Scary times in Missing Mile, N.C.

“Missing Mile was not a large town, but it was big enough to have a run-down section. Kinsey walked through this section every day, appreciating the silence of it, the slight eeriness of the boarded-up storefronts and soap-blinded windows. Some of the empty stores still bore going-out-of-business signs. The best one, which never failed to amuse Kinsey, trumpeted BEAT XMAS RUSH! in red letters a foot high. The stores not boarded up or soaped were full of dust and cobwebs, with the occasional wire clothes rack or smooth mannequin torso standing a lonely vigil over nothing….”

— From “Drawing Blood: A Novel” by Poppy Z. Brite (1994), chosen by Tina Jordan of the New York Times for “a list of the scariest novel set in every state.”

New in the collection: State’s first skyscraper in the making

Images of building under construction surrounded by scaffoldEven if it weren’t scarce, this would be my favorite Charlotte postcard. The tinted image of “Progressive Charlotte — Getting her new streets and skyscraper” puts us present at the clangorous creation of what would become today’s million-pushing metropolis.

The 12-story Realty Building (later the Independence Building), the state’s first steel-framed high-rise, was imploded in 1981.


New in the collection: Anti-Coy Privette button

Pinback button with the words Just say no to Coy

It’s not usual for county commissioner memorabilia to merit a Miscellany mention, but then Coy Privette wasn’t your usual county commissioner. 

Privette, an outspoken Kannapolis minister and social conservative who once ran for governor, saw his electoral career skid to a halt after pleading guilty to six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution.

Although his fellow Cabarrus County commissioners, all Republicans, demanded he resign, as did the state Republican Party, Privette resisted the “Just say NO” effort and held on for the duration of his term. Then he retired.

Privette died in 2015 at age 82.


Why ‘Norma Rae’ wasn’t ‘Crystal Lee’

“Because of legal difficulties, [director Martin] Ritt later promoted the movie as ‘a fictionalized composite of several such women who became militantly involved in trying to unionize Southern textile mills.’ Norma Rae would have been called Crystal Lee; the mill worker’s resistance forced the adoption of a fictional name. By holding out beyond a point of a workable compromise, Crystal Lee [Sutton] lost her best opportunity to gain national fame from her personal story.”

— From “History by Hollywood”  by Robert Toplin (2009)

Court to photog: Your Jordan was no Jumpman

[Jacobus] Rentmeester, with two assistants, traveled to the UNC campus [in 1984] to create the Jordan Photo [for Life magazine]….  Mr. Rentmeester wanted to maximize visual attention on an isolated figure of Mr. Jordan… with a background of sky rather than the interior of an auditorium….

“UNC staff agreed to allow Mr. Rentmeester to set up at a relatively isolated knoll…  He directed his assistants to purchase a basketball hoop, backboard, and pole, and told them where to dig a hole for the pole and to position the hoop.

“To further minimize visual distractions, Mr. Rentmeester asked his assistants to borrow a lawnmower from the UNC groundskeeping staff.  They mowed the grass as low as possible to maximize attention on Mr. Jordan’s soaring figure.

“Over approximately one half hour, Mr. Jordan practiced leaping according to Mr. Rentmeester’s instructions.  The pose differed substantially from Mr. Jordan’s natural jumps, during gameplay or otherwise (for instance, Mr. Jordan typically held the basketball with his right hand), and required practice and repeated attempts….”

— From plaintiff’s brief cited in “Iconic Nike Logo Alleged to Infringe Photographer’s Copyright” at

“A photographer who took a photo of pre-superstar Michael Jordan … could not persuade the Ninth Circuit [Court of Appeals] that Nike ripped him off with its ‘Jumpman’ logo.

“While the panel concluded it was plausible that Nike copied the photo,  Jacobus Rentmeester could claim copyright only to his creative choices, such as camera angle and lighting, [not to] the midair pose itself….”

