Happy Halloween! Haunting North Carolina Ghost Stories

1376Preparing for Halloween around the SHC can get a little spooky! Wandering through Wilson Library’s dark and silent stacks may uncover some truly spine-tingling tales. The archive documents many stories that hold cultural importance for the South, including some creepy North Carolina ghost stories.

A journalist, and active University of North Carolina Alum, named John Harden, compiled records of well-known ghost stories from different areas in North Carolina. Out of these grew two books, Devil’s Tramping Ground and Tar Heel Ghosts. The tales tell chilling supernatural events from familiar North Carolina locations. In 1955, WUNC television produced some of these stories as short programs. From the script drafts and illustrations for these shows, I’ll summarize two of the spookiest stories for you, to set the mood for a truly spook-tacular Halloween!

Colonial Apparition

This truly hair rising tale is a sailors’ story of terrifying apparitions seen on a stormy sea near the appropriately named Cape Fear, North Carolina. Legend from the area tells of two Scotsmen who were executed by the British during the American Revolution, between Wilmington and Southport on the Cape Fear River. African-American superstition in the 19th century told of two ghostly apparitions appearing during storms at the same spot.

One evening a well-known Captain, Captain John M. Harper was sailing the haunted stretch of river between Wilmington and Southport. The weather started to turn stormy and cold. In the darkness, some of the men on his boat began recounting times during which these ghosts had been seen. One man suggested that the two ghosts were probably the Scotsmen looking for a ship to carry them home. As the wind and the rain got worse, one man on Captain Harper’s ship saw an apparition clutching the railing, with a beard encrusted in ice. The crewman tried to save him from falling overboard, but the man disappeared. Returning to the captain, he reported what he had seen.  To keep the men calm, Captain Harper began joking about how they should watch out for more ghosts.

As the weather grew worse they began passing the plantation where ghosts had been seen previously. All the crew grew more and more uneasy. A shrill shrieking sounded across the water from the direction of shore.  The screams began getting louder and louder coming from a spot where colonial ships used to anchor. An object began to take shape in the darkness, and an impossibly ancient, seaweed-covered barge appeared before them.

Colonial Apparition001

The Captain ordered the crew to help the barge. But no sooner had they begin to throw a line, than they saw two figures dressed in Scottish garb wrapped in chains on board. The ghostly figures reached toward Captain Harper’s ship. As soon as they tried to pull the rotting barge closer it was swallowed by the angry river waves.

As they continued down the river, they came upon another boat wrecked by the storm. On board were two weakened men who had been shouting for help, revealing the source of the earlier screaming. However, most of the crew remained convinced that some of the unearthly yelling originated from the phantom barge they saw in midst of the terrible storm.

A Haven for Ghosts

A North Carolina man built his dream home near the banks of the Yadkin River upon the foundation of an old tavern. On his first night in the new house he heard what sounded like digging outside. Thinking that the construction men returned to find something, he looked out the window and saw his empty yard. Yet while gazing out into the dark he still heard sounds indicating that there was digging. Concerned, since animals could not be making that noise, he went to look around his property. When he went to turn the bolt on the door– that he carefully locked before bed–he found it already unlocked. Gazing around the property, he saw no evidence of anyone having been near the house. He heard a noise coming from his basement and quickly entered the basement shouting, but no one was there. Determining to investigate more in the morning, he returned to his bedroom. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep he heard the sound of something heavy falling in the room. But when he turned on the light nothing was disturbed.

A haven for ghosts001

As this series of events continued each night with no physical evidence, he began inquiring about it to neighbors and others from the area. They told a tale of a traveler who was rumored to be wealthy. The traveler had stayed in the old tavern after the Civil War on his way home. He was stabbed by a group of thieves looking for his money and buried outside. The thieves, however, were unable to find any money and searched the cellar.  Months later a bag of gold fell from the rafters of the tavern, and many believed this to be the traveler’s money that the thieves were unable to turn up.

