Greenbrier Remembrances

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Chuck Mangion's Girlfriend


This is from 1973 or 1974.
I saw Chuck's name in recent bulletin and remembered a funny story. Chuck always walked and talked with a swagger. He had a picture of a pretty blonde girl in the mirror in his room and we were all impressed when he said it was his girlfriend. However, one day I picked up some photos that I had had developed from a roll of film (remember film??) and when I opened the envelope, I nearly fell over. The first picture was the same picture of Chuck's girlfriend! I wondered for a brief second how I got her photo, but when I pulled the picture up, I could see the Kodak logo at the bottom. She was part of an advertising campaign. All Chuck had done was cut off the Kodak part of the picture. Needless to say, we had fun with this. I said "hey, Chuck, I've got your girlfriend's picture, too." The picture disappeared , but he still kept telling us stories about a girlfriend...



Homecoming 1958 ....
Colonel John made it clear that he would tolerate no after-hour parties, but the boys in the band had collected a lot of money from a "cuss box" and by the time homecoming came around so much money was collected that it was spent on a foot locker full of food.
So in our infinite wisdom, despite being warned, we decided to have a feast at 4 AM in the band room.
As I recall, it consisted mostly of potato chips, donuts, and soft cider. (What could be better at 4 AM?)
Unfortunately, Colonel Turley saw the whole thing and submitted the names to Colonel John.
And even more unfortunately, Colonel John was not in a good mood that afternoon because Staunton kicked our butts in football, something like 34-0.
After the game came an announcement that most of the cadets in the band were to report to Colonel John's office. We did so, and while we were standing at attention, the first thing he said was, "Everyone in here who isn't already a private, is now!) He then dismissed us and told us to report for walking the beat.
After the first half hour, roll was called and the first guy answered, "Here sir, how many sir?"
The answer: "Ninety-nine and a half." We had each received 200 demerits, the most you could get without being expelled from school.
We spent the rest of that autumn walking the beat, but five weeks later everyone's rank was restored.
Everyone, that is, except one cadet who shall remain nameless, but he had been my assistant squad leader and was not seen or reported during that 4 AM party, so he got promoted above me to platoon guide.
No one turned him in, but during formations when he was inspecting me and my appearance wasn't up to snuff, he would observe that my belt buckle wasn't properly shined, or I didn't have a "spiffy" in my shirt collar. To which I replied, "Uh-huh, so what are you going to do about it?" And he would get this defeated look and say, "Well, now that I think about it, you actually look okay, so I guess you're getting a merit for excellent appearance."
They say there's a silver lining behind every cloud. All I can say about that is that I had a whole bunch of merit privileges that year :)

Sounds of the Brier


Who could ever forget the voice of Hosea Smith ‘57 calling the battalion to attention? Hosea was a college cadet, Battalion Commander, a big guy, and so was his voice. He started out with a low tone and eventually raised his voice as if he were singing calling us to attention, drawing it out for (what seemed like forever) as the company commanders joined in followed by the platoon leaders and then he bellowed out the command “tenshut”!

Years later I had the opportunity to become the Battalion Adjutant at the Sunday Parades under the tutelage of James Headman. Saturday nites before the parade he would take me out on the parade field and run me through the commands……

Morning Formation Report… “Band Company absent 2 men sir” …Downs and Benjamin headed for the Fort Lauderdale Spring Break.

Back to the “Sounds” you can’t forget.
“Beat Halt” after you had just hidden in the corner of the quad or upstairs hall to skip one round of walking.

“Out of your holes!”

The sound of Captain “Deadweight” Taylor’s fraternity paddle finding its mark on my backside. (while not dropping the ashes from his cigarette).
The sound of the drumbeat to and from Sunday Night’s Church Services.
The happy sounds of promotions being read and the unhappy sound of them being taken away.

The sound of the revile band playing “jingle bells” instead of the required tunes. The sound of demerits for doing the same.
The sound of the Bugler playing “call to quarters” and all the time watching to make sure everyone was in their room by the last note.
“Sounds “If you don’t like my apples, don’t shake my tree” ---WJM
“Every year about this time” WJM
“I’ve called your mother to come get you” WJM
Sounds from Col Rawl “I’ve called your mother and you are staying”

Silver Taps played at Christmas time, myself in the quad and John Benjamin in “D” Company Hall.

