“Finally, after the turn of the century had seen the song of John Henry preserved among miners, convicts and trackliners, the ballad appeared to scholars…. In 1909, Louise Rand Bascom, a Wellesley student home for the summer in Highlands, North Carolina, published in a folklore journal a couplet of a song she had heard… ‘Johnie Henry was a hard-workin’ man / He died with a hammer in his hand.’
“Bascom may have heard of the tune from the family’s white maid, whose two sons were mountain fiddlers. Bascom quipped then that a song about hard work could not really be native to the mountains of North Carolina.”
— From “Steel-Drivin’ Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend” by Scott Reynolds Nelson (2006)
Today is the 75th birthday of Wilmington (Leland) native Charlie Daniels, whose long country-musical career accelerated with the release of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in 1979.
Especially in its early years, promoters of appearances by the Charlie Daniels Band often created their own backstage passes. Here’s a sampling.
“As the civil rights movement heated up in the ’60s and ’70s, [the work of Magnum photographers] became increasingly pointed and political, but they were also often overshadowed by the swelling media coverage of spectacular and typically violent scenes. It was easier to distill the emblematic structures of Jim Crow during the more quiescent 1950s, which Elliott Erwitt did particularly well in a defining pair of drinking-fountain photographs whose symbolic function is reflected in part by their shared and nondescriptive caption: ‘North Carolina, 1950.’
“Reproduced widely, the second image [which adds a black man drinking from the “Colored” fountain] has become the most frequently demanded photograph in Magnum’s extensive civil rights archive. It has also become, I would argue, the iconic Jim Crow photograph….”
— From “Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow” by Elizabeth Abel (2010)
In the Southern Pines Pilot from November 21, 1941, we came across a curious note about a John A. McLeod, a Moore County resident nearly 90 years old who had the notable distinction of being the son of a Revolutionary War veteran. At first we thought that it must be a mistake. When the paper said that his father “fought in the Revolution,” surely they didn’t mean the American Revolution? Were they referring to the Civil War? Or some more recent revolt?
But the math seems to work out. There was a brief piece on McLeod in The State in 1939, which said that McLeod’s father “was only 12 or 13 years old when some Tories staged a raid near his home. He was a participant in the skirmish that followed, so it can be said truthfully that he was a combatant in the Revolution.” The article also notes that “the present John McLeod was born when his father was quite an old man.”
So this begs the question — which has probably come up already in this sesquicentennial year — how many sons and daughters of Civil War veterans are still with us?
Aside from posting on the Miscellany, your Charlotte correspondent has been busy launching into the blogosphere littlerascalsdaycarecase.org.
The tragic injustice of the Little Rascals Day Care case — which produced the longest, costliest trial in North Carolina history — has galled me for more than two decades. This blog is my modest attempt to keep alive the memory of the Edenton Seven’s assault by hysterical parents, biased therapists and shameless prosecutors. When charges were finally dropped, the defendants deserved an apology and a statement of innocence — what they got was a gratuitous kick to the curb.
For more information, you now know where to look.
“It don’t really scare me. I guess it maybe should,” Billie Schronce told the Gaston Gazette. “Me and my grandson said if it goes off, goodbye world, goodbye.”
But this episode from 1988 is still my favorite:
A caller reported a “bum” on the floor, but the York County, S.C., sheriff’s dispatcher heard “bomb.” That’s why eight firefighters, three sheriff’s deputies and the emergency preparedness director converged to disarm a transient sleeping in a gas station restroom.
— Attention Wikipedia: Eli Evans deserves his own page! His father already has one.
— Jamestown rifle was made for “the Joseph Taterdiggers and Thomas Cornshuckers of the 19th century.”
— Goodbye, Vance-Aycock. Hello…what? Edwards-Easley?
— Every town should have a Rose Post. Salisbury did.
I was testing out the keyword search function of the ever-growing North Carolina Newspapers collection by searching for Thomas Wolfe and found this amusing piece from the Southern Pines, N.C., paper The Pilot from February 5, 1937:
When the author of “Of Time and the River” and other famed best sellers, Thomas Wolfe, was in Southern Pines recently he generously granted an interview to a representative of the Sandhills Daily News. It was to appear the next morning.
That was the night the press broke down and the forms had to be hauled over to Raeford where the paper was printed the next morning. Deliveries were delayed throughout the section until well into the afternoon.
The reporter who secured the interview was frantic. He pictured Wolfe pacing the floor of the James Boyd home wondering where the paper was. He finally called up, around four o’clock p. m., to explain to the author what had happened.
“May I speak to Mr. Wolfe,” he asked the maid.
“Mr. Wolfe is not up yet.”
I checked the Sandhills Daily News on microfilm in the North Carolina Collection, but, unfortunately, could find only a mention that Wolfe was in town visiting James Boyd. I didn’t see anything like the interview that The Pilot mentioned.
“Last week [after proposing the widely publicized Golden Vertical Negro Plan, Harry] Golden proudly disclosed an even more ambitious formula for desegregation: the Golden Out-of-Order Plan.
“In Charlotte, whose population is 27% Negro, he persuaded a department-store manager to hang an ‘out-of-order’ sign on the drinking fountain reserved for white customers.
“In a few days, reported Golden, white and Negro customers were cheerfully sharing the ‘Colored’ drinking fountain. ‘It is possible,’ he concluded, ‘that whites may accept desegregation, if they are assured that the segregated facilities still exist, albeit “out-of-order.” My key to the plan is to keep the sign up for at least two years. We must do this thing gradually.’ “
— From Time magazine, April 1, 1957
On this day in 1900: Orville Wright, uncomfortably encamped at Kitty Hawk, writes his sister:
“This is ‘just before the battle,’ sister, just before the squall begins. About two or three nights a week we have to crawl up at 10 or 11 o’clock to hold the tent down. When one of these 45-mile nor’easters strikes us, you can depend on it, there is little sleep in our camp for the night. Expect another tonight. We have passed through one which took up two or three wagon-loads of sand from the N.E. end of our tent and piled it up eight inches deep on the flying machine.
“We certainly can’t complain of the place. We came down here for wind and sand, and we have got them.”