John is taking a couple of blog days off for the Thanksgiving holidays.  His thrice weekly posts will resume on Monday, Nov. 30.  Today’s post, Slice of Americana, originally appeared on Feb 8, 2013. Happy Thanksgiving! 


The news business will always be a part of who I am.

As a former reporter, I confess that while I do not miss the grind of working for a daily newspaper, slogging through flooded rice fields in the dead of night covering a fatal airplane crash, or moving through a bar on Thanksgiving day stepping over the dead bodies slain during their holiday dinner following a drug deal gone bad, I will deeply miss newspapers once they are gone in the current form.

I will especially miss the weekly newspapers, home to reports on local communities, the unintended hilarious stories of weddings, Bible study groups and the celebrations of birthdays, engagements, the births and the occasional wakes at places like Dairy Queen, Dot’s Diner or Babe’s Do Drop In.

Weekly papers are, if nothing else, a wonderful, rich slice of Americana.  There are times you feel you are reading something written by a sly comedian who is conning you, but the stories are too good to be imagined.

Weekly papers frequently appoint correspondents to report the goings on from the surrounding even smaller communities, population 50 to 200 or 300.  There may be multiple churches in the community but the only church news that makes the paper is from the correspondent’s church.  This usually is a brief summary of the pastor’s sermon and a few odds and ends about Bible study groups and women’s service guild.

In one East Texas County, according to the reporter, the Bethel Women’s Bible Society was studying some seeming conflicts between Old Testament prophecies and New Testament scripture.  They even invited the church pastor, Brother Billy Wayne Duel, to be a guest and help them navigate this confusion and avoid the heated exchanges that marked the first time the ladies had debated this subject.  The news article did not specify the Pastor’s sage interpretation but it did report that after a short business meeting, the Society women had lunch.  The menu included taco salad, Dr. Pepper and chocolate cream pie.

Wedding stories, also written by the local correspondent, with liberal help from the bride’s mother, provide detailed information about the wedding party and anyone else who participated, including the person who carved the brisket, made and then served the punch or iced tea, sometimes the brand of beer served, and of course, the name of the pianist or organist.

In one dispatch from a small North Carolina town the correspondent reported that the bride, Cordie Mae Philpot, daughter of Harold “Hog” Philpot, local dog breeder and dry wall installer, selected her cousin from the adjoining county to play the organ.  The cousin, according to the report, played numerous contemporary Top 40 selections, the traditional wedding march, and her personal favorite, “On Wisconsin!”

The article also reported that the groom was the night manager at Elway’s, a local gas station convenience store and pool emporium while the bride was a popular night waitress at the Mount Gilead Social Hall and Private Club. Regrettably, the bride’s high school accomplishments were mentioned as well.  Apparently she was the state women’s wrestling champion (heavyweight division).

Thank goodness details of the honeymoon were sketchy.

© 2012 John Gregory Self