The mid-winter blues. We all get them at one time
or another. Those grey December days that are made tolerable by
Christmas lights and family gatherings suddenly turn into bitter,
sometimes lonely, and always cold days of January. It was on one of
those raw cloudy days, a Tuesday afternoon, I was miserable,
business was bad, nothing was working out like I wanted it to. Then
the phone rang.
“Highspots needs two cases of Ole’s book, and they
want them autographed,” George South said. “Ole doesn’t want to ship
them, so I’ve volunteered to go get them, and that way I can visit
with him. I’m going to Toccoa tomorrow morning. Want to come with
The real world suddenly seemed less important for
the moment. This is not a question George needed to ask me twice.
* * * * * *
Wednesday, in contrast to the day
before, was one of those beautiful cold winter days; sunshine and blue skies. The temperature was
right at freezing when I arrived at 7:45 AM to pick George South up
at his house in Concord. His twins Abigail and Scarlett and youngest
son Garrett were getting ready for school. The smell of bacon and
eggs still lingered, and George’s wife Missy had started chili in
the crock pot for supper later that night. Man, that house smelled
We headed out for a three-hour road
trip to Toccoa, GA. Journey is the official music of Gateway road
trips. They are George’s favorite band. That music takes him back
to the early 1980s, during the time Gene Anderson managed US Champion Jimmy Snuka, when Steamboat and Youngblood ruled the world as tag champs.
Like a lot of us, George lives in the past, so Journey just always
seems right, no matter what the circumstances. That music had gotten
us through two separate 22-hour round-trip adventures to the
Headlock Ranch, and it was now serving us well on our way to see Ole
Toccoa is a small north Georgia
town at the intersection of US highways 17 and 123, several miles
off Interstate 85, just south of the Georgia/South Carolina state
line. Business-17 is the main drag through town, littered with the
usual suspect steakhouses and fast food joints. The original plan
was to meet Ole for lunch at Quincy’s restaurant downtown, where we
were to meet him for lunch and pick up two cases of autographed
books to take back to Highspots in Charlotte. But the plans changed when we
called Ole mid-morning from the road to make sure we were still set
“We’ll have lunch and then you guys
follow me out to my house and you can pick up the books there,” Ole
We were in shock. A day earlier when
George had called to line up the trip, he told Ole we would be glad
to come to him and pick up the books so he wouldn’t even have to
leave his house. “Hell no!” he said. “There has never been a
wrestler at my house, and the first one sure isn’t going to be
George South!” Needless to say, we thought this was a great change
of plans. We couldn’t believe we were going to Ole’s house.
We got to Quincy’s Steakhouse around
11:30 AM and Ole got there not long afterward. He looked great,
shook our hands, and seemed glad to see us. I had met Ole on a few
occasions before, at a show three years earlier in Hartwell, Georgia
where he was there signing autographs. David Chappell and I had been
fortunate enough to have dinner with Ole and Paul Jones at the NWA
Fanfest in Charlotte in 2005. George of course had known Ole for
almost 25 years, first doing TV matches for him in the last days of
Championship Wrestling from Georgia in 1985 on TBS, and then as a
regular enhancement talent for Crockett Promotions throughout the
rest of that decade. There is lots of video tape of Ole and Arn
Anderson beating the crap out of George in buildings everywhere from
Shelby to Roanoke.
we had walked into the restaurant, it was like walking in with Norm
at Cheers. All the waitresses said hello to Ole. We found out later
that this was where Ole had lunch almost every day. A waitress came
over and asked Ole to sign an autograph for a lady at another table
who was too shy to ask for it herself. The girl that ran the cash
register told us she had grown up watching Ole on TV with the
Horsemen, watching wrestling out of Atlanta with her Dad every
Saturday. Ole Anderson should run for Mayor of Toccoa. He’d be a
At one point Ole asked George “So you
are still doing this horseshit?” George responded “Shoot Ole, I’ll
probably never quit wrestling.” George told Ole about the short
little program he had with Brad Anderson, Gene's son, the previous
summer, and how Brad carried his dad’s boots to the ring, how he
wore his Dad’s ring jacket (that famous maroon jacket with “Gene”
written in script on the front and “Anderson Brothers” on the back.)
Ole stopped eating and looked at us. “You’re kidding,” he said. He
paused for a moment, smiled, and said, “Well that’s great.” It was
sort of a special moment; you rarely seem to get a smile out of Ole.
He started talking about those boots, the maroon and gold stripped
boots so closely associated with the Andersons over the all the
years they wrestled. He told us Gene and Lars wore them first, and
then he started wearing them when Gene brought him in to the
Carolinas in 1968 and made him one of the Anderson Brothers. It was
such a thrill for us just to hear him talking about simple stuff
like those boots. Those boots are so iconic of the Minnesota
Wrecking Crew, one of the strongest lasting memories I have of
watching wrestling growing up. The Andersons always wore those
maroon and gold boots.
