiply and divide before they even sent me off to first grade. So those are tools I carry with me. These basics at times were a disadvantage to me in those previously mentioned math problems which required a certain method to be followed. But all in all, I owe my parents and teachers a great debt of giving me the basics.

Maybe folks just depend to much upon calculators. It is easier. I use them myself, but usually just to double check my own solution when adding a chain of numbers. In recent years, I have found myself doubting my own answers derived from figuring in my head. Not that I’ve been wrong that much, but the calculator is so much easier. And it’s never wrong. Just look how well it worked at that grocery store. If I could just find another 999,999 clerks using calculators like that, I could retire

Why are there no new shows like the Waltons?

I have often wondered what makes an enduring television show. One of my all-time favorite shows was “The Waltons.” Growing up, that show reflected most closely the South of my parents and grandparents. I related to John and Olivia, John-Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen, Ben, Erin, Jim-Bob and Elizabeth, Esther and Zeb as if they were part of my own family. Earl Hamner Jr. created this masterpiece of Americana based on his life growing up during the Depression and World War II.

I remember mourning the passing of Will Geer (Grandpa Zeb Walton) as if I had lost my own grandfather. I struggled along with Ellen Colby (Grandma Esther Walton) as she performed through her real-life stroke.

I know that it was a drama and the participants were actors but the characters seemed real to me and made me feel that, the first chance I got, I should move to Walton’s Mountain.

I always enjoyed the characters that gave the show a bit of the out-of-the-ordinary — characters such as the Baldwin Sisters, who brewed up The Recipe, not realizing it was illegal; or Corabeth Walton Godsey, the always-starched well-educated cousin who tried to bring a bit of class and culture to the mountain at Godsey’s General Store.

I had the pleasure of working with Ronnie Claire Edwards, who portrayed Corabeth, while working on “In the Heat of The Night” in an episode titled “Perversion of Justice” and directed by Harry Harris, who also directed “The Waltons.”

For me, getting to spend a few days visiting with her took me back to all those nights waiting to hear that mountain-style theme music emanating from the television speaker.

Like a good Mark Twain story where you just want to pull off your shoes and jump the next raft down the Mississippi, I wanted to pull off my shoes and walk down the old dirt road with all the Walton kids.

Harry Harris and I discussed the Waltons on a couple of occasions. At one point he was trying to get Richard Thomas to return to do a reunion show. Harris gave me the impression that Thomas was reluctant. To my delight, just in time for Thanksgiving 1993, the cast once again gathered around the big table on Walton’s Mountain, held hands and said grace. The success of the show brought other reunions — “A Walton’s Wedding” and “A Walton’s Easter.”

In the back of my mind I still wished I had been there. Already being an actor, the wish was even stronger.

When I ran across the CD “A Walton Christmas,” I could not resist getting a copy and listening to it from beginning to end.

I have never had the pleasure of meeting any of the other regular cast members, although I was briefly around Peggy Rea, who played “Rose,” while Alan Autry and I both worked on “Grace Under Fire.” Unfortunately, I never got to meet her.

I wish that we would again see a positive show like that one makes its way to main stream networks. The closest I have seen of late are the two films that Dolly Parton produced centered around her childhood – “Coat of Many Colors” and its sequel.

If you have never seen “The Waltons” before, or even if your have, I encourage you to pull up a chair and take a trip to a place where life is not always simple, but no matter what comes their way, the family and the community survive together on the solid morale ground of Walton’s Mountain.

Soap, a brush and a baseball bat

I held the Ivory soap close to my nose and breathed in deeply. There was nothing quite like the smell of a fresh bar of soap out of the package. The smell carried me back to my days of late summer evenings of avoiding my bath as a boy.

Needless to say I would always need one after playing ball in the light of the street lamps.
Around the bases were Charlotte, Clay, Bubba, Charlie and Jennifer. Some were on base while others anxiously awaited me as I prepared the swing the bat on Bruce’s pitches.

