Robert Ruark’s Africa Adventure


We’ve bagged our latest big game. The North Carolina Collection now has the DVD of Robert’s Ruark’s 1954 movie, Africa Adventure. We obtained it from Safari Press which has also reissued several of Ruark’s books. Ruark himself narrates the film, and this brings us about as close to the man as we can get. The running time is just over an hour.

A star is born in Winston-Salem

On this day in 1913, Old Joe, a dromedary in the Barnum & Bailey circus passing through Winston-Salem, posed for the Camel cigarette package.

Because the camel image on the existing pack didn’t suit R.J. Reynolds, Roy Haberkern, his secretary, went to the circus in search of a replacement. Haberkern found the trainer unwilling to allow photographs—until he threatened to end the company’s tradition of closing its factories when the circus came to town. Even then, Old Joe balked until the trainer slapped him on the nose, motivating him into his soon-to-be world-famous stance.

This is a lithographed metal fan pull, about 4 inches in diameter, used to operate the ceiling fans typical in stores before air conditioning.

How the need for ‘debuncombizing’ was averted

The origin of “bunkum” — N.C. Congressman Felix Walker’s explanation of his longwinded, irrelevant speech on the Missouri Compromise as “talking for Buncombe” — approaches common knowledge, but the late columnist William Safire traced some notable details in “Safire’s Political Dictionary”:

“By 1828…talking to (or for) Buncombe was well known. The Wilmington (N.C.) Commercial referred in 1849 to ‘the Buncombe politicians — those who go for re-election merely,’ and British author Thomas Carlyle showed that the expression traveled the Atlantic with its meaning intact: ‘A parliament speaking through reporters to Buncombe and the 27 millions, mostly fools’…

“In 1923 William E. Woodward wrote a book titled Bunk and introduced the verb ‘debunk.’ A school of historians were named debunkers for the way they tore down the myths other historians had built up. Hokum, according to the OED, is a blend of hocus-pocus and bunkum.”

North Carolina Fall Festivals


The next “Staff Picks” at the NC Collection will feature our favorite fall festivals in North Carolina. My pick is illustrated below with a program from the 1983 Lincoln County Apple Festival. As a kid, I loved attending this event. What eight-year-old boy wouldn’t like an apple box derby (though I never got to race in one), an apple peeling contest, or all of the high-fat, high-sugar fair food?

What are some of your favorite fall festivals? Share them (and any memories you have of the events) with us in our comment section below.

PS. The 1983 Apple Queen (pictured above) was Robin Bettina Kiser. Are you out there Robin?

Kids’ Corner at the NCC

The NCC collects a variety of material geared towards children, including ephemera, like the coloring book below, and a wide array of children’s literature.


North Carolina Coloring Book.

Illustrated by Vernessa Riley Foelix.  Raleigh, NC:  North Carolina Travel and Tourism Division, Department of Commerce, 1989. My favorite page from the coloring book is the one shown above, showing a scene of Blackbeard looting.


And in order to get a sense of the children’s literature we collect, you can view the catalog listings for “North Carolina — Juvenile fiction” at this link.

Location, location… location?

— “Dempster traveled… to perform at the Piccolo Spoleto International Festival in Charlotte, S.C.” (July 9, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

— “Conroy’s first novel since ‘Beach Music’… looks at a group of long-time friends who first meet as teens in 1969 Charlotte, S.C.” (May 31, New York Post)

— “Tiger Woods seemed to have a pained look on his face during the final round of the Quail Hollow Invitational…in Charlotte, S.C.” (May 5, Woodstock Sentinel-Review, Ontario, Canada)

— “Wells Fargo & Co. bought St. Louis-based Wachovia Securities…as part of its acquisition of Wachovia Corp. of Charlotte, S.C.” (May 1, The Business Review, Albany, N.Y.)

— “Second-seeded Venus Williams struggled to advance at the Family Circle Cup…in Charlotte, S.C.” (April 16, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville)

Lloyd Free

Before Dennis Rodman, there was Lloyd Free. Unarguably one of the NBA’s quirkiest personalities, Free brought his exciting style to the league in the late 1970’s. After growing up in Brooklyn (where he earned the nickname “World” for his 360-degree dunks), Lloyd Free attended Guilford College from 1972-1975. As a freshman, he helped lead the Quakers to the 1973 NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Championship; he was also given MVP honors in the tournament. After three years at Guilford, Free turned professional and was drafted as a second-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. During his thirteen-year career, Free averaged 20.3 points per game. In 1980, he was second in the league in scoring; the same year, he legally changed his name to “World B. Free.” Since retiring from basketball, Free has served as the 76ers “ambassador of basketball,” greeting fans at games in his typically flamboyant wardrobe.

Welcome to Wilmington, Mr. Miller

“In 1941 Arthur Miller, penniless, got a job with the Library of Congress. [The 26-year-old playwright] was sent South to record accents. Miller arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina, a few weeks before Pearl Harbor….. A huge new facility had just been built to provide ships for the Navy and Atlantic convoys. But the black people who had built the yards could not get work making the ships. There was also strife in textile manufacturing.

“Miller was more interested in what the people had to say rather than in the way they said it. Most striking to Miller… were the people making music out of their experience and struggle — a railwayman singing raw blues and striking women shirt-makers…. He found a hall and recorded several songs and interviews.

“Miller’s recording trip lasted only a few weeks, but it had a profound effect on him. He had never been to the South before and was shocked by the racism and anti-semitism. He was held at gunpoint for being Jewish. Once he made his host, a health care organizer, incandescent with rage by addressing a black man as ‘sir’ rather than ‘boy’ (the man was in his 50s, Miller in his early 20s).”

— Adapted from “Arthur Miller: The Accidental Music Collector” (

According to “Arthur Miller,” a 2009 biography by Christopher Bigsby, Miller also was taken aback by the dietary habits of the health official [who was apparently Dr. T. F. Vestal, state director of industrial hygiene]: “For breakfast he had four small bags of peanuts and two Coca-Colas. In the corner of his office were cases of Coca-Cola. He was the head [sic] of the health service of the state of North Carolina!”