Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother
1990-1996 - June at the "Grand Ole Opry"
- Published on Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:57
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
(The Stage of the Grand Ole Opry)
The "Grand Ole Opry" and Country Western Music
The "Grand Ole Opry" is sometimes called the "Home of Country Western Music." June has always loved the unique sounds of the traditional Country - Western, Blue Grass, and old time Gospel music. Most of us who have roots in and grew up on farms, relate to this form of music. It is almost a part of our heritage. This music is linked to and influenced the early "Rhythm and Blues." Ray Charles is noteworthy for his Rhythm and Blues music in the form of "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music". (1962) His music had its roots in the 1950's and finalized in the early 1960's. It has almost no relationship to what is now regarded as the modern Country and Western music. Other cousins in the Country-Western family of music forms are "Western Swing" (1920's) and "Rockabilly." (1950's)
June's father Henry Rolstad played Country-Western Music with his violin at the local barn dances. June's family would tune into the "Grand Ole Opry" on Saturday nights as did my own father and mother.
It was because June and I had a mutual love for this music , that "Our Song" naturally evolved from it.. June and I started going together in early 1951, when Patti Page ("The Singing Rage") had her National No. 1 hit song, "The Tennessee Waltz". We danced to the music of this beautiful Waltz many times. It became "Our Song". At that time we did not realize that the star of the song "Patti Page" was also born on the exact same day and date (Tuesday November 8th, 1927) that June was born. What a great coincidence - or was it?
Click the link below to hear Patti Page sing our song, The Tennessee Waltz.
For years, June and I would attend weekly "Blue Grass" jam sessions every Saturday in Spring Lake Park - until early in 2005. June's Alzheimer's disease had progressed to the stage where June's care required the services of an Alzheimer's facility. June particularly loved the violin music that reminded her both of her father and her uncle Jake who also played a violin.
June's multiple visits to Nashville have resulted in her attending the “Grand Ole Opry” in 1990, 1992 and 1996.
On two of her visits to Nashville, June stayed at the rather awesome and beautiful Opryland Hotel.
Country Stars Seen In Person by June
June has seen personal appearances and performances by several members of the “Country Western Hall of Fame" at the Opry, including the following :
Little Jimmy Dickens
June has also seen personal performances by the following members of the Grand Ole Opry during June's three visits :
Mel Tillis and, Pam Tillis
Grand Ole Opry 1990
June's first trip to Nashville in 1990, was for the purpose of attending a forensic science conference. This was the 75th Annual Educational Conference of the International Association for Identification. The conference site was the Opryland Hotel where June stayed during the conference. The conference dates were July 29th through August 3rd, 1990.
(Photo below right - June and Stan- August 1990 - their first "Grand Ole Opry" show)
At the time of the conference, the Opryland Hotel was ranked as the 12th largest hotel in the country. It is described as a "Resort Hotel" with 1891 rooms. It is a huge hotel with the most awesome of facilities. One has to see it to believe it. Some of the features include the "Cascades", a massive, glass-crowned interior space highlighted by a palatial two acre waterscape of lakes, streams, dancing waterfalls, a floating restaurant and a revolving lounge. The "Conservatory" which is an enclosed tropical garden with winding footpaths, a rock waterfall and a seven story Crystal Gazebo fountain. It is all beneath more than two acres of what is described as "Victorian style skylights" seven stories high.
The hotel is next door to the "Grand Ole Opry" and the Opryland Theme Park. It is actually 15 miles from downtown Nashville but only 10 miles from the airport. The regular rooms are of three types. Standard, King and Conservatory. Not knowing if we would ever be back again, we opted for the "Conservatory" (Garden Terrace) rooms.
June and I were both age 62 at the time of our first visit to the Opryland Hotel and to the "Grand Ole Opry".
On the evening of the day of arrival, (Sunday) June and I attended a President's Reception aboard the General Jackson Showboat. The reception included a show boat performance.
The dress was formal. June also attended a later conference banquet on Friday night the 3rd of August. This affair was also formal. June did not have any formal evening wear nor did I have a Tuxedo. However, the interpretation of formal did include dresses and business suits. Dress similar to ours we found to be the dress for most of the guests who attended the reception and banquet. (Apparently the conference organizers were simply trying to eliminate jeans and informal sport wear.}
June made all the arrangements and purchased tickets for us to attend one of the evening performances of the "Grand Ole Opry". While I was originally not that enthused about going, I quickly became a "Grand Ole Opry" fan. It was truly a delightful evening. We later attended performances in 1992 and 1996. Roy Acuff was the MC on the night of our first "Grand Ole Opry" performance
(Photo below right - Dolly Parton on June's flight - Nashville to Minneapolis, 4 August 1990)
June did not see Dolly Parton at the "Grand Ole Opry" but did meet her on our Northwest Airlines flight back to Minneapolis at the end of the week.
