New in the collection: Chick Shack flyer

Card for Wright's Chick Shack listing address.

[Angela] Bryant, 63, a North Carolina state senator [2007-2018], grew up in the Little Raleigh neighborhood of Rocky Mount.

“Her grandparents, Wright Parker and Nannie Barnes Bryant Parker, owned Wright’s Chick Shack, a restaurant/motel combination [listed in the Green Book 1956-1967].

“ ‘It was an intersection of the black and white community,’ she says. ‘It was a place where white vendors and leaders and business people would come to engage my father and other black community leaders.’

“After earning her bachelor of science degree in math and juris doctor degree in law from UNC Chapel Hill, Bryant came home to help develop the Wright’s Center, an adult day health care facility. The center, a tribute to her grandfather, is located in the building that once housed the Chick Shack.”

– From “Bryant’s roots run deep” by Brittany Jennings  (Nov. 8, 2015)

On the back of this 5.5- by 7-inch flyer: verses 1, 2 and 4 of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Anti-vax movement goes way back

“The Carolina colony initially tried to battle epidemics by restricting imports. Passage of the ‘Distempered Act’ in 1755 also barred immigrants who suffered from ‘malignant infectious distempers.’ But these actions proved detrimental to the commercial interests of those seeking settlers to inhabit their lands, and the act was repealed in 1760.

“The Moravian settlement was probably first to adopt inoculation against infectious diseases. When Continental troops arrived in Salem in 1779, bringing with them several cases of smallpox, the town’s inoculation program drew the wrath of  ‘ignorant and malicious’ individuals in the surrounding countryside, who threatened to destroy the settlement.

“In 1800 Calvin Jones unsuccessfully attempted to open a vaccination hospital in Smithfield. His failure was due in part to his charge of $10 per vaccination but largely the result of public fear of the procedure…. When, in 1801, a well-to-do citizen of Fayetteville returned from Europe with smallpox vaccinations for his family, public outcry forced him to halt his treatment and move his kin to a ‘remote and private situation.’

“The legislature eventually passed laws for compulsory vaccination. A 1957 law required children to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough before their first birthday and against smallpox before enrollment in school. In 1959 North Carolina became the first state to initiate compulsory inoculation with the Salk [polio] vaccine.

“Despite the availability of vaccines and the mandatory vaccination laws, preventable diseases continued to appear in North Carolina. As late as 1962 not even one-half of its children were getting the required immunizations before their second birthday….”

— From “Infectious Diseases” by William S. Joyner at NCpedia (2006)

This tragic episode certainly didn’t encourage vaccination acceptance.

New in the collection: Sunbury High pennant

Pennant with image of rocket and words "Sunbury H.S. Rockets, Sunbury, N.C."

When students at Sunbury High School tacked these 8-inch felt pennants on their bedroom walls, they likely couldn’t imagine that just a decade later their tiny, rural alma mater would be merged into the new Gates County High in Gatesville.

The SHS building, circa 1937, became an elementary school, which survived until being abandoned in the late 1960s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.


The Kingfish encounters (again) Our Bob

“One day in 1932 two newly elected U.S. Senators met socially for the first time in the Washington hotel room of a mutual friend. One was North Carolina’s Robert Rice Reynolds, the other Huey P. Long, the Louisianian Kingfish. After the introduction, Huey looked at Reynolds attentively and said, ‘Don’t I know you from some place?’

” ‘Not to my remembrance, Senator,’ said Reynolds.

” ‘Ever been to Baton Rouge?’ persisted Huey. Reynolds had.

” ‘Why then sure I know you,’ said Huey. ‘You use to run that roller-skating rink down there.’

” ‘That’s right,’ said Reynolds. ‘And now I know you. You used to come in and win all the prizes for fancy skating. That’s when you were down there sellin’ snake oil.’

“The two shook hands again in fond recollection….”

— From ” ‘Our Bob’ Reynolds” in Life magazine (Sept. 8, 1941)

New in the collection: Polk tobacco silk

Image of James K. Polk on fabric

“It was between 1905 and 1910 that tobacco companies in America began inserting textile items into their cigarette and tobacco products. The fad for these textiles was between 1910 and 1916. At the beginning of World War I the practice was more or less abandoned….

“The tobacco or cigarette ‘silk’ was made from a variety of fabrics such as silk or silk satin, a cloth combination of silk and cotton, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton. The silks were often beautifully poly-chrome printed with varied subjects, and were usually printed with the tobacco company name.”

— From “Tobacco Silks” at the Princetonian Museum

This tobacco silk of North Carolina native James K. Polk — from a series of presidents — was included with Mogul cigarettes, although the brand name is missing on this example.

Though likely made of a Turkish blend, Moguls were advertised with an Egyptian theme when introduced by a Greek importer in 1892. In 1900 the company was purchased by American Tobacco, then parceled out to P. Lorillard in the 1911 dissolution of the tobacco trust. 


Buncombe, bunkum, bunk…. debunk!

