We don’t know much about this photograph, other than what is in the record for the online collection (click the image to see.).
“Eternal Monument,” Gallant Battlewagon is dedicated Sunday.
The above headline in the Greensboro Record on Monday afternoon, April 30, 1962 recalled a remark by Admiral Arleigh A. Burke’s the previous day. Fifty years later, A View to Hugh contributor Jack Hilliard takes a look back at the upcoming anniversary this Sunday of the dedication of the Battleship USS North Carolina. For a prequel, you might want to read Jack’s post from last October, “A North Carolina homecoming.”
Twenty one years and twenty days after its commissioning on April 9, 1941, the Battleship USS North Carolina was dedicated as a memorial to the 8,910 North Carolinians of all services killed in World War II. Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, retired Chief of Naval Operations, was the principal speaker on April 29, 1962 at the dedication ceremony of the majestically moored battleship on the Cape Fear River near downtown Wilmington.
As she lies quietly here at Wilmington she is just as gallant as she was in the days when her big guns were firing. She is gallant today because she stands silently to remind all who see her of our precious heritage, reminding us with her battle record and with the battle records of those to whom she is dedicated.
Burke then read the World War II roll call:
Guadalcanal, the Solomons, Saipan, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa . . . an eternal monument to brave men and a source of inspiration to all Americans.
The retired admiral expressed the hope that visitors to the ship in the years to come will “remember not only those who died—but why they died. And from this memory let us all strengthen our resolve to protect and preserve the blessings of freedom whatever the cost may be.”
More than 2,000 people on the stern of the ship and thousands more in the nearby parking areas took part in the emotional ceremony . . . just as they had contributed money to the “Save-Our-Battleship” effort. During the ceremony, the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission, headed by Chairman Hugh Morton and Vice Chairman Orville Campbell, drew praise for their tireless efforts to save the ship.
North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, introduced by Master of Ceremonies Jim Reid of radio station WPTF in Raleigh, called the ship “North Carolina’s historic link with World War II . . . a great memorial to a fighting people.” He then reminded the audience that $315,000 had been raised to date, and more than 112,000 people had visited the ship since it’s opening on October 14, 1961.
Her hull and her weapons may represent, in a way, a bygone era in the story of naval power and naval tactics, but her spirit remains modern and she will thereby continue to contribute in a great measure to the security of the United States and the moral fiber of her citizenry.
Ministers of three faiths also took part in the ceremony. The Rt. Rev. Thomas H. Wright, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina delivered the invocation; the dedicatory prayer was by Rev. Charles J. O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Wilmington, and Rabbi Samuel A. Friedman of the Congregation of B’nai Israel, Wilmington, gave the benediction. Commerce Secretary Luther H. Hodges, who as Governor was instrumental in acting on Jimmy Craig’s idea to save the ship, set out new marching orders for the old battlewagon:
We’re launching this great battleship on a second tour of duty . . . as a permanent reminder of freedom’s obligations.
Navy minesweepers plied the Cape Fear, ferrying guests from downtown Wilmington to the battleship site and later passed in review just before Army, Navy, and Air Force planes flew over in a magnificent aerial salute.
The radio broadcast of the ceremonies was offered to each radio station in North Carolina and adjoining states. Wilmington television station WECT carried the proceedings live to coastal North Carolina. Video tape replays were available to other TV stations.
In 1969 Vice Admiral Ernest M. Eller, Director of United States Naval History, wrote:
North Carolina, the first of the new battleships of World War II, has special significance to the Navy and the Nation. Her brilliant performance in gunnery in the Pacific with the fast carrier task force played an important role in our ultimate victory. She well deserved to be enshrined.
Hugh Morton, in his 1988 book, Making a Difference in North Carolina, dedicated an entire chapter to the ship. Said Morton:
The (USS) North Carolina’s record speaks for itself. She was in all 12 offensive naval engagements. Applying any plausible yardstick one cares to use, the USS North Carolina may well be the greatest battleship ever floated by the United States. We who hail from North Carolina were in luck the day it was decided to name this particular ship for our state.
