— Just how big was the Gulf oil spill? This big.
— “Ancient Site Re-Discovered” at Robbinsville… or so it says.
— Mr. W.T. Marlin sees the error of his ways.
— Moore County: Goodbye, coal, hello, natural gas?
— Ngram Reader considers the vagaries of Polish Americana.
“North Carolina whites [circa 1900] often used the image of African-Americans wearing eyeglasses to play on the white supremacist envy of their audiences. Since many poor whites could not afford glasses and could not read or write so had no need for them, the image elicited a wide range of resentments.”
— From “Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920” by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore (1996)
“In 18th-century America, a time when large families living in small spaces made home life cramped, taverns served as communal living rooms….
“Records show that in 1755, of the seven or eight houses in the town of Salisbury, North Carolina, four were taverns or inns. One Rowan County clergyman summed up the situation succinctly when he lamented that the tavern seemed to be faring far better than the church in the competition for men’s souls.”
— From “America’s most impressive historic survivors just may be our taverns…” by Stephen Beaumont and Janet Fortran in American Heritage, June/July 2003
— Death noted: Country singer Charlie Louvin, 83, last of the two Louvin Brothers and first cousin of esteemed Durham native John D. Loudermilk. Charlie and Ira were in fact born Loudermilks, but found the handle too long for career purposes.
— Among the “All-time most popular” reader queries to the Star-News’ MyReporter.com is “Will the Wilmington area be getting a Red Lobster?” Is Lexington similarly eager for the arrival of a Sonny’s?
— The last mayor of Brooklyn — before it became a borough of New York City — was a native of Plymouth, North Carolina. At age 7, Frederick W. Wurster and his German-born parents moved to Brooklyn. He made his fortune manufacturing axles and in 1895 was serving as Brooklyn’s fire commissioner when he won the Republican nomination for mayor.
— Yet another North Carolina politician successfully auditions for “Doonesbury.”
When President Obama singled out Kathy Proctor, the furniture worker turned Forsyth Tech biotechnology student, it marked the fifth time North Carolina has been mentioned [search here] in a State of the Union address.
In the very first such address, in 1790, George Washington waited only one sentence before listing “the recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received)” among those “circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.”
But more than two centuries would pass before North Carolina received another presidential nod. (A long time between drinks, some might say.) Bill Clinton put in a plug for Jim Hunt’s educational advances in 1997 and again in 1999. Then Obama in 2010 cited the jobs created by Celgard, a Charlotte battery manufacturer.
Still, despite this recent rush of attention, no State of the Unionist but Washington has ever gone so far as to call North Carolina “important.”
“The language of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence clearly depended on the Mecklenburg Declaration, which was the work of 27 oatmeal-eating Calvinists, a third of whom were ruling elders in the Presbyterian church.
“One Hessian officer, writing home during the war, said, ‘…. Call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion.’ ”
— From “Five Cities That Ruled the World” (2009) by Douglas Wilson
(Listeners to “A Prairie Home Companion” may recall sponsor Mournful Oatmeal, billed as “Calvinism in a box.”)
Pictured: “Hornets nest” pinback button, probably worn on Meck Dec Day.
— Mmm, mmm, wood!
— In Thomasville a Pulitzer-winning photographer shares a basement full of history.
— And isn’t that speech therapist’s wife a dead-ringer for John Ehle’s daughter!
On this day in 1816: Responding to a letter from Sen. Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, Thomas Jefferson offers his opinion “On the subject of the statue of George Washington, which the legislature of North Carolina has ordered to be procured, and set up in their Capitol.”
Jefferson, retired at Monticello at age 73, proposes the state use an Italian sculptor, Antonio Canova, and Italian stone, Carrara marble. Washington, he adds, should be depicted in Roman costume: “I am sure the artist, and every person of taste in Europe would be for the Roman. . . Our boots and regimentals have a very puny effect.”
North Carolina follows Jefferson’s advice, and the Canova statue will be a source of state pride until it is crushed in the Capitol fire of 1831.
In 1970, following heated debate in the General Assembly over the appropriateness of Washington’s “miniskirt,” a privately financed copy of the statue is installed in the Capitol.
A few remembrances of Reynolds Price have noted his deep, resonant voice. Those tributes struck a chord with me because my introduction to Reynolds Price came not through his published works, but, rather, through his voice. His essays on National Public Radio always caught my attention. In my bookish family, his name was a familiar one so I took note when the host announced an upcoming essay from Price. Then Price’s rich voice came booming out of the ether. Not surprisingly, his essays were well-crafted. But I was just as impressed by the stylings of his voice.
Digging through our Reynolds Price ephemera here at the North Carolina Collection, I came across an interview writer Daphne Athas, herself a master storyteller, conducted with Price in 1987 for WUNC radio’s monthly program guide Listen. Here’s an excerpt (the first quote is from Athas).
“You know you have a wonderful voice? Did you ever study music?”
“I was a famous local boy soprano in Asheboro and Warrenton. I was always singing solos in church and getting dollar bills thrust at me by local moneybags gents. When I was a senior in high school I had a lot of throat problems, constantly getting what I thought were throat infections. So I finally came to McPherson’s Hospital, in Durham, and Dr. Ferguson there said,’You don’t have throat infections at all. You’re speaking incorrectly like most Americans. You’re speaking with your throat muscles and not from your diaphragm.’ And he said,’Can you take singing lessons this summer?’ I said,’Oh sure,’ and so every morning of that summer of 1951 I drove over to Durham and took lessons with a very fine teacher called George Moore and gradually my voice deepened and I wound up with whatever voice I presently have….It’s sad that in America most people have been taught to ignore the voice as a means of narration and that most people do everything they can to be inaudible, to the point of stuffing their fist in their mouths. Some of our greatest poets like Robert Penn Warren–I’ve seen auditoriums empty themselves within ten minutes after Mr. Warren began his invariably inaudible reading. I was far more influenced by music than by writers. Everyone thinks that everyone born in the South is created by Faulkner. I never even liked Faulkner very much and still don’t. I’m far more influenced by baroque poetry, especially Milton. Baroque poetry and baroque music.”
One of the last times that I heard Reynolds Price’s voice was in 2002 at his induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. It was just as rich and booming as when I’d first heard it some 30 years before. And by then I’d also come to appreciate his literary voice.
In 1998 Reynolds Price read from “Roxanna Slade,” his new novel, at a Borders in Charlotte.
Afterward, he recalled having visited the White House at the invitation of Bill Clinton. How big a fan was Clinton? Accompanying Price on the elevator, he shocked his guest by reciting the famous opening sentence of “A Long and Happy Life”:
“Just with his body and from inside like a snake, leaning that black motorcycle side to side, cutting in and out of the slow line of cars to get there first, staring due-north through goggles towards Mount Moriah and switching coon tails in everybody’s face was Wesley Beavers, and laid against his back like sleep, spraddle-legged on the sheepskin seat behind him was Rosacoke Mustian who was maybe his girl and who had given up looking into the wind and trying to nod at every sad car in the line, and when he even speeded up and passed the truck (lent for the afternoon my Mr. Isaac Alston and driven by Sammy his man, hauling one pine box and one black boy dressed in all he could borrow, set up in a ladder-back chair with flowers banked round him and a foot on the box to steady it) — when he even passed that, Rosacoke said once into his back ‘Don’t’ and rested in humiliation, not thinking but with her hands on his hips for dear life and her white blouse blown out behind her like a banner in defeat.”
First sentence, first novel. How was that for starters?