A Man and his Mountain; Worth 1,000 Words concludes

It is with both sadness and relief that I announce the final installation of our Worth 1,000 Words essay project . . . sadness because I’ve so enjoyed each new essay and the varying perspectives our authors have brought to the Morton collection, and relief because, wow, this has been a lot of work! (I have a whole new respect for editors/publishers).

But perhaps the sun hasn’t gone down for the last time on this project. All along, our intention with these essays has been to demonstrate the usefulness of Hugh Morton’s images beyond their obvious value as “pretty pictures.” As we stated in our original grant proposal to the North Carolina Humanities Council:

“Photographs are rich primary sources in themselves, full of historical detail, and as visual records, offer immediacy not available through text — a direct visual link to the past. Photography is also, of course, an art, one of which Hugh Morton was a master. The beautiful and communicative documents he created hold almost endless possibility for study, research, and exhibition. They also contain great potential for educational use at all levels, from grade school to graduate school.”

We heartily encourage researchers, journalists, students, teachers, history buffs, etc. to take up the mantle of our Worth 1,000 Words authors and continue to put Morton’s photos to work in the creation of new knowledge. We hope to find ways to encourage that in the future, e.g., through collaborations with media outlets and educators (here on UNC campus and/or in the public schools). We’d love to hear your ideas on ways to accomplish this.

And now to the final essay, entitled The Grandfather Backcountry: A Bridge Between the Past and Preservation, written by RANDY JOHNSON, the originator of Grandfather Mountain’s trail system. In this essay, Johnson provides his first-hand, behind-the-scenes perspective on the changing attitudes towards managing and providing public access to Grandfather’s backcountry. Combining Johnson’s piece with four of our other essays, by Drew Swanson, Anne Whisnant, Richard Starnes, and Alan Weakley, provides a fascinating, nuanced analysis (from multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives) of the complex balancing act between profit and conservation at “Carolina’s Top Scenic Attraction.”

I’ll conclude with a final plug for our second (and last) Worth 1,000 Words event in Boone on Tuesday, August 10, which will feature both Johnson and Starnes. Come on out!

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 5:30 p.m.
Watauga County Library, Boone
Information: Evelyn Johnson, ejohnson@arlibrary.org, (828) 264-8784

The Grey Fox and Sunny Jim, part 1

Note from Elizabeth: UNC football coaching legends Carl Snavely and Jim Tatum both passed away in the month of July —  Snavely on July 12, 1975, and Tatum on July 23, 1959 (51 years ago today, at only 46 years old). JACK HILLIARD provides a two-part tribute to the two Hall-of-Famers: first up is Snavely, a.k.a. the “Grey Fox.” Keep an eye out for part 2 on “Sunny Jim,” coming soon.

A cold winter rain was falling on the UNC campus when Head Football Coach Carl Snavely arrived at his 311 Woollen Gym office on February 14th, 1946. Spring football practice was underway and Snavely was thinking about a scrimmage game with Coach Doc Newton’s Guilford College Quakers that was scheduled for February 27th in Kenan Stadium. The ring of his phone broke Snavely’s concentration. It was UNC’s Director of Admissions Roy Armstong. “Carl, I thought you’d like to know that a freshman named Charles Justice has just enrolled in the University.” Before the soft-spoken Snavely could react, Armstrong began extolling Justice’s football virtues – how he had been recruited by more than two hundred schools, as well as by George Halas and the Chicago Bears of the NFL . . . how he had been an all-state performer at Asheville’s Lee Edwards High . . . and how he had been the star of the Bainbridge Naval Training Station team during the War.

Finally, Snavely was able to get in a word. “Thank you very much, I hope Charles comes out for the team.” Suddenly that cold rainy Thursday had turned into the best Valentine’s Day Carl Snavely ever had. (And as for that scrimmage game with Guilford, Justice carried the ball one time that day – a 66-yard touchdown run to the delight of about a thousand students who had come to watch the practice).

Carl Grey Snavely, affectionately known as “The Grey Fox,” or “King Carl,” or “The Dutchman,” first came to UNC in 1934 and was head football coach for 2 seasons. Two great teams and two great players emerged from that period: George Barclay became UNC’s first All America player and Jim Tatum became an All-Southern tackle. Snavely left Carolina following the ’35 season to become head coach at Cornell; Tatum followed him to Cornell and became his assistant. It was while at Cornell that “The Dutchman” gained national prominence and during a famous game exemplified his shining ethics.