On January 14, 1986, the ship was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. So, on this the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the Battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55), I choose to believe there will be another gathering in a very special place. Included will be, Burke and Ricketts, Sanford and Hodges, Morton and Campbell, Eller and Craig. And as they did 50 years ago, leading this gathering will be Jim Reid along with Rt. Rev Wright, Rev O’Connor, and Rabbi Friedman. All will be joined by 8,910 North Carolina heroes from World War II.
I stumbled upon today’s topic while searching for an anniversary around which I could build a blog post. April 12th is the anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s’ death in 1945, so I searched the online collection, wondering if I might find something related to FDR. What turned up are three negatives depicting what looks like a presidential inauguration, but the description for the event provided a possible time span of several years—between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman presidencies. (There is a fourth negative, of people in the crowd, but it hasn’t been scanned.) This makes for a perfect opportunity to see if we can collectively narrow down that range, or even get the specific date.
To start things off, I’m guessing that the event is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941 and here’s why: it’s sunny.
OK, there’s a little more to it than that!
Here are the clues I’ve discovered thus far:
As a side note, resolving the background of these corporate histories and their film stocks would probably be useful when identifying images based upon dating film type.
The clincher for identifying the year may reside in automotive history. Can anyone identify the vehicles in the photograph? If so, we might have the pièce de résistance!
On Thursday afternoons, my weekly two hour stint on the reference desk allows me the opportunity to research Hugh Morton’s photographic career by turning through pages of The State, a weekly magazine started in June 1933 that is now the monthly magazine Our State. Morton frequently submitted photographs to the publication after his return from World War II. His first published images in The State, views from Grandfather Mountain, appeared in the 1 September 1945 issue—just a few months after his discharge from the Unites States Army.
Whenever I find a Morton photograph in The State, I search for it in the online collection of photographs. If I find it (or one similar to it that was clearly taken on the same occasion) I update the descriptive and date information for that image. A couple weeks ago while skimming through the year 1956, I happened upon an article about Andy Griffith written by Bill Sharpe in his “From Murphy to Manteo” column in the February 11th issue. The two photographs that illustrate the article are represented above and below (both without cropping; the magazine cropped both images, including Joe Costa’s right ear and everything to the left—i.e., all of Hugh Morton—in the latter image ).
A View to Hugh featured the photograph of Griffith and photographer Joe Clark in the post “Don’t Smoke Your Eye Out!” on June 12, 2009. Near the end of that post I declared, “Another Morton collection mystery solved!” Silly me . . . the caption for the photographs accompanying Sharpe’s “Report on Andy” credits both photographs to Bob Garland.
According to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) website, Bob Garland was a picture editor and war correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post until he joined Graflex Inc. as press technical representative after World War II. Later he became a press photography products specialist for Eastman Kodak Co. Garland died in December 1972. In 1974 the NPPA established the Robin F. Garland Educator Award, which, incidentally, Joe Costa received in 1980.
I haven’t had much luck finding information about Mr. Garland. He appears on the far left of the group portrait he made which can be seen at the top of the View to Hugh post “Honorary Tar Heels.” The North Carolina Collection has the tear sheets for a November 1946 Holiday magazine article on Pinehurst entitled “Golftown, U.S.A.” written by George Shearwood, where Garland is credited as the photographer. Garland was also the photographer for the book We Saw the Battle of the Atlantic: Diana, of Periscope Lane, Torpedo Junction, Hatteras Way by reporter Charles Rawlings published in 1942. That book is not available locally so I’ve requested it on interlibrary loan.
Can anyone shed more light on Bob Garland?
Today is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage!
To celebrate the occasion, the Girona City Council (Spain) through the Centre for Image Research and Diffusion (CRDI) and the Cinema Museum, with the collaboration of the International Council on Archives (ICA), created a terrific poster (caution: clicking that link downloads a large PDF of the poster) and website—both offered in four languages including English.
