By 1958, we had gotten accustomed to our new home. We had joined the trailer to the little house (front porch was the food concession stand) with a hallway, paneled the front room and put in a stone fireplace so we had a very comfortable home that spawned many fun parties with our new friends. When we first got the park, our telephone was the old wall crank-type party line telephone. Our number was Walton 1623.
The park adjoined the old elementary school. There were two classes in a room, and one year Marc and Tracy, although they were a year apart in age, shared the same teacher in the same room. One year, Tracy won the Boone County 4-H Talent Show, performing a Siamese dance.
Georgianna was enjoying the shows and introducing the stars to her audience. She was always cutting up, which kept her fans laughing. She signed many autographs.
Georgianna entertaining her fans.
On Mondays, Georgianna and Carrie (our caretaker’s wife) would drive around the nearby counties distributing posters for the upcoming show and stapling them on poles. Many times Miss Georgie’s photo was on the poster, which got many comments. Folks were thrilled to meet a “star!”
By 1958, the park had quite a “new look,” too, with the concession stands, rides, etc. Before we opened in 1956, Coca Cola had a big sign put on the front of the stage, at the top, the full length of the stage: Verona Lake Ranch. The Coke logo was at the top, on the left side was “Thurston Moore,” and on the right was “Georgie.” As of 2011, my name was still visible, after 55 years! But sadly, “Georgie” had faded.
We had wonderful dependable employees at the park, and our chief “chef” was Leonard Thompson. His wife worked the counter taking the orders for the thousands of hamburgers that Leonard turned out so efficiently; they were amazing. Judy Ross and her mother, Evelyn, were always there, too, and it was people like them who helped us keep the patrons happy and coming back. And our old “Carney Couple,” as I called them, who ran the little booth near the stage (where everyone could see and smell the goodies). This couple worked the carnivals in the winter and came back to Walton in the summer. There were days when they turned out more than 10,000 snow cones, cotton candy and boxes of popcorn. People were amazed to watch them work.
The “Carney Couple”
For a while, Jimmie Williams, DJ at WNOP in Newport, Kentucky, had a live DJ show from the stage on Saturday mornings. It was exciting to hear the country singers like Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, etc., being heard throughout the park. Jimmie wasn’t too happy, though, when Tracy’s pet gander, Lafe, kept jumping up on the stage. Lafe was a gift from my Uncle Lafe who lived in Ohio. The goose was a real pickpocket; he actually took things out of the back pockets of folks sitting in the amphitheatre. He even knew how to take a watch off people’s wrists! Needless to say, a few times of that, and he had to go.
In our off-season we attended the small Walton Methodist Church and became steadfast friends with the pastor, the Rev. John R. Whealdon, and his family. He played “Scrooge” in a “Christmas Carol” production we presented in the church, and he was great! In later years, a friend who had visited him when he was in the hospital said, “When I asked him how he was, he answered, I’m ready to go home. He, of course, meant Heaven. If anybody gets there, he certainly should.”
We became close friends with couples we met in Sunday School. Many times we had Saturday night parties and often never went to bed! Our parties were fun, and some might say “wild,” but there was never any alcohol, and I don’t remember any smokers.
One evening we were telling ghost stories and decided the night wouldn’t be complete unless we drove to the ancient and abandoned Salem Church. We got to the church and, flashlights in hand, slowly approached and entered it. With our ghost story mindsets, that wonderful old brick building and its adjoining graveyard looked totally spooky.
Well, we were all inside when suddenly someone, knowing it would scare the bejesus out of us, slammed the church’s front door with all their might. Truth be told, we were all terrified – at least for 20 or 30 seconds – and we all ran in panic for the door, setting a record for evacuating a building. Later, back at our house in Verona, we all enjoyed the fun we’d had and laughed heartily at the panic a slammed door had caused.
Bill Scroggins came by often in his Jeep. I think he missed the crowds and MC’ing the shows when he owned the park. He hardly ever missed one of our Sunday shows. Many of the folks coming to our shows were glad to see him.
Arthur and Mildred Doggett lived in Verona, but our other friends were from Walton. We were very close with Dr. Richard “Dick” Bachmeyer, a veterinarian, and his fun-loving wife, Margaret Ann. Dick had a small animal practice but also worked for the race horse farms in the area. Georgianna worked for him for a year, and one time got to hold the reins of a $60,000 race horse at the Ellis Farm. She loved working with the animals, with the exception when they both contracted the rabies virus and had to be injected with four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period. They gave each other shots all over the body, and they were painful.
In 1959, Dick and George Arnold bought a lot on Lake Williamstown and much fun was had there. Many went in for water skiing, and Georgianna thought that would be fun so she put on the skis – for the last time. She had a spill which made a bad gash on her leg, a scar that was there for her lifetime.
Other close friends were Guy and Betty Carlisle, who were such a delight. Guy had inherited the Ashland Oil Co. from his father. And there was a local attorney, Asa “Buddy” Rouse and his wife, Libby. Georgianna also helped him when he needed extra secretarial work. Buddy was into hypnosis, and at one of our parties he put Georgianna “under.” She was a great subject and went back to her childhood.
We spent much time with Jack Conner, a schoolteacher, and his wife, Doris. Jack introduced me to Cassius Marcellus Clay, an emancipationist from Madison County, Kentucky. He was a cousin of Henry Clay and served as the American minister to Russia under Lincoln. Clay’s life and his mansion, White Hall, near Richmond, Kentucky, became a very interesting chapter in our lives.
Edna “Tag” Beach was a lovely lady in Verona who had a thoroughbred, and most of the time she rode sidesaddle. Sometimes she would ride to the park on that beautiful horse. When I rode around the park on her horse, I felt like the owner of “Tara.”
The Wahrenburgs were a very interesting couple who lived in Verona, about a mile from the park, in a secluded woodsy area. They had recently come from Germany, and he was an architect/builder. They built a beautiful home, one Frank Lloyd Wright would have loved. The house had snow-white carpet, so you had to leave your shoes outside! They had no interest in country music, but we became good friends and visited them often, especially when Anna Lisa made her gourmet “hot” German potato salad!
Anna Lisa took art lessons in Walton, about the same time our dear friend Sue Hensley was studying art. Georgianna sat for a portrait for Anna Lisa, done in pencil, on November 30, 1959. That portrait has a special place in our art gallery.
Pencil sketch of Georgianna by Anna Lisa Wahrenburg.
To illustrate our association with the Verona banker is this tale: One Sunday we ran short of change and I went to his home and asked if he could get me some change at the bank. He called his clerk, Marie, to meet us there. He started to open the safe and forgot the combination, so Marie just blurted the numbers out. He opened it and gave me what I wanted. I didn’t tell anyone that I knew the combination to the safe, hoping it wouldn’t be robbed any time soon!
Pee Wee King, who, along with his vocalist, wrote “Tennessee Waltz,” played at our park. Since Patti Page had a tremendous hit with the song (her record going on to sell 15,000,000 copies), he was happy to hear the story of my giving Ms. Page the scrapbook. In 1976, I was on the TV show “To Tell the Truth,” and shortly after received a letter from Pee Wee.
It read: “What a pleasant surprise – I was watching Gary Moore’s TV show – and wow, there you were! Soon as you walked on I told my wife – I know him – that’s Thurston Moore. Then I had to explain all the way back, years ago, even the “Who’s Who” days. I thot (sic) you might enjoy knowing you look great – beard and all. Hope your family’s ok too. Sincerely, Pee Wee King
Pee Wee King
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