Asheville blacked out (mostly) for air raid drill

“In the wake of Pearl Harbor and America’s subsequent entry into World War II, Asheville prepared for the threat of additional foreign strikes on American soil….

“At 10 p.m. Aug. 10, 1942, the mountains went dark for 30 minutes. ‘The blackout test was almost 100 per cent effective,’ The Asheville Citizen wrote.  ‘Excessive cigarette lighting by persons in the downtown area was reported from one town. Carelessness by autoists was reported from another.’

“A lighted window on the top floor of the building on the corner of North Market and East Walnut streets ‘offered a perfect target, until an air raid warden got busy,’ the paper explained.

“The newspaper concluded its account of the blackout with a gruesome anecdote:  ‘A group of boys and girls tied a dead mouse to the doorknob of the Battery Park avenue store which did not observe the black-out. One of the boys borrowed a lipstick from a girl and scribbled this on the glass door. “You had better black out next time.”'”

— From “Air raid warnings sound in WNC, 1942” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Nov. 29, 2020)

New in the collection: Dixie Dew matchbook

Orange paper with an image of a Dixie Dew Syrup bottle and the words "Give a Biscuit a College Education."

“When my Dad went broke mining coal in the early 1950s he moved his wife and two youngest sons from Gadsden, Ala., to Charlotte, where he had managed to hang on to his syrup plant.

“I worked there when I was a boy, starting when I was 13 or 14 years old, making Dixie Dew Syrup, an excellent honey flavored syrup….

“The plant where he manufactured syrup and, later, clothes hangers, was in the basement of a building on Graham Street in what is now part of the parking lot of the stadium where the Carolina Panthers football team plays…”

— From “The Sweat Shop” by Pat Stith at the Final Edition

Unsolved mysteries: Whence Mrs. Calabash?

“According to legend in Calabash, N.C., comedian Jimmy Durante and his troupe passed through the little Brunswick County town sometime in the 1940s. While there, he made friends with a young restaurant owner.

“Brunswick County historian Susie Carson says that woman was Lucille ‘Lucy’ Coleman, a claim repeated in Theresa Jensen Lacey’s ‘Amazing North Carolina.’ Soon afterward, Durante adopted his trademark sign-off — ‘Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!’ — for his radio show. According to Coleman’s daughter, Clarice Holden, and others, it was Durante’s anonymous tip of the hat to her mother, who died in 1989.

“Not everyone accepts this theory, though….”

— From “Who is Mrs. Calabash?” by Ben Steelman in the Wilmington Star News

New in the collection: James Taylor benefit pinback

Pinback button with image of a sheep with green wool and the words "Keep the Sheep Meadow Green, The James Taylor Concert.'

“He endured his share of critical and commercial setbacks during a fallow stretch in the middle of the decade, but by the end of the ’70s James Taylor was undeniably one of the biggest rock stars on the planet – and he capped his remarkable run on July 31, 1979, when he played to a packed crowd during a free concert in New York City’s Central Park.

“The show, held to help raise funds and awareness for a campaign to restore the park’s Sheep Meadow to its former glory, came in the midst of a summer tour to promote Taylor’s ninth LP, Flag….”

— From “When James Taylor Played to 250,000 in Central Park” by Jeff Giles at ultimateclassicrock.com (July 31, 2014)

Beach developers ousted black farmers

“At the start of the twentieth century, [historian Andrew W.] Kahrl writes, shorelines were the South’s ‘most forsaken and forgotten lands.’ They were unsuited to most agricultural purposes, prone to violent storms, and covered in forests where dangerous animals lived. But developers were beginning to see the promise in creating seaside getaways.

“One barrier standing in their way was Black farmers, many of whom had been relegated to the less-fertile land near the ocean. By the 1920s, nightriders were burning Black-owned homes across the coastal South and warning African Americans to sell their land. Local jumps in real estate values were accompanied by increased racial terrorism.

“Some Black locals responded with their own development plans. In 1923, a group of Black doctors, lawyers, and ministers bought Shell Island, North Carolina, and turned it into a resort.

“ ‘After three successful seasons, it suffered a series of fires “of undetermined origin” that eventually forced investors to cut their losses and abandon the property, thus restoring the “color line” in North Carolina’s coastal real estate market,’ Kahrl writes.”

— From “How the Beaches of the South Got There” by Livia Gershon at JSTOR Daily (July 6) 

New in the collection: newsboy badge

Metal oblong item with the words "Newsboy, Registered by State Child Welfare Commission, North Carolina."