We celebrate the day here at A View to Hugh with the photograph above made by Hugh Morton of photographer Joe Clark, the “Hill Billy Snap Shooter” (who has been featured here in previous posts) and a vast array of cameras.
Last week I came across an interesting new discovery about the photograph of Clark and Andy Griffith used in one of those posts, “Don’t Smoke your Eye Out” on 12 June 2009. I’ll be writing a follow up post on that discovery next week. The other post that mentions Clark is about the Honorary Tar Heels, which includes a Morton photograph of Clark photographing while standing on top of the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain.
You can celebrate your audiovisual heritage today, too. Just shoot a photograph or video!
October 2nd, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the USS North Carolina’s arrival in Wilmington. Hugh Morton collection volunteer Jack Hilliard takes a look at the final days of the historic journey.
October 1961 was a busy month for photographer Hugh Morton. UNC’s football Tar Heels played host to Clemson, the North Carolina Trade Fair opened in Charlotte, President John F. Kennedy came to Chapel Hill for University Day, and the UNC basketball Tar Heels began practice under new head coach Dean Smith. But it would be the events of October 2nd that would become a defining episode in the legacy of Hugh Morton.
On October 17th, 1945 the battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55) entered Boston harbor. The ship had spent forty months in the Pacific during World War II traveling 307,000 miles. On its arrival, freighters, tugs, transports, and work boats cut loose with whistles, sirens, and bells for the North Carolina’s first salute back home. During World War II, the ship had been credited with twenty-four enemy planes, one enemy cargo ship, and had participated in every major offensive engagement in the Pacific from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay, earning fifteen battle stars. In the summer of 1946, it twice visited the Naval Academy at Annapolis to embark midshipmen for training cruises in the Caribbean. Then in October the North Carolina returned to its birthplace, the New York Navy Yard, for inactivation. On June 27th, 1947 it was decommissioned and assigned to the 16th Fleet (inactive), Battleship Division 4, Atlantic, relegated to fourteen years of retirement at Bayonne, New Jersey.
In 1958 a brief news item appeared in the media saying the World War II battleship was going to be scrapped by the United States Navy . . . sold for junk. When James S. Craig, Jr. of Wilmington heard the news, he was outraged. Craig set out to save the old ship. He was able to get Governor Luther Hodges’ attention and support as well as that of incoming Governor Terry Sanford. Hodges sent a dispatch to Washington requesting that the Department of the Navy postpone its plans to destroy, pending an investigation by the state into the possibility of salvaging the ship. On June 1st, 1960 the North Carolina was stricken from the official Navy list.
A little over five months later, on November 11th, 1960, Governor Hodges appointed the USS North Carolina Battleship Advisory Committee to investigate the feasibility of establishing the warship as a state memorial. In the spring of 1961, a bill was introduced in the legislature creating the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission. Hugh Morton was installed as chairman. During the next five months Morton and his commission initiated an intensive “Let’s bring the USS North Carolina home” campaign that raised the needed funds.
The United States Navy turned the battleship over to the state of North Carolina in a ceremony in Bayonne on September 6, 1961, with noted newsman Lowell Thomas as master of ceremonies. The ship’s towing to North Carolina was scheduled to begin on September 25th, but the remnants of Hurricane Esther had other ideas. A one-day delay was in order. The weather on Tuesday, September 26th was better and a proud warship headed home. Instead of an infamous journey to the junkyard, the USS North Carolina’s final voyage would be to a memorial berth in Wilmington, North Carolina—and the stage was set for a true North Carolina homecoming.
