- [S106] The Mountain Press, 4 Feb 2012.
'Store Britches' to be staged in Gatlinburg 70 years after it was first performed
by GAIL CRUTCHFIELD
Bill Hale (center), portraying Preacher Nathaniel Huskey, keeps the peace between Blake Chesson (left), playing John Haynes, and Ken Bailey, portraying Samuel Adams, as they practice a scene from “Store Britches.” The Feb. 17-18 production is a fundraiser for the Gatlinburg Garden Club’s efforts to restore the Lucinda Oakley Ogle cabin.
Photos by Gail Crutchfield
Laura Brooks (right) smiles at Tim Webb as they practice the roles of Mary Adams and Tim Whyte for the “Store Britches” play. As an understudy, Brooks was sitting in for Kacy Beth Hester.
Stephen Byrne (left) and Theresa Williams practice a scene from “Store Britches.” Williams portrays Granny in the play and Byrne portrays her grandson, Dick Adams.
GATLINBURG — By the time the curtain rises on the first of two performances of “Store Britches,” it will have been more than 70 years since the characters written by Lula Mae Ogle were last portrayed on stage.
The story of a grandmother’s efforts to keep her granddaughter from marrying a disreputable character who wears store-bought pants and paper collars will once again be told at 5 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18 at the American Legion on Highway 321, next to City Hall. The event is a fundraiser for the Gatlinburg Garden Club and its efforts to restore the Lucinda Oakley Ogle cabin, which was disassembled last year.
The parts are in storage until the club raises the funds to put it back to its original condition.
Tickets are $25 each. They can be purchased at the door or at All About You Hair Salon in Trentham Place, Sevier County Bank, Candle Cottage, Lorelei Candles and Anna Porter Public Library, all in Gatlinburg, or at the King Family Library in Sevierville.
That the club is using this particular play for its fundraiser is only fitting, since the last organization to produce the play was how the club got its start. The weaver’s guild performed the play as a fundraiser to provide grants for members who had no Social Security benefits or health insurance, said Frances Fox Shambaugh, Garden Club member. Members of the weaver’s guild later helped create the Garden Club, she said.
The play was lost in obscurity for years, until Shambaugh found reference to the weaver’s guild fundraising efforts. She searched for years to find a copy of the play but came up empty handed.
“I couldn’t find it and sort of gave up,” Shambaugh said. She told Sabrina Gray about her search, which turned out to be the right thing to do.
“She was like a dog with a bone and wasn’t going to give up,” Shambaugh said of the woman who is directing the 21st century performances.
Gray sought out help through The Mountain Press, with a column by editor Stan Voit leading to the location of the play. A tip led the sons of Lula Mae Ogle, Hugh and Lynn Ogle. Hugh Ogle wrote to Gray, including a copy of the play in his correspondence as well as some historic facts about his family.
When the play was written in the late 1930s or early ’40s, Hugh Ogle indicated his mother was legally blind but was still able to weave coverlets for the Arrowcraft Shop, serve as a “corresponding reporter” for the Knoxville News Sentinel and manage Ogle’s Creek Bend Motel on Baskins Creek Road.
Hugh Ogle apologized for any typograpical errors in the script, since it was produced on a typewriter and not on a modern-day computer complete with spell-check. But it wasn’t the typos that had the actors tripping over their tongues at first; it was the phonetics of the mountain-speak Ogle documented in the play. While it may have proved difficult at first, it’s something the actors have come to appreciate.
“It’s one thing that I’m thank for this play,” said Theresa Williams, who portrays Granny. “It brings back a time forgotten. You will encounter ballads and we’re practicing the old harp singing, and people haven’t heard this mountain speech in so long that they may even find trouble with the word.”
The program even includes a glossary of words used in the three-act play to help the audience interpret words or phrases they may not be familiar with. But one that won’t be in there, Williams said, is “perzactly,” which she said means not exactly.
Words like perzactly were hard to understand at first, Williams said. “Because they were older words that’s not being used in this day and time,” she said.
The actors, many who haven’t been in a play before, are excited about the program.
Williams’ friend Jane Muldoon plays Granny’s “best friend and cronie” Sophie Whaley. “I live very, very close, so we’re the bestest of friends,” Muldoon said of her character’s relationship with Granny. “We are plotting to stop a wedding between John and Mary. We want Tim and Mary to get married instead.”
Muldoon gets to sing in the play and has been learning the old harp singing that is a part of the production. “It’s lots of fun to learn and you can teach an old dog new tricks,” she said.
Blake Chesson plays the disreputable John Haynes, who is courting Mary more for the valuable logging land her family owns than for her heart. “He was trying to con them out of it,” he said of the family’s land and Mary’s hand.
Chesson said he thinks audiences will enjoy the play. “I think it will be a breath of fresh air. You don’t get to see a lot of time-period plays around here.”
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 27 Feb 2012.
Upland Chronicles: Lula Mae Ogle's play 'Store Britches' written in 1930s
The original cast of “Store Britches” is pictured with Lula Mae Ogle seated second from left. Her son, Van, is the young man standing third from right. Pictures courtesy Lynn Ogle.
Lula Mae Ogle standing in front of Ogle’s Creek Bend Cabins in July, 1951.
Lula Mae Ogle at the time she was in college.
By CARROLL McMAHAN
As the curtain rises, a pretty young mountain girl named Mary Adams is melodiously singing:
“Who will shoe your little feet?
Who will glove your hands?
Who will kiss your rosy cheeks?
When I’m in a far off land.
