New in the collection: Tourism-promoting license plate

Front license plate that reads "North Carolina Variety Vacationland"


“Never before had there been a coordinated statewide effort to showcase North Carolina as a destination. Tourism had the potential to lift the state out of economic despair. So in 1937, the newly created Division of State Advertising embarked on a campaign under the slogan ‘Variety Vacationland’….

“The phrase … would become mostly history by the 1980s, falling out of favor to another alliterative phrase: First in Flight….”

— From “How North Carolina Became ‘Variety Vacationland’ “ by Bryan Mims in Our State (July 23, 2015) 


Bambino, Splendid Splinter meet for last time

On this day in 1943: In a war-benefit exhibition game at Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams meet in uniform for the second and last time during their careers.

Ruth, 48 and long retired, manages and pinch-hits for a team of New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. Williams, 24, plays for the North Carolina Pre-Flight Cloudbusters, made up of major leaguers undergoing training at Marine pre-flight school in Chapel Hill.


So you think you know North Carolina….No. 30

1. Longtime character actor Murray Hamilton, who was born and died in Washington, N.C., played the husband of Anne Bancroft in what famous movie?

2. True or false: Though now known by its distinctive black and white stripes, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was once painted red and white.

3. The Durham mansion at the center of the Michael Peterson murder trial was previously owned by what well-known writer and scholar?

4. What are North Carolina’s two hyphenated municipalities?

5. In 1970 a DC-9 returning to Huntington, W.Va., carrying 75 people, including 37 Marshall University football players, crashed while approaching the runway. All died — the worst toll in U.S. sports history. Where had the flight originated?

Answers below






1. “The Graduate” — they were Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. Hamilton is also remembered as the mayor in “Jaws.”

2. True. In 1871 the upper part of the tower was painted red, the lower part white. Two years later it was painted in spiral bands of alternating black and white.

3. Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of “Colored People” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” who taught at Duke University in the early 1990s.

4. Winston-Salem and Fuquay-Varina. Winston merged with Salem in 1913, Fuquay Springs with Varina in 1963.

5. Greenville, where the team had just played East Carolina.


New in the collection: Miniature souvenir TV sets

Miniature TVs with images of the Outer Banks and Blowing Rock

Before flat-screen TVs there were chubby TVs — and these miniature souvenir knockoffs made in Hong Kong.
“Blowing Rock N.C. on television” offers eight click-through color images, including Grandfather Mountain and Tweetsie Railroad. (Spot any unlisted Hugh Mortons, Stephen Fletcher?)
Viewers of “Outer Banks N.C. / television” can gaze at only a single color slide of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which opened in 1963 (and is about to be replaced). Original price sticker: $1.39.

So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 29

1. “Sometimes into Asheville, sometimes Memphis town / The revenooers chased him, but they couldn’t run him down.” Who sang — and wrote — these lines from the 1958 pop hit “The Ballad of Thunder Road”?

2. Before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, he first tried it out in what N.C. town?

3. Which one of these five structures has not been named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark: Dorton Arena in Raleigh, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Bank of America tower, the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge in Catawba County or the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse?

4. True or false: The population density of North Carolina is more than twice that of the United States.

5. True or false: When Strom Thurmond ran for president on the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948, he led the ballot in North Carolina.

Answers below





1. Robert Mitchum, who starred in “Thunder Road,” the Southern drive-in classic filmed in Asheville and Transylvania County.

2. Rocky Mount. Nine months before the March on Washington, King told nearly 2,000 people crowded into Booker T. Washington High School, “My friends of Rocky Mount, I have a dream tonight. It is a dream rooted deeply in the American dream I have a dream that one day right here in Rocky Mount, N.C., the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will meet at the table of brotherhood.”

