New in the collection: child’s wrestling title belt

Wrestling belt with the name Dusty Rhodes in the middle.

“The late ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes will be inducted into the National Wrestling Alliance‘s Hall of Heroes in his favorite city, Charlotte, North Carolina….

” ‘We arrived in Charlotte in 1984,’ recalled Dusty’s widow, Michelle, ‘which was before the NBA Hornets and the NFL Panthers, and the wrestlers were the biggest stars in the city. At one time, over 200 wrestlers and their families called Charlotte their home….’

“Dusty had great success as a main-event wrestler in the NWA and also as the ‘booker’ — TV producer or creative force behind the wrestling product under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner. The NWA was Charlotte’s home team within the pro-wrestling world that saw intense competition with the rival WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, based in Stamford, Conn.”

— From “Dusty Rhodes to be honored in beloved city of Charlotte” by Jim Ross at Fox Sports (Aug. 2, 2016)

This “World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion” belt for kids is from the  WWE, where Rhodes finished his ring career in 2007 at age 61.

Unprepared for a German ‘invasion’

“In the summer of 1943 I was a 1st lieutenant at Fort Bragg, an immense artillery post in North Carolina. Each day we had two Officers of the Day. If all was quiet, the senior OD could take off for his quarters about 10 P.M., leaving the junior OD to catch whatever sleep he could on a cot.

“During one of my tours as OD, I had disrobed down to my undershirt and shorts and hit the sack around 11 P.M. Soon that damned air-alert phone sounded off and woke me. I was astounded by the caller’s ‘Red alert!’ I said, ‘Don’t you mean “practice red alert”?’ He said, ‘Repeat, red alert!’ My weariness disappeared immediately. The war had reached us here in the continental United States, and it seemed to be in my hands.

“The spotter on the North Carolina coast confirmed that a German Focke-WuIf twin-fuselage fighter had been positively identified coming westward from the Atlantic across the Hatteras shore. Speculation erupted all around me on how a single fighter plane could make it that far over water. Had it been launched from a submarine?

“Meanwhile, I was initiating the blackout of the East Coast from Cherry Point, North Carolina, to New York City. Navy ships were putting out from ports. Interceptor planes were taking off, and from what I learned later President Roosevelt was taken from his bedroom down to his underground shelter.

“Then the air alarm rang ‘All clear!’ It was all a mistake. We were not being invaded. We spread the word, and the lights came back on in the East. The subject plane was found to be an Army Air Corps P-38 whose pilot had failed to respond to the radio challenge.

“In a flurry of ribbons and braid, all the captains and the kings my alert had summoned now departed. All was quiet again. I had participated in a bit of World War II history—in my underwear.”

—From “Blackout” in American Heritage magazine by John F. Reynolds (September 1999)

New in the collection: Piedmont Airlines safety card

Cover of Piedmont Airlines seatback safety instructions featuring an image of a captain's hat.

Inside of Piedmont Airlines safety instructions. It includes drawings noting the proper use of drop down air masks, the location of emergency exits, and the method for removing emergency doors.

This seat-back safety instruction folder, likely pilfered from a 1980s Piedmont Airlines flight, proudly announces the captain is at the controls of a Boeing 727-200. Maybe even Lori Cline  — who at age 23 became the youngest airline captain ever for any airline.  “Without a doubt,” she told O.Henry magazine, “my favorite airplane of all time was the Boeing 727 for Piedmont Airlines, which was a workhorse for the industry during the ’70s and ’80s before it was retired for being considered inefficient, fuel-wise, due to its third engine. And to this day, before I retire, if I could get to fly one airplane again, it would be that classic Cadillac.”

Chris Runge, curator for the Piedmont Aviation Historical Society, mentions a feature of the 727-200 that enabled a policy that surely seems fantastical to the put-upon air travelers of 2022: “The 727 has what you call your rear air stairs…. If a passenger missed a flight and the plane was halfway down the tarmac, the agent would call out to the plane, they’d stop, the pilot would drop the air stairs. The passenger would run out on the tarmac, jump up the back of the plane and they’d lift it up and go. Their motto was ‘Don’t leave anybody behind. Ever.’ And they didn’t.”

Footnote: In 1978 Piedmont purchased from Northwest Orient Airlines a used 727-200 with a historic rear exit — the one used by “D.B. Cooper.” 

Dare County to flu docs: Land elsewhere

“Not every place had doctors available to treat those stricken with Spanish flu. And when doctors were flown in to treat Coast Guardsmen and others on the Outer Banks, not everyone appreciated the kind of attention the newfangled aircraft attracted.

“ ‘Flying Machine Advertises Flu’ the headline read on the front page of the Elizabeth City Independent Jan. 31, 1919. ‘Dare County Folk Don’t Like Publicity of Flu Fliers’ was the subhead.

“ ‘Fighting the Flu via aero may be great sport for the U. S. Medical Corps and furnishes interesting headlines for newspapers but it isn’t making the strongest sort of appeal to the people of Dare county who are the beneficiaries (or the victims) of this latest adventure,’ the article explained.”


