When I was about seven years old, Dad bought a big battery powered radio with a record player in it. The problem was he had to take it to Freeburn once a year or so to have the battery replaced. The dry-cell battery was about two feet square and about 18” high, so that made it pretty heavy. Dad would put it on his shoulder, walk out of Bone’s Branch and catch a ride to Sid Booth’s in Freeburn and have it exchanged.
We listened to WCKY, Cincinnati 1, Ohio, on the weekdays. Dad liked to listen to Gabriel Hebron give the news about the war. Some of the war reports were live from the bombers flying over Germany. We could hear the shells popping around them. Other stations we listened to were from Bristol, Logan and Pineville, West Virginia. Our favorite thing to listen to was the Grand Ole Opry from WSM, in Nashville. On Saturday, Mom and Dad cleared out the big bedroom (didn’t have a living room) so we could have a hoedown while the Opry was on. The beds were taken apart and stood against the wall. We got to stay up as long as we could stay awake. We didn’t have snacks, but ate leftovers from supper like beans and cornbread. We had our own cow, so we had plenty of milk. (Mom would give us the day old milk, so it wouldn’t clabber, and save the fresh milk so she could get the cream off the top to make the gravy. They would go to the smokehouse and slice off a big slab of bacon to go with the gravy. That sure was some good eating.)
We'd have about a dozen people show up for the hoedown and it lasted as long as the Grand Ole Opry did. They'd also do the Charleston, and my uncle, Fed, would tap dance and get so carried away that his britches almost fell off when he danced. Fed was prolific in other ways too. B. Ward said that, one school year, Fed had 38 children to ride his bus.
We had several records we played, too. The only ones I remember were "Bye, Bye, Blackbird," and "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover." Fed had a record by a man that told about going to a football game and not knowing what it was. That was long before Andy Griffith made his version of the same story. People would bring jazz records and I always hated those. To this day, I can't stand jazz.
There was also a station in Matewan, WHJC, where we would listen to a program called "Lines From a Mother's Scrapbook." A woman named Vera Staples would read poems from it while she played the organ. We always made sure we had our work done to a point where we could come in the house every day at three o'clock and listen to her. On Sundays, we did a complete flopover and listen to the Philadelphia Harmonic and other big city orchestras all day long on WBTH from Williamson. Dad said he wanted us to appreciate other kinds of music too.
Later, we got an electric radio/record player combination. Boy, we thought we had really moved up in the world. It had such a good speaker, you could hear it all the way to the gap of Bone’s Branch. Dad would turn it up so loud, so he could hear it on the way to work. We had one of those old drop down light cords overheard. I remember they called it a rosette and a drop socket. Dad ran a wire from it, across the ceiling and down the wall so he could plug the radio in. Boy, we sure had some good times.
Dad often told people that, one day, we’d be able to see the people as well as listen to them. Everybody thought Dad was full of it, but it did happen.
Luther G. Eldridge©
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Music ~ "I'm Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover"