Charlie Chaplin, where are you?

“Movie stars such as Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin visited the Queen City to generate enthusiasm [for war bonds]. Charlie Chaplin’s stimulating 10-minute speech on April 11, 1918, succeeded in raising $20,000 to $25,000 in subscriptions. He promised to kiss any woman in the audience who subscribed $5,000 worth of bonds…. Several $1,000 pledges were made….

“Shouts of ‘Hi Charlie!’ ‘Hoorah for Charlie!’ were heard amid cheers as he rode through [Camp Greene] …. He visited one company at a mess hall and had a picture taken with the boys circled about him. Chaplin holds a plate of dollar bills, calling attention to the [need for] money to put something to eat in the soldiers’ pans.

“As he returned to his car Chaplin assumed his famous waddle. His hat flew up and with his familiar expression he glanced up, reached out and caught it.”

— From “The Echo of the Bugle Call: Charlotte’s Role in World War I” (1979) by Miriam Grace Mitchell and Edward Spaulding Perzel

Curiously the book’s illustrations don’t include one of Chaplin, nor is there one in the collection of the Robinson-Spangler North Carolina Room at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. I haven’t checked microfilm for the Observer and News. I do have a (flea-market-found) photo of soldiers at Camp Greene lining a dirt road and “Waiting for Charley Chaplin” taken by “Watson / Army Navy News.”

J.P. Stevens strikers no fans of ‘Peanuts’


“In 1976, after its workers in North Carolina voted for the ACTWU to represent them, [J.P. Stevens] once again refused to bargain….

“A five-year international consumer boycott proved ineffective — in part because ‘Peanuts’ characters, stitched into the textile giant’s sheets and towels, masked the corporate identity.

“The ‘Peanuts’ line, [touted as] the ‘single biggest-selling sheet pattern ever produced in the history of the domestics industry,’ was in a special position of influence…. [But like his father] Charles Schulz had a deep suspicion of the demands of labor. Neither Schulz nor [his licensing agency] took steps to persuade Stevens to negotiate. Finally it was a campaign of pressure against the banks and institutions that had supported Stevens — including that future pillar of ‘Peanuts’ licensing, Metropolitan Life Insurance — that forced Stevens to settle.”

–From “Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography” (2007) by David Michaelis


James Jones’ 5-year-old debuts in Charlotte

“I have a framed, yellowing copy of my first published oeuvre, a poem called ‘Fresh Fruits of Autumn Leaves,’ which at five years old I had composed for my mother while we were having a bath…. My mother jumped out of the tub, grabbed a pen and paper and asked me to repeat what I’d said….

“My father, so moved by this effort , sent my poem to the Carolina Israelite — why this publication, I’ll never know…. Even at age five… I knew it would never have gotten published if my father hadn’t been James Jones.”

— From “Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir” (2009) by novelist Kaylie Jones

Naturally, I was curious. What was the connection between Israelite editor Harry Golden and James Jones, author of “From Here to Eternity” and “The Thin Red Line”?  They shared bestseller lists in the ’50s, of course. But my inexpert Googling turned up no more in common than both their names on free-speech petitions on behalf of Lenny Bruce.

Although Jones isn’t mentioned in the Harry Golden Papers at UNC Charlotte,  I found what I was looking for in the James Jones Papers at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: a 1965-66 exchange of letters between Golden in Charlotte and Jones in Paris, plus Gloria Jones’ handwritten manuscript and James Jones’ typewritten version.

And here’s the Carolina Israelite connection: “Dear Harry Golden, It turns out that my secretary is a great fan of yours and receives your columns from a brother at home. So I’ve been reading them too…. You published a poem by a young boy of seven, or was it nine?… It gave me the idea of sending you a poem which my five-year-old daughter wrote, and which astounded me…. If you could see your way clear to printing it, we would all be most happy…”

Golden: “I will run Kaylie’s poem in the January issue…. The next time I get over there I’ll call you and maybe we can have a chat and bit of fellowship.”

Jones: “I am writing now at the request of my wife, who would like  ‘many, many copies’ of the January issue. If you could send us… say 60 or 80, I would reimburse you at their retail cost.”

These are only excerpts — I forwarded to Kaylie a copy of her father’s lengthy and (in Golden’s words) quite “warm-hearted” query letter. “What an amazing thing to receive,” she replied. “I’m sitting here with tears streaming…. How wonderful to know how he chose that publication!”

Why Johnny couldn’t read: He lived in N.C.

“In 1840 U.S. census takers…recorded 9 percent of adult whites as illiterate….

“In New England no state had less than 98 percent literacy, which equaled [world leaders] Scotland and Sweden.

