When Cadet Ted Williams Came to Chapel Hill

The Cloudbuster Nine, major league veterans on Naval Pre-flight baseball team
The U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC was about a year old when Cadet Ted Williams arrived in Chapel Hill in May 1943. The campus was the second stop in his year long effort to earn the wings of a Marine aviator. As Williams biographer Leigh Montville writes, Williams and his Boston Red Sox teammate Johnny Pesky had already spent several months at Amherst College in western Massachusetts in a civilian pilot training program, logging time in the classroom learning about navigation, radio code and aerology and in the cockpit mastering flight in Piper Cubs. Pesky described the duo’s time on the UNC campus as “like basic training.”

Up by the light of the moon, double-time all day, to bed with the owls….Drill till your tongue bulged. Sports, hikes, inspections. We played all games to test us for versatility—boxing, wrestling, swimming, soccer, and baseball. The object was to find if we had a nerve-cracking point. Some did.

Williams and Pesky also found time to crack the bat. They were among the members of the UNC Naval Pre-Flight program’s baseball team. In addition to Williams and Pesky, the 1943 lineup for the Cloudbusters, as they were known, included several other cadets with Major League experience. John Sain and Louis Gremp played for the Boston Braves and Joe Coleman pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics. The team also included officers who were Major League veterans. Lt. John “Buddy” Hassett had played first base for the New York Yankees. Ensign Joe Cusick was a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. And Lt. Pete Appleton had spent time on the mound for the St. Louis Browns.

The Cloudbusters competed against university teams, service teams and all-star teams from the minor leagues. In the “Ration League,” which included UNC, Duke and N.C. State, the team finished the 1943 season with a record of 3 wins and 6 losses. UNC took first place and Duke, second. But many of those games were played prior to the major leaguers’ arrival.

With Williams, Pesky and the other big league veterans, the Cloudbusters took on service teams at Camp Butner and at Norfolk. The team at the Norfolk Naval Training Station (there was also a team at the Norfolk Naval Air Station) included one-time Yankee shortstop Phil Rizutto, former Red Sox outfielder Dominic DiMaggio, and former Brooklyn Dodger outfielder Don Padgett. The Cloudbusters played the Naval Training Station team several times during spring and summer 1943. When the teams met at Emerson Field in Chapel Hill in July, the major league veterans posed for photographs for Cloudbuster, the UNC Naval Pre-Flight program’s weekly newspaper (back issues are now available online through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center).

Former Red Sox teammates Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams in Chapel Hill.
Former Red Sox teammates Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams together in Chapel Hill in July 1943.

Buddy Hassett (l) and Phil Rizzuto at Emerson Field.
Buddy Hassett (l) and Phil Rizzuto at Emerson Field.

Williams and Pesky took a break from Chapel Hill and the Cloudbusters on July 12 to join an all star team of former major league and college baseball players in a game against the Boston Braves at Fenway Park. The service all-star team was managed by Babe Ruth. Prior to the game, which the service all-stars won 9-8, Ruth, 48, took on Williams in a batting contest. Facing pitches from Braves bullpen thrower Red Barrett, Williams, dressed in a 1942 Red Sox traveling uniform, belted three balls into the right field stands. Ruth, however, showed his age and that his playing days were long behind. Newspaper accounts report that the Babe was unable to drive the ball off the playing field. Upon meeting Williams in the clubhouse, Ruth is reported to have said, “Hiya, kid. You remind me a lot of myself. I love to hit. You’re one of the most natural ballplayers I’ve ever seen. And if ever my record is broken, I hope you’re the one to do it.”

Williams and Ruth met again two weeks later at Yankee Stadium when the Cloudbusters were part of a charity event to benefit the War and Service Relief Fund of the Red Cross. A double-header on July 28 featured a match-up between all stars from the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. In the second game, the Cloudbusters took on a combined team of Indians and Yankees.


With strong pitching from Cadet Johnny Sain, the Cloudbusters prevailed over the combined Yankees-Indians team, or “Yanklands,” as the Cloudbuster named the team.

