Granddaddy’s 15 Minutes of Fame
Paul Pinkney Bryan
In the middle 70’s Kenny Rogers came to the small town of Union Point and surrounding towns to film a made-for-TV movie called “Coward of the County.” By the time this happened, I was married and living in Connecticut with no knowledge that granddaddy had taken on a new profession of actor. I only have memories of him mostly behind a plow and the years of he worked at the mill (Chipman-Union Mill); walking by our house every day. (We lived one house up from him until I was almost 6)
Ironically, the Chipman-Union Mill was owned by a Bryan family, but there was no family connection between the two Bryan families of Union Point. The Union Manufacturing Company was founded in 1896 in this small agricultural town and provided employment to most of the community, including my grandparents, uncles, cousins, and even my mother for a short time. Like many mills during that time period, they also built housing, so-called mill houses. Nearby was more mill housing built in the 1920’s, but more of a boarding house type consisting of two-room apartments. The mill mostly manufactured hosiery for boys and men; granddaddy always brought home boxes of socks for my father and even later for my husband. The mill provided income for over 100 years before finally closing their doors in a 2001 bankruptcy.
Now anyone who knew my grandfather Paul Bryan… knew he was a quiet man of few words. He was at most peace when standing in the field, behind the plow with his mule, stopping occasionally to light his cigar; that usually happened when the mule decided to take a break. Mules are strange animals, but once they tire… they stop for a break… and there’s no moving them until ready. That never seemed to bother granddaddy as he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to light his cigar, just waiting in his overalls. Now does this man sound like someone who would audition for a movie extra?
The movie company rolled into town and flyers were posted – “Extras’s needed.”
I’m not sure even today why he signed up, but I’m sure money played a big part. Maybe even grandmamma pushed him to go. But whatever the reason, once he heard about the movie looking for extra’s – he signed up and was called. The auditions were held in the Union Point High School gym and he went dressed in his Sunday clothes with his good hat; you only saw him wear that hat when he wasn’t wearing his overalls and field hat. I’m told they took one look at him and gave him the OK… right on the spot.
On the day of the shoot, he reported to work wearing those same clothes and hat – he was never sent to wardrobe as his clothes were perfect, but they changed his hat to a more period one for the movie.
I don’t know how long the day was for his extra part, but he appeared in only one scene – the one filmed in the high school gym. His extra part was just to stand in a crowd of workers; I’d love to know what he was thinking as he stood there, leaning up against that pole. My bet was he was contemplating how long before he could light that cigar hiding in his pocket.
Granddaddy was paid $35 dollars for his days work and even fed a meal. At the end of the day they were told that if anyone wanted, they could come back for another day of shooting. Upon granddaddy asking if there would be pay for a second day, and told no…. he opted to not come back.
I guess granddaddy wasn’t too impressed with being in the movies!
I’m sure that $35 dollars a day was quite a bit of money to him as when he retired from the mill he was only making not much more than $50 dollars a week.
Of course after learning that my grandfather had actually been in a movie, I bought the DVD… anxious to see him. In first watching the movie, I never found him. But knowing he was in the mill scene set in the gym, I re-watched again concentrating on just those scenes. Finally I found him by stopping the scenes to more closely look at the men…and there he was… leaning against a pole… complete in his clothes and their hat!
Granddaddy was a movie star! He enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame that everyone is suppose to have in their lifetime! I bet at the end of the day, as he walked home down Binns St. with that $35 dollars in his pocket, he enjoyed that cigar more than those fifteen minutes of fame!
By the time I learned of grandfather’s movie role, he had passed away so I wasn’t able to quiz him about his day of fame. Being a man of few words, I’m sure I wouldn’t have learned too much more about that day then I’ve learned.
But I can say…. My grandfather was in the movies!!!
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