Dirty Dancing at Lake Lure This Weekend

Postcard of Chimney Rock Camp
There will be lots of recalling Baby and Johnny this weekend as the town of Lake Lure holds its 3rd annual “Dirty Dancing Festival.” Parts of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, featuring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as star-crossed lovers Johnny and Baby, were filmed in and around Lake Lure. Scenes of Johnny, Baby and the hotel staff thrusting their hips and locking their bodies provocatively were shot in the old gymnasium of the Chimney Rock Camp for Boys and Girls (girls were not yet campers at the time the postcard above was printed). Sadly, the gym burned down several years after the film was shot. Although the inn featured in the film is in Virginia, the Lake Lure Inn (see postcard below) served as lodging for Swayze, Grey and other cast and crew members.

Although some, including this writer, may find Dirty Dancing‘s love story overwrought, the dance scenes have ensured the film’s place on classic movie channel schedules and popular movie rental lists. The film’s popularity has also guaranteed a steady stream of visitors to Lake Lure, as fans search for the spots where their favorite tear-jerking scene occurred. As for whether you’ll have the time of your life this weekend at Lake Lure, that likely depends on who you’ve got on your dance card.

EXTRA CREDIT: Can you name another North Carolina connection for actress Jennifer Grey?

Postcard of Lake Lure Inn

Artifacts of the Month: Ambrotype, medal, and pin of a Civil War soldier

“Be just and fear not.” With these words, David Ward Simmons, UNC class of 1861, signed a classmate’s autograph book. Three years later, Simmons died at the age of 23 of wounds sustained on the battlefield near Petersburg, Virginia.

Our August Artifacts of the Month, donated by a relative of Simmons, include an ambrotype of Simmons posing with a musket and two of his personal belongings: a Dialectic Society medal and a small pin.

ambrotype, medal, pin

Simmons was born on March 31, 1841 in Onslow County. As a young man, he entered UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied law and joined the Dialectic Society. The Di Society is the obvious origin of the medal, the inscription of which reads “DIALECTIC SOCIETY.”

Dialectic Society medal

What’s less clear is the meaning of the pin. (If you can offer any insights, please share them in the comments.)


Measuring just about an inch in diameter, the pin bears the inscription, “UBI CONSULUERIS MATURE FACTO OPUS EST.” (Translation: When you have made your plans, you must act quickly.) And, at the bottom, a “D.S.” (David Simmons? Dialectic Society?) Is the insignia in the middle (L.I.S.?) from a fraternity?

Is there a clue on his autograph page?

autograph page

After graduating, Simmons served as a Lieutenant in Company B, 41st N.C. Regiment. The Siege of Petersburg began June 9, 1864, and lasted nine months. Simmons was wounded June 21, less than two weeks into the siege. He died four days later, on June 25, 1864.

It’s a rare and welcome occurrence that we receive artifacts related to a 19th-century UNC student; rarer still that they come to us with a beautiful photograph of the student himself. When viewed together, these three artifacts deliver a unique glimpse into a life that ended too soon. We’re honored to have them in the collection.

R.I.P., Karl Fleming, stalwart of the race beat

Death noted: Karl Fleming, 84, one of the greats of civil rights reporting.

Fleming was born in Newport News, Va., but grew up in the Methodist Orphanage in Raleigh, attended Appalachian State and worked on dailies in Wilson, Durham and Asheville before landing his career-defining job at Newsweek.

This is from his “Son of the Rough South: An Uncivil Memoir” (2006):

“To be an alien reporter in the remote towns of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana where the young black ‘outside agitators’ were causing trouble was to be almost totally isolated behind enemy lines, linked to the outside world only by a long distance line that I always assumed was tapped. My nerves were constantly on edge. I drank a lot of Maalox and a lot more bourbon. That I had grown up in segregated North Carolina and had a redneck crewcut and deep Southern accent made it even worse. Not only was I a troublemaker, I was a traitor as well… perceived as betraying ‘our Southern way of life’….”

However perilous Fleming’s years on the Southern “race beat” — and he exaggerates not an iota — it was not until, as chief of Newsweek’s Los Angeles bureau, that his life began collapsing amidst a confluence of depression, drugs and alcohol. A beating after a 1965 Black Power rally in Watts left him with a fractured skull, and in 1973 he was scammed out of $30,000 by a phony “D. B. Cooper.”

But in his prime he surely deserved mention alongside his frequent roommate on the road, Claude Sitton.


Soldiers in New Bern planted trees in the midst of war

“The city park movement, instigated by Andrew Jackson Downing, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1840s and 1850s, demonstrated that Americans needed to balance city life with healthful interactions with nature….

“In the context of the landscape of war, which transformed forests into camp villages seemingly overnight and often seemed to wipe out all vegetation and animal life, soldiers sought to reinsert nature into their lives by planting flowers and especially transplanting trees.

“Ensconced in camp near New Bern, North Carolina, in 1863, George Troup and his brother, Charles, worked on two different tree transplantation projects….”

— From “Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War” by Megan Kate Nelson (2012)

Is anyone else startled to read of such a landscaping project in the midst of war? How long might the Troup brothers’ trees have survived?