On November 16, 1940, Cornell played rival Dartmouth. Cornell had won 18 straight games, but Dartmouth was able to hold on to a 0-0 tie going into the 4th quarter. Then Dartmouth scored a field goal and led 3-0. With less than a minute to go, Cornell got the ball to Dartmouth’s six-yard line. Three runs and a pass failed to score . . . then, as confusion reigned on the field with what looked like a tremendous upset, the unheard-of happened. Linesman Joe McKenny signaled the ball should remain with Cornell for another down. Referee Red Friesell agreed. Cornell was given a fifth down. They scored. Game over, Cornell wins 7-3. When Carl Snavely reviewed the game film and realized what had happened, he sent a telegram to Dartmouth Head Coach Earl “Red” Blaik. “Cornell relinquishes claim to victory and extends congratulations to Dartmouth.” Dartmouth accepted the forfeit; final score 3-0, Dartmouth. (Snavely pioneered in the use of film for coaching and scouting, and is remembered in Chapel Hill for his late-night screening parties with vanilla ice cream).

Continue reading

A “wee bit” of Scotland in NC

“Brawny athletes, delicate dancers, noisy bagpipe band parades, rocking Celtic music and a spectacular highland setting makes this colorful celebration of Scottish culture the ‘best’ highland games in America . . .” (or so says the visitnc.com website).

The 55th Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held this past weekend in MacRae Meadows, at the base of Grandfather. The continuing popularity of the Grandfather Games is perhaps the most visible indication of a long history of Scottish settlement and the continuing influence of Scottish culture in the North Carolina Mountains. In our latest Worth 1,000 Words essay entitled Scottish Heritage at Linville, anthropologist CELESTE RAY explores these traditions and the role of the Morton family in attempting to maintain them. (Did you know, for example, that Hugh Morton’s mother and brother Julian began the development of “Invershiel,” a replica 16th-century Scottish village in Linville?). Read Ray’s essay to find out more.

And finally, for those of you in the Wilmington area, I’d like to offer one last reminder of our Worth 1,000 Words event this coming Monday. Details below; hope to see you there!

Monday, July 19, 5:30 p.m.
New Hanover County Public Library, NorthEast Branch, Wilmington
Information: Paige Owens, powens@nhcgov.com, (910) 798-6327
Speakers:

“A Great Day in Mudville,” or the Loss of ‘The Boss’

NOTE FROM ELIZABETH: This past Monday, Morton images of the New York Yankees’ 1979 visit to Chapel Hill just happened to come up in our scanning queue. As I added images of George Steinbrenner to the digital collection, I chuckled to myself about those silly Seinfeld plotlines featuring The Boss. So, I was very surprised and saddened to learn of Steinbrenner’s death the very next morning. I asked our resident sports expert Jack Hilliard to write this tribute post.

It was the second Tuesday in July — the day of the “Midsummer Classic,” the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game. A time when baseball celebrates the best players in the game . . . but the sad news from Tampa, Florida on the morning of July 13, 2010 was that a giant of the baseball world had died. George M. Steinbrenner III, owner of the New York Yankees, died at 6:30 AM of a massive heart attack, nine days after his 80th birthday, and 14 hours before the first pitch of the All-Star Game in Anaheim, California.

He was loved my many, hated by a few, but ignored by none. Steinbrenner once told a reporter for USA Today: “I’ll never have a heart attack. I give ‘em.”

In the thirty-seven and a half years Steinbrenner was “The Boss,” the Yankees won 7 World Series Championships, 11 American League Pennants, and 16 American League East Titles. Over the years, his practice of firing and hiring, re-firing and re-hiring made him famous, or perhaps I should say infamous. In his first 23 seasons,  he changed managers 20 times (including dismissing Billy Martin on FIVE separate occasions!). In 2006, he turned the day-to-day operation of the Yankees over to his sons, Hank and Hal. On April 13, 2010, Yankee stars Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi privately presented him the first 2009 World Series Championship ring. He was “almost speechless” . . . almost.

George Steinbrenner was no stranger to Chapel Hill and UNC. His daughter Jennifer is a 1981 graduate of Carolina, and on three occasions between 1977 and 1981, he brought his Yankees to play the Tar Heels in Boshamer Stadium.

The game on April 3, 1979, is the game many remember as “A Great Day in Mudville.” On that day 7,000 Tar Heel partisans jammed into Boshamer, filling the 2000 seats and the grass-covered embankment along the first base line, lining the fence around the stadium four and five deep, and filling the balconies of the surrounding dorm. Due to rain, the start of the game was delayed and the end came early. And there, in the middle of it all, was Hugh Morton, cameras in hand.

Morton documented the action on the field and also visited with his friend Clyde King, Yankee pitching coach and scout. (King was a North Carolinian from Goldsboro, and during the 1982 season became Steinbrenner’s third general manager, going 29 and 33 over the last 62 games of the season. Some of the players thought he was a spy for “The Boss.”)

