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.”

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 cohornlaw.com

“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 courthousenews.com (Feb. 28, 2018)

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

A case for flipping Charlotte history on its head

“On Feb. 24, 1986, Seattle residents awoke in a county named for William Rufus DeVane King, a slave-holding North Carolinian and 1852 vice presidential candidate. They went to bed that night in a county named for Martin Luther King Jr.

“And it was all so simple! As the King County official who proposed the switch said: “We won’t have to reprint stationery or change road signs or anything like that.”

“King County’s alchemy ought to be instructive to the 15-member committee now charged by City Council with reconsidering Charlotte’s own racially offensive public nomenclature.

“Morrison Boulevard, for instance, honors Gov. Cameron Morrison, the decades-long race-baiter whose farm would become SouthPark. Wouldn’t the city’s character — and image — be better served by renaming the street for Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the late Black novelist?

“And what about Stonewall Street — how about ditching the Confederate general and commemorating instead the historic Stonewall Riots that launched the gay liberation movement?”

— From “A fix for street names that offend,” my letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer (Sept. 18)

Charlotte preservationist Len Norman reminded me on Facebook that “We can find an example here in North Carolina regarding Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. A few years back the University re-designated the stadium to be named for the son (who gave money to build it) instead of his father who had connections with the white supremacist movement in the late 1890s.”

VP Sanford? How serious was JFK?

“[Robert] Caro’s best but most controversial piece of evidence [that Lyndon Johnson would be replaced on the 1964 ticket] is the 1968 book by JFK’s former secretary, Evelyn Lincoln.

“Lincoln wrote that in mid-November of 1963 JFK said at her desk that ‘there might be a change in the ticket.’

“A week later, JFK told Lincoln that he was thinking about North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford, she recalled, adding that the president told her: ‘But it will not be Lyndon’…

Tom Lambeth, a Sanford gubernatorial aide,  recalled last week that he heard the chatter. He even said he can think back to the day he picked up another Sanford aide, Skipper Bowles (the father of Erskine) at the airport after Bowles had been to the White House.

“ ‘Bowles said something about the idea that Terry might be the VP,’ Lambeth recalls.

“But Lambeth, now 77, said neither Sanford nor Sanford’s staff thought it would come to fruition….”

— From “Caro revives Kennedy-Johnson feud” by Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris at Politico (May 13, 2012)

Notes from a pandemic….

“On my way to Charlotte, I had to stop at a convenience store for the restroom. I walked far around one employee on a smoke break outside the store. I was the only person of perhaps 20 inside who was masked and was clearly being given the stink eye.

“I brought a drink to the counter to pay and the employee behind the plexiglass screen asked me if that was all. I said yes, and he said, ‘Take it.’ I was like, ‘Oh thanks, happy Mother’s Day?’ And he said, ‘No, your mask is scaring us.’ ”

— Facebook commenter Kay West of Asheville, cited in “What It’s Like to Wear a Mask in the South” by Margaret Renkl in the New York Times (June 1)

 

‘I am made of iron… and Uncle Sam needs me’

“A captured German cannon was gifted to the city [of Asheville] by returning soldiers at the end of World War I. At first, residents couldn’t agree on where to display the weapon. For a time it was unceremoniously stashed in the rear of the former courthouse yard before veterans won approval to move it to Pack Square in front of the Vance Monument.

“The cannon remained there for nearly three decades before mysteriously vanishing — not once, but twice. The final disappearance was reported in the Asheville Times on Oct. 29, 1942. No one, the paper noted, claimed responsibility. But a note (supposedly written by the cannon) was found at the Pack Square site. ‘There is another World War on, fellow citizens,’ the cannon proclaimed, ‘and this time I am on your side. I am made of iron and steel and Uncle Sam needs me.’ ”

— From “Local historians uncover Asheville’s hidden past” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (July 24, 2019)

The cannon story, attributed to retired head librarian Laura Gaskin, is among those compiled by Zoe Rhine in “Hidden History of Asheville.”

 

Did chestnut blight originate in Rockingham?

“If you look at a book on trees or on Wikipedia, it will say that the [American chestnut] blight was first spotted in 1904, or came over ‘ca. 1900,’ through certain Long Island nursery men, but I found old newspaper clippings suggesting… that the blight had begun much earlier, either right before or right after the Civil War, and had begun in the interior, not on the coast and not in the Northeast but in places like Georgia and Virginia, the Carolinas.

“The first manifestation I could find of whatever it was occurred in Rockingham, North Carolina…. I started finding these newspaper stories, first from small-town papers around Rockingham and then from a widening radius. People would be meeting in these towns, having meetings basically to ask, ‘What are we going to do about the chestnuts dying?’ ”