— From “Photographer Can’t Copyright Michael Jordan’s Jump Pose” by Nick McCann at (Feb. 28, 2018)


New in the collection: Button zings ‘Carolina Comeback’

Pinback button with the words Where are the jobs Pat?Gov. Pat McCrory and his supporters say the ‘Carolina Comeback’ under his watch is most reflected by the halving of the state unemployment rate — from 9.4 percent in January 2013 to 4.7 percent in July 2016 — the creation of 300,000 jobs and the lowering of the corporate tax rate….

“According to N.C. Commerce Department data, however, 40 percent of all job creation has been gained in Charlotte and the Triangle [and] much of the job creation statewide has been in low-wage jobs, such as retail, leisure and hospitality….”

— From “Report questions reach, validity of Gov. Pat McCrory’s ‘Carolina Comeback’ claims” by Richard Craver in the Winston-Salem Journal (Sept. 4, 2016)

This pinback button was distributed by the North Carolina Democratic Party.


So much to know about Lionel Shriver

“Nearly overlooked in the hubbub [over the 2010 National Book Awards] was the first-time nomination of an under-recognized author who [was born in Gastonia and] grew up in Raleigh — Lionel Shriver, for her novel ‘So Much for That.’

“Shriver was raised in Raleigh until high school, when her family moved to Atlanta. Since 1987, she has spent most of her time in the United Kingdom; she now lives in London and Brooklyn. Her fifth novel, ‘A Perfectly Good Family’ [2007] was set in an historic house on Blount Street in downtown Raleigh.”

— From “Raleigh native’s [sic] book picked” in the News & Observer (Oct. 18, 2010)

“Her father [Donald Woods Shriver Jr.] was a Presbyterian minister and, later, a professor and president of Union Theological Seminary…. At the age of 8, she decided that she did not want to have children of her own. When she was 12, she announced she would not be going to church any more. Her father dragged her into the car by her hair. ‘I have a rebellious streak a mile wide,’ she says, ‘and admire people who get away with things.’

“She changed her birth name Margaret Ann to Lionel when she was 15: ‘I was a tomboy. I grew up with brothers. So I chose a boy’s name…. A friend tells me that if I am so perverse as to change my name to Lionel, then I deserve the tedium of having to explain it to everyone I meet.’ “

— From Time to talk about her big brother by Viv Groskop in the Observer [of London] (April 21, 2013)

“Officials at an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker that they publicly disavowed her remarks….

“[Lionel Shriver] had defended her right to depict members of minority groups in any situation, if it served her artistic purposes.

“ ‘Otherwise, all I could write about would be smart-alecky 59-year-old 5-foot-2-inch white women from North Carolina,’ she said.”

— From “Lionel Shriver’s Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival” by Rod Nordland in the New York Times (Sept. 12, 2016)







New in the collection: railway bond coupons

Coupons for Piedmont and Northern Railway

The term “coupon clipping” used to be synonymous with lifestyles of the wealthy.

” ‘Coupon’ originally refers to actual detachable coupons affixed to bond certificates,” explains Investopedia. “Bonds with coupons, known as coupon bonds or bearer bonds, are not registered, meaning that possession of them constitutes ownership. To collect an interest payment, the investor has to present the physical coupon.”

Today that process has gone almost entirely digital, but these coupons from the electric interurban Piedmont & Northern Railway, a 21-mile line linking Charlotte and Gastonia, survive — having followed though on the P&N’s promise to pay bearers $25 “in gold coin.”


Proof lacking for tattooed presidents

“From the mid- to late 18th century to the middle of the 19th century, high profile individuals were turning to tattoos. Andrew Jackson had a tattoo of a large tomahawk on his inner thigh, while James K. Polk had a Chinese symbol that translated to ‘eager.’ “

— From “Tattoos: An Illustrated History” by Tina Brown (2019)

Interesting, if true. (Old newsroom expression.)

Alas, despite the popularity of these claims in internet listicles and trivia quizzes, neither tattoo is mentioned by Jackson and Polk biographers or other historians.

From a self-described “Polk scholar”: “Not only is there absolutely no recorded evidence that he had a tattoo, but everything I know about the man suggests he would be the last man to get one.
“He didn’t drink and his wife banned dancing from the White House. Preoccupied with the Mexican-American war, Polk had very little Asian influence in his foreign policy in his 4 year term.”