Posted tagged ‘Ed Sullivan’

Hearing My Papaw Helton Again After 30 Years

July 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 27, 2018

                    

I only knew one of my grandfathers. The other, my dad’s dad, died in a mining accident in the southeast corner of Kentucky long before I was even a possibility. 

My Papaw Helton, however, was distinctive in personality, the governor of his family’s domain, and the source of various opinions that were mostly anchored to common sense…mostly!

My sister made me a DVD copy of an interview Papaw Helton had done with my cousin, Matthew Helton, back in 1989. Papaw was 89 at the time of the interview and lived another couple of years. He had been born on the eastern Kentucky farm in 1898 where he lived almost his entire life. In fact, the front sitting room where he was delivered was also the same room where each of his six children were born. Knowing my Mama Helton she went to the chicken coop and killed a chicken for a celebration dinner a few hours after delivering. No epidurals were used in Oil Springs, Kentucky back in those days, although there was probably a bottle of bourbon whiskey somewhere close…for medicinal purposes!

When you haven’t heard your Papaw’s voice for thirty years it’s causes a flood of emotions to rise up from the reservoir of memories. My Papaw was a proud and stoic “feller” (his pronunciation). He was suspicious of any new inventions that were meant to improve the quality of a person’s life. (I think I was ten years old when he and Mamaw decided to finally get indoor plumbing! Until then you battled the spiders in the outhouse, which caused you to “hold your water” a bit longer before seeking relief!) 

I remember the story of a salesman stopping by the farmhouse looking to sell a satellite dish…one of those huge ones that stuck out like a sore thumb! He explained what the dish could do, how many TV channels it could pick up, and all. Back in those days Mamaw and Papaw had a little TV that could pick up two stations, and one of them so fuzzy you weren’t sure if you were watching a baseball game or “The Price Is Right”!

The salesman thought he had a good prospective sale and then my Papaw asked him how much this “deesh” cost? 

“Mr. Helton, it’s only nineteen ninety-five!”

“Nineteen ninety-five?” He relayed that conversation to us with the comment, “Good Lord, son! He made it sound like a twenty dollar bill!” No sale was made and my grandparents continued to receive two television stations. They never ever saw Ed Sullivan with good complexion on TV!

On the DVD Matthew keeps peppering Papaw with questions about politics, life, his siblings, where he worked, who his favorite president was, his only plane ride ever, and the fearlessness of Matthew’s father, my Uncle George, on the trip they all took together by auto to California and back. 

“Your daddy wanted to stop at every place we came to on the way!” Papaw exclaims, not in an affirming way. “And he wanted to go to the top of Pike’s Peak. Lord God, there weren’t any guardrails along that road and I just about put my foot through the floorboard on the way down and wore out my britches! I said, Lord God, if you get me down from here I’ll never go up again!”

The sound of his voice is like eating comfort food. It’s satisfaction for the soul, a return to an earlier time that was uncomplicated and certain. With Papaw life wasn’t gray. Things were mostly black and white. Either you were or you weren’t…there wasn’t any “almost.” A person was either right or wrong, and, of course, what was right depended on my Papaw’s view of things. 

And I realize that who I am today still has his definite imprint upon it, and that’s a very good thing!

Impersonating Familiar Voices

August 2, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       August 2, 2017

                               

When I was a young boy growing up in the Bluegrass State our family had a Sunday night routine of going to the Sunday evening service at Central Baptist Church in Winchester, coming home and having mom or dad pop some popcorn, and then sitting in front of the Philco and watching The Ed Sullivan Show. I was always hoping for certain guests on the program like Jackie Vernon or Topo Gigio. Sometime during the evening I’d do my Ed Sullivan impersonation and say “Tonight we’ve got a really big “shhooowww”!”, and I would say “show” like the host was known for pronouncing the word. My Ed Sullivan impersonation was my best act during those days. Once in a while I’d pretend to be Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy, or John Wayne, complete with his familiar strut, but Mr. Sullivan was my go-to.

In later years I impersonated my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even my mom, but Ed Sullivan was the trailblazer for me. My parents would express their amazement, real or pretend, at how close to the real thing I sounded. I practiced saying “Topo Gigio” frequently, perfecting my modulation and inflection.

BUT I could never quite be Ed Sullivan! Of course, in the later years when he was still doing his show he looked like death warmed over, but it wasn’t his appearance that I was after. It was his voice. I thought it was cool to sound like him.

We seem to do that with the voice of God, also! There’s a tendency to want to make something sound like it’s of God and from God. People are often impressed by prophetic voices with the right rhythm to them. They get carried away by the utterances rather than the truth!

Unlike Ed Sullivan, it seems much easier for people to be fooled by the impersonation of the Holy than some other celebrity. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become so distant from Him that we are easily suckered into a scheme that goes amiss!

Or maybe it’s because we’re so starved for a word from the Lord that we’ll believe anything! And so churches are led down a promising pathway…and hope-depraved people are given a word of potential, egotistic pastors continually hear God’s leadings that no one else can hear, and shallow believers are helpless to discern what is of God and what isn’t!

The impersonation of the things of God and the action verbs of God leave us with a church that becomes cynical towards God.

“Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” We’ve been fooled by the impersonations of God too many times, and a number of people have decided they will never be fooled again…even by the real voice!