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ravenoaks | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> SERENDIPITY IN WOODBINE GEORGIA tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

SERENDIPITY IN WOODBINE GEORGIA

ALL PICTURES AND TEXT ON THIS WEBSITE ARE COPYRIGHTED BY DONALD L SCHULTZ

Serendipity is defined as making a desirable discovery by pure accident. This phenomenon has occurred several times on our adventures as we travel across this land. No other word could better describe our experience near Kingsland, GA located a few miles north of the Florida-Georgia border.

There are always so many things to see and do and Kingsland was no exception. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is close by as is the huge Trident Submarine Support Base. Cumberland Island, in all its natural beauty, is minutes away and Jekyll Island, the 1880 playground of the rich and famous including the Vanderbilt’s, the Rockefellers, the Pulitzers, and J.P. Morgan is a must see.

But it was the discovery by pure accident of the Woodbine Orpy that was the hands down highlight of our visit. Searching the Internet, we came upon their website that billed it as the “most fun you can have with your overalls on”. The Opry is an open mike jam session of some of the best musicians in the South. Woodbine is a sleepy little town of just over 1200 folks about 50 miles north of Jacksonville, Fl. Home of the legendary Stardust Motel and Junque Shop, “we sell dead people’s stuff”, Woodbine’s old high school is being restored and used as a community center. Scheduled for destruction, the 1926 building was saved by several local graduates who started free bluegrass and country music concerts on Friday and Saturday nights to raise money for it restoration. How do they raise money if the concerts are free? Well, that is another story. More about it later.

We opted for the Friday night session which is described as bluegrass, gospel and some traditional country songs. Saturday night is true country with the songs of Johnny Cash, Patsy Kline, Hank William Jr. and Jim Reeves, just to name a few. But Friday night is all acoustical instruments with little amplification and who could resisted such fascinating selections as “5 lbs of Possums in My Headlights Tonight” or “I Am Using the Bible as My Road Map and Heaven Is My Last Stop”. Also on the billing was Seven Spanish Angels, Silver Hammer and Golden Nails, The Orange Blossom Special, and the Wabash Cannon Ball.

As we drove into Woodbine, we had no trouble finding the venue. Woodbine is so small all we had to do is look for a lot of cars and there it was. As we approached the front door, we saw a sign in the back window of a car that proclaimed, “Preserve Wildlife, Pickle a Squirrel” and I knew it was going to be a good night. We were greeted on the front steps by the mayor of Woodbine, Burford Clark, with a smile and handshake that made us feel like we had arrived at a family reunion. “Ya all from Juwguh?” he asked. “No, we are two retired teachers originally from Wisconsin, but now South Dakota,” I answered. “Yah all, luke too yung to be retard, but git in and git some food, befor it’s all gun.” What? Food. That is right!!! The evening actually starts with food, not music. In this part of Georgia, a woman is still referred to as Miss, regardless of her age, and Miss Ivy Mae prepares a meal of chicken and dumplings, jambalaya, macaroni and cheese for all the guests. For a mere $7 a plate, you can dine on some of the best down South home cooking Georgia has to offer.

The school hallways are lined with pictures of the various classes way back to 1926, and as you sit down to eat you, are sitting among many of these former students. Then it is off to the auditorium for the main show. We were encouraged strongly to buy raffle tickets for the several homemade cakes and pies sitting on a front table. We bought several along with two CD’s of the more popular tunes, for an unheard of price of $5 a disc.

As we took our seats, we were greeted by no less than five locals. They asked us who we were and where we were from. Our voices betrayed our Northern roots, and we secretly wondered if we sounded as foreign to them as they to us. This is a farm community and one can feel the hard work in the texture of the hand shakes and the missing fingers. Accidents are common and many men walk with the wobble that proclaims, “I am an American Farmer and proud of it”. The signs on the walls are all hand lettered and they leave little doubt as to how the troops returning from Iraq will be welcomed.

And then the music began. Keep in mind that with the exception of microphones for vocals and a few for select instruments, this is raw hand plucking where mistakes stand out “like a hen on a gator’s back” according the guy sitting behind me. Guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobra, bass, banjo, harmonica, accordion and autoharp are all part of the sound. The evening began with 16 musicians standing. There was not a piece of sheet music to be seen, and the transitions between featured solos and songs were made with a head tilt or nod between the musicians that shouted, “We have been doing this for a long time and damn we are good!!!” Fiddle strings would break and picks would snap, but the music went on.

Our all time favorite was

5 POUNDS OF POSSUM IN MY HEADLIGHTS TONIGHT

My children are hungry, my dog needs a bone.
I'm out of a job now, so I'm just drivin' home.
An hour after sundown, when what to my delight,
There's five pounds of possum in my headlights tonight.

cho: There's five pounds of possum in my headlights tonight.
If I can just run him over, every thing will be all right.
We'll have some possum gravy, oh what a beautiful sight;
There's five pounds of possum in my headlights tonight.

