McLean for president!… Or so Mencken proposed


“[During a 1926 train tour of the South, H. L. Mencken mischievously touted a succession of Southern governors as presidential contenders.]  After attending a Carolina-Duke football game with Dr. and Mrs. Fred Hanes of Chapel Hill he met the press ….  Far be it from a magazine editor to interfere in local politics, but Governor Angus McLean for President!

“In Charlotte the pro-McLean Observer went into the governor’s chances with great editorial seriousness; in Winston-Salem the anti-McLean Sentinel sniffed, ‘The South has a way of picking its own candidates for President, whether native sons or otherwise, and it does not need the services of H. L. Mencken.’

“Incredible as it may seem, all the booms took hold. Everywhere local bosses and bosslets committed themselves, [and] committees were forming [until] the Associated Press, noting a remarkable similarity in all the booms, put two and two together and let the cat out of the bag.

“They were months getting it all straightened out.”

— From “The Sage of Baltimore: The Life and Riotous Times of H. L. Mencken” (1950)  by William Manchester

Gaddy’s Geese Refuge

Since 1934, thousands of Canadian geese have been flying south to Ansonville, N.C. to spend the winter at Lockhart Gaddy’s Wild Geese Refuge.


Gaddy was born in Anson County, and worked as a naturalist.  He planted special grains and enlarged the lake on his property in order to attract more geese as they flew South.  Gaddy died of a heart attack in 1953 as he was feeding the geese.


The refuge was a popular attraction for tourists and school field trips, and in a pamphlet dated at or after 1972, the admission fee was listed as 75 cents for adults and 50 cents for children.  Gaddy’s refuge was later folded into the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge in 1963.

Obscura Day 2010 In North Carolina

Looking for something to do today???? Try this:

According to a CNN story, the website is “a Wikipedia-style user-generated site, …[that seeks]…to highlight and reveal ‘the world’s wonders, curiosities and esoterica’ through an integration of travel and Web.

Two of the events are in North Carolina, one in Elkin and one in Greensboro. Check it out and let us know if you go!

Charlotte went ‘off its rocker’ for Tallulah

“Tallulah [Bankhead]’s last ‘Private Lives’ tour [in 1950] was blighted by her dissipation…drinking, sniffing cocaine and smoking pot.

“But the show again did sensational business.  ‘A box office riot,’ Variety reported from Charlotte, North Carolina. ‘Town has gone off its rocker.’  Tallulah’s… performance had been sold out weeks in advance. Tallulah had said she wouldn’t do two performances on a one-day stop, but after the mayor appealed to her, she agreed to to add a matinee.”

— From “Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady” (2008) by Joel Lobenthal

“Looped,” starring Valerie Harper as Tallulah circa 1965, opened this week on Broadway.

Buncombe Bob, won’t you please go home?

“The accomplishments of North Carolina’s Senator Robert (‘Buncombe Bob’) Rice Reynolds are varied. He has been married five times, sired four children, kissed the late Jean Harlow on the Capitol steps, and is the only U.S. Senator to shoot an enraged bull walrus at 20 feet.

“For 10 years he has been a labor-baiting, immigrant-hating demagogue, an implacable isolationist with Fascist trimmings and Fascist friends….. This week Senator Reynolds announced he would not run for re-election next year. No tears fell.”

— From Time magazine, Nov. 15, 1943

Sorry, Colonel Rhett, we are not impressed

On this day in 1865: George W. Nichols, a major in Sherman’s army, writes in his journal in Averasboro in Harnett County, where Confederate Col. Alfred Rhett, former commander of Ft. Sumter, has just been captured:

“Rhett [is] one of the ‘first family’ names of which South Carolina is so proud. From the conversation of this Rebel colonel, I judge him to be quite as impracticable a person as any of his class. He seemed most troubled about the way in which he was captured. . . .

“One of [the Union soldiers], without any sort of regard for the feelings of a South Carolina aristocrat, put a pistol to the colonel’s head and informed him in a quiet but very decided manner that if he didn’t come along he’d ‘make a hole through him!’ The colonel came; but he is a disgusted man. I made no doubt that [the soldiers] would have had but little scruple in cutting off one branch of the family tree of the Rhetts if the surrender had not been prompt.”

Teaching North Carolina History


Although I’m not lucky enough to have been born in North Carolina, I did spend my entire childhood (except for one lousy year in South Carolina) in the Tar Heel State. I have fond memories of taking North Carolina history in 4th and 8th grades, so I love looking at the shelves that contain our North Carolina history textbooks. I remember using the textbook pictured above in 8th grade.

Does anyone else have fond memories of these classes? Did anyone else have to memorize all 100 counties like I did? How about other projects for these classes? I still have my North Carolina scrapbook that I constructed in 4th grade—full of brochures from rest areas, place mats from Western Sizzlin’ restaurants (which had a map of the state on it), and my very own renditions of cardinals, dogwood blooms, and longleaf pines.

But where were the koozies in 1910?


Not to disparage the wide range of merch offered at, but New Bern’s 300th anniversary commemorative medallions, tote bags, T-shirts, shot glasses and can koozies surely pale in comparison with this colorful celluloid badge (click to enlarge) from the city’s 200th anniversary celebration.