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Fire Siren-like Holler Takes the Prize

June 18, 1989

SPIVEY’S CORNER, N.C. (AP) _ A man who learned how to yell in the swamps of eastern North Carolina captured the National Hollerin’ Contest championship Saturday night with fire siren-style whoop.

″I think you have to be mentally prepared,″ said the champion, Tommy Tatum, 41, a tire company worker who lives in Stedman. ″You’ve got to have it in you. I came from deep in the swamp when I was a kid and, it (hollerin’) was used at that time.″

State Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham, who performed a donkey bray for the crowd estimated at more than 1,000, presented the trophy to Tatum.

The 21-year-old contest drew representatives from Norway, Australia, Sweden and Japan. The ancient communications art was widely used by farmers in the Southeast to convey messages to others before the telephone was invented.

Hollerin’ styles this year spanned a vocal range from slow-rolling ″yee- ooh-haws″ to yodels, staccato barks and chicken noises.

Ninety-year-old Dewey Jackson, who won the first championship in 1969, performed a wordless, whooping rendition of the song, ″What a Friend We Have In Jesus.″

The tiny crossroads community of Spivey’s Corner, population 49 - located about 35 miles south of Raleigh - was picked as the site for the event ″because I didn’t think there was anywhere else in the world where people wouldn’t get upset when folks got to hollerin’,″ said organizer Ermon Godwin.

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