New in the collection: Blotter from Palms Restaurant

Blotter with words "The Palms Restaurant, Food at its best," and urging customers to "try our 35 cent lunch."

“The Palms restaurant at 305 E. Chapel Hill Street was an institution in Durham from about 1920 until it closed in 1983. An early proprietor of the establishment was Norman O. Reeves, who served ‘sizzling steaks’ and claimed ‘We never close.’

“The Palms was frequented by downtown employees (lawyers had their own table) and was dubbed ‘the bellybutton of Durham.’ ”

— From “Durham, North Carolina: A Postcard History” by Stephen E. Massengill (1997)

This ink blotter is undated, but “Try Our 35c Lunch” seems to narrow the possibilities.

Credit for moon flag not easily determined

“Former workers at the Burlington Industrial Fabrics’ Plant in Rhodhiss and Glen Raven Fabrics in Burnsville recall with pride bulletin board postings at the time saying their plants had woven the nylon fabric…. Company newsletters make similar claims. Glen Raven includes the claim on its website today. The welcome sign at the edge of Rhodhiss proclaims ‘US Moon Flags Woven Here,’ and the town logo features an astronaut planting a U.S. flag.

“There is no way to prove exactly which company wove the fabric, manufactured the flag or sold it to NASA. That’s exactly the way NASA wanted it, to avoid a commercial product being advertised as being used by astronauts – or, as one NASA official put it, ‘We didn’t want another Tang.'”

— From “A little piece of North Carolina on the Moon, maybe” by Tony Rice at WRAL (July 16, 2019)

Nobody has taken a more ambitious swing at the subject than Jeremy Markovich.

New in the collection: Tobacco warehouse posters

Two men moving tobacco in a warehouse

“Richmond-based painter J. Bohannon was born in New York City in 1950 and moved with his family at age 2 to Hilton Village, [Va.], Newport News and later, as a teenager, to Hopewell. After studying art at the Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bohannon worked as a salesman in his father’s art supply store, selling his own original artwork on the side. By his own admission, his paintings of the time were derivative of the European high art and contemporary abstraction he had studied at RPI. Then one day he picked up a copy of Matthew Baigell’s The American Scene: American Painting of the 1930s (1974) from a discount book bin. Until then, Bohannan says, he had never really seen, much less studied, modern American painting, despite four years of formal art education.

Men grading tobacco

“Working alongside street artists in Verona and Munich, copying famous Caravaggios and Bouchers in pastel on public sidewalks, Bohannan developed a passion for ‘plastic realism,’ embedding human forms in visual space in a way that is, as Bohannon puts it, ‘more there than right’ — that is, more materially present than technically correct.
People planting tobacco

After his return to Virginia from Europe, Bohannon began developing a latter-day American Scene style, and his career took off in a wave of commissions. In 1995, after an employee of Philip Morris saw one of his paintings in a Richmond coffee shop, the company hired Bohannon to create the artwork for its ‘Keep Tobacco Clean’ poster series, intended for display in its growers’ warehouses.”

— From “Multiple Exposure: Catablog of the Visual Studies Collection @ the Library of Virginia”

“In the 1990s [Philip Morris] began its push for ‘cleanliness’ by furnishing auction warehouses with red garbage barrels and immense red banners [reading], ‘Keep Tobacco Clean’ with white lettering against a red background that mimicked Marlboro packaging.

“At a time when the auctions were still operating and growers were not yet directly contracted with firms, the signs expressed corporate power and subtly implied that more stringent demands were coming down the pike….”

— From Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry” by Peter Benson (2012)

Before east vs. west, politics was north vs. south

” ‘North Carolina,’ the Moravian leader August Gottlieb Spangenberg noted in 1752, ‘is a rather large Province, and the conditions of [the] inhabitants varies so greatly that often what is good for the southern part is bad for the northern, and vice versa.’ He went on to complain that this problem led to ‘a continual strife between the two sections.’ ”

— From “Politics and Authority in Colonial North Carolina: A Regional Perspective” by Bradford J. Wood in North Carolina Historical Review (January 2004)

In time, the state’s political axis rotated from north-south to east-west.  A compromise among Democrats in the 1930s and ’40s alternated the governorship between eastern and western candidates.


Bland Simpson’s ‘compelling love letter’

“NPR asked poets laureate, state librarians, bookstore owners and other literary luminaries… to recommend quintessential reads that illuminate where they live….

Jaki Shelton Green, poet laureate of North Carolina, [nominated] North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky by Bland Simpson:

“A stunning account of not only the majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian range, sprawling forests and the enchanted crests of the Atlantic coastline, but also its people: our stories, identities, histories, sufferance, memory, vision and the ancestral energy that remains inside of our communities.

“North Carolina, like many states, has a layered and complex culture. Bland Simpson has written a compelling love letter to our entwined ‘goodliest land’ amplifying our collective appreciation for the sanctuary of home and kinship.”

— From “Traveling this summer? Here are book picks for all 50 states (and then some)” at NPR (June 1)