Cousin Jo tells of trip to Nashville

Published 2:24 am Saturday, February 27, 2016

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I thought of George Washington, whose birthday was the 22nd. When our first president, the “Father of Our Country,” died, his favorite, Revolutionary general, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, said of him, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen!”

Today, Gentle Reader, we have a guest columnist, my cousin, Jo Driggers of Lexington, South Carolina, who has written masterfully of a bus tour she took.

“Betty Mitchell, the ‘Travel Queen,’ led a group of country-music enthusiasts to Nashville, Tennessee, the week of November 30 – December 4, 2015.

“Those making the trip were Wade and Joyce Adams, Effie Brooks, Judy Burchfield (sister of Jean Carr), Debra Jones, Judy Lunsford, Virginia Merritt from Opp; Tim and Myrtle Clemmons, Shelby Pope (sister of Myrtle) from Bonifay, Florida; Jo Driggers from Lexington, South Carolina; Barbara Nelson, Bonnie Summers, Rosalyn Wright from Red Level; Onzel Patterson (mother), Kim Patterson (daughter) from Dothan; Orville and Helen Blake, Barbara Cantaline, Jean Carr, Paul Capron, Herb and Sue Carlisle, Thelma Glisson, Charlotte Hawkins, Doris Hutcheson, Susan Maddox, Lisa McVay, Nancy Robbins, Jo Ruth Sasser, Estelle Scroggins, Trudie Steele, and Gladys Traywick from Andalusia. Our bus driver was Robert Layne, who is pastor of the Church of God in Panama City, Florida.

“Before leaving on Monday morning, Herb Carlisle prayed for our safe journey. A late breakfast/early lunch was at Cracker Barrel in Prattville. It started raining north of Birmingham and continued on to Nashville. After shopping at a nearby mall, we ate a Southern buffet at the Hermitage House Smorgasbord. A sign outside read ‘In God We Still Trust.’ One of our diners was heard to exclaim, ‘It was okay, but not as good as Tabby D’s.’

“Rain was still falling as we motored to the Holiday Inn Express in Lebanon (about 25 miles east of downtown Nashville). This was to be our home for the next four nights. The city was named after the biblical cedars of Lebanon.

“Tuesday started with prayer by Tim Clemmons after which we traveled back to Nashville to Belle Meade Plantation. This plantation, which once covered 5,400 acres but is now 30 acres, was the premier thoroughbred-horse farm in the South, raising horses that were shipped throughout the country. Horses like Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and every horse to race in the Kentucky Derby since 2003 can trace their bloodlines back to Belle Meade.

“First we visited the carriage house, erected in 1892. On display was the family’s carriage collection that included light carriages for picnics on the ground, a surrey with fringe on top for trips to town, luxury Victorian carriages for social events, and a sixteen-passenger, double-decker carriage.

“Next we toured the first floor of the house, which was decorated for Christmas. Each room featured decorations for a different decade of the 1800’s.

“After leaving the plantation, we went downtown to the George Jones Museum where we had lunch in the restaurant. Upstairs we visited the many exhibits in the museum, which included his many awards, gold and platinum albums, the sparkling suits he wore on stage, his collection of guns, belt buckles, and autographed footballs.

“The Ryman Auditorium, where we watched the Grand Ole Opry Show, was next on our agenda. The performers were Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, the Grascals (a bluegrass band), Riders in the Sky (a cowboy music and comedy group), Holly Audrey Williams (born in Cullman, Alabama, she is the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., and daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.. Her record label is Georgiana Records), Kellie Pickler (finished in sixth place on American Idol in season five and won Dancing with the Stars in 2013), Mandy Barnett, Jeannie Seely (she has been recording since early 1966), and Phil Vassar.

“The Ryman Auditorium was originally the Union Gospel Tabernacle. In 1943 it became the home of the Grand Ole Opry, which was staged there until 1974. The Opry then moved to the new Grand Ole Opry House. The Ryman has been renovated, and the Opry returns there during the winter months (November – January) while other shows are performed at the new Opry House. The only place in the United States that has better acoustics than the Ryman is the Mormon Tabernacle.

“Dinner that night was at Santa Fe Cattle Company. On our way back to our hotel we drove around the grounds of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center (Opryland Hotel) to see the beautiful Christmas lights.

“The prayer on Wednesday morning was given by Robert, the bus driver. Our first stop was the Grand Ole Opry House where we were given a backstage, guided tour. We saw the Wall of Fame, featuring plaques engraved with the names of Opry members, the post office where the stars pick up their fan mail, the artist entrance, and some of the dressing rooms.

“The post-office boxes are assigned to Opry members in alphabetical order – with one exception. The box for Little Jimmy Dickens should be on the top row. Because of his short stature, though, his box was moved to one of the lower rows.

“The artist entrance is lined with flowers and star-shaped boxwoods. Along this entrance is a bronze sculpture of a young girl at a water fountain. It was a gift to Sarah ‘Minnie Pearl’Cannon from her husband on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

“Each dressing room is numbered with an oversized guitar pick, inlaid in the floor in front of the door. For eighteen years Room 1 was occupied by the King of Country, Roy Acuff. Mr. Roy’s door was always open to welcome friends and fans alike. The room is now used by the male headliner of the show.

“There are eighteen dressing rooms but no No.13. After the May 2010 flood in Nashville the backstage area of the Opry House was completely renovated. Each dressing room was given a theme to illustrate the story of the Grand Ole Opry.

“We were allowed to walk on the stage. Many had their pictures made while standing at the microphone, and some even sang a song.

“After browsing through the gift shop, we motored to the nearby Opry Mills Mall, the largest outlet, retail, dining, and entertainment destination in Tennessee. We had lunch on our own in the food court and shopped until our hearts’ content in the 200 stores. Waters from the 2010 flood of the Cumberland River rose ten feet inside the mall. It was closed for about two years for restoration.”

I’ll continue with Part II of Miss Betty’s Bus Tour to Nashville next week, Lord willing.

Once again, I ask the citizens of Andalusia to join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box 1582, Andalusia, Alabama 36420.

The mysterian is an honorary member of the AHS Class of 1926, voted into the class at its reunion.

Recent birthdays are those of George Washington, our first American president; James Russell Lowell, American poet; Frederic Chopin, Polish composer; George F. Handel, German/British composer; Samuel Pepys, English diarist; Enrico Caruso, Italian singer of opera; Victor Hugo, French novelist; and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet.

Handel composed Messiah, which contains “The Hallelujah Chorus.” The King of England was so moved by the “Chorus” that he stood. Of course, everyone else stood, too, which began the tradition of standing during that famous chorus.

Pepys’s diary is not the longest, but it is the most famous.

Caruso has the reputation of being the greatest singer of opera of all time.

Two of Hugo’s most famous novels are Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Longfellow is the centerpiece of American literature, the perfect poet.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to join Buffalo Bob Smith in encouraging each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing.

Fare thee well.