Though he was never able to rid himself of the noises in the house, the man began to unearth rumors that every structure built on the old foundation had always burned down, every so often.  A year after the man finished building his house he went on an infrequent trip out of town. When he returned he found that his brand new house had burned down to the original foundation, giving the blackened stones a fresh charcoal coating.

Feel free to check out more of these spooky stories documented in the John Harden Papers, found here in the Southern Historical Collection!

Source for these stories:
From Folders 1879-1897, In the John Harden Papers #4702, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Staff Profile: Susanne Erb, Administrative Assistant

What do you do for the Southern Historical Collection?

As the Administrative Assistant for the Southern Historical Collection, I coordinate the day-to-day operations, which is to say I do a little bit of everything. I am usually the first person someone speaks with when they reach out to the Southern Historical Collection. I answer the phone and the mail and help potential donors or patrons figure out their next step. When materials are donated, I help with accessioning and completing paperwork to track the donations properly.

What did you do before joining the Southern Historical Collection?

Susanne Erb in front of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Susanne Erb in front of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Before joining the SHC, I lived in Charlotte and worked for a company that organized USA and Canadian participation in Food and Defense Trade Shows in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. I worked directly with the exhibitors to make sure they had everything they needed for a successful show, which included vendor order coordination, product shipping and transportation, pavilion design and construction, hotel block registration, and on-site event setup. It was exciting, but stressful work to make sure all of our participants were ready for a show.

How did you get into this line of work?

When I was a senior at North Carolina State University, I worked in the Special Collections Library part-time. I really enjoyed the work, but unfortunately when I graduated very few libraries were hiring. When I moved to Chapel Hill a little over a year ago, I was excited to see there were jobs posted in the library and thrilled to get this position.

What do you like about your job?

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Susanne Erb and Thaddeus Dog in front of Wilson Library, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

I like how excited everyone is about the materials we collect. Whenever a new donation comes in people are genuinely enthusiastic to see what we received and how it will fill in the gaps in what we already have. Whenever I find an interesting photo, letter, or diary entry, there is no shortage of people to share it with who are just as interested in it as I am. It is great to work with people who share your enthusiasm.

I also like seeing the journey a document takes. I like when someone will go into the field and bring us back something that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades. Then we examine and assess it, repackage it up nicely and give it a good, safe home. It’s rewarding when a researcher will come in and use that material, or when the family that donated the material can see how well we’ve cared for it and how we’re preserving their story.

What is your favorite movie to take place almost entirely in a library?

The Breakfast Club.

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Events at the Southern Historical Collection: Edward E. Baptist

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting to give you the inside scoop on what you may have missed at Wilson Library last week.

The Southern Historical Collection had the privilege of hosting Edward E. Baptist as he presented findings from his new book The Half Has Never Been Told: The Making of American Capitalism. The book received media attention when The Economist published a now-redacted review criticizing his argument that the slave system in the pre-Civil War south is largely responsible for the capitalist system in America. Due to his book’s attention (and its increasingly positive reviews), we couldn’t wait to hear what evidence for this argument he found in our archives!

Edward Baptist at Wilson Dr. Baptist opened by explaining how he began trying to find accounts of slave survival and endurance during the migration of slaves deeper south to meet the growing demand for cotton. He explained that what he uncovered during the process was the systematic torture of slaves, to increase the amount of cotton that was picked.  Not many personal accounts of slaves from that time period exist, what he was able to find though was ledgers, receipts, and bank notes revealing how slaves provided collateral on bank loans, how foreign investors provided the funds for new plantation owner’s to buy slaves, and how slave owner’s systematically exploited slaves to increase the amount of cotton they picked.