Apparently Dolly Parton had an appearance in the Twin Cities and happened to schedule her flight on the same Northwest Airlines flight that June and I were on. June found Dolly Parton to be a very friendly and gracious person. She freely visited with passengers and posed for pictures. June did not have her camera available but a fellow conference delegate and a friend from St. Paul (John Douthit - Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) did have a camera and was kind enough to give us a copy of his photo of Dolly Parton.
Dolly Parton's Life
Dolly was born on January 19th, 1946 at Sevierville, Tennessee. Dolly was the fourth (4th) child in a large family of 12 children. According to Dolly, her family was "dirt poor" and lived tin a dilapidated one room cabin on Locust Ridge, Tennessee. This was a small town in the "Great Smokey Mountains" of Sevier County. Dolly's church experiences were as a Pentecostal. Music was an important part of her early church experiences. Dolly has described her grandfather as a Pentecostal "Holly Roller" preacher. Dolly began performing at the age of 9 years by singing on local Radio and TV programs in East Tennessee. At the age of 13 years she had her first recording on a minor label and also appeared on the "Grand Ole Opry". It was at the "Grand Ole Opry" that she first met Johnny Cash who encouraged her to go on with her career. She graduated from High School in 1964 and moved to Nashville. Her first real success was as a songwriter. Her career as a successful singer quickly followed. In over 4 decades she remains one of the most successful female artists in the history of Country Music. She is currently referred to a the "Queen of Country Music." Dolly has 25 Number 1 singles and a record of 41 top 10 Country albums. Her music is classified as Country, Country Pop, Bluegrass and Country Gospel. Some of Dolly's most popular songs were and are "Joshua", "Jolene" and her single hit "Coat of Many Colors" which has become her signature song.
Grand Ole Opry 1992
June's next visit to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry was in 1992. The occasion for this visit was to attend the Conference of Expert Witnesses, Litigation Consultants and Attorneys. On this visit to Nashville, June stayed at the very nice but older hotel, the Lowes Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in downtown Nashville. This hotel was the site for the conference.
Because the conference dates were December 4th through December 6th, the hotel was richly decorated for Christmas. June was impressed on how this old but comfortable hotel was so very beautifully decorated for Christmas - June's favorite time of the year.
(Photo below right - "Grand Ole Opry" - December 1992 - Porter Wagoner is the evening MC.)
The EWLCA forensic conference organizers made tickets available to the "Grand Ole Opry." June and I attended a Saturday night performance of the "Grand Ole Opry" at the end of the conference week.
June returned to Minneapolis on a NWA flight on the following day, a Sunday. However, there were no Dolly Parton's nor other celebrities on this flight .
Grand Ole Opry 1996
June's third and final visit to Nashville was in 1996. This time the visit was to attend the 48th Annual Conference of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Because the conference site was the Opryland Hotel, June was once again able to stay at this magnificent hotel. June's stay in Nashville and the Opryland Hotel was from Tuesday 20 February 1996 and until Saturday 24 February 1996. June was once again able to enjoy one of the special "Garden Terrace" rooms.
The welcoming reception on the evening of June's arrival included a special treat - a performance by Louise Mandrell. Again the conference organizers made "Grand Ole Opry" tickets available to conference attendees. June and I attended The "Grand Ole Opry" for the last time at the Friday night performance on 23 February 1996.
June and Alzheimer's
It was just two years later in January 1998 that the memory problems June had noted in 1997 were diagnosed to be early stage Alzheimer's and would start June's journey down that long dark road. Although June and I continued our forensic travels together for a number of years after that fateful day, the opportunity to visit Nashville did not come again. Unfortunately because of the nature of Alzheimer's disease, June was not able to enjoy memories of the fun times that she enjoyed in Nashville and the "Grand Ole Opry."
The "Grand Ole Opry" History
The "Grand Ole Opry" began as the WSM (Radio) Barn Dance in downtown Nashville on November 28th, 1925. The program director was George D. Hay who came from the National Barn Dance program at WLS Radio in Chicago. The opening featured a 77 year old fiddler named "Uncle Jimmy Thompson."
