The Jackson Herald
March 21, 2001
Live radio days revisited
Henry Johnson of Jefferson, a.k.a. "Doc
Johnson" of "Doc Johnson's Traveling Miracle Medicine
Show," calls it a cross between Garrison Keillor's "Prairie
Home Companion" and the more locally based "Mountain
Stage." It has also been likened to the live Grand Ole Opry
shows of the 1930s.
But while the Dahlonega Mountain Music and Medicine Show may
have a similar approach to these other live radio shows, its
purpose is all its own. The show is one facet of the Folkways
Center of the Georgia Mountains non-profit organization's theme
of "Celebrating Treasured Mountain Traditions." Its
related efforts are to "preserve and cultivate the history
and folkways of the people of the North Georgia Mountain region,"
including music, crafts, dance, cooking, medicine and folklore.
The radio show got its start back at the beginning of the year,
with the idea being that ticket sales for the live show - which
airs from 8 to 10 p.m. the first Saturday of each month on WKHC
104.3 FM out of the sanctuary of Dahlonega Baptist Church - would
help raise funds for the purchase of that same church building.
Once the building is purchased, it will serve as the folkways
center, with the sanctuary renovated for Mountain Music Hall
for performances of bluegrass, old-timey and mountain gospel
music. Other plans for the building include a visitor's center,
museum, library and folkways school complete with art and music
studios. It's an ambitious plan, but so far, so good - according
to Johnson, tickets to the live radio shows have sold out each
month to an audience of 400 or so, and a $200,000 donation has
already been made.
For those who like live radio shows, as well as the flavor of
mountain music and folklore, the Dahlonega Mountain Music and
Medicine Show offers skits and characters set in the time period
of the 1820s up to the 1950s and musical performances from that
time under the guise of talent contests held in connection with
"Doc Johnson's Traveling Miracle Medicine Show."
For example, interspersed with music, the March show included
a skit about the visit a professor from the local college makes
to the general store, seeking research and reviews on grits (he's
from "up North"). What are they? Where did they come
from? Also, "Doc Johnson" made a pitch for his "Wizard
Water," encouraging those in the audience to consider it
for what ails them. ("You heard about the 80-year-old lady
who died last week? She drank Wizard Water every day - don't
worry, they saved the baby.")
Members of a ladies sewing club get together at the general store
to buy notions for the upcoming quilting bee, and to catch up
on the latest gossip. Some of the best drama in town centers
around the goings-on at the courthouse, where solicitors and
judges put on a show for the jury and spectators. All is woven
together with bluegrass, Celtic and gospel music, with "Doc
Johnson" introducing the acts.
For more information, see the Folkways Center website at www.folkwayscenter.org.
Jana Adams is features editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
March 21, 2001
Spring training a
time for memories
Late February is when the urge hits me. Then March brings box
scores of exhibition games. When opening day comes regret sets
in. All over south Florida people are congregating at quaint
baseball parks rooting on Major Leaguers. I wanted to see spring
training, but I never did go.
In high school I was a baseball junkie. I made it to five or
ten Braves games a year, but what I really wanted to do was spend
10 days in Florida trying to see how many spring training games
I could attend. I fantasized about chatting with Dale Murphy
as he stretched his arms on the on-deck circle. I dreamt of seeing
a new Major League player fight for his dream job, or the rookie
that everyone would know in June. Spring training promised an
intimacy with the game that can't be enjoyed anywhere else. But
every year came and went and I never went to see a spring training
game. Every year I regretted it.
Until this year.
My sister and her husband moved to Fort Myers, Fla., about three
years ago. This was the excuse I needed to travel the 10 hours
to watch spring training. But I still didn't go. Either the lack
of time or money kept me away. The regret grew.
Then my sister stepped in again. In September she had a little
girl, Jordan Layne. She was christened March 11, right smack
dab in the middle of the spring training season. I was only going
to be in Fort Myers for a long weekend, but here was my chance.
The Twins were in town against the Pirates. I could name only
two players on the teams, but I could reminisce about Kirby Pucket
and a young Barry Bonds. Baseball is baseball, after all.
My mother took her only grandchild for the day, and my sister,
her husband and I took the short 15-minute ride to the ball park.
We were arriving late, but that was fine, maybe even appropriate.
We pulled into the stadium and found a grass parking lot with
hundreds of cars lining rows called Carew, Blyleven, Kilebrew
or another Minnesota baseball great. We parked on Hrbeck.
"Remember, he is the one that pulled Ron Gant off first
base in the 1991 World Series, "I reminded my sister. For
me the fun had started.
We walked in for free because it was already the seventh inning,
and we passed people as they left, because it was 9-2. I was
elated. We sat behind home plate on metal bleachers and rested
our feet on the seats below us. I called over the beer man and
kicked back. It was like watching a game from a friend's front
I chatted with an old-timer about some of the guys on the field.
He told me who had been good last year and who he thought would
make an impression on the Twins' record this year. He was a Twins
fan, though he wasn't from Minnesota. Before retiring to Florida
he had been in Pennsylvania, but every spring he sat in that
park and watched the only season that mattered to him. For him,
baseball was spring training, for that is when the Minnesota
Twins became his home team.
The three innings of baseball I saw were a dream fulfilled. No
one scored. The final was 9-2. The game was sloppy at times,
but none of that mattered. I was kicking back under 80-degree
blue skies with great conversation, a cold beer and baseball.
Except for Dale Murphy's absence, it was everything I had hoped
Todd Simons is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.