Country music queen and pandemic hero Dolly Parton deflects being preserved for posterity in public monuments for now. The Tennessee treasure and songwriting wonder says that those honors can wait for later. She never fails, however, to credit her parents and the example of perseverance, faith, and love that they lived out before their 12 children every day in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains.
Both her business savvy and her artistic musicality are gifts from her family lineage. Dolly Parton immortally eulogizes her father and mother in the touching classics of “Daddy’s Working Boots” and “Coat of Many Colors,” which treasures not only the garment, but most of all the “love sewed in every stitch” by its beloved matriarch maker. Every time Dolly inks another of her growing business deals, Robert Lee Parton, praised as “the smartest man I ever knew,” smiles down from heavenly places for his daughter’s success.
Nonetheless, Dolly Parton recalls that along with the selfless and loving legacy from her parents, her father took the role of the toughest disciplinarian in the family, as noted by a Showbiz CheatSheet feature. He didn’t shy away from using his belt, and Dolly Parton remembers being on the unfortunate end of a few other implements, too.
Dolly Parton insists that her dad’s punishment never came to beatings
As it happens, the philosophy and the use of corporal punishment remains a heated and hot-button subject for families and educators over decades. Folks from Dolly Parton’s generation share the remembrance of the sting and the shame from a parent’s preferred “rod” of wielding justice.
In most cases, large rural families took the practice from generation to generation. It was the swiftest means to restore order for an infraction of disobedience. Tennessee and Texas are among the 15 states to expressly allow corporal punishment. Dolly Parton recalls her share of “hard” whippings but says her father’s discipline never came to beatings.
“If he was mad, he whipped us with his belt,” Dolly Parton confirms. “He didn’t beat us, but he’d whip us hard.” Like many kids with country roots, Parton remembers going to get her own switch for a swatting. They had to be “good-sized ones,” per her recollection. The artist never got “the board,” but she does remember “a piece of stove wood” on one occasion.
Makeup always meant trouble for Dolly Parton and her dad
Whereas Dolly Parton describes her mother, Avie Lee, as “so lenient,” elaborating that “she just practically grew up with us,” it was Papa Parton’s role to “keep us in line.” Considering that Mrs. Parton started bearing children at age 15, it’s quite understandable that the preacher’s daughter felt caught between girlhood and the immense task of raising her big brood.
Dolly Parton praises that her mother could “cook anything and make it taste good, sew anything and make it look good, and say anything and make it sound good,” as she relates in a 2020 Today interview. Dolly certainly inherits those lasting traits, along with the sense of spirituality imparted on her maternal side.
One worldly thing Dolly Parton adores is makeup. The star admits to becoming “fascinated” by cosmetics as far back as she can remember. Naturally, something so frivolous never made it into the home during Dolly’s years in a one-room cabin. She substituted Merthiolate, a common household medication for wounds, as lipstick.
The medicinal misdeed never satisfied Mr. Parton. Fans recall how Dolly Parton considers “The Painted Lady” in her Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love TV movie as a role model. Each time her daddy demanded that his daughter remove her “paint,” she responded that it was “my natural color.” The matter became a constant dispute until Dolly Parton left home en route to seeking her country music career.
As Dolly Parton explains in her 1978 Playboy cover interview, featured in Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton, her mother showed far more empathy towards her daughter’s sense of style. Avie Lee was never allowed to cut her hair as a young girl.
I feel glamorous on the inside, so I want to look like it on the outside ✨ pic.twitter.com/Is7mgSFdc3
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) May 15, 2020
Books are far better tools than boards
Just as books offer parents much more appropriate and effective techniques for discipline, books can also engage young children and parents together in timeless bonds of learning and closeness. Dolly Parton shares her father’s work ethic to “work till I drop.” She yearns to take her last breath on stage while singing one of her own songs.
The only other way the film star, philanthropist, and cultural emblem desires to depart perhaps involves a storytime with children who only know the singer as “Mother Goose” or “The Book Lady.” Robert Lee Parton delighted in both those names for his daughter, more than any other pleasure. Dolly Parton dedicated her Imagination Library to her father in 1995. She beamed at seeing him present for the premiere legacy of his life. The patriarch possessed ample aptitude and ability to learn to read any book, but the stigma of adult illiteracy became a stumbling block.
The only boards needed for the literacy initiative poised to deliver 150 million books to children across the world this year are the kind needed for bookcases. Dolly Parton exuberantly exclaims, “If you can read a book, you can teach yourself,” and her path in life teaches that love and stick-to-itiveness, even mixed with stern consequences, reap a harvest of compassion and dedication.
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