Celebrating Hanukkah among Tar Heel Christians

Hannukah, the Jewish festival of lights, offered pale competition for Christmas—puny candles against a dazzling tree, ‘Rock of Ages’ against the tyranny of carols and decorations that took over the stores, the radio, the schools, and the imagination of all my friends. Parents billed Hannukah as ‘better than Christmas,’ an unintentional error that placed a minor Jewish celebration beside Christianity on parade, like comparing sandlot baseball to the World Series. Hanukkah simply could never substitute—for one thing, it lasted eight days, and was almost always out of sync with Christmas, so you had to explain to your friends that you didn’t sneak and open your Christmas presents early, but that your holiday was different; and that could lead to a ‘You mean you don’t celebrate Christmas? Why not?’ So I usually played with my toys in secret until Christmas day. I would always save the gifts from my friends until Christmas morning because it didn’t seem right to open gentile gifts on a Jewish holiday and, besides, if I waited I’d have a real surprise to talk about in the afternoon when they came over to show off their stuff, rather than pretending that I had ripped open eight-day old toys that very morning….It didn’t make up for much when little Billy White said,’Gee, eight days of presents…I wish I was Jewish.’

-from Eli Evans’s The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South. Evans was born and raised in Durham, the son of E.J. “Mutt” Evans, the mayor of Durham from 1950-1962.The younger Evans graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1958 and Yale Law School in 1963. He worked as a speech writer on the staff of President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1964-1965. Evans served as a senior program officer for the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1967-1977. In 1977 he joined the Charles H. Revson Foundation as president and remained in that position until his retirement in 2003. Evans’s personal papers are held by the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library.

Winston-Salem’s most boorish guest ever?

“Disappointed by soft ticket sales for an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers, [Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall] called the host city of Winston-Salem… a ‘lousy town.’

“Stung by the criticism, the Rotary Club invited him to take a tour of the city. He accepted, only to ridicule  the R. J. Reynolds tobacco factory, the Western Electric plant and the airport and people who enjoyed flying. At an underwear plant, he said: ‘I haven’t worn an undershirt in 25 years. Only wear shorts. Guess I cut your business in half.’

” ‘Winston-Salem turned the other cheek to critic George Preston Marshall,’ wrote the Winston-Salem Journal, ‘and he managed to slap it too.’ ”

— From “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins” by Thomas G. Smith (2011)

For entirely different reasons, Packers Coach Vince Lombardi had his own ill feelings toward Winston-Salem, where the teams played an annual exhibition 1955-60.


Jim Crow deal overcomes railroads’ resistance

“RALEIGH, N.C. — There has been a demand for separate coaches for the whites and blacks on the railroads of this State ever since the war, but the influence of the railroads has been sufficient to prevent the introduction of the ‘Jim Crow’ cars as they are called by the negroes. The argument of the railroads was that separate coaches would add greatly to their expense, and this prevailed with the Legislature and the Railroad Commission until now.

“Last week a resolution before the commission requiring the railroads to provide separate coaches was laid aside in order that the Legislature…  may provide for this new feature in transportation by regular enactment. Some of the railroads have withdrawn their opposition to the ‘Jim Crow’ cars, with the understanding that the second-class fare will be abolished, and the first-class fare reduced from 3 1/4 cents to 3 cents.

“Of course the same accommodations are to be provided for the same money, but it is well known that nothing connected with the race problem so galls and cuts the negro as separate cars. The negro never goes into a second-class car if he has the money  for first-class.

“Here in Raleigh, where the Union Station has a separate room for the negroes, there has been continual opposition and complaint on the part of the negroes. The result of the recent election has settled this matter, and it will be put into law by the incoming legislature….  The white people seem to be in no humor for any delay in carrying out this policy.”

— From “Race Problem on Railroads: The Plan in North Carolina for Running Separate Coaches” in the New York Times (Dec. 18, 1898)


North Carolina’s Bard of WWII: Randall Jarrell

Seen on the sea, no sign; no sign, no sign
In the black firs and terraces of hills
Ragged in mist. The cone narrows, snow
Glares from the bleak walls of a crater. No.
Again the houses jerk like paper, turn,
And the surf streams by: a port of toys
Is starred with its fires and faces; but no sign.

In the level light, over the fiery shores,
The plane circles stubbornly: the eyes distending
With hatred and misery and longing, stare
Over the blackening ocean for a corpse.
The fires are guttering; the dials fall,
A long dry shudder climbs along his spine,
His fingers tremble; but his hard unchanging stare
Moves unacceptingly: I have a friend.

The fires are grey; no star, no sign
Winks from the breathing darkness of the carrier
Where the pilot circles for his wingman; where,
Gliding above the cities’ shells, a stubborn eye
Among the embers of the nations, achingly
Tracing the circles of that worn, unchanging No
The lives’ long war, lost war—the pilot sleeps.

-“The Dead Wingman” from Randall Jarrell’s Losses, published in 1948.

On Pearl Harbor Day we remember the life and work of Jarrell, whose poetry was deeply influenced by World War II and his service in the U.S. Army Air Service. Although Jarrell aspired to be a pilot, he spent 1942-1946 as a celestial navigation tower operator, primarily in Arizona. The stories he heard from pilots and others inspired numerous poems, including his best-known, “The Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner,” published in his second volume of verse, Little Friend, Little Friend, in 1945.