The ledgers he found here at the Southern Historical Collection reveal that the growing world demand for cotton drove plantation owners to push slaves into picking greater and greater amounts of cotton. The ledgers reveal the weight of cotton picked by a slave, at three points during a single day. They forced slaves to exceed their past weights through systematic torture; they would be beaten if they fell under their quota, and exceeding their past performance resulted in the owners setting a higher quota for them. This widespread system of torture made the slaves valuable, and was the only way to meet the economic demand for cotton at the time. During the lecture, Dr. Baptist expressed how troubling this is to the American conception of capitalism, which is often associated with freedom and equality.

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An example of one of the ledgers recording weight of cotton picked by slaves. 

Item Citation: From Folder 447, in the Rice C. Ballard Papers #4850, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This is only a small portion of what Dr. Baptist found in his book, and we highly recommend that you check it out! It expands on slavery as an economic system, while also illuminating the resilience of slaves from their own personal accounts.

See you on Wednesday, when you can expect to find another staff profile! We hope you’re getting to know us a little better. In the meantime, please feel free to let us know what you think of Edward E. Baptist’s book!

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Staff Profile: Chaitra Powell, African American Collections and Outreach Archivist

What do you do for the Southern Historical Collection?

Since joining the Southern Historical Collection in August of 2014, I have really embraced what it means to be on the curatorial side of an archive.

Chaitra Powell, African American Collections and Outreach Archivist in the Southern Historical Collection

Chaitra Powell, African American Collections and Outreach Archivist in the Southern Historical Collection

As the African American Collections and Outreach Archivist, the primary goal of my position is to cultivate donor relationships and facilitate the acquisition of African American materials into the collection. In the course of pursuing this objective, I collaborate with UNC library and university staff members, as well as diverse community stakeholders around the region. In addition to relationship building, my job gives me the opportunity to participate in all aspects of archival work, including appraisal, description, processing, digitization, preservation, reference and outreach.

What did you do before joining the Southern Historical Collection?

Prior to my position at SHC, I participated in an archival fellowship and worked as an archival consultant in Los Angeles, CA. The host site for the fellowship was the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, an African American history and culture museum, in Culver City, CA. While there I trained volunteers to help me process 140 linear feet of manuscript material from the museum’s founder, Dr. Mayme A. Clayton, co-curated a hallway exhibit, Audio Assault: Sights and Sounds of the Black Power Movement in Los Angeles, 1965-1975, and coordinated a public program, Roses and Revolutions Listening Party. As a consultant, my clients ranged from art gallery owners to churches. One of my greatest achievements was establishing the Marilyn E.P. White Legacy Project to honor the 1964 Olympic medalist and Los Angeles native.

1964 Olympic medalist Marilyn White and Chaitra looking over the video files of her oral history in her home in Inglewood, CA.

1964 Olympic medalist Marilyn White and Chaitra looking over the video files of her oral history in her home in Inglewood, CA.

How did you get into this line of work?

In January of 2010, my last semester of library school at The University of Arizona, I took an internship at a local hospital. The hospital was getting ready for its 100th year anniversary and all of the historic documents and photos were haphazardly placed in file cabinets in the medical library. With minimal supervision and an SAA workbook on arrangement and description, I put together a finding aid for that collection, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do, albeit for something more personally fulfilling than the evolution of dialysis machines and other medical instrumentation. I took my enthusiasm to a wide assortment of volunteer, project based, grant funded, and consulting gigs before landing this wonderful position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What do you like about your job?

I love that my position has a focus on African American history and culture. One of my first mentors in the archives told me that the best archivists are passionate about the subjects of their collections. The position of African Americans in the American South has been complex since inception and continues to be discussed today in so many contexts; I am thrilled to identify and secure the types of collections that will provide the evidence to enhance this dialogue for future generations.

What are you working on right now?  What are some new and exciting projects on the horizon?

Right now I am focused on learning what it takes to be a successful team player at Wilson Library and within the Southern Historical Collection. While I have discussed projects based on my interest in social/political activism, African American art and culture, multi-ethnic representation in the archives and technologically advanced ways to share/interpret history, I have much more planning to do in order to make those ideas a reality. One legacy collecting mission that I am happy to take the lead on is the African American Family Documentation Initiative.

