Full Circle:

A Visit With "Number One" Paul Jones

& George South

by Dick Bourne



RELATED LINKS:

Paul Jones Interview

Paul Jones Photo Album

George South Museum

 


George South and DIck Bourne hold a photo of the greensboro Coliseum that originally hung in Jim Crockett's office.

The Greensboro Photograph: George South and Dick Bourne hold a photograph that once hung in Jim Crockett's office.

 


Charlotte, North Carolina    May 13, 2003

When George South was ten years old, his brother would drop him off right in front of the Charlotte Park Center every Monday night. He would wait in line, ticket in hand, ready to continue his forays into the exciting world of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Those Monday nights at that venerable old building that sat in the shadow of Charlotte Memorial Stadium would form the foundation of a lifetime of adventures in the world of professional wrestling.

Wrestling was what kept George South on the straight and narrow. Born in Boone, NC, his parents died in an automobile accident when George was six years old, and he would move to Charlotte, living at different times with his brother and his grandmother. Largely unsupervised, every opportunity presented itself for George to find himself in a lot of trouble, but what kept him on course was wrestling. If he got in trouble, he wouldn't be allowed to watch wrestling that Saturday on TV on channel 3, and he wouldn't be allowed to go to the Park Center on Monday night.

And worse yet, he wouldn't be able to follow the exploits of his childhood hero, "Number One" Paul Jones.

George South loved Paul Jones. He celebrated when Paul won the U.S. belt from Terry Funk; he missed three days of school when Paul lost the U.S. belt to Blackjack Mulligan.

"What do you mean, why don't I have my homework? Don't you know, teacher? Paul Jones lost the belt!" Anyone ought to understand how such a traumatic and disastrous event could disrupt one's life for days at a time, George thought.

But those losses only meant passing the time until wrestling would come on TV again and he could go to the Park Center again and scream for Paul Jones to regain his championship - and to once again wear the belt.

I grew up watching Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, too. My heroes were Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ole and Gene Anderson, Ric Flair and of course Paul Jones. These guys were larger than life. I eagerly, yet patiently, waited for Saturday afternoons when Bob Caudle and David Crockett would welcome me back for another hour of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. And I lived and died by their triumphs and misfortunes.

That was 28 years ago. George South had already been a die hard wrestling fan for a couple of years by the time I was hooked.

And here we were 28 years later, George South inviting David Chappell and me to Charlotte to meet and have dinner with "Number One" Paul Jones. Paul and George had developed a friendship over the years, first professionally, then personally. They visit once a week. Paul wears the scars of over 30 years in the ring, taking those bumps night after night, year after year. But he still has that twinkle in his eye when you get him to talk about drawing a sold out house in Greensboro to beat Terry Funk for the U.S. Championship. Or shocking a sold out Charlotte Coliseum by turning on Ricky Steamboat. Or working a 90 minute broadway with Wahoo McDaniel against the Anderson Brothers in Richmond. Get him talking about those glory days, and it seems as though "Number One" is ready to get in the ring again at that very moment.

Paul shares memories of a career that crossed four decades.

Heck, George wants him to! It's George South's dream to have Paul put the Indian Death Lock on him in the center of the ring. It's not going to happen, but that doesn't stop George from talking about doing what in his mind would be the ultimate tribute doing the ultimate job.

After dinner, we close out the evening by taking a "Mid-Atlantic" tour of Charlotte, with Paul taking us by the old Crockett offices on Carmel Road and Briarbend Drive, the old Charlotte Coliseum (now called the Independence Arena), and of course the Charlotte Park Center, where 28 years ago George South bought his ticket and took his seat, and years later would climb in the ring himself.

George South's van parked in front of the Charlotte Park Center.

We finish our drive coming to a slow stop. George South has come full circle. As he did 28 years ago, he waits in front of the Charlotte park center, but this time his childhood hero isn't getting in the ring, he is sitting beside him in his van parked right in front, right at the spot where he used to patiently wait, ticket in hand. Paul Jones is telling us all about all of those Monday nights in that jam packed smoke-filled auditorium. Tonight it sits empty, bruised and battered. The sun is dropping down behind the adjacent Memorial Stadium. George South has tears in his eyes. We sit quietly for a moment, and then pull away from the curb. Paul Jones smiles and starts in on one more story.   

                                                         -Dick Bourne

May 2003

 

c. 2003 Mid-Atlantic Gateway

PHOTOS (CLICK TO VIEW LARGER IMAGES)

L-R front: Paul Jones, George South     back: David Chappell, Dick Bourne Paul holds a mini-replica of a 1975 Greensboro event poster

We loved hearing Paul tell us about the good old days. David and George in "the room" under the original sign from Ricky Steamboat's gym. 

George shows us a photo of Mr. Florida from Paul's days in the Sunshine State Paul and David

George holds a jacket from Ricky Steamboat's Gym George & David look at a drawing of Andre that was used for local promos.


George South, circa 1984