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Upon leaving the Air Service, Jarrell, who had already received acclaim for his poetry, moved to New York City. He continued writing verse, thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship, served as the book review editor for The Nation and taught at Sarah Lawrence College.

In 1947, Jarrell, who had quickly tired of New York, moved to Greensboro, where he taught in the English department at Women’s College (now UNC-Greensboro). With the exception of short teaching stints around the country and internationally, Jarrell remained at Women’s College for the next 18 years. He served as the nation’s Poet Laureate from 1956-1958. In 1961 he was awarded a National Book Award for his poetry volume The Woman at the Washington Zoo. And in 1962 Jarrell received the O. Max Gardner Award, one of the state’s highest honors.

Jarrell died on October 14, 1965, when he was struck by a car while walking at dusk along U.S. 15-501 near Chapel Hill. He had moved there to teach at the university a few months prior. In addition to poetry, Jarrell’s published works include children’s stories, essays, criticism and a single novel.

Recipes for the holiday season.

Looking for some new recipes this holiday season.  Maybe one of this will become a new tradition.

“Holiday Cookies” from Historic Moores Creek Cook Book: A Collection of Old and New Recipes.

“Holiday Sausage Stuffing” from Cooking with Berries.

“Cecil’s Holiday Punch” fom A Taste of the Old and the New.  Note: “Sip slowly!”

“Leone’s Holiday Ambrosia”

“Holiday Pecan Cake” from Just Like Grandma Used to Make.

“Holiday Egg Nog for a Crowd” from Welkom: Terra Ceia Cookbook III, A Collection of Recipes.

Goldsboro antiwar protesters use hammers, blood

On this day in 1993: Four protesters, including longtime peace activist Philip Berrigan, slip onto Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro and symbolically attack an F-15E Strike Eagle jet with hammers and bottles of blood.

Arrested some 100 times, the 70-year-old Berrigan has spent a total of six years in jail. He and the rest of the “Goldsboro Four” will be found guilty of destruction of government property and serve several months in jail.


Was Helms’ oft-cited slap at UNC ‘a fabrication’?

“Did Jesse Helms ever call UNC the ‘University of Negroes and Communists’?

“That line has been attributed to the late longtime U.S. senator for many years by many sources. John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, says it is ‘a fabrication.’ ”

— From “Jesse Helms and the ‘University of Negroes and Communists’ “ by Taylor Batten in today’s Charlotte Observer


Early UNC Catalogs Now Available Online

Early course catalogs from UNC are now available online at DigitalNC. Ranging in date from 1822 through 1870, these catalogs contain lists of required courses as well as rosters of faculty and students at the University. Recent graduates won’t have a hard time finding differences between the great variety classes offered now and the significantly more restrictive course of study in the 19th century. Here were the required courses for students entering UNC in 1822:

Do any UNC students read Sallust anymore? (I admit to having to look him up.)

In addition to what they tell us about the evolution of higher education, these catalogs are helpful for genealogists tracking down ancestors who went to UNC, and are full of interesting tidbits of campus history (annual expenses for the 1849-1850 school year were $185, which included tuition, room and board, servant hire, and candles).

Early historian wasn’t always a “Colonel” of truth

On this day in 1902: The Hall of History, later known as the N.C. Museum of History, opens in Raleigh.

Overseeing the museum is “Colonel” Fred Olds, who has combined his personal collection of memorabilia with that passively accumulated by the N.C. Museum of Natural History. Olds, former city editor of the News & Observer, has a limited staff (one assistant) but unlimited enthusiasm and imagination.

Even though prone to tout every odd-shaped rock as ballast that came over with the Lost Colonists and every old bottle as Blackbeard’s rum flask, Olds stirs interest in the state’s past, preserves many priceless artifacts and paves the way for more professional curators.


What Tar Heel Beats Connote North Carolina?

Welcome to Carolina screenshot
Here’s a question for you. What song would best serve as the state’s theme song?

That question came to mind this morning as I sampled the works produced by the Beat Making Lab at UNC-Chapel Hill (You can read about one of the Beat Making Lab’s projects in The News and Observer from December 2). A UNC student who uses the name Bunny Beatz.z.z. produced a short piece called “Welcome to Carolina.” With apologies to James Taylor fans (note: I realize that hip-hop is a far cry from the lilting vocals and skillful guitar licks of your idol), the song, particularly the words repeated by the female vocalist, remind me of “Carolina on My Mind.” And in my mind Taylor’s hit is emblematic of the Tar Heel state. Perhaps for a generation (or two or three) of North Carolinians, “Carolina On My Mind” serves as their state theme song. Admittedly UNC haters may think otherwise, since the song was long ago appropriated by boosters of the university in Chapel Hill.

So, share your thoughts. What songs connote North Carolina to you? Is it a Doc Watson tune? A beach music number by Durham-born Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters? Or the Piedmont blues of Blind Boy Fuller? Even Clay Aiken and Scotty McCreery are permissible. Just tell us your opinion.