Editor’s note: The article below is one of two in this issue reprinted from the vol. 1, no. 8 issue of the National Sacred Harp Newsletter (January 1986). This piece originally appeared on pages 6–7. It has been edited to correct typos, but otherwise I have left it just as it appeared.
To Connecticut and Back—on a Bus—with Thirty-Nine Friendly Happy People—with Plenty of Fun, Fellowship, Food, and Singing along the Way!!
Excerpts taken from journals kept by Lonnie Rogers and Joyce Walton
Sacred Harp Singers boarded the Oxford Band Bus on September 30th at Oxford, Bremen, and Atlanta. We headed north and made our first stop at the famous Tallulah Gorge. We ate our bag lunches as we traveled through the mountains to Cherokee, NC. After browsing around in the gift shops we went across the Smokies to a red carpet welcome at the Glenstone Lodge in Gatlinburg.
On Tuesday we loaded the bus and as we tried to maneuver the bus out of the parking lot with a bell boy directing us, a run-down, decrepit building popped up in our path. We put a small dent in the bus and took three shingles off the building. After the police made his duty call we went on our merry way in the fog and rain. We had a beautiful drive through Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley and stopped for lunch at Durham’s Family Restaurant for a great lunch at a reasonable price. We traveled on to New Market, Virginia where the Quality Inn marquee read, “WELCOME SACRED HARP SINGERS.” We were invited into the lobby for apple cider and fried apple fritters. The hotel sales rep came on the bus and drew three names from a basket. Lois Green, Charlene Wallace, and Joyce Walton won nice mementos of the hotel.
Wednesday morning we left early in the rain. The atmosphere inside the bus was warm and friendly. We traveled through a corner of West Virginia and a very small part of Maryland, crossed the Potomac River and entered Pennsylvania. As we came off the interstate in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania the bus gasped and died. With the help of the State Police, two mechanics, and the diligent work of Don we were on our way to Lancaster after a two-hour “rest stop.” We sat on the bus and sang and visited a restaurant near-by to get coffee and visit the “Necessary Rooms.” We picked up a sandwich and ate as we rode through some of the battlefields at Gettysburg. At Lancaster our guide joined us and we went directly to the Pretzel Factory for a tour, then to the Amish Homestead and Amish farmlands. Our guide did an excellent job on her commentary about the customs and lives of the Amish. We visited a market and went in a driving rain to Bird-in-Hand to the Family Farm Restaurant where we had a delicious meal. We then checked into the Brunswick Motor Inn for two nights. In spite of bus trouble and rain everyone remained calm, patient, and happy.
On Thursday we set out in the rain with our guide to go into the state of Delaware to visit Hagley Museum and Longwood Gardens. Both attractions were built with the DuPont money. Black powder was a source of much of the DuPont wealth. The old black powder plant, the DuPont mansion, and other buildings were part of the outdoor museum. Our guides had never heard of Sacred Harp singing so at the end of the tour they came on our bus and we sang No. 63 for them. We went to Longwood Gardens for lunch and a tour of the Conservatory. The beauty of the flowers (especially the orchids) defy description. A few brave souls braved the weather and toured a portion of the acres open to the public. We stopped at the Mushroom Museum. There we saw how mushrooms are grown and we browsed in the gift shop before returning to Lancaster. That night we went to Plain and Fancy Restaurant for an “out of this world” meal. We helped Joyce celebrate her birthday.
On Friday we left early and drove through Reading, Allentown, and Bethlehem. We saw a lot of fall color as we drove through the Pocono Mountains. On our way to Port Jervis, N.Y. we suddenly became the Oxford High School Band when we were traveling a non-commercial route. We crossed the Delaware River and went into New York. We ate at McDonald’s at Newburg, N.Y. and then headed toward Connecticut. We crossed the Hudson River and enjoyed the scenery and snoozed a little before we reached our motel in Middletown about 4:30 pm. On Friday night we went to Wesleyan University to sing. Hester Edwards was asked to serve on the arranging committee. It was good to join our New England friends again for a marvelous singing.
