Artifact of the Month: Silver plate for a 58-year UNC employee

silver plate

This silver plate, the July Artifact of the Month, was a gift to a UNC employee of uncommon loyalty. In 1914, Chapel Hill native Mittie Pickard began working at the UNC Medical School. She was the first woman to work at the school and its first medical technician.

laboratory photo

In an interview later in life, she recalled her early days at the School as a time “when you went to work early, stayed late, didn’t count the hours, and coffee breaks were unheard of.”

Pickard maintained her dedication even when she was off the clock, often spending her vacation time in laboratories at Harvard and the Mayo Clinic.

photo with plate

In 1953, after thirty-nine years on the job, she was awarded this engraved plate, which reads:

In appreciation
Miss Mittie Pickard
whose services through the years
have meant so much to the
School of Medicine
of the
University of North Carolina
presented by
the Medical Alumni Association
April 23, 1953

But Miss Mittie wasn’t nearly done. In 1959, upon retiring from the Pathology Laboratory, she was almost immediately asked to lead the eye pathology and surgical research laboratory. She worked there for thirteen more years.

All told, Pickard logged fifty-eight years in the School of Medicine, under six consecutive deans.

photos of Mittie Pickard

She died on August 26, 1979, at eight-five years old.

The Pickard Family Papers were recently donated to the Southern Historical Collection. The NCC Gallery is pleased to be the steward of Miss Mittie’s plate, a tangible reminder of one woman’s stellar service to the University.

How tourism, not TB, became Asheville’s ticket

Happy 100th to the House that Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic Built.

A cornucopia of anecdotes in the Citizen-Times (hat tip, John L. Robinson) points out that the Grove Park Inn  prevented Asheville from becoming tuberculosis sanitarium to the nation,  gave refuge to Warren G. Harding during the Teapot Dome Scandal and even served as a POW camp (!)  during World War II.


Mountain town lifts 1948 restrictions on pool halls

“A 1948 law aimed at wiping out the scourge of billiards — by declaring pool and alcohol consumption mutually exclusive pastimes — was struck from the [Town of Franklin] code this month in a 5-1 vote by the town board.

“Until now, Franklin… prohibited swearing, trap doors, hidden stairways, panels and secret devices that could hide gambling parlors or places ‘where persons meet or congregate for immoral purposes.’

“The rules also prohibited pool halls from being located in back alleys and ordered the buildings to have plate glass windows facing the street….

“But, as Alderman Bob Scott pointed out, Franklin in 2013 is not the same as Franklin in 1948….’Folks, let’s face it, our demographics are changing,’ Scott said.”

— From “After 65 years, pool is back on the table for bars in Franklin” by Andrew Kasper in the Smoky Mountain News (July 10)


Remember the Goat Man?

I was searching for some information on the Remember Cliffside website several days ago when I stumbled upon a story about the Goat Man. Reno Bailey, the creator of Remember Cliffside, recalls from childhood a man who used to pass through town with a wagon pulled by goats and made money by taking photographs of children posed in his wagon. Bailey described how his young imagination had added a few details to the Goat Man’s biography. In his mind, the itinerant goatherd was a Nazi spy taking photographs of the town’s power plant and other installations. Of course, as an adult, Bailey learned that the Goat Man was not a spy. Instead he was a man who traveled the South’s backroads with his goats and, occasionally, some two-legged companions, preaching and living off the land and the kindness of strangers.

I probably wouldn’t have given the story much more thought if I hadn’t come across these two images of the Goat Man in the North Carolina Postcards online collection yesterday.

Postcard of the Goat Man with his wagon

The Goat Man preaching

I figured if there were postcards of the Goat Man and if he drew such large crowds when he preached, then someone must have written about him. Heck, I thought, maybe there’s even a Wikipedia page about him. Indeed, there is. There’s also a book and a song about the Goat Man, whose real name was Charles “Ches” McCartney.

According to several biographies on the web, including one in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, McCartney was born on an Iowa farm in 1901. At 14 he left home and headed for New York City. There he met and, eventually, married a Spanish woman who had a knife throwing act. McCartney, who was allegedly 10 years his wife’s junior, served as her knife throwing target. When the couple had a son, they left the city and began a life of farming. The Depression hit the couple hard and McCartney searched for other work. In 1935 McCartney was injured while cutting timber as part of a Works Progress Administration project. Some accounts suggest that a tree fell on him and several hours elapsed before he was found. According to those stories, McCartney was pronounced dead and taken to a mortuary. As the undertaker inserted a needle with embalming fluid into his arm, McCartney stirred.

