Southern style: an evening among friends

website - southern styleBy Randall Franks

The sun swept across the dark wood floor forming a light spot in the shape of a heart  as my mother buzzed around the room with dishes in her hands setting the table.

On the kitchen stove pans were gurgling as meatballs simmered in a sauce and angel hair pasta boiled with a hint of basil filling the air.

The time was close at hand and mother was expecting the neighbors for a spaghetti dinner with an evening of cards and conversation.

In the fall, prior to election, the conversation often leaned more to political strategies for mustering neighbors and friends to campaign or vote for one of my mother’s choice candidates. After election the dialogue kept to local gossip and plans for whichever holiday was close at hand.

For me, an evening such as this meant I would be relegated to the children’s table for supper with the other children. Then we would be sent to another room for a board game of some nature.

While generally I didn’t mind these evenings, oftentimes my mother’s friends had an abundance of female children. For me, that meant in addition to being relegated to eating with them, I would have to mind my manners all evening as we played. With girls, there was no running like wild Indians nor rough housing. We played civilized games such as Go Fish, Monopoly, Operation, Life or whichever board game suited their fancy.

Cheating was out of the question in these circumstances, as I was the host. I had to make sure everyone was following the rules, including me. This responsibility often led to some very heated discussions. I realized that girls were not always the “frills and lace” I had been led to believe. Some would get down-right mean when they didn’t get their way.

If the offender had been a boy, we could have settled our differences with a short wrestling match or a few exchanged fists, the victor winning the disagreement and the game continuing.

You couldn’t do that with girls. They might have won and I would have never heard the end of it. Kidding aside, I was taught not to fight with a girl even though a few of them needed a good whooping. I just had to leave that to their folks.

Now, this is not to say I wasn’t hit by a few girls during these exchanges. They’d hit then escape to the safety of the living room where the adults were engaged in other civilized pursuits.

Did I ever do the same? Well, let’s just say I usually found a way to get even by pulling a return prank of some description. But it was my job to see that all the kids had a good time.

Whether my guests were female or male, I did always enjoy these times when I was asked to entertain. It was an opportunity to learn some of the basic expectations when welcoming friends into your home.

So friends, have you taught your children and grandchildren how to be, not only a friend, but a gracious host in your home? Depending on your customs and traditions, such a skill can lay the groundwork for opportunities that will serve them both in their daily lives at home and work.

(Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers I: Finding the Light.” He is a syndicated columnist for and can be reached at

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