Read more

Lifting the burdens of others

Have you ever known need? Have you ever been hungry and not known where your next meal is coming from? While I have been blessed not to know this sense of desperation, I have seen the face of despair in many and heard stories of desperation from years past.
I was recently standing at a gasoline pump filling my tank. When a car pulled in next to me. After hearing the engine, I immediately thought, they are lucky to be going anywhere.

Read more

Music and movie meanderings

I learned recently one of my country music friends was recently honored in his home town. multi-platinum selling country music artist Sammy Kershaw was recognized by his hometown of Kaplan, Louisiana with “Sammy Kershaw Day and renamed the street he grew up on from 2nd Street to Sammy Kershaw Drive.
Kershaw’s “Grillin’ and Chillin'” was chosen as the featured song in a newly launched Applebee’s® television commercial, airing worldwide.

Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts, Dey Young, T.C. Stallings and introducing Téa McKay as Sarah have come to DVD in their film “Unbridled.” It is a story of redemption and triumph about an abused girl who teams up with an abused horse on a journey of healing.
“Sarah’s journey of healing evokes tears that transcend into heartfelt joy,” says the film’s producer Christy McGlothlin.
The film inspired by the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program of the Corral Riding Academy in Cary, NC, which helps abused girls heal by pairing them with rehabilitated horses. It draws attention to sex trafficking and domestic abuse, tackling these difficult issues in a delicate way.
The film won numerous film festival awards including the prestigious EQUUS WINNIE Award.

Many see the music of the legendary singer and songwriter Don McLean, as the soundtrack of their lives – hits like “American Pie”, “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)”, “Castles in the Air”, “And I Love You So”, “Crossroads” and “The Grave” propelled McLean into the mainstream. Since first hitting the charts in 1971, McLean has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records world-wide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
He receives the George and Ira Gershwin Award for lifetime musical achievement on behalf of the Student Alumni Association of UCLA this month. In recognition of George and Ira Gershwin’s contributions to American music and in honor of their gift to UCLA, the UCLA Student Alumni Association established the annual George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement in 1988.

Warsh and wear

Today most folks don’t give a second thought if they get their clothes dirty to go and change into another outfit. Of late, I have found myself babying a electric dryer as I have been trying to get parts to keep it working, so I am a little more cautious about how many clothes I have to wash.
In the valley below the Gravelly Spur, an abundance of clothes in the closet was not something that most folks experienced.
The Wood boys, like everyone, were often faced with limited things to wear. Little Woody had long grown out of his white cotton dress that he wore in the shadow of his late mother.
The dresses provided mothers the added benefit to keep track of a child when they had to leave the room by lifting the old iron bedpost and placing it on the tail of the gown. That kept the toddlers from toddling into mischief.
By this point the young boy had graduated to two pairs of overalls and two shirts.
After working in the fields two days in a row, both pairs of his overalls and his two shirts were stained with red dirt and mud. He came to his older sister and said “I haven’t got anything to wear to school tomorrow.”
She took him into the bedroom reached into the closet, pulled out her extra dress, and laid it on the bed.
“Get that on and I’ll wash up your overalls.”
Little Woody didn’t have much choice in the matter it was either put the dress on or run around in his all together. So out of the clod covered overalls and into the gray colored dress he slipped.
So even though it was late in the day, she pulled out the washtub and the warshboard and scrubbed them overalls from rusty brown to a faded blue.
She took them out and hung them to dry on the clothesline, as one would normally do.
As the family went to sleep that night, the temperature dropped way below freezing. When the family slowly made their way out into the kitchen wiping the sleep from their eyes with the rooster’s crow, little Woody’s older sister sent one of the other boys to fetch the overalls while she cooked.
He brought them in frozen solid, straight as a board. He stands them in the corner taking a bit of delight in the feat.
Woody is standing there in her gray dress and says “What are we going to do, I can’t were those to school and I am sure not wearing this dress.”
She took the overalls and shirts and placed them on chairs by the fireplace and within just a short time the overalls and shirts had melted into something looking like the occupants had simply disappeared. She quickly ironed one of the shirts.
Woody could not wait to get out of the dress and as soon as the overalls were warm enough and before the iron had hit them, he was into one of the pairs and out of that dress.
While the experience might not have been so bad for little Woody if his older brothers did not see the whole thing as an opportunity for some good old fashion ribbing once they got to school.
When the Moss brothers asked the Wood boys what they had done the night before each mentioned some adventure they had but one of them had to say, “Woody didn’t do anything. He was afraid to come out of the house cause someone might see him wearing sister’s dress.”
Needless to say this was enough to get Little Woody’s blood to boiling and with a little more agitation its safe to say that clean pair of overalls picked up a little schoolyard dirt as the kidders found themselves on the receiving end of his frustration.
Good thing his sister washed both pairs of overalls or he’d been back in that dress all over again.
( From “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes” by Randall Franks)

