2012 is a year of celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and what would have been Minnie's 100th birthday. Click here for information regarding those celebrations.
Today seemed like a good day for reminiscing about Minnie Pearl and reliving some of my favorite stories. I called them jokes earlier, but she was really more of a story teller and could spin a yarn with the best.
When I went to Belmont, we had mandatory chapel every Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. There were assigned seats and roll was taken. If you were lucky, you might find someone willing to sit in your seat so you could catch up on homework or take a nap (chapel was only mandatory for full-time students, so anyone part-time was available for bribes). They only checked to see that the seat was full, not particularly by whom, so this bribery wasn’t all that uncommon. I didn’t look for ways to skip chapel because I was a heathen, mind you; it was just that the speaker or program wasn’t always all that stirring.
Occasionally, though, we had really interesting speakers. One that I looked forward to each year was Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon (Minnie Pearl). Miss Minnie was a graduate of Belmont when it was Ward-Belmont College – a prestigious school for young ladies. Being an all-girl college, there were many rules about conduct and curfew in particular. One of the funniest stories I heard her tell, was in chapel one Wednesday morning. As she was telling us about her experience at Belmont, she said that she and a few of the other girls came up with a code that they used in order to let each other know on Saturday morning if they had been kissed the night before. This code was the word mornin’. Each time a girl said the word mornin’, it meant she was kissed that same number of times. The first girl came to breakfast and simply said “Mornin’” which caused a few giggles. The next girl came down and said “Mornin’ Miss Mornin’” which caused a few more looks and giggles. Then the girl who apparently had a bit of a reputation came down and said “Mornin’ Miss mornin’; awfully pretty mornin’ this mornin' Miss Mornin'’.” She had obviously had a busy evening. Then Miss Minnie came down and greeted everyone with her signature “Howwwddeee!” I’m sure I didn’t get that one just exactly right, but it’s very close and cracks me up every time I think about it.
Another story (story, of course, not truth) that I heard her tell on the Opry, was about being mugged. Walking down an alley on her way to her car one night, she was approached by a man who demanded that she give him all of her money. She politely told him that she didn’t have any money. He didn’t believe her and proceeded to thoroughly frisk her up and down. He then said, “You’re right…you don’t have any money.” She replied, “No I don’t, but if you’ll do that again I’ll write you a check.” Again, maybe not spot on, but just thinking of it cracks me up.
Sarah Cannon was also a breast cancer survivor. She spoke of that when she came to chapel, too. She became a spokesperson and championed the need for research and education. The Sarah Cannon Cancer Center is a network of 9 affiliated medical facilities in Tennessee and southern Kentucky. There is also a Sarah Cannon Research Institute and Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.
I was lucky enough to meet her a couple of times, but would have loved to have actually known her. One of the first times I was backstage at the Opry, she was standing at the desk where everyone passed as they came in. I saw her speak to everyone who came through the door like family, whether she had just met them or not. I say that because she spoke to me like we had known each other, asked me about my day and how I was doing as she walked down the hall with me and gave me a quick hug as she continued on her way. She was a very classy, humble, genuine, witty, sharp, and precious lady.
Anyone else have a favorite Minnie Pearl joke/story?
Here's one to see you out -