Soon after 9:00 a.m. on September 26th, the 45,000 ton USS North Carolina was moved away from its dock at Bayonne. Five tugs alongside and two others at the bow eased the battleship out into New York Harbor. Several ships in the harbor gave the majestic North Carolina salutes with their deep-throated horns as it moved down the channel through the narrows to lower New York Bay and then the open sea. Captain Axel Jorgensen of the lead tug Diana Moran answered each salute. For the next four days, the Diana Moran and its sister tug the Margaret Moran guided the big ship down the east coast. On Saturday afternoon, September 30th, the ship circled slowly the lee of Frying Pan Shoals, awaiting an early Sunday morning tide to assist its trip up the Cape Fear River. The plan was to enter Southport Harbor about 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 1st. But once again, mother nature stepped in: an unexpected northeaster blew in over coastal Carolina, bringing rain and low visibility.
The battleship USS North Carolina spent its final night at sea just off Cape Hatteras—the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”—near the skeleton of the Laura E. Barnes, which wrecked off the Dare coast before the turn of the 20th century. Then at 8:00 a.m. on October 2nd, the ship began the last twenty-seven miles of its final journey. Thousands of spectators lined the river banks to watch. Scores of boats followed the big ship as it was pulled by the Coast Guard cutter Cherokee and guided up the winding channel by a fleet of eleven tug boats. As the North Carolina approached downtown Wilmington at 3:30 p.m., the crowds grew larger. Bleachers had been set up at the Customs House, and people could be seen hanging out of buildings trying to get a look at North Carolina’s newest tourist attraction. A band played “Anchors Aweigh” as the battlewagon cleared the Cape Fear River at 5:37 p.m.
“The berthing at Wilmington was one of the most tense moments in my lifetime,” said Morton in his 1996 book, Sixty Years With a Camera. “If it did not work, we knew we had a mighty big ship that would make a formidable dam on the Cape Fear River.” But it did work: at 5:40 p.m. on October 2nd, 1961, Rear Admiral William S. Maxwell, Jr. USN, Retired, superintendent of the Battleship Memorial, pronounced the USS North Carolina was home.
During World War II, the Japanese claimed six times to have sunk the North Carolina, but the gallant battleship survived every onslaught. And when it was doomed for the junkyard the people of the great state whose name it had carried during the war, and led by planner and organizer Hugh Morton, saved it for future generations.
Unfortunately, James S. (Jimmy) Craig, Jr. did not get to see the mighty battleship slip majestically into its memorial shrine at the Port of Wilmington. He was in the Army Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in critical condition from injuries suffered in an air show crash just eight days earlier. He died on October 14th, the day “The Showboat” first opened to the public.
Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.
Today is Flag Day in the United States, commemorating the passing of the resolution (quoted above) on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress for the design of a marine ensign. The evolution of the United States flag (more at wikipedia or Federal Citizens Information Center) includes a bit of Tar Heel history, too: the Battle of Guilford Courthouse flag, flown on March 15th 1781 in Greensboro, N.C. that is now preserved in the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History.
Here at A View to Hugh, you can fly a virtual flag by clicking on this search of the online collection for photographs depicting the American flag represented in Hugh Morton photographs. After all, Flag Day is a memorable occasion.
Before there was an Environmental Protection Agency, before there was an Earth Day, before Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, there was Donora.
—W. Michael McCabe, Regional Administrator of the Mid-Atlantic Region, United States Protection Agency, 1998.
Tucked inside a horseshoe curve of the Monongahela River twenty miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania lies the once industrial powerhouse town of Donora. The 2010 United States Census counted 4,781 residents in Donora; in 1948, however, approximately 14,000 people called Donora home—except for one week in late November when a national tragedy sent 40 of its citizens to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.
Donora’s industrial roots took hold in the early 1900s—at first the site of a wire plant, rod plant, and steelworks, and then a zinc works. Donora’s continual industrial growth, especially after World War II, made it one of several important small “steel cities” along the Monongahela River as it wends from the coalfields of northern West Virginia through what became known as “The Mon Valley” before reaching Pittsburgh to help the Allegheny River form the Ohio River.