Summer jobs — life lessons

As the school year comes to a close, my mind always wanders to days at Dairy Queen No. 8 on Clairmont Road near Chamblee. I spent my entire teenage life and college years working at that establishment.
For a youth growing up in my community, the Dairy Queen was the place to be. Joe Wyche, a Georgia Tech graduate, who had spent several years with the Dairy Queen corporation building Dairy Queens all over the world, owned it. He was there in the late 50’s as the company laid the blocks for this neighborhood walk-up ice cream store which would
later feature the Brazier burgers with all the fixings, tenderloin sandwiches and onion rings. He later decided to purchase the
franchise area.
Joe was a boss that gave many youth a chance they may not have gotten elsewhere. I know there were many times he kept teenagers on the payroll not because he needed them but because he thought they needed something stable in their lives.
He is an avid sports fan, happily watched his sons, Sam and Bubba, go on to play college and professional football. Sam would eventually be the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and a network sports commentator.
Joe and his late wife Barbara ran the store. Of course, they had several able-bodied managers and adult employees.
Manager David Payne originally hired me. It was the first summer I was old enough to qualify for working. I’ll never forget how nervous
I was at the interview but David hired me anyway and I was flung to the wolves. What I mean is, I jumped in feet first with the able
assistance of another experienced Dairy Queen worker, who happened to be a long time friend and just slightly older than me, Rhonda
Fischer.
One of my first duties was cleaning out the storage refrigerator in the topping cooler. Much like Andy Griffith in “No Time For
Sergeants,” having the honor of such a duty elated me. It would be much later that I would find that cleaning that refrigerator was a
close second to Griffith’s latrine duty.
Slowly, I was taught how to make each of the Dairy Queen favorites, “The Peanut Buster Parfait,” “The Banana Split,” “The Strawberry
Shortcake,” three sizes of cones and every imaginable flavor of milkshake from pineapple to peanut butter.
It was not long before I mastered the Dairy Queen cone curl. Even though it has been years, I think it is like riding a bicycle. I
believe I could still draw a cone pretty close to its exact weight and proportions. Yes, everything we made was to meet certain
specifications.
I began my job at $1.65 an hour, which I am sure seems like not much by today’s standards, but it was for me and I was glad to get it.
After David left, Ed Cross replaced him. Ed arrived his first day on his Harley Davidson, dressed in black. He had long hair and tattoos.
While the biker images had influenced a state of caution in my youthful thinking, through the years, I got to know Ed. He changed
that image as I found him to be someone you could depend on with your life. One thing about it, the teenagers who passed through would not even attempt to pull any shenanigans on Ed or Joe. I learned a lot about how to be a leader and a boss from both of them.
After several years on the job, at various times, I moved into the position of assistant day manager and night manager. I was told I was
one of the youngest in the system. I even worked the early shift with morning manager Ellen Hawley as she rolled out the biscuits for
breakfast and Becky Pirkle who sizzled the bacon and ham on the grill. What I learned about hiring, firing, working with and managing
32 employees of all ages is still part of me.
As my music career grew, Ed, Joe and the late Virginia Sapp, who also was a manager, all accommodated my touring schedule, allowing me to be on the road. I seldom worked a Friday or Saturday night, which was unusual in the fast food business since those were the busiest times.
But I was usually on stage somewhere pulling my fiddle bow across the strings.
When Joe decided to retire, he sold the store. It was a sad day for all of us. I stayed on for a while, as did several of the employees.
When I finally left Dairy Queen, it was like leaving a family.
I still find myself waxing nostalgic about early morning suppers with Joe, Barbara and Virginia at Denny’s after closing, midnight movies
with all the crew, handing a well-curled cone to a little kid to see it gobbled up in one bite and the exhaustion following a 99-cent
special on banana splits.
I would not trade one hour I spent at the Dairy Queen for the finest job on Wall Street or one cent more than I earned.
So teens, don’t be afraid to take those summer jobs which you think are low paying, you might just learn something that will change your
life.