Major Keene’s remarks about your speech as he tore his glasses off in disgust, (mumbled “huurrumff”) and gave his own rendition of your talk.

Sounds from the piano played by Col Richardson after the key were adjusted by a cadet the nite before. The sounds of Col. Richardson jogging down the front formation court on his way to work.

The soft well-spoken voice of col Turley speaking to us at morning chapel the issuing demerits that nite.

Sounds coming from a new cadet being introduced to the GI shower committee dressed in their back rain jacket , rain caps covers, flip lops, brushes and all-purpose cleanser.

The Battalion singing the Recessional at graduation ceremony

Waiting in JoAnn’s office and hearing her say that Col John was not in a good mood. The sound that followed was of Chevrons being torn off your shirt sleeve.

Sounds of the faculty giving me a standing applause as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma from WJM.

And finally, the last sounds at graduations.
“Company commanders take charge of your companies for the last time”
“Company attention….. Fall out!”

Hope these brought back some of your own memories…. LEST WE FORGET!


1949 Spelling Test


Remember at Sunday Formation we had to have a letter prepared to send to our parents? This was my letter just as I wrote it on Sept. 23, 1949:

Dear Mom:
I got a wack on rump from Major Keen Wed. for getting 60 on my spelling test so thur. I wrote each of my words five times and today I made 100 in spelling because that paddle didn't feel so good.
Major Keen is my spelling and reading teacher, Valmer is are history and arithmetic teacher. Major Parsons is are English teacher. Capt. Staton is are Geography teacher.
The reason I could not use my stationery is because im writing this letter in English. I will put it the pretty onvelope win I get to my room. Ha: Ha:
The other day we had to formation and my button was lose and I got reported but the next time he would stick me.
I like school here, my uniform is pretty. you couldent beleave it had been used before. my roomates name is McCormick G. he lives in Ohio and he makes a good roonate except he talks to much.

Love Don

P.S. bring my baseball.

From North to South


In September, 1948, I traveled for the first time from a small farming community in the North to a small community in the South. It was an interesting experience and one I shall not soon forget. It was also my first experience in a military environment, which served me well during the Korean War. My experience at GMS broadened my understanding of people and greatly improved skills on study skills.

William Franklin George, Musician


Bill Hicks once referred to Franklin George as “A legend in his own time”. Alan Jabbour stated that Franklin was “one of the most influential musicians of the last half century in Appalachian music”. Calling Franklin George a musician is like calling ramp a vegetable: It’s true, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

William Franklin George, a life-time Wes Virginian, was born in Bluefield, WV October 6, 1928. He is the only child of a nurse from Berlin, Tennessee and a carpenter from near Ingleside in Mercer County, West Virginia. His early years were spent in Bluefield, WV where he attended school from first to tenth grade. He then enrolled in Greenbrier Military School where he was a member of the school’s winning Greenbrier Military School Rifle Team. He was considered a good student and he never “walked the beat”.

After graduation, Franklin returned home and was then drafted into the army where he served for two years. During this time he was the only piper (bagpipes) in the 4th infantry Division. After that he went to Concord College, graduating in 1957 with a B.S. in Biology. He and his wife Jane now live in Roane County (WV) in the small village of Walton, WV.

Music has been in the George family for many, many years. Franklin was exposed top the traditional music of Appalachia at a very young age. His father and his grandfather were both banjo picker and fiddlers. When he was only a little boy, too small for regular-sized instruments, his father made hi a small banjo and diddle. He recalls that on rainy days they would all tune up instruments and “set the rafter a-ringing with music”. Franklin was reared in the folk traditions of the region, falling initially under the musical influence of his grandfather, who is credited with his early musical education.

The first tunes he ever tried to pick out were on a piano. He could pick out tunes with one finger when he was about four years old. When he was around five he started taking piano lessons from Mill Ella Holroyd who lived in Athens. A he was waiting for his second or third lesson he heard one of Miss Ella’s students the same tune that he had been practicing. Frank said to his teacher, “She’s playing my tune but it’s in a different key”. And Miss Ella told Franklin’s mother, “You’re going to have trouble out of this one”.