Tar Heel native Jim “Catfish” Hunter was the hit of the party.  A good time was had by all . . . well, almost. Steinbrenner’s Yanks won the game 9 to 4.

The next time you visit the new and improved, rebuilt Boshamer, notice the entrance courtyard. It is named for the Steinbrenner family — the result of a one million dollar donation by George Michael Steinbrenner III.

When future baseball historians write about the events of July 13, 2010, the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star game will not be the lead story. The loss of “The Boss” will.

Celebrating Bill Friday

William C. Friday, “the man whose name is synonymous with North Carolina higher education during much of the 20th century,” (according to a UNC Arts & Sciences article), celebrates his 90th birthday today. Friday served as President of the UNC system for three decades, and a more respected figure in the UNC community would be hard to identify. (Today’s Herald-Sun features a charming interview with Friday in which he discusses the past and future of the UNC system).

As Bill Friday was a close friend and frequent photographic subject of Hugh Morton’s (as well as a key player in the donation of Morton’s portfolio to UNC-CH!), A View to Hugh offers this brief and inadequate tribute to his remarkable lifetime of public service.

To the left is a lovely portrait Morton took in April 1995. The images below show Friday with President John F. Kennedy at University Day on October 12, 1961 (cropped); Friday with John Chancellor and Terry Sanford at the groundbreaking for the National Humanities Center in April 1977; and Friday, again with Sanford, viewing Morton photographs shortly before Sanford’s death, in January 1998.

The public are invited to attend an open house hosted by UNC and the UNC General Alumni Association today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Carolina Club at the Hill Alumni Center. (If you can’t attend the birthday celebration, greetings may be sent to the Friday home at 521 Hooper Lane, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514).

“Unto These Hills”

Note from Elizabeth: Sixty years ago today, the historical drama “Unto These Hills” premiered at Cherokee, NC. We’re thrilled to present a guest post on the topic by Worth 1,000 Words essay author Andrew Denson of Western Carolina University.

This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the outdoor historical drama “Unto These Hills,” which debuted in Cherokee on the evening of July 1, 1950. A vivid recounting of Cherokee history from European contact through the Removal era, the play was an immediate success, drawing large audiences throughout its first season. “Huge crowds have been present,” The State magazine proclaimed in its July 15, 1950 issue, and “everyone who has seen it thus far is enthusiastic.” Drawing more than 100,000 viewers in its first season alone, the drama quickly became one of Western North Carolina’s premier tourist attractions. In a significantly revised form, it remains popular today.

Hugh Morton captured some of the excitement of those early performances in a series of striking color images, now preserved in the Morton digital collection. The play’s dance sequences, in particular, seem to have drawn his photographer’s eye. He documented the “harvest dance” seen at the beginning of the drama and meant to express the Cherokees’ respectful relationship with the land (they “possessed it with gentleness and humility, with peace,” reads the script by Kermit Hunter). He also recorded the athletic “eagle dance,” which reviewers of the drama invariably cited as one of play’s most arresting moments. With modern choreography by UNC drama professor Foster Fitz-Simons, these performances bore little resemblance to traditional Cherokee dance, but they certainly gripped viewers’ attention. Fitz-Simons’ version of the eagle dance, in fact, became an all-purpose emblem of the drama, appearing in advertising for “Unto These Hills” for years to come.

The original “Unto These Hills,” it must be said, was rather poor history. Kermit Hunter, who wrote the script as a UNC graduate student, knew little about the Native American or Appalachian past, and his research seems not to have extended much beyond a cursory reading of James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee. Hunter portrayed Cherokees sympathetically, as honest people who loved and defended their land, yet his Indian characters were little more than stereotypes. Seeking to appeal to a broad audience, Hunter relied on familiar images like the “noble savage,” turning fascinating figures like Sequoyah and the Cherokee leader Drowning Bear into flat caricatures. The play depicted real events, but only in a form devoid of historical complexity.

But perhaps that judgment is unfair. The creators of “Unto These Hills” transformed a somewhat obscure historical subject into compelling popular entertainment, which was no small feat. In the process, the drama may have accomplished something more. For all of its flaws, “Unto These Hills” ensured that several generations of visitors to the mountains departed knowing that Western North Carolina was the Cherokee homeland and that Cherokees had persisted there. That was a message worth broadcasting. Sixty years later, it remains so.

–Andrew Denson

REFERENCES

Beard-Moose, Christina Taylor. Public Indians, Private Cherokees: Tourism and Tradition on Tribal Grounds. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009.

Finger, John R. Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of Cherokees in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Hunter, Kermit. Unto These Hills: A Drama of the Cherokee. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1951.

The State, July 15, 1950.