Papa will shoe my little feet
Mama will glove my hand
And you can kiss my rosy red cheeks
When you return again”
Thus begins “Store Britches,” a play written in the 1930s by Lula Mae McCarter Ogle for the Gatlinburg Weaver’s Guild of Phi Beta Phi School to produce as a fundraiser to provide grants for members in need of monetary assistance.
While writing the play, Lula Mae, who was legally blind, was busy caring for her four children, weaving coverlets for the Arrowcraft Shop, and managing Ogles’ Creek Bend Cabins on Baskins Creek Road in Gatlinburg.
Born May 30, 1896, Lula Mae McCarter was among the students selected by Phi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women to receive a scholarship to Maryville College and then attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio. During World War l, she left college and worked in a factory to support the war effort.
After returning to Gatlinburg, Lula Mae married Elder Monroe Ogle who, along with his father, operated a general store at what is now the intersection of East Parkway and Roaring Fork Road. They were parents of four children: Van, Harmo, Lynn and Herbert.
She taught at Forks-of-the-River School, a one-room schoolhouse in the Sugarlands near where the Sugarlands Visitors Center is now located, and continued to do so after she married and started a family.
In 1938, her husband was appointed postmaster of Gatlinburg and served in the position until he died in 1960.
Although the play was successful and ran for three seasons, Lula Mae could not have possibly imagined that it would be produced again more than 70 years later to benefit another worthy cause.
The play, which was named “Store Britches, a Story of Way Back Yander,” is a three-act romantic comedy set in the Smoky Mountains in the late 1800s. Lula Mae relied on her memories of people and events she observed while growing up at the foot of Bullhead Mountain.
Realizing that the visitors who came to Gatlinburg would not understand many of the mountain colloquialisms, Lula Mae included a glossary with the following explanation: “Although for the sake of clarity, some modifications have been made in the dialogue, an attempt has been made to preserve as accurately as possible the language, as well as the customs, of an important but rapidly disappearing phase of American culture.”
The play began under the name of “Granny Helps Out” but changed as the story line grew in popularity. It played with two rotating casts six nights per week at Phi Beta Phi School Auditorium for three consecutive summer seasons.
Set in the mountains, the main character was a young mountain girl named Mary. The young girl’s family assumed that she would someday marry a local boy named Tim.
On the scene a newcomer arrived in store bought britches. Most of the local folks thought the well-to-do stranger was a much better catch for Mary. However, Granny Richards did some investigating to find her suspicions correct. The newcomer was not the man he pretended to be.
Woven throughout the story lines were parts spoken by an old maid who sought to marry the confirmed bachelor preacher and a litany of neighbors and extended family.
In one scene, papa is in bed while Mary’s little brother, fully clothed, stepped behind the bed’s high headboard, then came out embarrassed in a long night shirt to a roaring audience and jumped in bed with his father. Scenes such as this made the play a success. Visitors and local residents alike enjoyed the clean homespun humor. However, a few did not appreciate the humor thinking the actors were making fun of the mountain folks.
Winogene Redding, director of the guild, was the director of the play. Lula Mae played the part of the old maid, Schronie. The lead role of Mary was often played by Julia Pierce. Among the actors were Arlie McCarter and Bill Maples who played Tim, Josie Watson played Granny. Kates Ogle and Pern Price alternated in the role of the preacher.
Also included in the play was traditional folk music handed down from generation to generation and Old Harp singing.
World War l was responsible for the closing of the play, because there were not enough actors available for the male roles.It was through “Store Britches” that Lula Mae Ogle was asked to write past accounts of the people who lived in the Smoky Mountains for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. She wrote the occasional columns for several years.
The 2012 production took place last weekend in Gatlinburg with a cast who wasn’t yet born when “Store Britches” premiered.
Once again the homespun humor penned by Lula Mae Ogle over 70 years ago entertained a captive audience.
This time the play was directed by Sabrina Gray, who worked tirelessly to find a copy of the script and pulled together a capable cast of 12 volunteer actors. Theresa Williams portrayed Schronie, the old maid part that was played by Lula Mae in the original cast.
The proceeds will help the Gatlinburg Garden Club with the reconstruction of the Lucinda Oakley Ogle Cabin.
Lula Mae Ogle died in 1968. The generous contribution she made writing “Store Britches” over seven decades ago is still helping her community.
— Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to email@example.com; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© themountainpress.com 2012
- [S112] Census, 1930.
Name: Lulu M Ogle
Event Date: 1930
Event Place: District 11, Sevier, Tennessee
Marital Status: Married
Estimated Birth Year: 1897
Relationship to Head of Household: Wife
Father's Birthplace: Tennessee
Mother's Birthplace: Tennessee
Enumeration District Number: 0013
Family Number: 113
Sheet Number and Letter: 6B
Line Number: 93
NARA Publication: T626, roll 2271
Film Number: 2342005
Digital Folder Number: 4547919
Image Number: 00869
Household Gender Age
Spouse Elder M Ogle M 34
Lulu M Ogle F 33
Child Van D Ogle M 6
Child Ogle F 4
Child Lynn Ogle M 2
- [S77] Rawlings Funeral Home Records 1911-1995, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 28 Oct 1968.
Ogle, Lula Mae Mrs Elder 72 Oct 28, 1968 buried Shiloh Cem
- [S73] Rawlings Funeral Home, Book 2, 28 Oct 1968.
Ogle, Lula May May 30, 1896 Tn Oct 28, 1968
Father: Mc Carter, William
Mother: Brackins, Louraine
Sons: Herbert, Lynn
Sisters: Mrs. Orlie Watson
- [S87] Death Certificate.
Name Date of Death / Age County of Death County / State of Residence Marital Status Gender Race File #
OGLE LULA M 10-28-1968 / 72 SEVIER SEVIER / TN WIDOW F WHITE 34010
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 363.