Franklin began picking out tunes on the banjo by age seven and he was playing the fiddle by age nine. He placed second in the state of West Virginia in piano playing when he was nine. In addition to his musical family background Franklin seemed to have a natural talent for many musical instruments.

Franklin’s musical education received a large boost from outside the family when his father’s friend and fellow carpenter, Jim Farthing, began to play music with young Franklin. From about 1938 until Farthings death in 1962, Franklin had regular exposure to Farthing’s technique on the fiddle and to his knowledge of traditional mountain music. This exposure was the key influence in Franklin’s musical development. Farthing is given credit for Franklin’s mastery of the fiddle, an introduction to a large body of traditional music, and a style of playing different from what he had learned from his family.

Franklin became an accomplished musician, particularly in the authentic fiddle and banjo styles of southern West Virginia and neighboring southwestern Virginia. He has continued to play, teach, and mentor young and old alike in the traditions of Appalachian music, culture and history.

Franklin George is he most well-known and influential folk fiddler to come out of West Virginia. He’s one of the last to have learned his music in the traditional way, within his family and community. As a young man, Franklin sought out the legendary old-time musicians, men and women with their musical roots in the last century. Frank learned the spirit and the detail of their music , and made passing that music on his life’s work. By the time Franklin was in his thirties, he was well known in the field of genuine mountain music in the past 30 years has learned some of the music of Franklin George.

Franklin’s interest in music is rooted in his fascination with people, he remembers the past masters of old-time music as more than musicians. He remembers their family histories, their personal habits, their dogs,; he knows who they played music with in their early days, and where they got their instruments and strings and whiskey; he repeats the stories they told, and the stories told about them. No one but Franklin George plays music from such an understanding of the people who produced it. When Frank fiddles, ghosts dance. Frank knows more than anyone about the little differences which once twisted Appalachian music in such a rich tangle of local styles.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, when other young musicians with similar backgrounds were opting for the newer styles of bluegrass and country music, Franklin was one of that rare breed who stuck with the traditional style.

Franklin seems to have the temperament of the early pioneers. His independent spirit searches for expression free of conformity’s pressures. He is a man of sly humor flowing from a warm humanity. In addition to being an excellent fiddler, banjo picker, and bagpipe player, he is also a mountain philosopher.

At a time when conformity pressures squeeze so many into patterns, he remains remarkably independent and manages to spend much of his time doing things he really likes. Franklin is a student of history which he sees as valuable in understanding present day problems. He is a book lover who respects the vital understanding to be had sometimes only from books.

In 1958, Franklin attended the Galax Fiddlers Convention where he met other fiddlers and old-time musicians. This was an introduction to other fiddlers who played the old-time style that Franklin had been playing during the years when he was learning. He began to attend many of these old-time festivals--- and he began winning the festival contests playing both fiddle and banjo.

He played in many of these festivals including the Union Grove Old-time Fiddlers Contest, The Galax Festival where he won second place, and the West Virginia Folk Festival at Glenville each summer, where he won first place in both fiddling and banjo picking contests for three years in a row. Franklin is also quite talented with the bagpipes. At the West Virginia Folk Festival parade he was quite a figure marching with his kilt and tam while playing his bagpipe music. Another of Franklin’s interest is his old muzzle-loading rifle which he often has with him during Festival contests.

He makes a living at varied things. He particularly likes outside work, and his eyes light up as he tells of experiences working with mountain surveyors in knee-deep snows and vast wilderness. The idea of being tied to a job with hourly wages is distasteful to Franklin.