Back in Chapel Hill, Williams continued his academic studies. Courses included “Essentials of Naval Service,” “Nomenclature and Recognition,” “Celestial Navigation,” and advanced Aerology. When Williams wasn’t in the classroom or on the ball field, he showed promise as a boxer. As Pesky recalled (and as related in Montville’s biography of Williams), the pre-flight program’s boxing instructor, a former professional fighter, called Williams into the ring on one occasion and told the ball player to hit him.

Ted was just swinging at first….Then Ted started to get the hang of it. He fakes! And then he unloads. Pow! He hits the guy. Then he fakes again. Pow. He hits the guy again. When the thing was over, the instructor says, ‘Hey, how would you like to have me help you make a fast million bucks?’ Ted says,’How would you do that?’ ‘I’ll train you as a boxer.’ Ted says,’Oh no, not me.’ [The instructor] didn’t even know who Ted was.

Williams, Pesky and other members of the Cloudbusters shipped out to Naval Air Station Bunker Hill, near Peru, Indiana in September 1943. There the cadets were taught how to take off and land airplanes. From Bunker Hill, Williams headed off to Pensacola, Florida. And there, on May 2, 1944, Williams received his wings as a second lieutenant in the Marine air corp.

UNC responds to John F. Kennedy’s assassination

“….Students and townspeople, returning to work or classes after a late lunch, heard the news and flocked to radios, television sets and wire service tickers in town and on the campus. Preparations for the Beat Dook parade ground to a halt as the parade was canceled…. As the news spread over the campus and the town, traffic gradually slowed and shocked people didn’t want to comment on their feelings.”

“Campus Reacts in Shock as Tragic News Spreads,” The Daily Tar Heel, November 23, 1963.


“Three minutes after news of the President’s death was received, the bell in South Building began tolling, followed by knells from the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower. An ROTC Band ready for the Beat Dook parade walked at slow-time through the University campus, with horns muted in a funeral dirge. Then a combined Air Force and Naval ROTC unit held a retreat ceremony at the campus flagpole. Some 200 yards from where the President had spoken in Kenan Stadium on Oct. 12, 1861, a lone bugler blew ‘Taps,’ and from a hilltop overlooking the stadium another bugler echoed the mournful notes.”

“A Funeral Dirge & Mournful Taps,” The Chapel Hill Weekly, November 22, 1963.


“Full comprehension of President John F. Kennedy’s death came slowly in Chapel Hill. Hours after official confirmation of his death an air of disbelief hung about most of the Town, almost as if people were trying deliberately to avoid the full impact of the news. There were few public displays of open grief, none of anything like hysteria. But the affairs of the Town slowed perceptibly almost everywhere, in places halted totally. Activity that continued did so with numb roteness.

All along Franklin Street knots of people bunched around radios and television sets in stores. It was possible to pace completely through the business block and never be out of earshot of news of the President’s assassination. The Post Office flag was lowered to half-mast immediately on confirmation of the President’s death. Many of the crowd along the street had come to watch the Beat Dook parade, but news of the parade’s cancellation did not circulate completely right away. About a hundred expectant spectators sat on the wall along the south side of Franklin Street.

….In front of Electric Construction Company a crowd bulged along the sidewalk, watching a television set placed in the door. Trade, at times pretty desultory, continued at most stores. The banks opened their doors for regular Friday afternoon business, but customers had no trouble finding a vacant teller’s window.

At the corner of Graham and West Franklin Street Patrolman Parrish Womble waited for rush hour traffic that never did rush. The Graham Street area, usually a merry one on Friday afternoons, was noticeably slow.

….Graham Memorial was hushed except for television sets. Student government offices closes, all student functions were cancelled. A few students shed quiet tears, but remained watching television for hours after the news first came. The Bell Tower pealed ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ over the campus….

When the news came, many University classes were immediately dismissed.”

“Chapel Hill Mourns the Loss,” The Chapel Hill Weekly, November 24, 1963.


