Brian Shrader's Siteseeing Blog

Remember "The Southern Sportsman"?

Posted May 11, 2007

I've located a Holy Grail, of sorts.

I grew up around here, and I watched "The Southern Sportsman" when I was a kid in the 80s.  I think it aired from the 1970s until about 1993.  It aired early Saturday mornings on WRAL-TV -- and some other stations around the Southeast.  Its host was Franc White, an avid outdoorsman and conservationist.  

He also was a restrauteur, with "Southern Sportsman" restaurants in eastern N.C. and Virginia (Maybe elsewhere?  Help me here, readers.).  His now-out-of-print "Southern Sportsman" cookbooks were big sellers and now command big money on eBay.

I had the fondest memories of the show.  It was precisely the kind of show that should be on Saturdays at 6 a.m.  -- the kind of show you wanted to watch as you got ready for a family trip to the coast.  

Franc would cook a great recipe in the first and second segments.  He then narrated silent film (video by the 1990s) of some fishing or hunting trip around the Southeast.  The pleasant theme music would play softly underneath Franc's narration.  He always ended with a commentary, usually about the ecology, and his sign-off line, "Please don't litter.  And do yourself a favor, take a kid fishing."

WRAL-TV produced the show.  So, when I started working, I was itching to find some old tapes to relive those memories as an adult.  But after turning the place upside down, we couldn't find any evidence of the "Southern Sportsman." 

The show's last producer/director here at WRAL, Clarence Williams, said Franc owned the show and he took all the master tapes with him. 

Earlier this year, my quest for "Southern Sportsman" tapes re-emerged on my radar screen.  I Googled the show, and I found out that I'm not alone.  There is a group on Yahoo! devoted to the show.  I also found discussions about it on several message boards. 

Well, tapes of the show just aren't easy to find.  On one message board, someone who says he knows Franc reported that the master tapes are destroyed.  Franc apparently stored them in an airplane hangar and the heat baked them, the guy said. 

Fortunately, I was able to locate someone in the Triad who recorded the episodes for his dad.  He had several tapes full of episodes.  We finally connected yesterday, and I couldn't wait to get home and pop the tape in the machine. 

Friends, it was magical.  Better than I remembered it.  So easy to watch -- so comfortable.  It's from a refreshingly different era of television.

I'm hoping we're going to be able to post a clip from the show here on WRAL.com.  Since we don't own the show, I don't know if that will be possible.  On our WRAL Classics page, you can watch some clips from other old local WRAL shows, like "Sparks" and "Frog Hollow."   It's a nice trip down Memory Lane, and I'd like to have a "Southern Sportsman" intersection there somewhere.

Anyone out there want to share their memories about the show?  Does anyone have any information about it's history or what's new with Franc White these days?

 

28 Comments

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  • nclady2007 May 14, 11:49 a.m.

    I also loved the show! What happened to his wife? She was pregnant and then she was gone from the show. What was her name?

  • Low Voltage May 14, 11:38 a.m.

    I remember the show well, it was great. Franc White was in the "Southern Sportsman" restaurant business in Farmville with a gentleman named Bobby Caraway. Mr Caraway owns a restaurant in Kinston now called "The Broken Eagle" (excellent food the entire menu, highly recommended!). Mr Caraway may be able to help you on your quest.

  • wynnwilson May 13, 9:58 a.m.

    Franc was the real deal ; not like John Moore who is now pitchman for Cross Roads Ford !

  • wufpak7483 May 13, 9:57 a.m.

    The Southern Sportsman, Uncle Paul,...oh, I grew up with those shows down east in NC in the 70's,...just read this post this morning right before heading out for church, will have to comment more later,...in the words of the great Bob Hope, "thanks for the memories"

  • boblucas May 13, 2:37 a.m.

    I used to drive over from Greenville and eat at his restaurant in Farmville on 264 bypass. He was big on quail. I think Joe Albea has had a show like Franc White's on WRAL. I beleive they used to be friends too. Franc used to brag on his Irish Setter on the show constantly and I had the same dog at the time and I remember how people used to comment on how mine looked so much more handsome.

  • kmason910 May 12, 9:21 p.m.

    I don't recall the actual theme song, but I still believe he used Dave Brubeck for the film segments of his trips--those things stick, kinda like Dean Smith using Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" for his highlight reels on his coach's show. Maybe Franc will catch wind of this discussion and let us know some of the answers to these burning questions.

  • davidgnews May 12, 5:08 p.m.

    I stand corrected - he IS in Hookerton!

    Hope you can get this thread to him, Brian.

  • davidgnews May 12, 4:53 p.m.

    " Don't re-elect anyone, not even your Momma " - I have the bumper sticker and his cook books. I was a real fan of that show. I had a break-in in 1987 (lost my TV and other stuff), and within a month I had a new TV ONLY because I missed seeing Franc White on Saturday. I noticed that as he got more 'political, his time slot changed LOL.

    God bless Franc. I heard he moved to New Zealand in retirement. He entertained me to no end with his honesty and down-to-earth, no-frills production. If he had a 'busted' trip, you saw a busted trip. I use House Autry to this day because of the sponsorship.

    And please - what's that darned theme song??? I am dying to know, because I'd like a copy of it. Hopefully it's in the TV5 library somewhere.

    Thanks for shaking this up Brian - it was a gem of a show, and I wish we could see re-runs. It was all good, in a Mayberry kind of way. Off to yahoo groups now !

  • trucker4112004 May 12, 9:48 a.m.

    I think the restaurant in Farmville is closed, but the building is still there.Everyone is right , brings back great memories!

  • raglangr May 12, 2:04 a.m.

    "Sparks"! Ahhh...memories.

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