“Mr. Edison’s phonograph preserves a conversation for 100 years. But conversations can be preserved that long without a phonograph. For instance, there is the celebrated conversation between the Governor of North Carolina and the Governor of South Carolina….”
— From Daily Alta California, Dec. 26, 1887 (via Louisville Courier-Journal)
How many people today would recognize this once world-famous expression, much less any of its numerous origin stories?
Not many, the Google Ngram Viewer suggests.
“We have had a few folks get to the end of our 50-minute tour of the old boardinghouse before they realize we are not talking about the guy in the white suit…. As a tour guide it is rewarding for us anytime we see the light bulb going on and someone finally making connections… but you do have to wonder where they were over the last 45 minutes.”
— Tom Muir, historic site manager at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, quoted by Tyler Malone at Full Stop (April 14, 2015)
“The guy in the white suit” tells George Plimpton his thoughts about the first Tom Wolfe.
“During the mid-50s at The Raleigh Times, I worked across the hall from a News & Observer features writer named Florence King. Ms. King had a distinctive style that paved the way for a career as a nationally recognized author, essayist and columnist. Her piercing pen could puncture the most inflated egos.
“In one of her books, ‘Southern Ladies and Gentlemen,’ she recalled Raleigh as a place ‘Where people thought of the South as the womb and the rest of the country as “up North.”
“ ‘I suppose that has changed now, which makes me rather sad,’ she continued. ‘A Southerner without paranoia is like an egg without salt.’
“The local folks were ‘set on Raleigh becoming the Athens of the South,’ she wrote. ‘They never realized the flaw in the logic. Ancient Athens was not criss-crossed with pickup trucks containing gun racks driven by good ol’ boys who bragged that they had never gone further than the eighth grade.
“ ‘Plato and Aristotle did not punch each other in the ribs and say, “Let’s go git some beer.” ’ ”
— From “Raleigh, the Athens of the South?” by A. C. Snow in the News & Observer (May 10, 2014)
Miss (her preference) King’s obit in the Washington Post lists her reporting tenure at the N&O as 1964-67. Half a century later, her feature on Slimnastics remains a classic of zeitgeist-nailing.
On this day in 1939: At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, artist Josef Albers tells an audience about Black Mountain College’s avant garde educational philosophy, while Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer — key figures in the modern architecture movement — display a model of their proposed new campus overlooking Lake Eden.
The approach of war in Europe will derail fund-raising efforts, however, and the college abandons the Gropius-Breuer concept in favor of something less ambitious.
On this day in 1988: Basketball legend “Pistol Pete” Maravich, who played at Broughton High School in Raleigh when his father was coaching at N.C. State, dies from cardiac arrest during a pickup game in Pasadena, Calif. He is 40 years old.
Less than a year earlier, Maravich spoke in Charlotte about his recent conversion to Christianity:
“My valley was the bar, it was alcohol, it was women. I had that external glow of happiness, but inside I was so empty. I wouldn’t trade where I am right now for 1,000 NBA championship rings.
“If people just see a basketball player when they look at me, forget it, my life is nothing. The old Pete Maravich is dead and buried.”
“As idyllic as his days in Royston [Georgia] seemed to be, [young Ty Cobb] was always delighted to visit Grandpa Johnnie, the antislavery Reb, in rural Murphy, North Carolina….
“Once, when he was about 11, he accompanied Johnnie Cobb to Asheville, where the ‘squire’ was serving as foreman of the jury in a civil matter, probably a dispute over land. When the verdict was announced by his grandfather, the loser in the case ran up and grabbed Johnnie by the shirt, an act that caused Ty to also come charging out of the audience and attempt to boot the man in the shins. The angry litigant, unaware of what a pair of Cobb-kicked pants might bring one day on the memorabilia market, swatted him away, but when he turned back to Johnnie Cobb the squire had drawn his pistol. ‘Be on your way,’ Ty’s grandpa said, and the man left peaceably.”
— From “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” by Charles Leerhsen (2015)