“The state with the highest white illiteracy was North Carolina: 28 percent. The public school system called for in the state constitution of 1776 had never been implemented. However, in 1839 the Whigs gained control of the legislature and put through a long-delayed law authorizing common schools in counties that consented. As a result white illiteracy fell to 11 percent over the next 20 years.”

–From “What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848” (2007) by Daniel Walker Howe

Why one miner drew attention that 71 didn’t

“[Three months later] there was a cave-in in a North Carolina mine in which 71 men were caught and 53 actually lost. It attracted no great  notice. It was ‘just a mine disaster.’

“Yet for more than two weeks the plight of a single commonplace prospector for tourists [near Mammoth Cave] had riveted the  attention of the nation on Sand Cave, Kentucky. It was an exciting show to watch, and the dispensers of news were learning to turn their spotlights on one show at a time.”

–“Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s” (1931) by Frederick Lewis Allen

Allen was contrasting the failed cave rescue of Floyd Collins in 1925, perhaps the first news media sensation of the century, with the Coalglen explosion that hastened the decline of North Carolina’s once-thriving coal industry.

Not that North Carolinians didn’t show their own appetite for the morbid. The slow removal of bodies from the Carolina Coal Mine, the News & Observer reported, was dishonored by “an indecent exposition of the picnic spirit by a truckload of heedless students who came over from the University.”

View from N.Y.: ‘Little Chapel Hill College’?

“Instead of an Ivy League university, [Robert Moses’ grandson Christopher Collins] wanted to go to little Chapel Hill College in North Carolina; [his mother] Jane was appalled, but Moses told her, ‘Oh, let the boy go where he wants.'”

–From “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” (1974)

What FDR could envision that Josephus couldn’t

“One day not long after his installation [as assistant secretary of the Navy], he and [Secretary of the Navy Josephus] Daniels posed on an upper-floor porch looking down on the executive mansion. The prints came back, and Daniels showed the best one to Roosevelt.

“‘Franklin,’ he asked, ‘why are you grinning from ear to ear, looking as pleased as if the world were yours, while I, satisfied and happy, have no such smile on my face?'”

“Roosevelt seemed surprised at the question….

“‘I will tell you….’ Daniels continued. ‘You are saying to yourself, being a New Yorker, “Some day I will be living in that house” — while I, being from the South, know I must be satisfied with no such ambition.'”

— From “Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt” (2008) by H. W. Brands

Bailey wanted black Southerners to ‘feel secure’

“A bespectacled, priggish-looking former editor of the Biblical Recorder, [Sen. Josiah Bailey of North Carolina] had supported FDR in 1932 and 1936 but had recently soured on the New Deal, mainly because of its trespasses against states’ rights. He had been preparing this speech [against FDR’s plan to “pack” the Supreme Court] for weeks, and as he rose to begin, senators summoned their colleagues from the cloakroom.

“Bailey held forth with his customary melodramatics, shouting his points, banging his desk, shaking a preacher’s finger. The Southerner was offering an argument calculated to appeal to his colleagues from the North  — that ‘the Negroes in the South feel secure tonight because they know there is a Constitution and an independent Court.'”

— From “FDR v. the Constitution” (2009) by Burt Solomon

How Andy Taylor made Ted Turner

“We had rights to ‘Ironside’ and ‘Marcus Welby,’ two shows highly regarded on their networks but which turned out to be duds in syndication. We swapped them [to WSOC-TV, another Charlotte station] for ‘The Andy Griffith Show’… a huge hit that really helped turn the station around (and made us a lot of money for years to come).”

— From “Call Me Ted,” Ted Turner’s 2008 autobiography. In 1970 Turner had bought a struggling Charlotte UHF station and renamed it WRET (from his initials). In 1980 he sold the now-lucrative station to Westinghouse and used the proceeds to launch CNN.

Virgilina? Caroginia? No way, said Lincoln

“[Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton had come armed with a plan, drawn up at the President’s request, for bringing the states that had been ‘abroad’ back into what Lincoln… called ‘their proper practical relation with the Union.’  The War Secretary’s notion was that military occupation should precede readmission, and in this connection he proposed that Virginia and North Carolina be combined in a single district to simplify the army’s task.

“[Secretary of the Navy Gideon] Welles took exception, on grounds that this last would destroy the individuality of both states and thus be ‘in conflict with the principles of self-government which I deem essential.’ So did Lincoln….

“[Lincoln] had reached certain bedrock conclusions: ‘We can’t undertake to run state governments in all these Southern states. Their own people must do that — though I reckon at first some of them may do it badly.'”

— From a recounting of President Lincoln’s last day in “The Civil War: A Narrative” (1958-1974) by Shelby Foote