Happy Birthday Mattie

admin —  October 26, 2011 — 6 Comments

Mattie and Willie together in 2008

Here’s the article from a few years ago about Mattie that ran in the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Radio: For listeners who prefer folksy talk of cats and casseroles to presidential scandal, this East Texas broadcaster is just the ticket.

January 17, 1999|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

CENTER, Texas — Letterman and Leno have asked her on their shows but, no thank you, she doesn’t cotton to the idea of flying on an airplane. Politicians stop by to visit when they’re ” ‘lectioneering,” and Willie Nelson calls occasionally to say hello.

At 87, the host of the radio call-in show “Mattie’s Party Line” has drawn a following far beyond her station’s 60-some-mile range.

“It’s such a silly program, really,” Mattie Dellinger says, attempting modesty about the show that she is actually, and justifiably, proud of. “Party Line” is an island of pleasant chatter in the midst of the sound and fury that dominate talk radio.

Taking your call

If you want to trash Clinton, call Rush Limbaugh. If you blame your mother for screwing up your life, call Dr. Laura Schlessinger. But if you want to talk about cats, wish a neighbor happy birthday or gab about your church dinner, call Miss Mattie.

Miss Mattie isn’t nationally syndicated, though, so first you’ll have to get somewhere in the vicinity of her beloved Center, an East Texas town of about 5,000 near the Louisiana line. Center, to the former newspaper woman, is short for Center of the Universe. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, Miss Mattie will take your call.

Lamar, though, probably will get on the air first. He’s the nursing -home resident who calls at the start of just about every show to sing “Happy Birthday” to whoever is celebrating that day.

You’ll also have to compete with the other regulars: Peggy, the woman with the counting obsession who can tell you the number of tiles in her doctor’s office or bricks in the courthouse. And John, known on the air as The Lawyer, who loves to tease Miss Mattie about her own obsession — with the National Enquirer. And Bobbie, the UFO sighter.

If “Mattie’s Party Line” is the window to the soul of Center, it’s quite a cozy place to live. Having lived here her entire life, Mattie Imelda (pronounced EYE-melda) McLendon Dellinger knows just about every caller by name. They exchange pleasantries, ask after one another — everyone apparently is “tolerable” — and catch up on who saw whose daughter the other day. The show indeed is like an old telephone party line — listeners are merely eavesdroppers on Miss Mattie’s conversations.

On a recent afternoon, Edna calls in to thank Miss Mattie for sending her a picture of her home’s previous owners; one of Miss Mattie’s interests is local history. “Edna,” Miss Mattie signs off, “I’m coming by to see you before too long.”

The Lawyer strolls into the studio to chat. He’s John R. Smith, a former district attorney, and he banters with Miss Mattie about whether she’s gone to the salon to get her hair “twisted” or to the store for her tabloid fix. “I had to buy a Globe,” she says with mock dismay, “because they didn’t have the Enquirer yet.”

Lamar calls in again — he seems to have discovered yet another celebrant — for his third rendition of “Happy Birthday” for the day.



6 responses to Happy Birthday Mattie

  1. Willie, Just wanted to let you know that Ms. Mattie passed away this morning. Her obituary can be viewed at http://www.shelbycountytoday.com. She was a great lady & a lot of fun to be around. She will be missed by all who knew her. Cindy Durham

  2. Dee Ann Dockens May 28, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    i was born and raised in center and miss mattie will truly be missed.

  3. Mrs. Mattie will be missed!

  4. angela waller May 29, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Miss Mattie went to be with her Lord this morning. Their is one comment Miss Mattie said once that stuck with me. “Several people walk by you either in the store or on the street and ask ‘how are you doing’. Most of them don’t really wait for a response (she said) they’re just making a one sided conversation. I like it when they actually take the time to get my response before moving on.” That comment she made has stuck with me throughout my life. So, if you ask someone how they are doing..wait for their response.

  5. I’ve know Mattie for many years, I went to her birthday parties she had on the Radio in Center, Texas, many, many years ago. She was one of a kind and no one will ever be able to fill her shoes.
    She and I talked, before I moved, and it was always about Willie Nelson, ’cause I love to hear him sing, and the former Shelby County Sheriff Paul Ross. I used to work there and she always told Paul I was the best dispatcher he had!! God Bless ‘Miss’ Mattie, you will be missed!!!!!

  6. I have never met anyone like Mattie Dellinger before. She was a true historian and kind and encouraging in the process of helping others. She was one of the most interesting people I have ever met also. She was willing to take time with people. She didn’t mind stopping what she was
    doing when you called to check on her. She loved her family also. That was so refreshing to hear her talk about her children. She encouraged me in every endeavor of my life since I’ve known her.
    Maybe I never told her quite as often as I should have–but she was “always on my mind” as a unique example of kindness. God bless you too, Dixie, From Rosie

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