Display table of materials featuring reproductions of African American family materials that we have accessioned so far.

Display table of materials featuring reproductions of African American family materials that we have accessioned so far.

This program represents SHC’s commitment to collect the homegrown records of the everyday lives of African Americans in the South. We are off to a great start with families in the Raleigh area but we are always searching for more reco throughout the state. As the SHC is fully staffed and clarifying our goals, I’m looking forward to answering this question with many more details in the weeks and months ahead.

This is definitely an exciting time to be a part of the Southern Historical Collection, and I have no doubt that this team will shaking things up all around campus. I would encourage you to check out this blog often as we will be posting about the happenings in the collection and the topics that are of interest to us individually and as a unit. If I can answer any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at chaitra@email.unc.edu.

P.S. In case you were curious, my name is pronounced, SHAY-tra…might save some awkwardness in our first conversation!

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Staff profile: Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist

[As we look to "reboot" the Southern Sources blog this semester, we plan to focus some attention on the people who make the wheels of the Southern Historical Collection turn: our wonderful staff, students, volunteers, donors, and SHC champions. We hope this series of profiles will give a human face to our work, especially since we have so many new faces on our team. Today we are featuring Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist for the Southern Historical Collection.] 

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Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist, Southern Historical Collection

What do you for the Southern Historical Collection?

I would say I’m kind of the “utility infielder” for the Collection. Depending on the day, I might be involved in any number of collection management activities: meeting with donors to discuss new materials for the collection, performing on-site reviews of materials being offered to the Collection to determine whether or not they fit within our scope, processing gifts, and working with other library departments to solve collection issues that come up each day (from mold and critter abatement to handling special shipping and receiving requests). I am also responsible for a few outreach duties: I curate onsite and online exhibitions, I develop programs, workshops, and tours, and I co-manage our social media efforts.

How did you get into this line of work?

My journey to the archival profession has been full of switchbacks and detours, as I’ve held various jobs in my life, from managing a small immigration law office, to teaching Spanish classes, to working as an electrician and delivering pizzas to pay my way through college. But, I first had the idea of becoming a librarian during a 2004 stint as a volunteer at a public library in my hometown of Atlanta. So, I moved to North Carolina in 2005 and was accepted into the School of Information and Library Science program at Carolina. I joined the Southern Historical Collection in the fall of 2006 as a graduate assistant. Later, in 2008, I was hired into my current professional position with the SHC, and I’ve been here ever since.

A briefcase full of documents that had been stored in the cellar of a historic home in Yanceyville, N.C.

A briefcase full of books and documents that had been stored in the cellar of a historic home in Yanceyville, N.C.

What do you like about your job?

As I mentioned, I am involved in the day-to-day work to acquire new material for the Collection. Most of the time, this happens by way of a donation being brought in to the library for our consideration. Other times, our staff travels to do onsite reviews of possible new acquisitions. The most fulfilling part of my job is the sort of archaeology of it, getting to unearth materials that have long been stored in attics, closets, crawlspaces and storage units.

Also, like all archivists, I enjoy learning about the context behind the collections that we acquire. I work directly with the creators of these records, or with their descendants or relatives, and so I’m responsible for listening and recording as much as I can about their lives and experiences. This as an extremely important part of my job because this context will impact what kind of arrangement and description we give to the collection, which can translate to the level of accessibility (or searchability) of each collection for our researchers.

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[Right to left]: Biff Hollingsworth working with Rev. Edgar J. Moss (community photographer who recently donated his collection to the SHC), and Karida Brown (founder of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project).

What are you working on right now?  What are some new and exciting projects on the horizon?

