“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)
“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.”
— From “Historic Outbreak: Spanish Flu on NC Coast” by Kip Tabb in Coastal Review (April 29, 2020)
“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.
” ‘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.
“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)
“A raven tapped on Edgar Allen Poe’s door and window, but in Western North Carolina it has been owls, doves and turkey buzzards that have presaged death. As the story goes, the buzzard even tolls a bell.
“Gary Carden, noted Sylva storyteller and folklorist, has noted that the last recorded sighting of the messenger vulture was on the evening of Aug. 13, 1926, in Leicester. Ed Rhymer, a farmer, followed the sound of a tolling bell to a buzzard, which had flown off, taking the sound with it.
“It had been a Friday the 13th, which suggests a twist, perhaps a prank. In fact, there is evidence of such pranks….”
— From “Visiting Our Past: Buzzard pranks, Holy Ghost Doves and other bird lore” by Rob Neufeld in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Dec. 16, 2008)
And of course there’s….
“[Horace Kephart, who would be remembered as father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park] embellished considerably in constructing his own legend. His tale of arriving in a virtually unknown corner of Appalachia seriously overstated how much of a mystery the region was to the outside world, left out the fact that he came as a writer hunting for material, and characterized his life as far more solitary than it actually was.
“Perhaps the most glaring omission from Kephart’s story of himself was the fact that his ‘health’ — his euphemism for sobriety — was not, in fact, restored. He was, by all accounts, prone to the same multiday alcoholic binges in North Carolina as he had been in St. Louis….”
— From “The Appalachian Trail: A Biography” by Philip D’Anieri (2021)
“A 1921 article in the Charlotte Observer previewed a matchup between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Davidson Wildcats by noting that ‘the aerial game’ was expected to be ‘used extensively by both teams,’ while ‘a great ground game if successful is also hazardous.’
“It would take another 60 years for the football terms to enter the political field of play. In a 1981 column for the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Young, then between stints as U.N. ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, made the athletic analogy explicit.
” ‘So get ready for the big playoffs in 1982 and the Super Bowl in 1984,’ Mr. Young wrote, alluding to the coming midterm and presidential elections. ‘The far right will take to the air. The opposition will launch a new ground game, which would be helped by an air attack if the money is available.’ ”
— From “How ‘Ground Game’ Moved From the Gridiron to Politics” by Ben Zimmer in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 5, 2014)
“On Nov. 8, the students of the co-educational University of North Carolina gave themselves over to a day of humorous osculation. It was Sadie Hawkins Day, only holiday based on events in a comic strip, and all over America 500 schools, colleges, clubs and Army camps were commemorating the day when the original Sadie Hawkins of Dogpatch, Ky., a fleet but uncomely lass, chased and nailed a husband.
“To North Carolina for the event repaired the originator of the famous Li’l Abner cartoon strip himself, Al Capp, to guide and instruct the celebrants in their burlesque. This year there is a new Dogpatch girl, Cynthia the Siren, who is out to get girl-shy Li’l Abner, and on these pages the co-eds from the University of North Carolina demonstrate her effective techniques for kissing the unwilling male.”
— From “On Sadie Hawkins Day, North Carolina co-eds show how to kiss girl-shy boys” in Life magazine (Nov. 24, 1941)
Stephen Fletcher and Elizabeth Hull have lots more on the barely prewar festivities, including the familiar names of Life’s photographer and the Daily Tar Heel’s.
“There were no interstates in 1957, only the old numbered federal highways that wandered the stagecoach routes between city and city. US 1 was the route we chose southward out of Washington on an itinerary only partly planned, and it took us to Richmond, then — Americans still laugh when I tell them — we headed over to Goldsboro, North Carolina, thence to Charleston, and so to Atlanta.
“Gentle memories of Goldsboro, hick town though Americans may think it, remain with me still. I liked it because in the middle of unfettered space, its citizens had chosen to build what then passed for a skyscraper in the South, a touching symbol of civic pride. I liked it because it was the first town in which I stayed in a motel, that brilliantly creative American contribution to the conveniences of travel, the American caravanserai, without vermin, camel smells, importunate hangers-on, or unspeakable sanitation. I liked it because in the growing cool of a Southern evening, I could sit outside above the dust of an unpaved sidewalk and watch the beautiful legs of girls otherwise unseen in the dying twilight walking—where? I longed to know. I longed to follow. The English girls with whom I had grown up wore skirts below their knees. Southern girls, even in 1957, wore abbreviated shorts above golden, athletic thighs….”
— From “One Englishman’s America” by John Keegan in American Heritage (February-March 1996)