With industrial growth came constant pollution. I grew up sixty miles east of Donora in Johnstown—another small steel city—in the 1960s and early 1970s. During these years I also spent many, many days visiting my grandparents in Bridgeville thirty miles northwest of Donora. I can still remember the horrible smells from the Koppers chemical plant there if the wind blew in the wrong direction, and the drive back to Johnstown through Pittsburgh with smoke billowing steel mill furnaces towering right next to the “Parkway East” interstate highway. And though not as bad as the infamous 1940s when Pittsburgh often saw streetlights burning during the day, the 60s and 70s still had their fair share of air pollution. It’s funny, however, that while growing up in western Pennsylvania I never heard about “The Donora Death Smog” of 1948; that is, until a few weeks ago when I saw the Hugh Morton photograph above, made in Wilmington, North Carolina—and came to learn something about my own regional heritage.
On Wednesday, October 27th, 1948 an air inversion formed above Donora, trapping a deadly smog over the city. Many people became seriously ill. By the time rain dissipated the inversion on Sunday, 19 had people died, and between 4,500 and 7,000 (estimates vary) had been afflicted in some way. The negative health affects of the smog, however, lasted well beyond those few days, especially since the air was usually polluted to some degree, inversion or no. The Death Smog of Donora quickly became front page national news.
After reading this news in Wilmington, North Carolina, L. C. LeGwin approached his friend Bill Broadfoot with the proposition that Wrightsville Beach had a lot of what Donora did not—fresh air and sunshine. Broadfoot was president of the Wilmington Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce), and LeGwin proposed that they invite fifty citizens from Donora for an all-expenses-paid week to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Broadfoot made a proposal to the Jaycees, which it approved, and on November 2nd—only two days after the sickening smog lifted—Jaycees secretary John H. Farrell called Donora’s mayor with the invitation.
A week later, doctors in Donora had a list of citizens most in need of help. Volunteers and donors in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach stepped up with free medical care, dinners, concerts, bakery goods, eggs, cereal, milk, vegetables, ice cream, pier fishing, laundry and dry cleaning, haircuts, newspapers, and more. Government regulations, however, prevented airlines from providing free flights. After a telegram appealing to President Truman (who was vacationing after his successful reelection in Key West, which included a brief two-hour stop at Cherry Point and New Bern, also photographed by Morton on November 7th) lead to a plea to the Civil Aeronautics Board. After a few days more of bureaucratic resolve, the C.A.B. issued an exemption that permitted a round-trip flight on Capital Airlines—with one of its two hubs at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin twenty miles upriver from Donora—for a $2,000 fee to be paid by the Jaycees through fund raising. Finally on November 18th—a week before Thanksgiving Day—a plane donning “Good WILLimgton Mission” especially painted on its side landed at Wilmington’s Bluethenthal Field.
The Pennsylvania guests, or “Donorians” as the Wilmington Morning Star dubbed them, stayed in heated homes and apartments around the Lumina (the large building seen left of center in the above bird’s-eye view of Wrightsville Beach). The week’s activities were many and, needless to say, Hugh Morton and camera were often in attendance. The Wilmington Morning Star published five Morton photographs during that week, including one very similar to the image below made on Friday, November 19th when the Donorians rode in a motorcade to Orton Plantation. The photograph’s caption noted that their tour was “personally conducted” by Billy Broadfoot and Mrs. Betsy Sprunt. (The Sprunt family owned Orton Plantation from 1884 until selling it in December 2010.)
A second photograph’s caption exclaimed, “Donorians See First Moss”—to which I can attest that Spanish Moss is not native to western Pennsylvania—as Cesare Valreri “adorns” Elizabeth Chiedor with the natural garland gathered during their tour of Orton Plantation.
There is a detailed account of the festivities held during the Good WILLmington Mission in chapter twelve, “Escaping Donora’s Deadly Smog” in the book, Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island by Ray McAllister (2007). Among their activities, a photograph of their tour of Airlie Gardens on Saturday, November 20th is neither in the newspaper nor in the Morton collection. A Morton photograph made during a dinner at the Trail’s End restaurant appeared in the November 23rd edition of the newspaper; the negative is in the Morton collection, but it is deteriorated.
