December 7, 2012

Werner Braun: Telling stories with Jane Harrell

— If you’ve lived in Dalton for any length of time, you have probably encountered my friend Jane Harrell, either in person or through her appearances on local television and radio, or by reading one of the columns she writes for Dalton Magazine.

When I think about the people I consider to be local treasures, I think of Jane. A Florida native, Jane and her husband Monroe “Money” Harrell moved to Dalton in 1971 with their daughters Kelly and Tracey. Jane started her radio career in the late 1970s as a way to promote interest for a little event Jane founded with her friend Judy Alderman called the Prater’s Mill Country Fair. Before she knew it, Jane was on the air in Dalton every week on radio station WRCD with a feature she called “Georgia Minute,” a name she borrowed from a similar program produced by Atlanta radio personality Elmo Ellis. She later changed the name to “Southern Scenes,” because it gave her more flexibility in topics, and because, like everything else she does, Jane Harrell wanted something original.  

I’ve gotten so I really look forward to hearing Jane Harrell read Southern Scenes on WBLJ and Mix 104.5 FM. Her topics are homey and personal, and Jane’s laid-back Southern drawl and straightforward delivery are the perfect accompaniments to the stories.

Jane and I are both history buffs, so naturally, I love the little-known historical tidbits I pick up listening to “Southern Scenes,” like how the federal reserve banking system was formed on Jekyll Island, or how the CSS Hunley, the first-ever successful submarine, was built and operated, and ultimately lost just outside of Charleston Harbor by the Confederates in 1864.  

But what I like most of all is the way every “Southern Scenes” segment offers something more than just history. Somehow, Jane always manages to work a little life lesson in with the dates and details, giving us not only an interesting story, but also a reminder about how much we all have to be grateful for, and how lucky we are to live in this great area and this country.

“I just sort of fell into broadcasting,” Jane told me once. “But I sure have loved the opportunity it has given me to get to know people and to hear their stories.”

“It doesn’t have to be a big event — I like the small stories better, actually. Things like how to eat a ‘sink sandwich.’ That’s a sandwich you make when the tomatoes are so ripe in the summertime you have to stand over the sink and let the juice run down your arms when you eat it. If you listen to what people talk about you can always hear something interesting.”

Thank you, Jane, for making us all feel a little bit more at home, and for spotlighting the people and stories that make up the “Southern Scenes” of life in our community.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.