Just some thoughts:
Vestal was Vestal Goodman of the Happy Goodman Family.
Now you ask "whose's Vestal and the Happy Goodman Family?"
Well in the late 1950s' until the mid 70s' or a bit later they one of the premier southern gospel singers, entertainers. Much of their time they were based out of Kentucky as a three piece trio, Howard playing piano, Rusty and Vestal along with Howard singing. For many early years they sang in just about any place they could find that would welcome them.
Today I visited the cemetery where my good friend Mike is buried. Now what does that have to do with Vestal and the boys. I will explain more a bit later.
I had to smile as I left the cemetery this afternoon and remembered a memory of Mike and I. In fact I more than smiled, I laughed. In the late 1950s' say 58'-59' Mike and I once took dates to a southern gospel singing night. Can you believe that.
Every year at the local county (Vigo) fair where the two of us grew up they would always have a gospel singing night. And yes they would fill the stands. On this night three groups would be appearing, The Statesmen, The Blackwood Brothers and The Happy Goodman's.
The morning of the show date my friend (Cohort) in passing the local golf course saw the bus for The Statesmen quartet parked at the course. Being the inquisitive person he was (and he was) he pulls into the parking lot of the course, gets out of his car and ends up meeting two of the members of the group. As Mike starts to leave one of the members of the group tells him, "tonight you come to gate such and such and we will have tickets and seats for you at tonight's show." (I need four-- my buddy and I will bring dates for the show. -That was my friend--never bashful)
Now he calls me and says "Cohort I got four tickets to the singin' tonight let's finds us some dates. That night a few minutes before the show Mike and I along with our dates show up at this gate. From there we are escorted to our seats. Four seats front row right in front of the stage had been reserved for us.
Now part two. Closing the show that night was the Happy Goodman Family. Vestal was always featured in the group. One thing for sure the group had eaten well. I don't think gospel singing paid big money but it surely was enough to feed them well. Or maybe they had attended too many "all day singins' and dinner on the grounds" I even remember the song they closed the show with, "I Wouldn't Take Nothin' For My Journey Now." She had made her way into that closing song with the group doing their always show stopper "The Old Gospel Ship." (Before that it had been "If It Wasn't For The Light House.")
Now can you imagine later that night when your date comes home, mom is waiting up, "Honey where did boys take you? "Oh, they took us to a gospel music show." Now surely that should get one some points with the dates mothers. At least strike their curiosity. You think?
I saw Vestal near the last time she performed. That would have been around 2002. She was featured on one of the Gather's gospel packaged shows. The lights in the large arena were lowered, almost completely out, a voice comes on, "And now ladies and gentleman we give to you the queen of southern gospel" a spot light focused to one of the openings leading into the stage, the band hits the lead into the song....and with the customary handkerchief in hand, long dress flowing and a big smile comes Vestal. The audience rises to its feet giving her a grand welcome. It was a classic entry. Vestal passed away 2003.
How ironic of the following. Today when I left my good friend's grave just to the left of where he is buried, say a hundred yards or less is a large tombstone that is there to mark a family buried site. On the large stone are the words "The Happy Goodman Family." Yes there is buried Howard and Vestal.
My wife and I also have burial plots not far from where my good friend is buried. By the way none of this cemetery stuff, where Goodman burial is, was planned. It just turned out that way.
Hey, who know maybe some day my friend and I will sing with Howard and Vestal.
After all we once took our dates to see them perform, they had front row seats saved for us. I bet not many teenage boys can say that.
You know I said I miss Vestal. I miss my friend......much more.
July 29 2017