We are very proud of the work we have been doing on a new project called the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP), a community-driven archival and digital humanities project aimed at documenting the lives of African American coal miners and their families in Harlan County, Kentucky, as well as the story of the intergenerational migration of members of this community into and out of the Appalachian region during the 20th century. This is an exciting project because it allows us to work with a community that has been historically underrepresented in the archival record, and because it has truly been a cooperative effort among the SHC, our fantastic partner Karida Brown (sociologist at Brown University, Harlan County native, and EKAAMP founder), and with many wonderful individuals who have been donating their stories and archival collections to EKAAMP and the SHC. I have really been inspired by the generosity of everyone involved in this project and I’m proud of what we are building together. So far, Karida Brown has recorded several hundred oral history interviews with members of the community and we have archived these recordings alongside collections of photographs, organizational records, and family papers. We hope you’ll follow our progress on the EKAAMP project website (ekaamp.web.unc.edu).

I am glad I could take a few moments to introduce myself and share some of the work that I have been doing with the Southern Historical Collection. I’m looking forward to writing more about the new collections that we acquire, the projects and programs that we develop, and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead as we seek to broaden the understanding of the history and culture of the American South.

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Welcome to Southern Sources!

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Hello and welcome to the Southern Historical Collection’s blog!

We wanted to take this opportunity to reintroduce you to the updated space, and give you an idea of what you might expect to find here in the future! We know we’ve been absent for a while, and want to avoid that in the future by committing to weekly posts. That’s right, from now on, you can expect posts every Wednesday that will shed insight into what’s happening here at the Southern Historical Collection, including exciting events, collections, and other initiatives.

During these next few weeks, we’d like to introduce you to the team at the Southern Historical Collection, to give you a better idea of what we do, and who is writing these blog posts. We’d like to share with you our interests and roles in supporting the Southern Historical Collection.

For your first introduction, I’d like to introduce myself, Ashlyn Velte, as the graduate student worker here at the SHC. As the newest member of the SHC team, I hope to learn along with you about all the amazing things the collection has to offer! You can see some of my contributions in the blog’s new design, and my presence over on our Facebook page!

Hopefully, this blog will pique your interest in southern history, and our collection. You are always welcome to visit us, and our documents in our reading room at Wilson Library. Looking forward to seeing you around here on our weekly Wednesday posts!

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It’s All Up to You! North Carolina and the Good Health Program, Part 2

As we left off in our last star-studded post, North Carolina leaders in the post-World War II years sought to improve the medical care and general health in the state through a public awareness campaign known as the Good Health Plan. Launched with the help of a few Hollywood friends, the North Carolina Good Health Association reached out to North Carolinians through print, film, and radio advertising and multiple forms of community engagement.

Advertising

Billboards and car cards were used throughout the state to publicize the name and goals of the plan, such as the needs for improved nutrition and an increase in hospitals.

Examples of two billboards used to publicize the Good Health Plan.  From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

Examples of two billboards used to publicize the Good Health Plan. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

 

Milk truck from Durham, NC, displaying one of the campaign's car cards.  From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

Milk truck from Durham, NC, displaying one of the campaign’s car cards. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

 Community Engagement

To get North Carolina citizens actively involved in campaign, the Good Health Association sponsored contests with prizes for both adults and children.  Grade school students competed in oratorical contests (segregated, with one competition for white students and another for black students) in which they were asked to speak about the need for improved health. Prizes for the winners included $500 college scholarships, RCA radios, and state-wide recognition.

Contest Winners

H.C. Cranford, publicity director of the N.C. Good Health Campaign, interviews oratorical contest winners Angela Marchena (Raleigh) and George P. McKinney (Salisbury) on radio station WDUK in Durham. Right: Contest winners Harvey Adams (Farmer) and Dorothy Raynor (Ahoskie) pose with their winnings: RCA-Victor radio phonographs. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

To increase awareness of the need for more medical professionals in the state, a Miss North Carolina Student Nurse pageant was established, with Kay Kyser himself on hand to crown the first winner.

Nurses

Miss NC Student Nurse Competition, circa 1948 and 1949. From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

A store window display contest was sponsored to encourage support for the building of local hospitals and to encourage women to pursue nursing as a career.