“Among the most determined opponents of the child labor amendment [to the Constitution] are the newspaper publishers. The newspapers have always enjoyed a cheap circulation system, based on child labor. The publishers successfully resisted amendments to their code strengthening the provisions regulating child labor in the sale and delivery of papers. These additions to the code would have set a 14-year minimum for newsboys, an 18-year minimum for girls, with, an exemption in favor of boys of 12 already employed. They would have forbidden work before 6 a.m. and late in the evening for boys under 16; and required badges issued by a public agency under the U. S. Department of Labor for children in the newspaper trade.

“At a code hearing circulation managers testified that boys were ‘no good’ for newspaper distribution after the age of 14 because they ‘became interested in girls.’ Under questioning, that was repeatedly broken down into an admission that the older boys were not attracted by the low rates of pay.”

— From “Children Wanted” by Beulah Amidon, in Survey Graphic, (January 1937)

The child labor amendment was passed by the House and Senate but never ratified by the required three-fourths of states. North Carolina was a quick no.

I’ve been frustrated in finding details on North Carolina’s regulation of newsboys, but they did wear this sturdy badge.

Samuel A. Ashe still has fans in SCV

“The arguments [made in the Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage Defense manual, 2016] are drawn exclusively from…  ‘The Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern states and the War of 1861-65,’ published by Samuel A. Ashe in 1935. Ashe served in the Confederate army, was elected to the North Carolina state house in 1870 and was vice president of the SCV’s forerunner organization, the United Confederate Veterans.

“The document follows Ashe in arguing that the war was not primarily about slavery, but driven by anger at taxes imposed by a Congress dominated by Northern politicians, and a fear not about the dissolution of slavery per se, but because emancipation would ‘devastate the capital infrastructure’ in the South.”

— From “Manual advises how to stop removal of Confederate statues: don’t mention race” by Jason Wilson in The Guardian (July 4) 

New in the collection: milk caps

Three milk jug caps

“After 1900, in areas of North Carolina where farms were changing from row crops to livestock (primarily the Piedmont and western regions), some farmers with milk surpluses started regular dairy routes. These routes gave farmers ready cash each month rather than forcing them to wait for the annual row crop harvest. Small dairies, or creameries, usually served nearby geographic areas, selling fresh milk, butter, and ice cream to local families. By the early 1940s, such creameries were delivering milk to homes and grocery stores daily. These creameries often developed their own brand names in direct competition with some of the larger processors such as Pet and Sealtest.

“By 1953 more than 300 dairies existed in Iredell County, which has been the leading dairy county in North Carolina since records were officially kept.

— From Dairy Industry by Chester Paul Middlesworth in NCpedia (2006)

These milk bottle caps came from Lashmit & Nelson’s White Pine Dairy near Winston-Salem, from J.C. Bowers & Sons’ Hillside Dairy near Norwood (also Boone and Pittsboro) and from Brookwood Dairy of Asheville. (The Medical Milk Commission certification cited on the Brookwood cap was an early 20th century means to allow sales to pasteurization-wary consumers. The milk commission has disappeared, but the debate continues.)

From ancestry.com this note about the surname Lashmit:

“The most Lashmit families were found in the USA in 1920. In 1880 there were 9 Lashmit families living in North Carolina. This was 100% of all the recorded Lashmit’s in the USA. North Carolina had the highest population of Lashmit families in 1880.”

‘Died Fighting for Liberty!’… Uh-huh

” The most terrible thing about War, I am convinced, is its monuments – the awful things we are compelled to build in order to remember the victims. In the South, particularly, human ingenuity has been put to it to explain on its war monuments, the Confederacy. Of course, the plain truth of the matter would be an inscription something like this: ‘Sacred to the memory of those who fought to Perpetuate Human Slavery.’ But that reads with increasing difficulty as time goes on. It does, however, seem to be overdoing the matter to read on a North Carolina Confederate monument: ‘Died Fighting for Liberty!’ ”

— From “The Perfect Vacation” by W. E. B. Du Bois in The Crisis (1931)

“Died Fighting for Liberty!” certainly fits the content and tone of Confederate monument inscriptions, but I can’t find evidence of where Du Bois might have spotted it…. Is there a monumentalist in the house? 

New in the collection: department store mirror

Circular plastic item with images of birthstones around the edge and the words "The Leader, Asheville's New Big Department Store" and the store's address in the center.

The Leader department store was once among more than 80 Jewish-owned businesses on  Patton Avenue. Its building remains, but — more typically for contemporary Asheville — now houses a grass-fed-beef burger joint  and “a small-batch hand-craft nano-brewery and ale house.”

This nifty little celluloid lagniappe, circa 1920, includes a pocket mirror on the back and a supply of straight pins around the rim.