But let an announcement of a fiddling or banjo picking gathering get around and Franklin’s interest is afire. Frank and his wife Jane met at a craft festival at Cedar Lakes in 1966. At this time, Jane was a West Virginia extension agent. She was so impressed with his talent that she invited him to participate in the first Mountain Heritage extension program at Hawk’s Nest. She introduced him to everyone in West Virginia involved in this program. Before this time, Franklin had been attending one festival in West Virginia, the one held at Glenville, West Virginia.
Franklin’s life has always revolved around music. Besides fiddle and banjo, he has played the hammered and plucked dulcimers, bagpipes and harmonica. He has performed at festival and craft fairs. He and his wife Jane have given lectures/demonstrations on traditional mountain music and dance to young people. He also has taught fiddle, banjo, and dulcimer for the Mountain Heritage School in Union, West Virginia. One of the most important contributions that Franklin and Jane George have made is the Mountain Heritage Youth Programs that they developed. Begun in March, 1968, as an experiment, the idea quickly captured the attention of junior and senior high youth. The Georges did extensive work with the 4-H program in West Virginia getting hundreds of youth interested in their roots as a result. Many of these youth have learned to dance, play an instrument, or perform a craft as a result of the teachings of Franklin and Jane George.

Franklin now stands at the top rank of West Virginia’s old-time musicians. He has made a conscious study of the musical traditions he excels in, tracing his own musical origins through the direct and indirect influence of specific musicians for many generations.

He has mentored particular groups of younger musicians, especially in British Isles and Appalachian string band music, and his message to them is to “keep it pure”. As an outspoken man, he will not tolerate less.

Franklin was born in the midst of cultural change but he chose to play old-style. He has performed all over West Virginia at public and private meetings some of which are: The Vandalia Gatherings, The Sunrise Festivals, The Mountain State Art and Craft Fairs, 88 other local fairs and festivals, many youth camps, 18 conferences and national meetings (state colleges and universities; National American Legion Convention, National Music Educators Conference, Smithsonian Institution as well as local meetings). He was featured on three foreign tours as part of a group presentation.

He has been recorded many times; once for a West Virginia series which was shown to all 8th grade students in West Virginia schools. Franklin is not entirely a soloist. He has performed with or for many celebrities including Dr. Patrick Gainer, Billy Edd Wheeler, John Jackson, Perl Buck, Jesse Stuart, Tommy Jarrell, Libby Cotton, Janette Carter, Jim Comstock and Alan Jabbour (the director of the organization which collected recording for the Library of Congress).

In response to an interview question from Michael Meador concerning where he had performed, Franklin gave the following answer: “Outside of the state, places like Yale, Harvard, the Smithsonian, Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, University of Chicago, Port Townsend outside Seattle Washington, Black Point, north of San Francisco. Port Townsend was where they had the American Fiddle Styles Workshop. In this state, I’ve played at Marshall, WVU, and Morris Harvey College. There’ve been so many schools---everything from kindergarten to universities all over West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Probably every college in West Virginia. Another place was Southern Methodist University at a real good festival. Once a lady from Voice of America interviewed me and Aunt Jenny Wilson from Logan County for a program called “Critics Choice” and beamed us around the world.

Franklin has received any awards including the prestigious Vandalia Award in 1994, and the Footbridge award from FOOTMAD in 2005. In 1983, he was featured on the cover of Goldenseal. Through the Great Depression, Internet and all of the modern pressures to change, Franklin has remained true to his musical heritage. One only has to “Google” Franklin George to find Volumes of references to him and his music.

Those cold winter nights....


Do you remember those cold winter nights when it was required that we keep our window open. It was the rule that we keep a window open every night regardless of season. However, those West Virginia winter nights, and those cold concrete rooms with no heat made my business all the more in demand. I charged twenty five cents a week per room to go all over the dorm and quadrangle and shut the windows after the officer in charge (faculty and cadet) had gone to bed.

The business was most successful. In those days (probably 1946 or so) a quarter was a lot of money. That Christmas for the first time I had saved enough money to buy my mother a meaningful present, a Waring Blender. 46 was the first year the Waring Blender was on the market. Why I was not caught plying my trade in the middle of the night is a good question. Unfortunately the business was seasonal and come spring time I went back to sleeping all night.

Mr. Zicafoose was in command of the furnace which heated the entire school and there was no heat till he fired up the monster furnace in the morning. I'll never forget how cold those rooms were till the radiators started banging the welcome news that heat was on the way.