“Some of those holy rollers really cut shines…”

This past Sunday, the joyful hordes descended on MacRae Meadows at the base of Grandfather Mountain for the “Singing on the Mountain” gospel festival, just as they have done every year since 1925. If you read this blog, you know that we’re all big fans of Hugh Morton’s evocative photographs of the “Sing” throughout the years. From the wonderfully-bearded Shelby Ever Gragg, to George Pegram, Johnny Cash, “Happy John” Coffey, Robert Harris, Jerry Falwell . . . they’ve all been to the Sing, and Hugh Morton was there to photograph them.

For more information on the Sing (and some choice quotes, such as the title of this post), please have a look at our latest WORTH 1,000 WORDS essay by authors DAVE HANEY and LISA BALDWIN entitled The Singing on the Mountain. Haney and Baldwin (recent exports from Appalachian State University to the faraway lands of Black Hills, South Dakota), offer unique interest in and perspective on the topic as traditional musicians themselves. Enjoy!

The Old Well, an enduring symbol

Note from Elizabeth: It seems as good a time as any to offer tribute to that storied Chapel Hill icon, the Old Well. Morton collection volunteer JACK HILLIARD does so below. Jack hypothesizes that Morton must have taken “dozens” of photos of the Old Well — in fact, there are more like 500 in the Morton Collection (see Series 5)!

On a beautiful November morning in 2004, several of us gathered at the Kenan Football Center to put in place the Charlie Justice statue for its dedication two days later. Once everything was in place and secure, we all went our separate ways.

Since I had parked in a parking deck downtown, I had to make the long walk across campus. As I crossed Cameron Avenue just behind Old Playmakers Theatre, I notice to my left in front of South Building, Hugh Morton was setting up his camera in order to catch one more shot of the Old Well. There must be dozens of Old Well images in the Morton collection, and each is unique; this one would show the late morning sun casting its rays across the famous landmark.

The Old Well is the most enduring symbol of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and it serves as part of the official UNC logo. It is at least as old as Old East dorm, and that dorm is the oldest public university building in the United States (dating from the 1790s).

Old Well, 1902, from the NCC Photo Archives' Collier Cobb Collection

For many of those early years the Well served as the sole water supply for Old East and Old West dorms. Then in the fall of 1897, UNC President Edwin A. Alderman, with the help of Professor J. W. Gore, ordered the Well be given its current decorative form, at a cost of 200 dollars. Some of his colleagues thought he was wasting money, but Alderman and Gore prevailed. The UNC Class of 1954 added the benches, brick walls, flower beds, and trees.

It is said that a drink from the Old Well on the first day of classes will bring good luck for the semester, and a final snapshot on graduation weekend will bring good luck forever. There must be something to that. On graduation/reunion weekend 2010, the line for pictures stretched all the way down Cameron Avenue.

Today UNC’s Old Well is recognized as a National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture by the American Society of Landscape Architects. (Thankfully, it is afforded special protection during weekends when State and Duke games are scheduled!).

–Jack Hilliard

New essay, and upcoming events!

Today’s first order of business is to proclaim the availability of our newest Worth 1,000 Words essay, written by plant ecologist ALAN S. WEAKLEY and entitled Hugh Morton and North Carolina’s Native Plants (one of which can be seen at left). Weakley, Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium, a department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, brings a unique perspective to our essay project as a scientist who worked closely with Hugh Morton on projects related to plant conservation at Grandfather Mountain. Please take a few minutes to read and respond to Weakley’s reflections.

Secondly, and speaking of Worth 1,000 Words, we’d like to announce two upcoming Morton Collection events, FREE and open to the public, to be held in Wilmington on July 19 and Boone on August 10. Further details available on the Library News and Events blog here. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll take this opportunity to come say hi to those of us who work on the collection, as well as to hear from and chat with some of our essay authors. See you there!

It’s official…NC has a bunch of official symbols.

With a hat tip to our pals at North Carolina Miscellany, we inform you that North Carolina lawmakers have managed to find time in their busy schedules (state budget, anyone?) to name the Outer Banks’ wild mustangs as the official “state horse.” Hugh Morton was fond of photographing these charming ponies as they wandered through the harbor at Ocracoke.

From this AP article I learned the interesting tidbits that in addition to well-known symbols like the state dog (the Plott hound) and the state flower (dogwood), there is also a state insect (the honey bee) and a state BEVERAGE (milk).

So, I decided to try and determine how many of NC’s official state symbols Hugh Morton photographed. The answer: quite a few! I created the nice thumbnail gallery below to showcase some of the highlights. Hope you enjoy.

NOTE: If you’re a fan of all things North Carolina, you simply must check out the newly-launched website for materials published by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center: DigitalNC.org.