I’m surprised Ole could finish his
lunch with George talking a mile a minute. No kid on Christmas
morning could possibly be more excited than George South at 44 years
old when he gets to spend time with one of his childhood heroes. Ole
gently kicked me under the table. “Does he ever shut up?” he asked,
with a quick wink. “My God, how in the hell did you ride down here
with him?” We were just glad Ole seemed to be having a good time.
After lunch, we headed for Ole’s house.
He still drives that same old Cadillac that he told us later had
over 300,000 miles on it. George rode with Ole, and as I followed
behind them, all I could see was the profile of George’s face, that
mouth yacking a mile a minute. Poor Ole.
We drove along a two lane highway, and
then off onto a winding road that snaked around Lake Hartwell,
occasionally crossing bridges that spanned inlets and entrances to
small lake coves, then through long sections of deep woods.
I imagined for a moment that Ole might
actually be taking us out in the woods to shoot us.
Suddenly he pulled off of the two-lane
road onto the shoulder. There was this long pause and I could see
Ole talking to George. Then George got out of the car. My goodness,
Ole has had enough and thrown George out, I just knew it!
Thankfully, he had only asked George to get the mail out of his
mailbox. To this day, that’s one of the things George liked most
about the trip: he got Ole’s mail out of his mailbox.
We pulled off the main road into the
drive way, a long winding gravel road that led to the back of his 14
acre property. You always hear people talk about what a cheap son of
a gun Ole is. When we got to his house, we got to see first hand
what being a cheap son of a gun all those years allowed him to enjoy
now. What a beautiful home. He built the house himself, a huge 4000
sq. ft. two-story Cape Cod-style structure sitting on a hill some
200 feet high over looking Lake Hartwell. That house is immaculate.
Ole even made us take our shoes off in the garage before we could
come in. So there we were, getting a tour of Ole Anderson’s house -
in our sock feet. This was pretty cool.
Ole showed us the rock work he did
himself on the fireplace in his bedroom, the furniture he had
re-finished, even a table that he had made. He was especially proud
of the wood work he had done, the custom molding he had made around
the ceiling. It was simply a beautiful house, inside and out.
There was a huge bookcase in the living
room full of photographs of his family. One in particular caught my
eye, his son Bryant graduating from college, walking the stage in
cap and gown, receiving his diploma. What jumped out were Bryant’s
huge trademark Anderson sideburns. Ole explained Bryant was getting
started in pro wrestling at the time, and he had the complete
Anderson look. He was the spitting image of his Dad.
Ole sat down at the kitchen table and
stated signing the books we were picking up to take back to
Charlotte. He bitched and griped about signing every one. “We aren’t
through yet?” he asked when I opened another case. In between every
fifth book or so, George kept shoving something in for Ole to sign.
At one point Ole punched George right in the chest, never looked up,
signed the photo, and then grabbed the next book. “Jesus Christ, how
many kids do you have?”
When he got through signing books, it
was my turn to pester him. What a mark I am for him. I had brought
my replica NWA world tag team belts with us. These were custom made
from Reggie Park’s original 1974 engraving artwork. I wanted
get a photo of him with them if he’d agree to do it. I was half-way
expecting him to throw me out the bay window there in the kitchen.
But his reaction actually surprised me. He held one of the belts and
said “These look great,” but then he quickly pointed out they
weren’t exactly like the originals. The original plates were in two
pieces, the engraved pieces attached to a seperate flange piece. The
plates on my replica belts were all in one piece (as they are
typically made today.) Ole actually remembered how the original
belts were made. Dave Millican, who made these beautiful belts, later told me it was really kind of
neat that Ole made that observation because so many of the guys
never paid attention to things like that. For someone who would
occasionally insist that belts were simply props, Ole sure had a
good memory of those belts that he hadn’t seen in 27 years.
Throughout the visit, we got Ole
talking about our favorite old wrestling angles, including the
“Supreme Sacrifice” that took place during Gene and Ole’s epic feud
with arch-rivals Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel. Grumpy old man that
he is (and by his own admission, by the way), Ole seems to dog
everyone, but he clearly has respect for those two guys. He seemed
most proud of their one-and-a-half-hour time limit draws that led to
two hour time limit matches in the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1975.
Finally, after several hours, it was
time to head home, and I was sure Ole was quite ready to get rid of
us. We loaded the books and put our shoes back on out in the garage.
Ole thanked us and told us to be careful driving home. It took
several minutes to load everything up and get turned around in the
As we pulled away, the sun had started
to set over Lake Hartwell, and it was getting cold again. I looked back and
saw Ole standing out at the edge of his garage. He was waving
goodbye. Or perhaps he was just making sure we didn't rob the place. There are a couple of people who know Ole really well that
have told me that despite his gruff exterior and constant grumpy
disposition, he is basically an old softie deep down. I obviously
couldn’t tell you, but there was something special about seeing him
at that moment. It is a memory I never want to forget.
- Dick Bourne
Trip Date: January 17, 2007
Article Originally Published: August 2, 2007
Toccoa Photos by Dick Bourne and George