3. The 60-story Bank of America Corporaste Center, tallest building between Atlanta and Philadelphia.

4. True. The national density is about 91 people per square mile. North Carolina’s is 206.

5. False. Harry Truman received 58 percent of the vote, Thomas Dewey 33 percent and Thurmond 9 percent.


New in the collection: bracelet and photo album

Miniature photo album bracelet
Somebody went to a lot of trouble to put together this souvenir trinket — miniature foldout photos of North Carolina landmarks (State Capitol, Duke Chapel, etc.), encased in a  leather-like cover with metallic emblem, all attached to a link bracelet.

The black and white images are “real photos” — like early postcards — rather than lithographed. Circa 1930s?

So you think you know North Carolina… No. 28

1. What writer caused a furor in Chapel Hill in 1931 with his poem about the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers unjustly accused of rape in Alabama?

2. What are the four “-villes” among North Carolina’s 15 largest cities?

3. What N.C. airport has the longest commercial runway between Washington and Atlanta?

4. Advertising Age chose what cigarette as having the top icon of the 20th century? As having one of the top 10 jingles?

5. What British rock group took its name from two Carolinas blues musicians?


Answers below





1. Langston Hughes, whose “Christ in Alabama” appeared on the cover of the local but world-renowned literary journal Contempo just as he arrived on campus. Hughes spoke at the Playmakers Theatre while police stood guard outside. He later said he had had “a swell time” on his visit.

2. Fayetteville, Greenville, Asheville and Jacksonville.

 3. The little-used Global TransPark in Kinston.

4. Marlboro (the Marlboro Man). Winston (“Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”).

5. Pink Floyd, after Pink Anderson, born in Laurens, S.C., and Floyd Council, born in Chapel Hill.


New in the collection: Wiscassett Mills employee badge

Employee badge for Wiscassett Mills


This beat-up, taped-up employee badge is a humble reminder of a once-thriving outpost of the Cannon textile empire.

Wiscassett Mills was founded in Albemarle in 1898. During World War II,  its yarns were used for machine gun belts and parachute harnesses. In 1978 Wiscassett was purchased by Cannon Mills. By 2000 when the plant closed — “citing imports,” in the familiar explanation of a trade-press obit — its employees numbered only 81.

But the Wiscassett mill village, according to the Albemarle Downtown Development Corp., “remains virtually intact in its early 20th century appearance. See a classic example of the paternalistic social structure that was common to North Carolina textile communities in the early 1900s.”

h/t Stanly County Museum for these terrific panoramic (cirkut)  images of mill life a century ago….

— Four of the eight Wiscassett mills at their height

Workers at Plant No. 4, card room and spinning room

— “Ladies Serving Wiscassett Mills Barbeque,” 1916. (Don’t miss the watermelons.)

— An overview of the festivities, featuring a race of some sort.


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 27

1. “And I always remember that whatever I have done in the past or may do in the future Duke University is responsible in one way or another.” — Who spoke these words at a Greensboro campaign rally in 1960?

2. What crucial contribution to the tobacco industry was made by a slave in Caswell County?

3. True or false: Actor Robert De Niro once appeared as a beauty pageant emcee in a Duke Power television commercial.

4. What is the largest city in North Carolina not named for a person?

5. True or false: No football player at an N.C. college has ever won the Heisman Trophy.

Answers below




1. Duke law grad Richard Nixon.

2. Stephen Slade fell asleep while tending a fire in a tobacco barn, accidentally inventing the process that produces bright-leaf tobacco.

3. True. De Niro was discovered for the role while performing at the Matthews Dinner Theater in 1967. His big break in movies didn’t come until six years later in “Bang the Drum Slowly.”

4. High Point, the state’s eighth largest city.

5. True. North Carolina’s Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice was runner-up in both 1948 and 1949.


Carry Nation finds Salisbury a ‘hell hole’

On this day in 1907: Billed as “an extra added attraction,” Carry Nation appears in Salisbury’s Fourth of July parade. After inspecting local saloons — at 61, she is no longer busting them up — she declares the town a “hell hole.

Nation’s month-long N.C. tour concludes in Raleigh. Raleigh Electric Co., whose streetcars profit from ferrying her supporters to Pullen Park, pays her $35. She makes an additional $25 from sale of souvenir cardboard and pewter hatchets.