Oh, c’mon now — you know you can’t resist clicking on  “1935-2013 Map of North Carolina’s Confirmed Unprovoked Shark Attacks.”

That link comes via a New York Times account of how Cape Cod merchants have cannily alchemized  shark fear.  And of course the Times can’t pass up the opportunity to recall Mayor Vaughn’s classic line in “Jaws”:  “You yell ‘Shark!’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” (If “Jaws” were being remade yet again, this time on the North Carolina coast, the mayor no doubt would declare “You yell ‘rising sea level!’ we’ve got a panic….’)

And whom did Steven Spielberg cast as the “Jaws” mayor? Why none other than North Carolina’s  Murray Hamilton, who both was born and died in coastal (Little) Washington. Hamilton’s lengthy character-acting credits also provide the answer to the eternal headscratcher “Who played Mr. Robinson?”


“Players [in 1960] found in these small Carolina cities what they were wont to find. New Yorkers first found them oppressive, too tranquil, and lamented their inaccessibility to Coney Island….

“Drive-in restaurants where one could get a a variety of sandwiches and beer abounded in this era predating most national fast-food chains. The downtowns all had small cafes, some of them run by snuff-dipping, middle-aged women who looked after a regular clientele but doted on the local ballplayers as well….

“Some store owners offered prizes to players who excelled. A four-hit night, a key home run, a well-pitched game, could bring a new shirt,  a couple pairs of underwear, some fancy new shoes…..

“The civil rights movement had not yet gained ground in the Western Carolina League cities…..Black players roomed in homes in the black section of town and seldom associated with white players off the field.”

– From “The Continental League: A Personal History” by Russell D. Buhite (2014)

The Western Carolina League was constructed to provide players for the Continental League, Branch Rickey‘s unsuccessful attempt at forming a third major league. It comprised Gastonia, Hickory, Lexington, Newton-Conover, Salisbury, Shelby, Statesville and Rutherford County (Forest City).

Author Buhite, now professor emeritus of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, played for the Rutherford County Owls before retiring to academia.


Photo by Dorothea Lange. "Sign tacked to pole near the post office. Main street, Pittsboro, North Carolina," Dorothea Lange, 1939

“Sign tacked to pole near the post office. Main street, Pittsboro, North Carolina,” Dorothea Lange, 1939

Here’s something for you to contemplate over the weekend.

In her trek through North Carolina in 1939, famed documentary photographer Dorothea Lange captured the photo above in Pittsboro. Lange offered no details other than those that appear in the above caption. So it’s hard to know why she decided to turn her camera toward the sign. But I’d hazard a guess that it’s the term pickle low party. Is pickle low merely a misspelling of piccolo? Or does pickle low have something to do with pickles? We’re vexed. And in a quick search around the web, it seems that others who’ve seen this photo are also confused by the term. Can anybody offer some clarification?

Larrapin Tongue with Blackberry Sauce - Southern Cookbook

Larrapin Tongue with Blackberry Sauce from Marion Brown’s southern cook book.

Liver and Bacon Bake - Mountain Elegance

Liver and Bacon Bake from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

Scrapple - Mountain Makin's in the Smokies

Scrapple from Mountain makin’s in the Smokies : a cook book.

Head Cheese - Keepers of the Hearth

Head Cheese from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

fresh tongue - Dixie Dishes

Fresh Tongue from Dixie dishes

Calf's Feet - The Young Housewife's Counselor and Friend

Calf’s Feet from The young housewife’s counsellor and friend : containing directions in every department of housekeeping; including the duties of wife and mother.

Brains Terrapin - Southern Cookbook

Brains Terrapin from Marion Brown’s southern cook book.

Chitterlings - America Cooks

Chitterlings from America cooks : practical recipes from 48 states.

As an oft-entertained patron of Google’s Ngram Vieweret seq. — I’m thrilled to see the New York Times unveil Chronicle, a similar device based on its own archive.

And of course my inaugural word search is….


“The great barrier islands of America’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts have been moving for centuries. Of Hatteras, North Carolina, it has been said: ‘This island is nothing fixed. It has transience, shiftiness, built into its very existence..’ In the 1980s, Hatteras ‘houses well back from the beach [were] sold on the basis of “Ocean Front Property by the Turn of the Century.” Even erosion can turn a buck’….

“It is only when barrier islands are fixed in place that they are breached and eroded. Prevented from moving, they literally die, shrinking in size and viability…..

