A Dream Come True

Alaskan Pilgrimage to
the Grand Ole Opry

(2020©donnliston.com)

Click to read about the best thing about Los Anchorage

The Scooter Brown Band includes two military combat veterans who
celebrated their love of our country during the last Grand Ole Opry show of
2019 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN on December 28.
 It was a great show.

Click to read about the best thing about Los Anchorage

Dad wrote a letter to my maternal grandmother, Alta Ticknor
on May 4, 1963, to tell her about how we were doing in our new Alaska home. I
discovered this letter many years later. From his temporary work station at
Murphy
Dome Air Force Station
–a now closed General Surveillance Radar
station located 20.4 miles west-northwest of Fairbanks, which serves today as part of the
Alaska
NORAD Region
under the jurisdiction of the 611th
Air Support Group
, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.1–he
wrote:

Donald is still his
same strong-willed self.  If he ever
overcame his independent nature he could be a straight “A” student.  But then he wouldn’t be Donnie.  He causes more trouble than either of the
other two, but he gets a lot more done. 
He is far too good looking for his own good and Ronaele is pestered by
girls calling (in the sixth grade yet!) to talk to Don.  This does absolutely nothing for his school
work, but he always seems to come through. 
I sometimes think that he “cons” his teachers a bit, but I visit the
school for conference quite often and try to make certain that they are keeping
him on the straight and narrow as much as possible.  He seems to have an infinite capacity for
learning new things.  He built a radio by
himself, he knows the ”periodic table of elements” completely.  He can read and understand articles from
“Scientific American” (magazine) or, if he chooses he can draw a nice picture
or sing or whatever.  And yet, he made a
poor grade on a simple thing like spelling because he simply “didn’t want to
bother with it.”  He takes a lot of
understanding but he is a wonderful boy.

Grandma Ticknor was an elementary school principal at an “Indian School” in New Mexico. She moved to San Diego, California with her career after we moved to Alaska.

Another way to describe
my circumstance might be “lacks supervision but has curious nature.”

I was in 6th
Grade at Denali Elementary School. My teacher there, Mr. Waldrop requested and
received permission to issue corporal punishment, but never actually spanked me
that year.

My new stepmother had
only one way to assert control over me and that was to make me go to my room.
There I spent a lot of time reading, raising tropical fish and listened to the
radio. On a Hallicrafter Short Wave radio in my Anchorage bedroom I was able to
listen to music from all over the world, but my favorite program was the Grand
Ole Opry
, broadcast live from Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Hank Williams Publicity Photo, 1951

Country music was
programmed into my southern soul at birth, with Hiram “Hank Williams, who is
regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and
songwriters of the 20th Century.2

Originally from Alabama,
Williams was born with spina bifida occulta, a birth defect centered on the
spinal column, which gave him lifelong pain. All life comes with certain pain and we all deal with our pain in different ways.

In September 1946 Williams auditioned
for the Opry and was rejected. He and his wife Audry Williams were later able to get a
deal with Sterling Records to produce six songs, including “Never
Again” and “Honky Tonkin,” which were successful and gained the attention of
MGM Records. The first song he recorded there was “Move It on Over.” The second
was “I Saw the Light.”

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46421031


I wandered so aimless life filled with sin

I wouldn’t let my dear savior in

Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night

Praise the Lord I saw the light



I saw the light I saw the light

No more darkness no more night

Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight

Praise the Lord I saw the light




Of course there were
many country music performers I loved to listen to because they expressed my own hurt and hope for the future. Alcoholism had already impacted my life and it
was to cause Williams to be kicked out of the Opry.

Just like a blind man I wandered along

Worries and fears I claimed for my own

Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight

Praise the Lord I saw the light


I was a fool to wander and a-stray

Straight is the gate and narrow the way.


Now I have traded the wrong for the right

Praise the Lord I saw the light



I saw the light I saw the light

No more darkness no more night

Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight

Praise the Lord I saw the light

Hank Williams had died
suddenly on New Years Day, 1953.

On the other end of the
music spectrum I particularly liked The Beach Boys group formed in Hawthorne
California in 1961. They had a fun-loving style and beginning as a garage band
have been credited with becoming one of the most influential acts of the rock
era.3

That was the range of
my music taste.

And, while I listened to
the Opry on the radio, I and never much watched it on television. Until now it
was a “bucket list” item—going to Nashville and watching the Opry Live.

This year I did it.
Using my reduced PFD I bought tickets from myself and my new wife Waneta to
travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and take a rental car to Kentucky where her family
still owns property, and back to Tennessee for the last Opry show of 2019. This
year represents 60 years since Alaska became a state, and 60 years since her
son Bill Borden was born December 26.

This is the time of
year when the Opry is held in the Mother Church of Country Music, the historic
Ryman Auditorium. We enjoyed a glorious evening Saturday, December 28.

The Mother Church of Country Music, Ryman Auditorium 

According to a story by
William Price Fox in the February/March 1979 issue of American
Heritage
:

The Nashville winter
of 1974 was the Grand Ole Opry’s last season at the Ryman Auditorium, its home
for thirty-three years. The 150 singers, pickers, comics, and doggers, who must
agree to make twenty-one appearances each year to become members of the Opry
company, had agreed to play down any misgivings they might have about moving
out to the new Opryland, and four- and five-color brochures urged: “Come Share
the Wonder of OPRYLAND, U.S.A., where the best of
country music blends with the strains of Bluegrass, Dixieland, Western, Rock
and all of the other exciting sounds of music from this great wide country of
ours.”

The old Ryman was a
firetrap and this article references “King of Country Music” Roy Acuff saying
he worried about the structure falling down. Final performances at the red
brick, oak floored structure with hand-carved pews occurred March 9,
1974. In attendance on stage were Johnny Cash, Maybelle Carter, Hank Snow, June
Carter Cash
and fifty others singing the final number Will the Circle Be
Unbroken
.

Since then the Ryman has been refurbished and we had seats in the balcony. The
crowd was warmed up by asking who came from where and a shouting match was
generated between folks from Texas and California. Many states were mentioned,
but Alaska was not.

As always the Opry is a
variety of acts, one after another. We enjoyed it to the end.

Selfie with my new cowboy hat

References:

1http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/publications/histaircontrol.pdf

2 “I
Saw the Light: Hank Williams’ Sixty Years of Influence on American Music”
The New School. Retrieved September 8,2014– via YouTube.

3Allmusic
“The Beach Boys – Overview”
. John Bush. AllMusic. Retrieved July
12, 2008.

4 https://www.americanheritage.com/grand-ole-opry#1

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