“When President Kennedy was assassinated, the report of his death was met with cheers by students in a Durham County schoolroom. A Chapel Hill grade school student’s reaction was, ‘I’m glad.’ Members of a fraternity at the University here frolicked at an out-of-doors beer bust which might not have been promoted in observance of the President’s death, but certainly was not at all sobered by the news. One coed, asked if she had heard, replied, ‘So what?’ A UNC instructor and his companion dining in Lenoir Hall were openly pleased. A formerly respected businessman said, ‘He … had it coming.’ This is what Chief Justice Earl Warren meant when he spoke of the hate and bitterness that has infected the blood of America… the outspoken hatred of supposedly mature and intelligent people is a festering sore on the face of America and it makes you wonder what in the name of God we are coming to….”

Editorial, The Chapel Hill Weekly, November 27, 1963.


Thanks to North Carolina Miscellany friend Lynn Roundtree for sharing these excerpts.

Raleigh, please forgive us. What if the oceans DO rise?

One day, I’ll look back fondly and tell my grandkids about the week I spent flooding the planet.

It began as a lark. For the past few months, I’ve been writing installments of a serialized science fiction novel about a world in which the oceans have risen nearly 80 meters and most of the human race now lives at sea. As the characters in my story ventured closer to shore, I realized I needed a simple way to visualize what that world would look like. I took to Google Earth and Inkscape—both free, readily available software packages—and simulated 80 meters of sea level rise. The results were stark, post-apocalyptic images of city skylines, submerged. Los Angeles was completely inundated south of the financial district. In D.C, only the Washington Monument rose above the encroaching Potomac. Telegraph Hill was an island in the expanded San Francisco Bay. North Carolina was a warm, shallow sea stretching from the Outer Banks to Rocky Mount. Florida was gone.

–Duke-trained marine ecologist Andrew David Thaler from “Why I Drowned L.A. and the World”. Thaler, the editor in chief of “Southern Fried Science”, offered instructions on “How to Drown Your Town.”

Image of Raleigh with 105 meters of sea level rise
Raleigh with 105 meters of sea level rise
Raleigh with 108 meters of sea level rise
Raleigh with 108 meters of sea level rise
Duke University at 120 meters of sea level rise
Duke University at 120 meters of sea level rise
Kenan Stadium with 135 meters of sea level rise
Kenan Stadium with 135 meters of sea level rise
The Old Well with 150 meters of sea level rise
The Old Well with 150 meters of sea level rise
Charlotte with 220 meters of sea level rise
Charlotte with 220 meters of sea level rise

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs did his math at UNC


The awarding of a Nobel Prize to Peter Higgs yesterday marked the recognition of a lifetime’s effort to understand how particles acquire mass. The English theoretical physicist is the namesake for the Higgs boson, known commonly as the “God particle,” the sub-atomic particle that gives mass to other particles. Higgs did some of his early work on proving the existence of the boson during time at the Bahnson Institute of Field Physics at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1965 to 1966. He was invited for the academic year to study gravitation. But, his former UNC colleagues say, Higgs used his time in Chapel Hill to perform some of the complex mathematical equations that suggested the existence of the boson that eventually bore his name. He compiled that research into a paper (a typed copy of which exists in the North Carolina Collection) published in Physical Review in May 1966.


FDR attends The Lost Colony – Caught by Albertype


Seen this one before? Probably not. I suspect this photo never made its way to print. The image of FDR on Roanoke Island is among prints and negatives in the Albertype Company Collection of the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive (NCCPA). We recently added a host of scans from the collection to our Digital NCCPA.

Albertype was a Brooklyn-based postcard and viewbook publishing company that operated from 1892 to 1950. During its six decades of operation, the company produced more than 25,000 prints. Albertype sent photographers throughout the country to capture people and places on film. In the early days the company relied on a relatively new technological innovation, the collotype or albertype, to photomechanically reproduce images.

Our Albertype Collection includes another image that was likely shot the same day.