“The reason we continue to ‘fix’ coasts only to destroy them is not hard to fathom. We have allowed people to build right up to the edge of the sea, creating property that for coastal communities in economic decline is the principal tax base.”

– From “The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History” by John R. Gillis (2012)


“North Carolina is a world leader in producing student theses about underwear….

“[One author] begins by saying: ‘Although my name is attached to this thesis I must admit that God has been the true author; because every word, table and figure have only been made possible through Him.’

“She finishes with these words: ‘Of the 67% of respondents that were dissatisfied with underpants, most (35%) wore a size large.’ ”

– From “Two Underwear Theses in North Carolina”  at Improbable Research (June 15, 2013)


This Sunday is the third Sunday in July and that means ice cream!  Celebrate National Ice Cream Day with your favorite flavor.


Ice Cream Poem from Kitchen kapers.

Cheerwine Ice Cream - Cooking on the Cutting Edge

Cheerwine Ice Cream from Cooking on the cutting edge.

Peach Marshmallow Ice Cream - Given to Hospitality

Peach Marshmallow Ice Cream from Given to hospitality : a cook book.

Ice Cream (Milky Way) - Carolina Cooking

Ice Cream (Milky Way) from Carolina cooking.

Coffee Ice Cream Supreme-Vegetarian Delights

Coffee Ice Cream Supreme from Flavors of Fearrington : the village where neighbors care and community is alive.

Lavender Ice Cream-Flavors of Fearrington

Lavender Ice Cream from Flavors of Fearrington : the village where neighbors care and community is alive.

Ginger Ice Cream - Capital City

Ginger Ice Cream from Capital city cook book : a collection of practical tested receipts.

Ice Cream Sandwiches - Rush Hour Superchef!

Ice Cream Sandwiches from Rush hour superchef! : with step-by-step menus.

“At the very least, we can definitively trace the term to 1937, when it was used in a popular song. It is likely that Cackalacky’s etymology runs much deeper, however….

“It may have arisen from a kind of sound-play utterance used to refer to the rural ways of people from Carolina — a play on the pronunciation of the state.  Another hypothesis is that Cackalacky was derived from the Cherokee term tsalaki, pronounced ‘cha-lak-ee,’ the Cherokee pronunciation of Cherokee. Yet another hypothesis traces it to a cappella gospel groups in the American South in the 1930s, who used the rhythmic (but apparently meaningless) chant clanka lanka in their songs. Derivations related to the German word for cockroach (kakerlake) and a Scottish soup (cockaleekie) have also been suggested….

“Certainly the popularity of Cackalacky has risen in the last decade, and it has now become a positive term of solidarity used throughout the state. We favor the sound-play etymology for Cackalacky, but we are honesty just venturing our best guess….”

– From “Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina” by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser (2014)

This is not, of course, the Miscellany’s first or even second swat at the elusive origins of Cackalacky, and it likely won’t be the last.


skydiving photo

F.J. Hale with canopy (skydivers’ term for parachute), circa early 1970s.

Francis J. Hale, co-founder of the UNC Parachute Club, recently dropped in with July’s Artifacts of the Month. Hale, Class of 1973, organized the Club in 1969 with fellow student Bob Bolch. Not surprisingly, the University did not easily warm to the idea of its students jumping out of airplanes. Hale recalls “The athletic department wanted nothing to do with us. I nagged the devil out of them, until I finally got some old warm up suits from the swim team.” Undaunted by the University’s lack of enthusiasm, the Club designed suits, acquired equipment, and thrived. Members were soon winning trophies in regional contests with other parachute clubs.

yearbook photo

F.J. Hale with his ParaCommander Mk1 parachute in his 1973 Yackety Yack photo.

Army regulations were looser back in those days and Club members were allowed to jump with the 18th Corps Sport Parachute Club at Fort Bragg and later the Green Beret Parachute Club. According to Hale, UNC Parachute Club members didn’t spend too much time at Fort Bragg, but hanging around the seasoned soldiers there opened their eyes “a little too wide.”

Also included in this gift is a helmet with camera, a t-shirt with logo designed by team member Canda Sue Reaugh, a logo pendant, and, most priceless of all, the stories Hale told us about his experiences as a student. Understandably, Hale is holding onto his Parachute Club jacket, which, like his 1969-1973 jumpsuit, still fits!

man in parachute gear

It still fits! F.J. Hale in his circa 1969-1973 UNC Parachute Club gear, June 2014.

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