A(nother) Morton mystery solved

Today’s A View to Hugh post takes a look behind the scenes, as Morton volunteer/contributor Jack Hilliard solves a Morton Mystery—this one centering around college football’s Sugar Bowl, which will be played in New Orleans on January 2nd.

Lilly Christine, "The Cat Girl"

Lilly Christine, “The Cat Girl,” performing at Prima’s 500 Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Image cropped by the editor.)

It’s always fun when researching a post for A View to Hugh that I run across information that answers a question about a previous post.  Here’s the story behind one of those posts.

In early December 2008 I suggested to Elizabeth Hull that since UNC’s football team was going to a bowl, it might be nice to look back at Carolina’s first bowl game in 1947.  AT THE TIME, I believed that Hugh Morton had traveled to New Orleans for the 1947 Sugar Bowl game, because I had seen Morton photographs of “The Cat Girl,” and based on the following two sources I believed that “The Cat Girl” photographs were taken during the ’47 Sugar Bowl trip:

  1. Starting on page 21 of the Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer 1958 book, Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story, there is an entire chapter devoted to the ’47 Sugar Bowl game, and there is this quote:  “(New Orleans) had never been confronted . . . with such rowdy partisans as the visiting forces from Georgia and North Carolina those few days before the Sugar Bowl game of 1947. . . . A number of Tar Heels became students of architecture during this sojourn, chiefly that of the Cat Girl, a lady of unusual structure who was on exhibit each night in the French Quarter.
  2. On page 53 of Bob Quincy’s 1973 book, They Made the Bell Tower Chime, there is a one-page profile of UNC fullback Walt Pupa and the ’47 Sugar Bowl with this quote: “Dinner at Antoine’s.  A march down Canal Street.  The Cat Girl and her exotic dance of soft, graceful muscle power.  A disturbing loss to Georgia.”

Both books had “The Cat Girl” at the ’47 Sugar Bowl on January 1st, 1947 and since Pupa graduated in June of 1947, he was not on the team at the 1949 Sugar Bowl.
I was really surprised when Elizabeth told me she could not find any Morton photographs from that ’47 game.

“What about the ‘Cat Girl’ shots,” I asked?

Elizabeth said they were in an envelope just labeled “Cat Girl” with no date.  What happened to Morton’s shots of the game?  He was there . . . we have the “Cat Girl” shots . . . .

Well, we did the post and worked around the missing photos and included as part of the post the Sugar Bowl 50th anniversary trip for which we did have Morton photos.  Morton’s ’47 Sugar Bowl pictures were just missing.  We made several guesses, but there were no definitive answers.

Fast forward to April, 2010, when I’m researching another V2H post and run across an article by Chuck Houser called, “The Cat Girl” in the Mid-Winter, 1950 issue of Tarnation magazine with this:

A lot of different people will remember a lot of different things about New Orleans and the ill-fated Sugar Bowl trip of (December) 1948.  But one thing all of them will remember is a diminutive French Quarter night club dancer who goes by the name of Miss Lilly Christine—‘The Cat Girl.’  Two years ago (December, 1946), when loyal Tar Heels first invaded the wrought-iron balcony-lined streets of the fabulous city of New Orleans to see another ill-fated Sugar Bowl game, they all came back with one name on the tips of their tongues—‘Stormy,’ a sultry stripper whose real handle was Stacie Laurence.

When those same football fans returned to New Orleans last month, they headed for the French Quarter to take another look at ‘Stormy’ divesting herself of her costume.

But ‘Stormy’ didn’t live there anymore.  ‘Stormy’ was married to an ex-newspaper columnist from the Crescent City and was very busily pregnant over the New Year holidays.  As a substitute, all good Tar Heels soon discovered Lilly Christine, ‘The Cat Girl,’ who didn’t take any of her clothes off, since she wasn’t wearing enough to put in your hip flask to begin with.”

So . . . “The Cat Girl” was not seen during the 1947 Sugar Bowl trip after all.  It was the 1949 Sugar Bowl trip and there are dozens of Morton photos from that game.
I still thought that Morton went to the ’47 Sugar Bowl, but now the photos that I was sure were from ’47 were really from ’49.

Fast forward once again.  I was researching a post about Morris Mason and was looking through some game programs from 1992, the year he passed away.  During the ‘92 season, the UNC athletic department invited a guest columnist to write an essay in each of the home football game programs.  On October 17, 1992, for the UNC–UVA game, the guest was Hugh Morton.  His essay looked back on his career shooting UNC football photographs and about half way through the piece Morton wrote:

Carl Snavely and his distinguished crew took Carolina to the Sugar Bowl in 1947 and 1949 and to the Cotton Bowl in 1950.  I missed the 1947 Sugar Bowl against Georgia because bad flying weather diverted some other Tar Heel rooters and me to St. Petersburg instead of New Orleans.  The Sugar Bowl that I covered was New Year’s Day 1949 against Oklahoma.

Mystery solved!  Not only was Lily Christine not at the 1947 Sugar Bowl, Hugh Morton wasn’t either.

[Editor’s question: Is there a new mystery now posed? Can anyone imagine Hugh Morton not photographing in St. Petersburg? The finding aid lists no images!]

So I then diverted my research to the ’47 Sugar Bowl weather.  I checked the Greensboro papers and there are several stories about the weather and people being stranded at airports.  There is a photograph of Greensboro Tar Heel fans holding their tickets while listening to the game on the radio.  A January 1st Greensboro Daily News headline reads:
“Bowl Tickets Plentiful—Weather Keeps Fans Home.”  There is also a magazine story in the January 11, 1947 issue of The State (pages 3-6, and continued on 18-20) written by Carl Goerch, titled “A Trip to the Sugar Bowl.”  The story tells how Goerch and a group of six Tar Heel fans started out for New Orleans, but due to bad weather wound up in Jacksonville at the Gator Bowl.

Looking back, there were two red flags that should have questioned Morton’s being at the ’47 game:

  • The 1947 pregame photos that appeared in the Greensboro papers were credited to Orville Campbell.
  • A Morton slide show during graduation/reunion weekend on May 13, 1989 put his “Cat Girl” photos in with the ’49 Sugar Bowl shots.

I didn’t catch either one at the time.  I was so sure that Morton was at the ’47 game that two V2H comments that I made (4/10/08  &  2/18/09) were based on what I thought I knew.

So that’s the story of Hugh Morton at the 1947 Sugar Bowl game—a game that he didn’t attend.

A follow-up to a previous post: Back on August 16th, Jack offered the following UNC football / Charlie Justice trivia question in his post on Morris Mason: What year did Charlie Justice complete his final pass to Art Weiner on the field at Kenan Stadium?  As you might imagine, it was a trick question.  We had no takers, so here’s the answer: November 17, 1973.  For a photograph of the event, see The University Report (second picture down on page 9 at http://www.carolinaalumnireview.com/carolinaalumnireview/ur197312#pg8).

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