The motorcade appears to include Roosevelt, Governor Clyde R. Hoey (backseat, middle) and, perhaps, Paul Green (backseat, right). Roosevelt’s visit to Roanoke Island included a viewing of The Lost Colony. Green’s outdoor drama included actors from the Federal Actors Project performing in a theater built by the Civilian Conservation Corps—two agencies created as a part of FDR’s New Deal. Roosevelt visited Roanoke Island on August 18, 1937— the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare’s birth and a little more than a month after the July 4 premiere of Green’s drama. In addition to catching a performance of The Lost Colony, the President delivered an address.

The photographer of these images is unidentified. The quality of the photographs suggest that his/her work with the Albertype Company may have been short-lived.

Of course, Albertype didn’t have the only photographer on the scene. This lensman (or lenswoman) was better positioned (FYI: we’re doing some web cleanup and this link may eventually die).

UNC 14 vs. USC 7– Wait, that was 63 years ago


With the much-hyped Jadeveon Clowney expected to doom UNC’s chances of beginning its football season with a win, we thought it important to remind readers that the overall record in the intrastate match-up puts UNC ahead with twice the number of wins as the other Carolina to the South. The series record is 34-17 with four ties.

Photographer Hugh Morton was on hand to record one of the occasions when the Tar Heels claimed a W. On November 18, 1950 UNC walked away from Carolina Stadium in Columbia with 14 points. The hometown team scored only 7. Morton’s photo features four Tar Heels taking down a Gamecock. Number 25 for the Tar Heels is Irv Holdash, who was a first team All-Southern Conference center in 1949 and 1950.

Despite the Tar Heel’s win in Columbia, the team finished with a 4-6 record for the season. Holdash, a senior in 1950, was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.

Here’s hoping Mr. Morton’s photo works some good mojo on the Heels tonight.

And, lest you think we’re being too hard on the Palmetto State. One of their wags thinks we Tar Heels need a little educating.

The News and Observer celebrates a birthday


Happy Birthday to The News & Observer. Although the paper’s roots date back to the 1880s, the first issue under publisher Josephus Daniels rolled off the presses on this date in 1893. And since then, the paper has operated continuously under its current title. The print version of today’s paper features a front page mocked up in the style of the 1893 paper.

We’re marking the occasion by providing you with a look at the full first issue. To take a closer look at the individual pages, click on one of the images below. You’ll be taken to a new page. Click on the image on that page and you can view the full page.

Remember the Goat Man?

I was searching for some information on the Remember Cliffside website several days ago when I stumbled upon a story about the Goat Man. Reno Bailey, the creator of Remember Cliffside, recalls from childhood a man who used to pass through town with a wagon pulled by goats and made money by taking photographs of children posed in his wagon. Bailey described how his young imagination had added a few details to the Goat Man’s biography. In his mind, the itinerant goatherd was a Nazi spy taking photographs of the town’s power plant and other installations. Of course, as an adult, Bailey learned that the Goat Man was not a spy. Instead he was a man who traveled the South’s backroads with his goats and, occasionally, some two-legged companions, preaching and living off the land and the kindness of strangers.

I probably wouldn’t have given the story much more thought if I hadn’t come across these two images of the Goat Man in the North Carolina Postcards online collection yesterday.

Postcard of the Goat Man with his wagon

The Goat Man preaching

I figured if there were postcards of the Goat Man and if he drew such large crowds when he preached, then someone must have written about him. Heck, I thought, maybe there’s even a Wikipedia page about him. Indeed, there is. There’s also a book and a song about the Goat Man, whose real name was Charles “Ches” McCartney.

According to several biographies on the web, including one in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, McCartney was born on an Iowa farm in 1901. At 14 he left home and headed for New York City. There he met and, eventually, married a Spanish woman who had a knife throwing act. McCartney, who was allegedly 10 years his wife’s junior, served as her knife throwing target. When the couple had a son, they left the city and began a life of farming. The Depression hit the couple hard and McCartney searched for other work. In 1935 McCartney was injured while cutting timber as part of a Works Progress Administration project. Some accounts suggest that a tree fell on him and several hours elapsed before he was found. According to those stories, McCartney was pronounced dead and taken to a mortuary. As the undertaker inserted a needle with embalming fluid into his arm, McCartney stirred.