(Dolly Parton autographed the below picture "To June, Love, Dolly Parton". It was mailed from Nashville, Tennessee on 29 April 2010. Our granddaughter Gretchen Berg, has a business relationship with the Dolly Parton organization that in turn, facilitated this kind gesture from Dolly to June)
From this rather humble beginning, the "Grand Ole Opry" rapidly attracted large audiences. A move was made to larger quarters in October 1934 at the Hillsboro Theater. A second move on June 13, 1936 to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville. A third move shortly after was made to the War Memorial Auditorium adjacent to the State Capital. The previously free admission was changed to 25 cents in an effort to curtail the large crowds.
The growth continued unabated and on June 5th, 1943, the "Opry" moved to the historic Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman became home to the legends of Country - Western Music, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Hank Williams Sr., Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Martha Carlson, Lefty Frizell, Ray Price and a host of others. The "Opry" was nationally broadcast by NBC Radio Network from 1944-1956. The "Opry" first appeared on TV in October 1955 when ABC-TV aired an hour long TV on Saturday nights.
The Ryman continued as the home for the "Opry" until March 16th, 1974 when it moved to the 4,400 seat "Grand Ole Opry House" nine miles east of downtown Nashville and a part of the then "Opryland USA Theme Park." Currently at the same location, the "Opry" plays Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a winter run at the Ryman Auditorium.
Now that June is gone, I miss her so very much every day...I cannot describe the "hole in my life" that has resulted since this very special lady went to her heavenly home. She was one of God's greatest blessing in my life...Ray Price recorded a hit song in 1961 called "A Way to Survive"...when I listen to the words of this beautiful song it reminds me of my current life with June now gone...I dedicate this great song to June while I look forward to the day we will meet again:
Helen Russin - Ohio - (22 September 2014): "Very interesting! Beautiful picture of the two of you. The song sounds like it was written for you. Thanks for sharing."
Sylvia Sharon Ferguson Helton - Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada - (23 September 2014): "On our honeymoon we went to Nashville an stayed at the Grand Old Opry too...an the Tennessee Waltz was my Dad an Mom's favorite song also..."
Connie Lowers O'Brien - Decatur, Tennessee - (2 October 2014): "I love Dolly she is a very talented lady."
Bertha Dusenberry - Ohio - (2 Octber 2014): "Stan...I enjoy reading all your posts about you and June. I read last night about the Grand ole Opry, the songs...I listened closely to your favorite of thinking of June by Ray Price....No truer words spoken. Blessings to you my friend."
Catherine Jones-Hatcher - Richmond, Virginia - (3 January 2015): "As usual.. An informative easy read... I can just picture you and June at the Opry. Glad you have such great memories to share with us. I love reading them."
Keith Reeves - Azle, Texas - (13 March 2015): "What a great tribute to your loving Wife. Thank you once again for sharing your times together, good and sad. I can feel all the love for your wife June! I know she is so very proud of you Stan as we are also! Thank you and God Bless you."
Susan Kimball - York, Pennsylvania - (19 January 2016): " Beautiful and very informative Stan. You made me feel as if I was right there with you and June. My husband and I love "Keeper of the Stars"and when he hears it and I don't happen to be with him he calls me and plays a portion while singing along serenanding me. Love Conway and his songs Desporado is another favorite. Thank you Stan for an awesome tribute of Dolly and June."
Reader's Note: Readers are encouraged to read/review the other chapter's (31 chapters) in this story of June K. Berg's life. (Reminiscences of a Traveling Grandmother) Each chapter is intended to be a capsule view of a small segment of June's life and travels'.
It is also intended to be a small segment of history from a time period of World War II and the periods both pre and post World War II. You will find the history is accurate and continues to be updated as new records and photographs become available.
June, a very humble person would never consider her life worthy of a story. To me June has been a lady for "All Seasons". A very unique, bright and highly principled Christian lady. While June like everyone, has likes and dislikes, I have never found her to be uninterested or bored with any thing that life has presented her.
June was well traveled. She traveled to Europe eleven (11) times and made at least 100 trips in and around the United States. June would be included in Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation."
It has taken the horror of Alzheimer's to awaken me to fully plumb the depths, and examine the scope of this remarkable lady. After battling Alzheimer's for almost 12 years, an exhausted June was finally called home by God on October 23rd, 2008.
After an almost 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, early one morning in late October 2008, an exhausted June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words: "Come Home June!" As June lay like a wounded soldier on a battlefield, it was God's Angels that ushered June into a Heavenly Kingdom to the sound of a chorus of Angels...and into June's new home, a "Mansion on the Hilltop", where there is no pain, nor illness nor tears...June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website in the drop down menu under the "In Memoriam" label - just Click on: