The (Columbia, South Carolina) State, July 8, 1936, page 2:
ROBERT C. WASSON SEEKS HOUSE SEAT
Robert C. Wasson of Hickory Tavern today announced his candidacy for the house of representatives in the Democratic primary next August. One of the principal planks in his platform he said, will be to co-operate with Governor Johnston in carrying out some of his plans made when elected governor.
Mr. Wasson was graduated from Hickory Tavern high school in 1930. He attended Presbyterian college, Clinton, later entering the School of Law at the University of South Carolina. For the last two years Mr. Wasson served as principal of the Flat Rock school in Greenville county.
Mr. Wasson is the oldest son of the late Claude W. Wasson and Mrs. Effie Owens Wasson. Since the age of 14 he has kept in operation a country store. At present the store is known as Wasson Brothers store, mill, and grapevine radio system serving 200 rural homes. Mr. Wasson is married, a deacon of the Friendship Presbyterian church, recently elected Councilor of Reedy Council Junior order of U. A. M., and a member of the Masonic order.
Greenwood (South Carolina) Index-Journal, August 11, 1980, page 20:
A radio started career in politics
COLUMBIA (AP-Jonathan W. Oatis) -- South Carolina Tax Chairman Robert C. Wasson, 68, says he got his start in state politics about 50 years ago because of the Grapevine.
The Grapevine, which operated in the rural Laurens County community of Hickory Tavern during the Depression, was not gossip but a sort of low-rent cable radio system for people who had no electricity and thus no radios.
Wasson, who founded the Wasson Brothers General Store at the age of 16, was the "Walter Cronkite of Hickory Tavern," as a Greenville newspaper columnist dubbed him.
At its peak in the late 30s the Grapevine Radio System had 500 customers within a 10-mile radius of the general store. They paid 25 cents a month plus the cost of a speaker for music, soap operas, commercials and, most of all, news.
"They wanted all the news," Wasson recalled. "People didn't get the news like they did today." Some, he said, couldn't afford the cost of a newspaper.
Wasson relayed everything--broadcasts by CBS or NBC. And, of course, there were local reports. "Every evening at a certain time I would have what I called local news," he said.
Wasson also broke in with breaking news. If someone died, for instance, "I could switch on anytime and make a local announcement," he said.
The lack of electricity was the Grapevine's reason for being. Most of that rural section at Laurens County was without electricity at the time.
But not Wasson's General Store. A nearby school drew power from an auxiliary hydroelectric plant built by Duke Power Co. And Wasson's country store was near the school.
So, the store got electricity and not long after got a radio.
"There was a young man working for Payne's Music Co. in Greenville," recounted Wasson. "He was kind of an inventor."
The man told Wasson his idea--install amplifiers in the radio, then string wires to speakers out in people's homes. The wires would relay radio programs to the speakers. Wasson, 18 at the time, bought it.
The source of it all was a big Philco radio. Wasson and others strung wires over cedar poles and into homes. Customers paid $6.50 for a small speaker and $10.50 for a large one.
The Grapevine Radio System caught on fast. "People had very little income and very little entertainment," Wasson recalled. "We connected over 100 homes right away."
Wasson said news was the No. 1 item. "People were so hungry for news because we were seeing a whole new change in government with the Roosevelt administration," he said.
Wasson recalled relaying fireside chats by the president over the Grapevine. And there was other news--the rise of Hitler is one continuing story he remembers well.
The Grapevine also hummed with music. "They liked gospel music," the tax commissioner said.
"There were some soap operas. On Sunday, they would want religious services."
He, his brother James or his mother Effie Wasson could switch the Grapevine over to a grammophone for records.
A microphone was used for local news and local talent, such as the Martin Brothers, a group gospel group featuring Bill Powers, who was then Laurens' police chief. The Wasson Brother's quartet consisted of brother James Wasson and three friends.
"People wanted to express local talent," Wasson said. "Sometimes, it wasn't very much."
There was local advertising. A drugstore, Eaddy-Blake, advertised for three years on the Grapevine Radio System and credited its later success to those commercials.
And there were candidates for office.
By 1936, Wasson was well known as the newsman of Hickory Tavern. He decided to run for the state House of Representatives on a platform of rural electrification. At age 24, Wasson recalls, he led a ticket of 12 candidates for the job.
"I felt it (the Grapevine) gave me a boost," he said.
He served seven terms as a state representative, was elected to state Senate and in 1960 was appointed to the state Tax Commission, where he's been ever since.
Wasson hasn't forgotten his roots. His home and church are in Hickory Tavern, where he goes every weekend. He said he plans to retire there.
Wasson Brothers' Store is still operating, now owned by James Wasson and his son.
And the Grapevine? With the advent of the rural electrification program that Wasson and others worked for, the Grapevine was obsolete. By 1939, it had faded away.