Won't have to clean no chicken, won't have to open no cans.
Just a little bit closer, and I'll have him in my hands.
I think the time has come now, to go from "dim" to "bright."
There's five pounds of possum in my headlights tonight.

Half way through the evening the local sheriff took the stage in uniform, but without his side arm, to sing several Elvis ballads. He had a solid voice and was the hit of the Misses in the crowd. After his set he made his way through the crowd kissing the ladies and shaking hands.

Between sets the audience was asked if there were any newcomers and where they were from. I shouted out “Sioux Fall, SD” and a local shouted back. “Gosh, I didn’t think nobody lived there no more.” To which I quickly replied, “Not since we left!” much to the chuckles of the crowd.

The music continued with Seven Spanish Angels, Take these Chains From My Heart, Jambalaya, Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms and In the Garden; just a few of the local favorites. As the weight of the instrument and the arthritis in the knees took their toll, the playing of the Woodbine Opry Theme Song had less than the 16 musicians still standing.

WOODBINE OPRY THEME SONG


Roll back the rug on the floor
Light up your corn cob pipe
Everyone is gonna have some fun
At the Woodbine Opry tonight

CHORUS
ITS THE WOODBINE OPRY,WOODBINE OPRY WOODBINE OPRY TIME
ITS THE WOODBINE OPRY,WOODBINE OPRY WOODBINE OPRY T-I-M-E

Junior, bring your dobro over here
Slide that bar just right
Everyone is gonna have some fun
At the Woodbine Opry tonight

Jack wails on the mouth harp
And plays that tune just right
Everyone is gonna have some fun
At the Woodbine Opry tonight

And Dan, he plucks the banjo
Got that bluegrass sound tonight
Everyone is gonna have some fun
At the Woodbine Opry tonight

Wayne strums on the mandolin
It sound so sweet and light
Everyone is gonna have some fun
At the Woodbine Opry tonight

After the last song, there was the Raffle. With tickets in hand we waited with expectation to win one of the goodies. Sara wanted the double chocolate cake baked by Miss Purtie and I was rooting for a big bowl of banana pudding. But, alas, we left empty handed. After all the food was gone, there was a raffle for a $100 pot. The winner graciously turned the prize back to the Orpy to help cover costs and aid the restoration of the building, much to the approval of the crowd. Oh, I mentioned that the concerts are free. Well, between the $7 meal tickets, the raffle tickets, 3 for $2, and the proceeds of continuous thrift sale, where among the tables of treasures and trash, I noticed a salom water ski mysteriously standing in the corner, the Opry makes ends meet. The musicians, some of whom drive over fifty miles one way are not paid and do it just for the pure pleasure of making good music and that they do.

As we left, we were again greeted by so many folks, all urging us with a, “Yah all come back, now.” It made us happy to be alive and so fortunate to find the Woodbine Opry Show by serendipity, a desirable discovery by accident.


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A FINE EXAMPLE OF SOUTH GEORGIA HUMOR.........
A FINE EXAMPLE OF SOUTH GEORGIA HUMOR.........
TICKETS FOR THE RAFFLE 2 FOR $3- CD FOR $5
TICKETS FOR THE RAFFLE 2 FOR $3- CD FOR $5
ALL THE SIGNS WERE HAND MADE
ALL THE SIGNS WERE HAND MADE
THE FULL BAND-16 STRONG FOR THE OPENING NUMBER
THE FULL BAND-16 STRONG FOR THE OPENING NUMBER
THE FIDDLER PLAYED ONE MEAN FIDDLE.............SO FINE
THE FIDDLER PLAYED ONE MEAN FIDDLE.............SO FINE
WE LOVED HIS MUSIC.......AMAZING GRACE BROUGHT TEARS TO THE EYES
WE LOVED HIS MUSIC.......AMAZING GRACE BROUGHT TEARS TO THE EYES
A LITTLE STORY TELLING WAS INCLUDED
A LITTLE STORY TELLING WAS INCLUDED
WHAT A SWEET HARMONICA...........
WHAT A SWEET HARMONICA...........
BANJO AND BASS WERE TOGETHER ALL NIGHT
BANJO AND BASS WERE TOGETHER ALL NIGHT
AND THE STEEL GUITAR MAN PLAYED EVERY SINGLE SONG AND CAME UP TO SHAKE MY HAND AT THE END.
AND THE STEEL GUITAR MAN PLAYED EVERY SINGLE SONG AND CAME UP TO SHAKE MY HAND AT THE END.
MANY OF THE BAND MEMBERS PLAYED SEVERAL DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS.
MANY OF THE BAND MEMBERS PLAYED SEVERAL DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS.
WE COULD HAVE LISTEN TO THE FIDDLE ALL NIGHT
WE COULD HAVE LISTEN TO THE FIDDLE ALL NIGHT
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