In the Woods of North Georgia

A Visit with Ole Anderson on the shores of Lake Hartwell

by Dick Bourne




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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 me?”

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 good.

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 Anderson.

 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 to go.

“We’ll have lunch and then you guys follow me out to my house and you can pick up the books there,” Ole said.

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.

When 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 sure bet.

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 to 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 big driveway.

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

Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Trip Date: January 17, 2007

Article Originally Published: August 2, 2007



© 2007 Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Toccoa Photos by Dick Bourne and George South