An image similar to the “Donate to Donora” photograph (above) depicted Jaycees treasurer Tom James and president Billy Broadfoot raising money for the chartered air flight during the gala farewell party at the Cape Fear Armory on Wednesday night. (The gentlemen in the picture above are unidentified.) The published version didn’t appear in the newspaper until Friday morning, however, with the headline “Feed the Kitty”—published politely, perhaps, after the visitors had returned because the newspaper said they were still short $1,400 to cover the cost of the flights. The photograph below also ran in the Friday newspaper, although cropped as a tight vertical centered on Wilmington mayor pro tem James E. L. Wade and his farewell kissers.
The Donora Smog Museum emblem touts, “Clean Air Started Here October 1948.” I find myself wondering about the connection between the Donora Smog and Hugh Morton’s later efforts to document photographically the harmful effects of acid rain in mountains forests. There may not be a direct connection, but the experience may have been one of those small stepping stones along the way to Morton’s campaign against acid rain, which culminated in his award-winning (CINE Golden Eagle, 1994) film, “The Search for Clean Air” narrated by Walter Cronkite.
Note from Stephen: Today’s post from JACK HILLIARD is presented in honor of NASA shuttle Discovery’s last mission scheduled for lift-off today, but postponed until Wednesday.
It is a cloudy, warm January afternoon on a sandy cape area east of Walt Disney World in Central Florida. It is a place where the Banana River winds its way through thick marshes. . . where you may see herons and pelicans . . . manatee and alligators . . . eagles and egrets. As you lift your eyes toward the horizon, in the distance stands the mighty Saturn V (pronounced “five”) Rocket . . . all 363 feet of it fueled and ready to fly. You are at NASA’s Complex 39 Press Site at the Kennedy Space Center. Within the next six hours, Apollo 14 will begin America’s fourth trip to land a man on the lunar surface. The Mission Commander is Astronaut Alan Shepard. He was America’s first man in space about ten years earlier. The Command Module is called “Kitty Hawk” and is piloted by Stuart Roosa. The Lunar Module is called “Antaries” and is piloted by Ed Mitchell. All three men have spent time in the simulator at the Morehead Planetarium on the UNC campus.
As I stand there on the bank of the Banana River, I remember the handwritten sign on the planetarium door that said “No Class Today.” That was March 2, 1960 and students in Harvey Daniell’s Astronomy 31 Lab did not meet in the Morehead Planetarium that afternoon. The reason, America’s Mercury Astronauts were taking classes in celestial navigation in the planetarium simulator. I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the astronauts in the Planetarium that day was Commander Shepard.
Launch Complex 39, the nation’s first operational spaceport, ranks as one of history’s great engineering achievements. Three and a half miles from Pad A at the press site, several hundred media personnel have gathered including Hugh Morton. (I was not aware that he was there at the time). As always, he not only documented the Apollo launch, but went to an adjoining location, where several special NASA guests were gathered at the VIP site. Among those guests on this day . . . Vice President Spiro Agnew [left center in photograph below], the future King of Spain, Juan Carlos [far right] and his wife Princess Sophia . . . Henry Kissinger, US security advisor to President Richard Nixon . . . America’s first man on the moon Neil Armstrong [right center], and Hugh O’Brian, movie and TV star. (Editor’s note: NASA bestowed Hugh O’Brian its “Freedom Through Knowledge” Award in 1971. And is that Caspar Weinberger in the upper left?—Stephen)
As the countdown proceeds toward the scheduled launch time of 3:23 PM, a bank of clouds moves over the space center. Then, a brief shower. The countdown is at T-8 minutes and holding. We wait 40 minutes for the clouds and rain to move out of the area. Then at 3:54, comes the familiar voice of NASA’s Jack King: “This is Apollo launch control, we will resume the count at 3:55 PM.” A cheer goes up from the assembled media.