Whether because of this supposed near death experience or for other reasons, McCartney underwent a religious reawakening. He hitched up a wagon to a team of goats and, accompanied by his wife and son, he took to the road preaching. Wearing goatskin clothes fashioned by his wife, McCartney called for sinners to repent or face eternal damnation. He marked his path with signs bearing such messages as “Prepare to Meet Thy God,” with the fires of hell painted at the bottom. Eventually McCartney’s wife tired of the itinerant life and she left, taking their son with her. McCartney continued his travels, inspired, he said, by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the Bible, two books he carried with him. Along the way, McCartney married two more times and may have fathered several more children. At some point his son, Albert Gene, joined him on the road.

Portrait of Charles McCartney, the Goat Man, from the 1950s. Image from Davie County Public Library
Portrait of Charles McCartney, the Goat Man, from the 1950s. Image from Davie County Public Library

McCartney established a base in Twiggs County, Georgia, calling his home the Free Thinking Christian Mission. From there, he continued his travels, claiming to visited all of the lower 48 states as well as Alaska and Canada during almost 50 years on the road. Although he eventually forsook goatskin clothing for denim overalls, his fiery sermons and eccentric appearance left strong impressions on those whom he encountered. Flannery O’Connor mentioned the Goat Man in letters and may have incorporated some of his ways into her characters. It is believed that Cormac McCarthy’s novel Suttree includes a character based on McCartney.

McCartney retired from the road in the late 60s or early 70s, shortly after a mugging during which three of his ribs were broken and two goats killed. When his mission building burned in 1978, McCartney and his son moved into a broken down school bus. He made one last road journey in 1985 when he set out on foot toward Los Angeles in hopes of meeting and marrying the actress Morgan Fairchild. After a mugging on that trip, he returned to Georgia and lived in a nursing home until his death at the age of 97 in 1998.

If you met the Goat Man along the way, please share your memories with us.

Greetings on the Gettysburg Battlefield-Pt. 2

The 1903 meeting of onetime foes on the Gettysburg battlefield sparked interest among North Carolina Miscellany readers. So today’s post provides a few more details on the first encounter between Lt. Colonel John R. Lane of the 26th North Carolina Regiment and Sgt. Charles H. McConnell of the 24th Michigan Regiment of the Iron Brigade (note the previous post incorrectly described McConnell as a colonel).

Photograph from George C. Underwood's History of the N.C. 26th Regiment
Photograph from George C. Underwood’s History of the N.C. 26th Regiment
Photograph from George C. Underwood's History of the N.C. 26th Regiment, 1901
Photograph from George C. Underwood’s History of the N.C. 26th Regiment, 1901

Lane, a native of Chatham County, and McConnell, a Chicago native, faced each other in battle during the first day of fighting at Gettysburg. The 26th North Carolina was charging the Union lines in McPherson’s Woods. They were met with strong resistance by the 24th Michigan and suffered numerous casualties. The flag of the 26th had fallen 11 times as successive color guards were killed or wounded. As Col. Henry K. Burgwyn rescued the colors and prepared to hand them off to a private, he was shot in his left side and fell. Shortly after taking the flag, the private, too, was shot. Lane stepped up to serve as the 14th standard bearer. As recounted in the 26th’s regimental history, Lane shouted at the top of his voice, “Twenty-sixth follow me.”

The men answer with a yell and press forward. Several lines of the enemy have given away, but a most formidable line yet remains, which seems determined to hold its position. Volleys of musketry are fast thinning out those left and only a skeleton line now remains. To add to the horrors of the scene, the battle smoke has settled down over the combatants making it almost as dark as night. With a cheer the men obey the command to advance, and rush on and upward to the summit of the hill, when the last line of the enemy gives way and sullenly retires from the field through the village of Gettysburg to the heights beyond the cemetery.

