My wife and I have been going to a Country Music venue about an hour away from our home for twenty-five years. It was formerly a movie theater (1940s–1950s) and was later converted into a place where local citizens could perform (1975). It was conceived by a local man that went by the moniker, “Uncle Jimmy Wickham”. His birth name was James Wickham Smith. He, along with a sister and two nieces, developed a plan, talked with the owner of the abandoned movie theater, aptly titled “Donks Theater” (after the owner), and signed a lease. They advertised it as “Virginia’s Little Ole Opry” and set the ticket price at $8 for adults & $2 for children. Shows were scheduled every two weeks on Saturday night (8pm–11pm) and the house band was named “Shades of Country”. The show’s MC was “Uncle Jimmy” and it always started by his telling a few “Hee Haw” type jokes. That got the audience laughing and was a perfect transition into the show.
Uncle Jimmy passed away on March 21st, 2019 at the age of 81. A lot of hearts were saddened to hear of his passing, it wasn’t expected. We really never get ready for death even when we know that it may be near.
There were a lot of people at his funeral and a lot of fine things were said about him. One of his nieces gave a 20-minute eulogy that was outstanding. As I sat there and listened to her, the thought crossed my mind that I should have my wife track her down when I pass on and get her to say some of those nice things about me. Some people just have a way of saying things that convey a simple truth. The simple truth in this case was about a man that many people loved and how his life was an inspiration for others to follow. His two children are living proof that he was a wise and decent man, and I see so much of him in each of them.
I think the one thing we all do is spend our entire life sketching an unalterable portrait of ourselves. Uncle Jimmy accomplished that job extremely well.
Several years ago (1994), he penned the following poem, entitled, “My Soul is Heaven Bound”, and I think it is excellent:
“As I look back in time to childhood days,
I remember sunshine, flowers and warm, smoky haze
across the fields and meadows.
This time was special to me.
As I lay on my back and watched the clouds float across the sky,
‘Twas then I wondered where my soul would be should I die.
Then, one day I met a man named Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
And since that time The Spirit of the Living God has lived in me,
And I know my soul is heaven bound.”
After the graveside interment, we went back to his church to celebrate his life by eating a lot of excellent food. Most of the people there were family members and local friends of Uncle Jimmy’s. My wife and I, living so far away, only knew a few of them, mostly the ones that performed onstage at “Donks”. We left the church that day with a cloud of sadness hanging restlessly over our heads, knowing that even though the “Show Must Go On”, it wouldn’t be quite the same without Uncle Jimmy.
Frank Shortt says:
Nice accolade to all the Uncle Jimmy’s of Country Music. Well said.