“On October 13, 1944, a North Carolina citizen was brought before a judge in traffic court for having parked his car immediately in front of a sign that read ‘No Stoping’…. The defendant argued that the missing letter in the sign meant that he had not violated any law. Brandishing a Webster’s dictionary, he noted that ‘stoping’ technically means ‘extracting ore from a stope, or, loosely, underground.’
” ‘Your honor,’ said the man, ‘I am a law-abiding citizen, and I did not extract any ore from the area of the sign.’ The judge…let him off….”
The absence of attribution aroused skepticism, but I found a corroborative contemporary account in the Burlington Daily Times News. The court was in Durham, and the imaginative defendant was A. E. Floyd.
“When [Richard Wright] learned I was from Chapel Hill he assumed immediately that I knew Paul Green, with whom he had written the play Native Son. He said, ‘The sleepiest man I ever saw.’ He laughed and talked and laughed that laugh which he later admitted was his first line of defense, though it felt that afternoon like offense. He claimed that Green would go to sleep when they were writing dialogue for the most exciting moments in the play. ‘I’d say a line and look over and there Paul would be asleep.’
“Five years later when I was again in Chapel Hill, teaching, I met Hugh Wilson, a cousin of Paul Green’s, who told me how exciting and dangerous those weeks were when Wright was in town working with Green on the play. ‘Of course he couldn’t stay at the Carolina Inn and there was no other place, so we got him a room down on Cameron Avenue in that big Victorian house behind those two giant magnolias. When the Ku Klux got wind he was there in a white neighborhood, they put out word they were going to kill him. Wright never knew that. Night after night Paul and I walked shotgun on that block. Paul would go up Ransom and I’d go down Cameron for a block or so and then we’d walk back and stand on the corner awhile, then patrol again. All night. I don’t know how Paul could write the next day’….”
“Despite digging the Moravians and their utopic ambitions in North Carolina, I have always been undoubtedly creeped out by their 17th century historical recreation theme park, Old Salem.
“It’s a grim scene — disgruntled college students and rednecks dressed up in austere bonnets and buckle shoes stationed in wooden buildings for eight hours a day, re-enacting the strenuous daily regimen of the Protestants of yore — Blacksmithing, Shoemaking, Sheep-shearing, and Wood-Choppery. It’s no surprise the Moravians focused so hard on the afterlife, surely hoping for some kind of posthumous paradise resembling a modern Florida retirement community complete with a tiki bar where they could finally indulge their long-neglected vices….”
“As a lifelong Southerner, I was pleased and proud… to see Jimmy Carter in the White House….But all the while I kept remembering a conversation I had in New York while Carter was accepting the nomination….An old friend whose roots were in in North Carolina had invited me for a drink to celebrate….As we talked, he gradually began to articulate a nagging worry that lay dark and unexpressed in my own breast. I think of his words now as prophetic….
” ‘If Carter pulls this off,’ he said, ‘he’ll go down in history as one of our greatest presidents, and the South will be back in the national fold at last, and on equal terms. But if he fails, Southerners up here won’t be able to find a rock big enough to hide behind, and the South will still be seen as a separate and unequal backwater region, a stepchild of the superior North.’ ”
“According to calculations made in 1886, a typical North Carolina housewife had to carry water from a pump or a well or a spring eight to ten times each day. Washing, boiling and rinsing a single load of laundry used about 50 gallons of water. Over the course of a year she walked 148 miles toting water and carried over 36 tons of water.”
In 1943, UNC-Greensboro was the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina. And on this day in 1943, first-year students were preparing for their freshman formal. Our May Artifact of the Month is a dance card from that event.
In the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, dance cards provided a structure and etiquette for attendees of formal dances. The dance card — which was really a small booklet — had a number of blank lines corresponding to the dance songs at the event. When a man invited a woman to dance to a particular song, she’d write his name down on the corresponding line.
These days, if a critical mass of people still attended formal dances, someone would design a smart phone app to handle this task. But in the 1940s, paper and pen managed just fine.
And although the dance card is no longer a mainstay of social gatherings, we’ve kept the idea of the dance card alive as a metaphor for describing our social capacity — hence the phrase “my dance card is full.”
This particular dance card was donated by NCC Gallery volunteer and donor Bob Schreiner, who came across it for sale on the Web. We don’t know anything about its original owner, but the dance card itself conveys enough information to give us an intriguing picture of the life of that Woman’s College student.