On Saturday we went back to the chapel at Wesleyan University to spend another day singing. It is a delightful experience to join with the New England singers to sing. They are so young, vivacious, end seem to enjoy singing so much that the joy rubs off on everybody. The rains came in torrents at lunch time.
On Sunday we had a beautiful, sunny, cool day. We took a very scenic route through Connecticut and then went into New York and on to New Jersey. We had our devotional period on the bus and Jap and Joyce sang some duets. We noted the restoration going on in the Bronx and glimpsed the skyline of New York City. We had our usual rest stop at the Vince Lombardi. We were cruising along in New Jersey when the State Police pulled us over and presented us with a little token because we drove in the left lane too long. We arrived in Washington in the early afternoon. We checked into the Twin Bridges Marriott and had a while to rest before we went on our illuminated tour of Washington. We were impressed with the quiet simplicity and dignified appearance of the Vietnam Memorial. Several of our group found names of relatives and friends on the wall. We had an excellent guide who took us to the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Washington Memorials. We drove by the Capitol, government buildings, the White House, Kennedy Center, Watergate Complex, and last the very touching Iwo Jima Memorial.
On Monday the hotel sales rep came aboard the bus end gave three gifts to members of the group. We went for a very interesting and informative tour of Mount Vernon. A king and queen for the day were selected. Catherine Griffith was the queen and Jeff Sheppard was the king. Their rules and decrees created a lot of fun as we traveled along. After lunch at Morrison’s in Richmond we headed toward Burlington and the Outlet Stores. We had a red carpel greeting and a welcome sign on the marquee. Most of the ladies hurried off to shop at the Outlet Mall.
Tuesday morning we were ready to head toward home but the bus failed to cooperate. We had to wait until a new battery was delivered and installed. The people at the hotel were very considerate and helpful. They opened doors to our rooms and let us wait inside while the bus was being fixed. They brought out a box of apples for us to nibble on while we waited. We left about two hours late. We stopped at a neat place in Gastonia, N.C. for lunch. After lunch we had our final singing session. Those who wanted to got on the microphone and gave their impressions about the trip. Ruth thanked the group for their cooperation and patience. We thanked the Craigs for coming from Texas to join us. We said our good-byes as each group left us. We decided that it was a wonderful trip with a fine bunch of people……
Those Who Went on the Bus to Connecticut
Hester Edwards, Daisy Roberts, Evelyn Harris, Alice Edwards, Catherine Griffith, Myrtle Howard, Lovella McKay, Charlene Wallace, Revy Williamson, Carlene Griffin, Gladys McGraw, Mozelle Smith, Lois Green, Jo Laminack, Ruth McCormick, Berta Woods, Evelyn Dillashaw, Hoyt and Mary Lou Cagle, E. C. Bowen, Don Bowen, Jap and Joyce Walton, Everett and Moena Denney, Lonnie and Vivian Rogers, Homer and Katherine Benefield, Jeff and Shelbie Sheppard, Ed and Alicie Craig. Lois Dothard, Ophelia Thompson, Inez Moncrief, Ruth and Leman Brown, Tour Directors, and Don Blackwell, Bus Driver.
Some Observations Made by Lonnie Rogers
“It is amazing how much difference it makes in the sound of the songs when sung by all southern voices and when it is sung by the New England singers. The singing sounded real good. When one of the New England group led and did a pretty good job, everyone really clapped their hands.”
“The New England singers have improved a lot in their singing since the bus has been taking southern singers up there. There are some beautiful voices in the group of New England singers.”
“It is hard to comprehend how they (New England singers) can have so much interest and meet as often as they do when they do not have the heritage and tradition that we have down our way.”
“It is amusing how much difference there is in our lives and backgrounds and food and how it is all forgotten when we get together to sing.”