Headed down life's crooked road
Lots of things I never knowed
Because of me not knowin', I now pine . . .
Should have read that detour sign
When I was young, my parents used to go out to dinner most Saturday nights with our next-door neighbors. (Our neighbor managed a local liquor store, and the guy really knew his merchandise. I think he and his wife were the store's two best customers.)
Their usual Saturday-night destination was a Joplin supper club called Hidden Acres, which has been closed for a decade or so (although the building still stands). I was invited to join them once or twice a year, which meant putting on a coat and tie, ordering a "Roy Rogers" (a Coke served with a long-stemmed cherry and a swizzle stick) for my aperitif, and feasting on a bacon-wrapped ground sirloin (not hamburger!) steak with a baked potato. According to the menu below, that delicacy went for $1.65 -- not bad.
After we finished our meal, I would dance once or twice with my mother. When I was in the sixth grade, I took weekly ballroom dancing lessons with quite a few of my schoolmates. Thinking about that experience today causes me to have hot flashes and break out in flop sweat, although I don't think I was embarrassed at the time. I think I thought I was a pretty good dancer and a pretty cool guy back then.
I was enough of a show-off to enjoy the attention the adults gave me when I danced with her. I was taller than she was, which helped me feel like I cut a pretty dashing figure on the Hidden Acres dance floor. (I was six feet tall when I was 13, with size 12A feet. That certainly made shopping for school shoes easy. I could get black Florsheim wing-tips, or I could get brown Florsheim wing-tips . . . or I could go barefooted.)
|Hidden Acres dinner menu|
I remember my parents dancing quite a bit those Saturday evenings, although I do think my mother enjoyed it more than my father. They were both attractive people who were in good shape, and were better-than-average dancers. (I assume that they were self-taught. Both of them grew up during the Depression in families of very modest means -- especially my father. He was one of seven children, and was barely nine years old when his father died in 1934. Ballroom dancing lessons would have been an impossible luxury when he was in sixth grade.)
The one song my parents always requested from the pianist/vocalist at Hidden Acres -- his name was Clint Harrison -- was "Detour." Mr. Harrison died earlier this year -- click here to read his obituary.
"Detour (There's A Muddy Road Ahead)" was written in 1945 by Paul Westmoreland, who recorded it with his Western swing band that year. David Allan Coe once said that real country songs were always about trucks, trains, prison, mama, and/or getting drunk. "Detour" goes the prison route -- the song is about the road (or the detour) not taken, which resulted in the singer spending five years in jail.
Spade Cooley's band (Tex Williams was the vocalist) had a big hit with "Detour" in 1946. Three other versions of the song also made it to the top 10 that year, so it seems that the song was extraordinarily popular.
|My parents on their 65th anniversary|
My parents were married in 1947. (Last month, I flew to Joplin, Missouri, to help them celebrate their 65th anniversary -- think about that number for a minute, boys and girls.) I thought that they might have danced to "Detour" in their courtin' days, when the song was new and very popular. But when I asked them, they said they didn't remember hearing the song until they started going to Hidden Acres.
My mother says she liked it because it was a great song to dance to, but the lyrics are really quite appropriate for them. Like the singer of "Detour," they stayed on the same road they started down, despite the detour signs. The singer regretted not detouring from the path he (or she) had taken, but I don't think my parents did.
No matter how well you think you know your parents, of course, they undoubtedly have some secrets that would surprise you. But I never got any hint that my parents ever regretted that they ignored any detour signs that popped up after they tied the knot, and instead stayed on the road they had started down in 1947.
My parents, my sister, and I were watching TV the night of their anniversary when my father announced that he believed he would go to bed. (That's the way we talk in Joplin: "Well, I believe I'll go to bed.") It was about nine o'clock, which is quite a bit earlier than most people go to sleep, but he's always been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy.
My mother shocked us by commenting that he certainly hadn't gone to sleep at nine o'clock on that date 65 years earlier, when they were honeymooning in Branson. (Oh my!)
When I wasn't eating anniversary cake or reminiscing with my parents or sister that weekend, I was walking the streets of Joplin. In an upcoming 2 or 3 lines, I'll bring you up to date on what my hometown looked like one year after an EF5 tornado hammered it.
One final note: today is my father's 87th birthday.
Here's Patti Page's 1951 version of "Detour (There's A Muddy Road Ahead)":
Here's a video that melds footage of her singing "Detour" on her TV show in 1956 and also in 1998. While her 1951 recording was Western-swing style, with lots of pedal steel guitar, these performances feature big-band accompaniment.
Here's a link you can use to buy a copy of the song from Amazon: