September 2017

by Marshall Chapman

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

My mother always instructed us to do what she said, not what she did. She forbade us to say “Shut up.” She thought it rude and abrasive. But sometimes extreme measures call for extreme actions, and rules get broken.

The year was 1959. I’m sitting at my desk in my third-grade classroom at Pine Street Elementary School in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Pine Street was and still is one of the finest public elementary schools in South Carolina. Founded in 1929, it continues to operate in the original building—one of those grand old school buildings with architecture that inspires learning. Any renovations and restorations over the years have managed to preserve and blend with the orginal architecture.

In 1959, the hallways at Pine Street had super high ceilings and that, combined with the polished terrazzo floors, made for a great reverb sound. Like the sound coming out of Sun Records in Memphis at that time. In fact, I once got sent home from Pine Street for singing Elvis Presley’s “Too Much” in one of those hallways, having excused myself to go to the restroom while classes were in session. But it was worth it. The sound in that hallway had me thinking I was Elvis Presley.

Anyway, so I’m sitting at my desk, when suddenly I hear the distant sound of high heels clicking down the cavernous hallway outside our classroom. The sound got louder and more echoey as it neared. And the clicking was so intense and purposeful, I instinctively knew those high heels could only belong to one person —my mother.

When the clicking stopped, I glanced up to see Mother’s six-foot frame filling the doorway. Without knocking or anything, she just marched in and whispered something into Mrs. Simkins’s ear. (Mrs. Simkins was my third- grade teacher.) Then walked over to my desk and grabbed me by the arm. As soon as we were outside the doorway, I began to protest. “Mama?” I said. “I’m not sick.”

“Shut up!” she said. “We’re going to the Masters.”

So off we went to Augusta, which is about a hundred and ten miles from Spartanburg. This was April 2, 1959. Arnold Palmer was the defending champion and a nineteen-year-old Jack Nicklaus was making his Masters debut. But I didn’t know that at the time. All I know is we followed Ben Hogan because Mama said he was the best player from tee to green.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit

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