Among Rocky Mount’s souvenirs: hat tip in ‘Howl’

Launching pad for the fast-food apple turnover and the “I Have  a Dream” speech…. home of the pro baseball team that cost Jim Thorpe his gold medals… birthplace of Kaye Gibbons and Allan Gurganus,  Phil Ford and Julius Peppers, Mike Easley and Roy Cooper, Thelonious Monk and Kay Kyser, Buck Leonard and Sugar Ray Leonard… source of the Electra-piano played by John Lennon in “Imagine”… site of North Carolina’s first sit-down barbecue joint…writing retreat for Jack Kerouac….

Is there no end to the notable and footnotable distinctions dotting Rocky Mount’s civic CV?  And here’s yet another, courtesy of Rocky Mount-reared fiction writer Megan Mayhew Bergman, blogging for Kenyon Review:

“Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount wound its way into other Beat work.

“Allen Ginsberg namedrops Rocky Mount in his epic poem Howl, writing of those ‘who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave.’ ”


4 thoughts on “Among Rocky Mount’s souvenirs: hat tip in ‘Howl’”

  1. “Tired and discouraged, I went into the lobby of the hotel that faces the railroad station in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to rest. While I sat there a train came in. She got off it and came into the lobby, over to me, and began kissing me. I was very uncomfortable because everyone stood around looking at us and laughing.” — famed novelist Dashiell Hammett (author of The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse and The Thin Man) describing a dream of the old Ricks Hotel in his 1929 novel Red Harvest.

    Anyone who lived in Rocky Mount (or simply traveled through it by train) in the first two-thirds or so of the 20th century will recognize Hammett’s reference.

  2. My understanding is that Sugar Ray Leonard was born in Wilmington, NC, that Julius Peppers was born in Wilson, NC and that Roy Cooper was born in Nashville, NC.

  3. Thanks! I carelessly erred on birthplaces of Peppers and Cooper. Leonard’s case isn’t so clear – some sources (NCPedia) go with Wilmington, but others (NCDCR, Encyclopedia Britannica) say he “originally hails from Rocky Mount and grew up in Wilmington.”

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