The card gives the location, Rosenthal Gymnasium, which was built on the campus in the 1920s and can be seen in this photograph from the County Collection in the NCC Photographic Archives:
We also know that the official guests included Frank Porter Graham, who was then UNC President, and Woman’s College Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson.
Graham is described in the 1943 Woman’s College yearbook, Pine Needles, like this:
Dr. Graham is recognized as one of the South’s truly great men, but this is not what endears him to us. He is a particular favorite of ours because of his easy manner, his very effective speeches, and his delightful conversation. Our only complaint is that we see too little of him.
The 1943 Pine Needles also illuminates some aspects of life at this women’s college during World War II. The foreword to the yearbook reads:
“The 1943 Pine Needles is trying to portray for you the true spirit of a great woman’s college; to give you the picture of young women who — in the midst of a world at war — are seeking to equip themselves to play a useful role in a post-war world in need of a responsible youth; and to aid you, the students, to recall the laughter and hard work, the study and recreation, and — above all — the pure joy of living which was so much a part of your college life.
You may not remember… the times you were homesick… your struggle in Statistics… the payments you made in the Treasurer’s Office… the term papers you ground out in the Library… how long the lunch lines were…
But just try to forget: … those solitary walks by the lake… those ever-welcome boxes from home… initiation day for freshman and how queer girls look minus make-up… coming from chapel in the rain… the snowballs you threw… registration day and the struggle to avoid “eight o’clocks”… that blankety-blank alarm clock… dashing into Junior Shop for cokes and crackers between classes… “after-school” hockey games and the appetites you worked up… a W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor… dance group and how you wished you were in it… those dorm parties which always surprised you… riding at Mary Lee… the jam around the Milk Bar on Saturday nights… the sophomore Christmas pageants which were always lovely… waiting for the mail to be put up… rolling your hair at night in hopes that it won’t rain the next day… learning to aim at your target… !
Because dance cards were typically carried by women, they usually list men’s names. But judging by the names on this card, the card holder’s dance partners were all women. Thanks to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, we can even see photos of those dance partners in the 1946 Pine Needles.
And while the yearbook foreword mentions the “W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor,” it doesn’t give any indication of whether the floor was crowded solely with women. The names on this dance card are our only clue.
If the freshman formal was an all-women event, we’re left to wonder whether that was by design, or whether the war effort overseas had affected the population of local young college men.
If any readers have personal experience or more information, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Thanks to Bob Schreiner for this fantastic donation!
“In 1923, a bill introduced in the state legislature to prohibit organizations from keeping their memberships secret or wearing masks in public posed a major challenge to the Klan’s North Carolina support base….The bill failed, a testament to the Klan’s political influence….
“[After a 1949 rally in Charlotte] both the Raleigh and Charlotte city councils adopted ordinances barring the Klan from appearing in public wearing masks or hoods….
“[In 1953] in the wake of the rash of floggings perpetrated by Thomas Hamilton‘s Associated Carolina Klans, the state… passed a law prohibiting members of ‘secret political societies’ from wearing disguises in public or burning crosses on private property without consent of the owner….”
“Today is Mother’s Day, and according to orders from General Pershing it is to be most fittingly observed by each member of the Amixforce [American Expeditionary Forces] writing a letter to his mother. No order heretofore given has, in my humble opinion, contained so vast a store of true wisdom….
“My hope and prayer is that I may be spared to come back in honor and safety in order that I may repay a small part of the great debt that I owe to you. No one can be under a greater obligation than I, for my mother is the most beautiful and self-sacrificing mother in the world.”
On this day in 1937: “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley, spending several days at Black Mountain College while driving cross-country, tells an Asheville reporter that he finds western North Carolina “wonderful country,” the rise of Duke University “most extraordinary” and the South “livening up.”
“To see busing succeed [in 1974], Americans could look to the South. In Charlotte, North Carolina, 16-year-old Tina Gouge was one of many busing pioneers. At West Charlotte High School, Gouge’s student government committee started a campaign to write letters to Boston’s students and citizens. Gouge, an African American, acknowledged her initial trepidation at the prospect of a 12-mile bus ride. But she eventually found integration to be ‘a fantastic experience.’ She counseled Boston’s students to exercise patience and openness. Don Turbyhill, a white student, wrote, ‘You can’t expect to adjust overnight — but please give it a chance.’
“The Charlotte students then extended an invitation to their Boston brethren. In the last week of October, four students from Hyde Park High School traveled to North Carolina. As Linda Lawrence, a 17-year-old Bostonian, admitted, ‘I never thought I’d be going down South for a lesson in racial relations.’ The world turned upside down.”