Whether because of this supposed near death experience or for other reasons, McCartney underwent a religious reawakening. He hitched up a wagon to a team of goats and, accompanied by his wife and son, he took to the road preaching. Wearing goatskin clothes fashioned by his wife, McCartney called for sinners to repent or face eternal damnation. He marked his path with signs bearing such messages as “Prepare to Meet Thy God,” with the fires of hell painted at the bottom. Eventually McCartney’s wife tired of the itinerant life and she left, taking their son with her. McCartney continued his travels, inspired, he said, by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the Bible, two books he carried with him. Along the way, McCartney married two more times and may have fathered several more children. At some point his son, Albert Gene, joined him on the road.

Portrait of Charles McCartney, the Goat Man, from the 1950s. Image from Davie County Public Library
Portrait of Charles McCartney, the Goat Man, from the 1950s. Image from Davie County Public Library

McCartney established a base in Twiggs County, Georgia, calling his home the Free Thinking Christian Mission. From there, he continued his travels, claiming to visited all of the lower 48 states as well as Alaska and Canada during almost 50 years on the road. Although he eventually forsook goatskin clothing for denim overalls, his fiery sermons and eccentric appearance left strong impressions on those whom he encountered. Flannery O’Connor mentioned the Goat Man in letters and may have incorporated some of his ways into her characters. It is believed that Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree includes a character based on McCartney.

McCartney retired from the road in the late 60s or early 70s, shortly after a mugging during which three of his ribs were broken and two goats killed. When his mission building burned in 1978, McCartney and his son moved into a broken down school bus. He made one last road journey in 1985 when he set out on foot toward Los Angeles in hopes of meeting and marrying the actress Morgan Fairchild. After a mugging on that trip, he returned to Georgia and lived in a nursing home until his death at the age of 97 in 1998.

If you met the Goat Man along the way, please share your memories with us.

Elvis as TV critic: Bang-bang, you’re dead

On this day in 1975: Visiting Asheville for the first time since 1955, when he was a warm-up act for Hank Snow, Elvis Presley performs three times in three days at the Civic Center — and shoots out the television in his motel room.

The episode occurs during a month-long binge of bizarre behavior in which Presley also gives away nearly $50,000 worth of jewelry during concerts and buys 14 Cadillacs in midnight shopping sprees for friends, associates and total strangers.


Is ‘nostalgia for Chapel Hill’ listed in DSM-5?

“Not long after moving to the University of Southampton [England], Constantine Sedikides had lunch with a colleague in the psychology department and described some unusual symptoms he’d been feeling. A few times a week, he was suddenly hit with nostalgia for his previous home at the University of North Carolina: memories of old friends, Tar Heel basketball games, fried okra, the sweet smells of autumn in Chapel Hill.

“His colleague, a clinical psychologist, made an immediate diagnosis. [Sedikides] must be… ”

— From “What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows” by John Tierney in the New York Times (July 8, 2013)


Buying a house, 1980s style

Somethings never change, but other things surely do. Real estate agents have traditionally been a newcomer’s source of information about neighborhoods, housing, and financing for home purchases. The North Carolina Collection recently received a map of Raleigh and Cary that was distributed by Merrill Lynch Realty in 1985. Along with information on roads, streets, neighborhoods, and parks, it included this handy mortgage loan calculator. I don’t know what’s more shocking, the interest rates or the implied house price. Click on the image and you can decide.

Bare-knuckle political debates didn’t start in 2012

“At a ‘Town Meeting’ in Charlotte, North Carolina, broadcast by ABC radio, [Progressive Party vice presidential candidate Glen] Taylor debated [critic] Dwight Macdonald and syndicated columnist Dorothy Thompson. Macdonald accused [Henry] Wallace and Taylor of appeasement; Thompson was less kind: ‘The Communist Party — let’s tell the truth — initiated the movement for Wallace’….

“[Thompson’s] stinging accusations over national radio (with Taylor present) show just how unfettered campaign rhetoric could be in 1948.”

— From “The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election” by Zachary Karabell (2001)


’75 barrels of resin’ made for fiery Fourth

On this day in 1862: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal while on duty in New Bern:

“The Fourth was celebrated with salutes from the forts, batteries and gunboats morning, noon and night. There were gala times in Camp Oliver last night. A huge bonfire was set from a pyramid of 75 barrels of resin, and when well on fire it lighted up the camp in grand style.”


Robert Ruark still gets around

When I travel abroad, I often checkout the local bookstores to see if they carry books by any Tar Heel authors. I am used to finding translations of blockbuster novels by Kathy Reichs, Nicholas Sparks, Orson Scott Card, or Patricia Cornwell. There were some of those in a bookstore in Bratislava that I went in last month, but imagine by surprise to find this:


It’s a 2012 Slovak edition of Robert Ruark’s The Honey Badger. Seeing this book piqued my interest–are Ruark’s books currently being published in other places and other languages? Yes. Since 2000, translations of Ruark’s books have appeared in Chinese, Czech, German, and Vietnamese.