America, do we got a tiger by the tail?

Two boys in Illinois took a shortcut across an orchard, and did not become aware of the presence of a vicious dog until it was too late to reach either fence. One boy was spry enough to escape the attack by climbing a tree, but the other started around the tree, with the dog in hot pursuit, until by making smaller circles than it was possible for his pursuer to make, he gained sufficiently to grasp the dog’s tail, and held with a desperate grip until nearly exhausted, when he hailed his companion and called him to come down.
“What for?” said the boy.
“I want you to help me let this dog go,” he said.
President Abraham Lincoln relayed this story after a messenger ended his report of Union losses at the battle of Fredricksburg by saying, “I wish I could tell you how to conquer or get rid of these rebellious states.”
He concluded: “If I could only let them go, but that is the trouble. I am compelled to hold on to them and make them stay.”
America has many times sent men and women into the field of battle. In our history, we have faced off against many of our current allies.
Currently, we are waging wars on many fronts against terrorism.
Like an octopus, its tentacles reach across borders and find their way into dozens of countries — including the U.S. mainland.
It has been well over 100 years since Americans faced a battle on the mainland. Of course, there is no one here today who can share firsthand the experience of watching thousands of Americans stand against one another on fields in Gettysburg or Chickamauga, but there are gallant survivors of battles in Germany, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Kuwait Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other countries where our troops have served.
The basis of any fight is often a struggle between ideas. One party thinks one way. The other party thinks another. Without middle ground, a battle ensues.
Now our country finds itself on the home front in a battle of ideologies, we have those who wish to pull the country away from its founding documents which set us as a republic bringing together a collection of other smaller republics, now called states under one umbrella called the United States of America and those who wish us to hold tightly to them. Some desire to change our economic system which coupled with the principles of our founders created the greatest model of freedom within our world’s history. A system which allows any man or woman with drive, and an idea to raise themselves up from the depths of poverty. I know this because I experienced that within my own family.
There are those who want to move from capitalism to socialism or communism or any shade in between. Folks desire to take from those that have and give to those who have not. Speaking as someone who participated in the upward momentum from have not to have. Our family’s have came from hard work – endless hours of hard work. From that hard work, we have helped many have nots move from poverty to success by also doing hard work. We have also helped put monies into charities and projects that help those unable to do the hard work, or give others the ability to help themselves. There is no better system in the world.
The battle is now being waged at the highest levels of our country’s leadership. I am seeing and hearing thoughts and desires that I could never have dreamed would be uttered by elected officials in my life.
I pray that God continues to stand with our leaders who are trying to preserve our republic, our servicemen and women who fight and die to protect it, and all our citizens as we march forward serving our country and communities.
I wonder if our myriad of leaders wishing to pull us in so many directions feel now as Lincoln’s boy chasing the vicious dog — if we ever catch it, and have a hold of the tail. How are we ever going to let go? I am afraid in the case of America, our bite will be worse than our bark so they better hang on tight.