Just as the last shots are firing, a sergeant in the Twenty-Fourth Michigan Regiment (now the President of the Iron Brigade Veteran Association, Mr. Charles H. McConnell, of Chicago), attracted by the commanding figure of Colonel Lane carrying the colors, lingers to take a farewell shot, and resting his musket on a tree, he waits his opportunity. When about thirty steps distant, as Colonel Lane turns to see if his regiment is following him, a ball fired by this brave and resolute adversary, strikes him in the back of the neck just below the brain, which crashes through his jaw and mouth, and for the fourteenth and last time the colors are down. The red field was won, but at what cost to the victor as well as the vanquished.

The cost of the battle to Lane may have been his ability to clearly communicate. Lane was among the speakers at the 1903 Gettysburg commemoration, the same event during which he was photographed with McConnell. His talk included a recitation of the battle, drawn, he said, from the regimental history. But before detailing his actions and those of his comrades in arms, Lane offered an apology.

I must warn you that you must not expect a highly wrought oration from me. I was once a soldier, never a speaker. Besides, our good friends, the enemy, took care on this field of Gettysburg that I should never become an orator, for a Yankee bullet ruined my throat and took away a part of my tongue and deprived me of my teeth.

After fighting ceased at Gettysburg, Lane was among the wounded placed on a southbound wagon train. The caravan had not ventured far when it was attacked by Union cavalry. According to the regimental history, Lane “at once got out of the wagon, mounted his horse and made his escape, though he was at the time unable to speak or to receive nourishment in the natural way. He was unable to take any nourishment for nine days, owing to the swollen and inflamed condition of his throat and mouth, and it was thought impossible for him ever to get well.”

But Lane did get well. And he continued to fight with the 26th North Carolina, sustaining three more severe wounds before finally being hospitalized in Greensboro. He was there when his unit surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

Photo from George C. Underwood's History of the N.C. 26th Regiment, 1901.
Photo from George C. Underwood’s History of the N.C. 26th Regiment, 1901.

Greetings on the Gettysburg Battlefield in 1903

John Randolph Lane meets Charles H. McConnell
Col. John R. Lane (left) poses with Sgt. Charles H. McConnell by monument to 24th Michigan at Gettysburg in 1903.

Within these woods on that fateful afternoon of the first day of July 1863, perhaps in less than an hour, the 26th North Carolina of Pettigrew’s Brigade suffered more casualties than any regiment on either side, in any battle, during the entire Civil War. But the 24th Michigan and the other regiments of Meredith’s Iron Brigade, standing in the path of the 26th, yielded ground just as stubbornly as the aggressor fought for it. During their bitter fight to the finish courage knew no bounds. Both sides were American to the core.

Therefore, in honoring one we honor the other, and we do so in the same spirit in which Colonel John Randolph Lane of the 26th North Carolina and Colonel Charles H. McConnell of the 24th Michigan exchanged greetings on this battlefield eighty-two years ago. It was their second meeting, and the [photo above] bears faithful witness. They first met 40 years earlier, in this immediate vicinity, on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg when McConnell shot and severely wounded Lane, leaving him for dead on the battlefield. Only moments earlier, the gallant Colonel Henry King Burgwyn, Jr., had been mortally wounded. Major John T. Jones succeeded Lane in command of the 26th. The command of this regiment changed hands three times before Meredith’s Iron Brigade finally abandoned those woods and fell back on Seminary Ridge.

–from remarks by Archie K. Davis at dedication of a monument to the 26th North Carolina Regiment at Gettysburg National Military Park on 5 October 1985. Davis’s remarks are part of “Gallantry Unsurpassed”: Proceedings of the Dedication Ceremony for a Monument to the 26th North Carolina Regiment, Gettysburg National Military Park, 5 October 1985. According to Lane family lore, McConnell once visited Lane at his home in Chatham County, but Lane’s wife refused to allow McConnell to enter the house.