‘The roughest looking sergeant he had ever seen’

 On this day in 1863: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal while on duty at Hill’s Point:

“We were marched out and paraded, and [the inspecting officer] commenced his job. He found right smart of fault, but didn’t find a really good subject until he came to me. He looked me over, and taking Spitfire, gave it a very careful and thorough inspection. Handing it back he gravely informed me that he had inspected the whole army of the Potomac, and never before seen a rifle looking so bad as Spitfire and further complimented me by saying I was about the roughest looking sergeant he had ever seen.

“I nodded assent, venturing the remark that I had been in the artillery detail while here and my rifle had been somewhat neglected, but I had a gun on the Malakoff [a reference to Fort Fisher, designed after the Malakoff Tower in Sebastopol, Russia] that could knock the spots off the sun.

“He allowed that that was insolence and any more of it would subject me to arrest. Imagine the indignation of the chief of artillery on being threatened with arrest by an infantry captain. My first impulse was to call my command, lash him to the muzzle of the gun on the Malakoff and give him rapid transit over the tops of the pines, but better thoughts soon succeeded and I forgave him, thinking that perhaps he was doing as well as he knew how.”


Davie Popular Damaged by 1902 Storm

There are a lot of things wrong with this article, which I found in the August 15, 1902 edition of the Elm City Elevator, from the small town of Elm City, located in Wilson County. To begin with, the tree revered by UNC-Chapel Hill students and alumni alike is referred to as the “David Poplar” and its namesake demoted to a mere colonel. And a lazy one at that, as the article perpetuates the myth that the site for the campus was chosen when “Col. David” stopped to swill a little corn whiskey and said that the location in southern Orange County was “good enough for me.”

But it’s an interesting article nonetheless, showing that in the early twentieth century the Davie Poplar was already a legendary landmark and that, despite the damage done by this and other storms, it was able to endure.

NC’s early geosocial divide: tuckahoes vs. cohees

“… During North Carolina’s early history, it was the Eastern counties that held not just most of the political power but also most of the wealth. It was the Piedmont and Western counties of the Carolina backcountry that were relatively poor.

“The two sides of the dispute had colorful nicknames, although the terms were not limited to North Carolina. During colonial times and the early decades of the American republic, east-west rivalries in both Carolinas and Virginia were sometimes described as a contest between tuckahoes and cohees.

“The Easterners called the Westerners ‘cohees,’ which would be akin to calling someone a redneck or hick today. According to one 19th century historian, the term originated when Easterners heard Scotch-Irish Presbyterians use the phrase ‘quoth he’ instead of ‘he said.’ Meanwhile, the Westerners came to call the Easterners ‘tuckahoes,’ which was the Indian name of a plant that grew along the tidewaters of Virginia and North Carolina. Tuckahoe was also the name of the famous William Randolph’s Virginia plantation later acquired by Thomas Jefferson. In using the term, Westerners were ridiculing the East’s Anglican establishment for being pretentious and patronizing. It’s a bit like calling someone a ‘country-clubber’ today.”

– From “Who You Calling a Cohee?” by John Hood at carolinajournal.com (July 30)


Charlotte: Did you just insult us — or what?

Unlike my previous samplings here and here and here, some of the slights suffered by Charlotte seem to have been unintentional — or maybe not even insults at all. What do you think?….

“It makes you wonder who won the War Between the States.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, visiting novelist, marveling at Charlotte’s glitzy uptown. (1994)

— “Chapel Hill’s afraid of rock ‘n’ roll. They’re more into misguided intellectual leanings. Charlotte always knew how to rock. There is no fear of loud guitar and eyeliner, which are things that I think are important.”

— Michael Rank, longtime member of Snatches of Pink, comparing music scenes. (2004)

“No one has given me the finger yet.”

— Robert Parish, Celtic turned Hornet, comparing Charlotte’s drivers with Boston’s (1995)

“Charlotte is a little more flashy than you guys think you are — a little bit more adventuresome.”

— Land’s End spokeswoman Charlotte LaComb, noting that only 53 percent of the dress shirts it sells in the “White Shirt City” are white, vs. 60 percent nationwide. (1994)

“That’s the story from Jacksonville. So long, everybody.”

— Fox Sports TV announcer Dick Stockton, signing off after the Panthers-Dolphins game in Charlotte. (2006)

French acknowledge debt to Red Springs GI

On this day in 1944: As Allied troops advance toward Paris, Pfc. James McRacken of Red Springs single-handedly disarms the explosives with which retreating Germans expected to blow up the last remaining bridge in Mayenne, a city of 18,600.

Had the bridge been demolished, the Allies would have had to use heavy aerial bombardment on the thousand-year-old city.

From their windows, scores of townspeople watch as McRacken races 500 yards to the bridge. Heavy German fire cuts his legs from under him, but before dying he crawls onto the bridge, reaches over the side and snips the wires to the explosives.

Citizens of Mayenne will rename the bridge after McRacken, build a monument to him and hold annual memorial services. Among those to lay a wreath at the site: Gen. Charles de Gaulle.