” ‘Bunk’ already had a fascinating history in American usage before [William E. Woodward‘s 1923 novel by that name] appeared. In its nonsensical meaning, ‘bunk’ is a shortened form of ‘bunkum.’ That word goes back to 1820, when Felix Walker, a congressman from North Carolina, gave a long, irrelevant speech on the floor. He admitted to his colleagues, ‘I shall not be speaking to the House, but to Buncombe,’ a county in his home district.

” ‘Speaking to Buncombe’ then entered political parlance to refer to pointless oratory. In the late 1830s, that expression got shortened to ‘speaking (or talking) Bunkum,’ using a playful alternative spelling for ‘Buncombe.’ Only in the 1840s did ‘bunkum’ begin to stand on its own to mean ‘claptrap,’ especially of the political kind.

” ‘Bunkum’ then got clipped to ‘bunk’ by the late 19th century. The humorist Finley Peter Dunne used it in 1893, when a character assesses two replicas of Irish villages at the Chicago World’s Fair. One of them, he says, ‘is th’ real Irish village,’ while ‘th’ other one from Donegal is a sort of bunk.’

“Thomas Edison was widely quoted as saying ‘Religion is all bunk,’ causing such an uproar in 1910 that he was forced to clarify that his quarrel wasn’t with the existence of God. Henry Ford, arguing against U.S. involvement in World War I in 1916, notoriously told an interviewer, ‘History is more or less bunk.’

“By the time Woodward wrote ‘Bunk,’ the slang term was well entrenched. But Woodward didn’t coin ‘debunk.’ Newspaper databases now reveal earlier uses, such as a 1915 article in the New York Sun profiling Arthur S. Hoffman, a founder of the American Legion: ‘And yet in his quiet, emphatic way he kept boring and boring in a convincing manner, debunked and denuded of all that was not fact.’

“Still, Woodward’s novel undoubtedly introduced ‘debunking’ into mainstream use, and that’s no bunk.”

— From “What ‘Debunking’ Owes to a 1923 Novel and Buncombe County, N.C.” by Ben Zimmer in the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 4, 2019)

“Bunkum” as a superlative? Nicholas Graham checks it out. And William Safire notes its contribution to “hokum.”

New in the collection: Price’s Chicken Coop menu

Menu listing offerings at Price's Chicken Coop

“There will always be more fried chicken. There will always be debates over the best fried chicken. But the announcement that Price’s Chicken Coop was closing in June after 59 years is about more than dark meat vs. white or whether you’ll sneak in an order of gizzards on the side. The loss burns a deep-fryer-sized hole in Charlotte’s soul.

“No more standing in line with a cross section of humanity—Black, white, business people, nurses in scrubs, street people. No more obsessively reciting your order to yourself so you don’t get a black mark for holding up the lines. No more parading into your office with that grease-stained white takeout box with the unmistakable red writing….”

— From “What We Lost When Price’s Chicken Coop Closed” by Kathleen Purvis in Charlotte magazine (June 17, 2017)

Price’s straightforward menus changed little over the decades. This one from 2019 does note the on-premises ATM (no credit cards!) but not the hand-lettered wall sign banning cellphones.

‘GWTW’: unifier of the nation?

“For any young person ‘growing up Southern’ in the ’30s, ‘Gone with the Wind,’ the massive novel itself, had an impact far beyond its literary merits.

“My classmates at the then small women’s college of the University of North Carolina read it and talked to grandmothers and great-grandmothers who had lived through ‘Mr. Sherman’s visits’ and as youngsters saw his ‘calling cards,’ the blackened chimneys still standing along the 600 miles of Sherman’s track.

“And over at tiny Atlantic Christian College in eastern North Carolina, ‘Gone with the Wind’ was the only novel Ava Gardner ever read until she went to Hollywood and got ‘educated.’

” ‘Gone with the Wind’ meant that ‘we’ had won. We could begin to rejoin the Union, a process that took 30 years, and that we could even enter the 20th century….

“The universality of the book, as the country took first the novel, then the film to its heart, was attested to by a New England friend who said that even in school she had never really learned of the invasion and occupation of the South and its devastation until she had read and then reread ‘Gone with the Wind.’

“Because of its widespread appeal, ‘Gone with the Wind’ actually helped make us one country again. For me that is the ultimate importance.”

—Margaret Coit Elwell, author of “John C. Calhoun: American Portrait,” commenting in American Heritage (October 1992) 

New in the collection: People’s Alliance pinback

Pinback with words "People before Profits" and "People's Alliance NC"

“At a retreat last year, members of the People’s Alliance picked as the organization’s crowning achievement one of its earliest battles, a fight that won concessions for residents of Crest Street when the black neighborhood was threatened with destruction by the extension of the Durham Freeway.

“That was the mid-1970s. Two decades later, Durham’s best-known liberal political organization is faced with new fight: how to overcome a deeply entrenched white-bread reputation, acquired because so few of its 750 members are minorities….”

— From “Vanilla People’s Alliance seeking Neapolitan look” by Paul Brown in the Raleigh News & Observer (Sept. 7, 1994)

Despite its name and its longevity, the People’s Alliance has never made much of a dent outside Durham, but it continues to advocate for a wide range of progressive causes such as affordable housing, living wage and mass transit.