Displays

Department store displays. Clockwise from top: Sears (Durham), Robbins (Durham), and Hudson Belk (Asheboro). From the North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

In conjunction with the national Hospital Survey and Construction Act (which provided federal grants and guaranteed loans to improve the country’s hospital facilities), the Good Health Campaign provided funding to increase medical care in underserved areas, including creating more hospitals (adding over 7,000 hospital beds) and training opportunities for medical professionals. This included the founding of the state’s first four year medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1950.  In addition, the public relations campaign helped to increase awareness of health and nutrition issues throughout the state in the post-World War II years.

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It’s All Up to You! North Carolina and the Good Health Program, Part 1

During World War II, the state of North Carolina received an enormous number of draft rejections due to the poor health of its citizens compared to other states, including problems such as poor teeth and eyesight, chronic infections, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hookworm, and even malaria. The conditions of medical care in the state prompted the Medical Society of the State of North Carolina to urge Governor Broughton to take action, resulting in the formation of the State Hospital and Medical Care Commission in 1944.   Their study of health conditions demonstrated that a lack of hospitals, lack of doctors, and limited understanding of health and nutrition were among the reasons for North Carolinians’ poor health.  At the same time, statistics showed that while 41% of white draftees and 61% of African American draftees were being rejected in North Carolina, young men raised in orphanages (receiving state supported medical care and nutrition) had a draft acceptance rate of 99%.

Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942.  From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

Medical Department: Dr. Wright, 20 September 1942 (Left), and Physical tests, circa 1942. From the United States Navy Pre-Flight School (University of North Carolina) Photographic Collection #P0027, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

In response to this study, lawmakers, administrators, health officials, and prominent citizens launched the Good Health Program to educate North Carolinians about health needs, raise money for the building of hospitals, and generate support for increased medical training in the state.

One of these prominent citizens was Kay Kyser, a Rocky Mount, NC native whose career as a band leader had taken him to Hollywood. Kyser’s dedication to the Good Health program resulted in the talents of well known musicians, radio personalities, and film stars being recruited for the public awareness campaign, encompassing film, radio, and various print media.

Kay and Company

Counterclockwise from top: Kay Kyser (Rocky Mount, NC), Ava Gardner (Actress, Smithfield, NC), Kathryn Grayson (Actress, Winston Salem, NC), Skinnay Ennis (Bandleader and singer, Salisbury, NC), and John Scott Trotter (Bandleader, Charlotte). From folder P-3550/1, North Carolina Good Health Association Records, #3550, Southern Historical Collection.

North Carolina natives including film stars Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson, Randolph Scott, and Anne Jeffreys, as well as bandleaders Edgar “Skinnay” Ennis and John Trotter, participated in programs and advertisements via radio and movie trailers to increase awareness of the project’s goals.  Popular radio personalities Burns & Allen and Fibber McGee & Molly contributed radio announcements as well.

"It's All Up To You" sheet music cover.  From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

“It’s All Up To You” sheet music cover. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

One of the most well remembered publicity efforts of the Good Health Program was the creation of its theme song, “It’s All Up to You!” Written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (authors of “Let It Snow” among other popular songs), the song was played by Kay Kyser’s Orchestra and sung by Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore.  Copies of the recording were played and distributed to the public by every radio station in state and sent to juke box operators in all major North Carolina cities. Sheet music was made available to the public through Columbia dealers and sent to the superintendent of each county and city school system.

Click the play button below to hear a recording of “It’s All Up To You” from the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (#20286) in the Southern Folklife Collection:

"It's All Up to You" music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

“It’s All Up to You” music and lyrics. From the Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll Kyser Papers #5289, Southern Historical Collection.

So how did the Good Health Plan affect change in North Carolina? Tune in Friday morning for our exciting conclusion…

Posted in Activism, Education, Just for Kicks, Staff Finds | 2 Comments