Nothing can prepare you for the sights and sounds of a Saturn V launch. Films and television are simply inadequate to convey the awe and power of the experience.
The countdown proceeds smoothly during the next eight minutes. Then at 4:03 PM on January 31, 1971, the fire and smoke of the Saturn V’s first stage becomes visible. Another cheer from all the viewing areas, even before the staccato roar of the engines is heard. (That’s a neat, unique thing about seeing a Saturn V launch in person. You see the cascade of smoke and flame long before you hear the sound of the engines, which takes longer to travel the three and a half miles. We’re use to seeing a launch on TV where the microphones are located on the launch pad and the sight and sound are together.) Finally, the Apollo 14/Saturn V rocket lifts off and is on its way to the moon.
As I stand watching this awesome site of Commander Shepard and his crew flying to the lunar surface, it of course never crosses my mind that 18 years later on June 16, 1989, I would have the honor of meeting Alan Shepard when he and four of his fellow Mercury astronauts gather at the Morehead Planetarium to celebrate several anniversaries . . . the 30th anniversary of the U. S. space program, the 40th anniversary of the Morehaed Planetarium, and the 20th anniversary of the first moon landing. When I finally get a chance to shake his hand, I tell him that I was at the Apollo 14 launch. He says, “that was a great day . . . I’m glad you were there.”
I want to go back to Loafer’s Glory and have another cup of coffee in the small diner there, look out the windows at the wooded hills, maybe while away some time “just sittin,” as the mountain folk say. Watch the play of light and shadow on the mountains and perhaps discreetly observe the people as they come and go.
— Thomas James Martin, 2001
In my last post, I mentioned a messy box of roll film I found, previously overlooked, in the stacks. As dirty and jumbled as the box was, I assumed it would be filled with, shall we say, less-than-premium examples of Hugh Morton’s work. I was (at least partially) wrong. Among the many rolls of the Morton sons’ high school basketball games I found shots of Terry Sanford’s 1961 inauguration as NC Governor, Kerr Scott at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, and Billy Graham preaching at “Singing on the Mountain” in 1962, among other high-quality scenes.
I also found an intriguing roll of 120 film depicting a North Carolina destination with which I was unfamiliar — a very small community in the NC mountains called “Loafer’s Glory.” To quote Mr. Martin again, “Loafer’s Glory is a wide place in the road in the mountains of western North Carolina. At last count less than a hundred souls live in the community, but at least there is a caution light marking the spot on NC Highway 226 where it it intersects NC 80 of this ‘gloriously’ named town near the Tennessee border perhaps 50 or 60 miles west of Asheville.” (Be sure to read the entirety of Martin’s lovely article on the importance of taking time to “loaf”).
According to a resource on Mitchell County Place Names, Loafer’s Glory “is probably Mitchell County’s most famous named place. Located at the bend of the river about three miles north of Bakersville, Loafer’s Glory was reputedly coined by the women of the community, who took a dim view of the men’s habit of ‘lollygagging’ on the porch of the community soter, rather than working.”
Hugh Morton appears to have visited the community sometime in the 1950s-early 1960s, on his way to or back from a “hillbilly festival” taking place in the middle of the road (the two shots below are on the same roll of film as the Loafer’s Glory images). The road signs for highways 64 and 28 in the bottom image would indicate a location of Highlands, NC, which then leads me to the distinct possibility that these are shots of “Highlands Hillbilly Days.”
According to Anthony Harkins’ Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon, the Hillbilly Days were held each August between 1951 and at least 1957 — “participants dressed as hillbillies and participated in beauty contests, as well as the more traditional pursuits of wood chopping, square dancing, and ballad-singing” (263).
Can anyone verify this? Is this, in fact, “Highlands Hillbilly Days”? And, have you ever loafed in Loafer’s Glory?