The sadness of social media

While the effort began innocently as a way to connect college students and others together.
The world which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and dozens of other companies which seek to build an audience. They bring us together for communication, use us as an audience for their advertisers, and collect information about our computer habits so they can gain money by using or sharing our data.
Now they are being scrutinized as private companies for judging what we say and hindering our ability for our opinions to be seen by others by shadow banning and or creating algorithms that prevents everything from being seen by everyone who chooses to follow or like an individual.
Social media is now taking over as the medium of delivering news and information which creates an unusual problem. Now real news comes to us right beside the opinions of anyone and everyone.
Anyone can state their opinion, form it as a news article and get people believing their false or slanted information as the gospel truth simply because it floats through next to legitimately prepared, reviewed and presented information.
Whether it’s a small or big town social media bully attacking a volunteer, a business person, or public servant, to create a fervor against them, or a child telling a tale about a fellow student in their school, the result is the same. Someone is being emotionally harmed by the actions of someone else for their own gratification or gain while others are fooled into believing the falsehoods.
Many of the companies claim their staff are policing such, but it seems many of their actions that are exposed reflect the old saying of “Straining at a knat while swallowing a camel.” They spend more time on restraining legitimate free speech while not dealing with individual abuse and bullying.
Realizing that they are not going to protect us. We must be the real police of such behavior. First and foremost, we should be cautious of inflammatory statements about individuals no matter their source.
Seek more information. If you know the person, do the courtesy of contacting them to alert them of the offense. If you feel the information is untrue or see it to be bullying or an attack, report it to the social media company. The main action, if you are a close friend of the author, then call it privately to their attention that you disheartened by their actions.
In the past, our personal negativity generally passed to a circle of six to 12 people and stopped. But today, we all have the ability to share a statement and potentially hundreds to thousands see it, and have the potential to believe it and share it further. That makes our job as a human being even greater than ever before. We must take responsibility for what we say, post, share and promote on our social media pages.
Social media is an amazing tool which if used well can bring us together, if used for evil purposes, it can bring us and our civilization to destruction.
I urge our federal and state authorities in taking a greater interest in how these companies do their business to make sure that they provide a fair space available to all, and that their efforts to protect us from ourselves, do that while not destroying the freedom of speech we all rely upon.

Truth, nothing but the truth

The importance of truth in everyday life is something that each of us are responsible for upholding.
When thinking on the topic of honesty, I fondly remember back on the Andy Griffith Show episode where “Opie” wants to sell his bike without mentioning all the little things that are wrong with it. “Barney” decides to take on selling real estate and the Taylors are considering selling their house and buying another in the same episode.
Andy neglects to mention the little odds and ends wrong with the house until Opie brings these things to the attention of the buyers. While Andy becomes frustrated by Opie’s honesty, Opie is confused by Andy’s separate rules for adults and children. Andy finally realizes that Opie is right.
When we are in our late teens, we sometimes add a few years to our age so we can do things adults do. As we get older, we tend to shave years off our age so we can appear younger. Are these lies?
When attorneys are faced with defending people that they know or suspect are guilty, does this strain their ability to be honest when they stand in front of a judge or jury to defend a not guilty plea?
While extreme situations like war can sometimes bring on the need for good people to be faced with challenging choices concerning their convictions, it is often on faith and truth that they must rely to get through the bad times.
But there are, no doubt, times when honesty may be strained.
Members of a generation of Americans were disenfranchised by the feeling that our government was lying to them in the 1970’s during Watergate and the latter part of the Vietnam War.
Were they lying?
There is an old joke about how you can tell when a politician is lying — their mouth is moving.
I wonder sometimes what happened to good, old-fashioned honesty.
Honesty does exist in each of us. All we need to do is remember each and every falsehood we utter has an effect on someone else.
It may only be ourselves we hurt as we build a house of cards trying to remember each and every white lie we have told so as not to be caught.
What is the point of being dishonest? Do we gain anything?
There’s an old song called the “Royal Telephone” where the singer asks the operator to get Jesus on the line.
Would you tell a lie in exchange for a conversation with our Savior, Jesus Christ himself, on the phone? I wouldn’t. If I did, what would we talk about?
Remember: “From your lips to God’s ears.”
If you remember that he is listening, it does make you think more heavily about what you do and say each and every day.