New in the collection: Sunbury High pennant

Pennant with image of rocket and words "Sunbury H.S. Rockets, Sunbury, N.C."

When students at Sunbury High School tacked these 8-inch felt pennants on their bedroom walls, they likely couldn’t imagine that just a decade later their tiny, rural alma mater would be merged into the new Gates County High in Gatesville.

The SHS building, circa 1937, became an elementary school, which survived until being abandoned in the late 1960s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.


New in the collection: Polk tobacco silk

Image of James K. Polk on fabric

“It was between 1905 and 1910 that tobacco companies in America began inserting textile items into their cigarette and tobacco products. The fad for these textiles was between 1910 and 1916. At the beginning of World War I the practice was more or less abandoned….

“The tobacco or cigarette ‘silk’ was made from a variety of fabrics such as silk or silk satin, a cloth combination of silk and cotton, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton. The silks were often beautifully poly-chrome printed with varied subjects, and were usually printed with the tobacco company name.”

— From “Tobacco Silks” at the Princetonian Museum

This tobacco silk of North Carolina native James K. Polk — from a series of presidents — was included with Mogul cigarettes, although the brand name is missing on this example.

Though likely made of a Turkish blend, Moguls were advertised with an Egyptian theme when introduced by a Greek importer in 1892. In 1900 the company was purchased by American Tobacco, then parceled out to P. Lorillard in the 1911 dissolution of the tobacco trust. 


New in the collection: Price’s Chicken Coop menu

Menu listing offerings at Price's Chicken Coop

“There will always be more fried chicken. There will always be debates over the best fried chicken. But the announcement that Price’s Chicken Coop was closing in June after 59 years is about more than dark meat vs. white or whether you’ll sneak in an order of gizzards on the side. The loss burns a deep-fryer-sized hole in Charlotte’s soul.

“No more standing in line with a cross section of humanity—Black, white, business people, nurses in scrubs, street people. No more obsessively reciting your order to yourself so you don’t get a black mark for holding up the lines. No more parading into your office with that grease-stained white takeout box with the unmistakable red writing….”

— From “What We Lost When Price’s Chicken Coop Closed” by Kathleen Purvis in Charlotte magazine (June 17, 2017)

Price’s straightforward menus changed little over the decades. This one from 2019 does note the on-premises ATM (no credit cards!) but not the hand-lettered wall sign banning cellphones.

New in the collection: People’s Alliance pinback

Pinback with words "People before Profits" and "People's Alliance NC"

“At a retreat last year, members of the People’s Alliance picked as the organization’s crowning achievement one of its earliest battles, a fight that won concessions for residents of Crest Street when the black neighborhood was threatened with destruction by the extension of the Durham Freeway.

“That was the mid-1970s. Two decades later, Durham’s best-known liberal political organization is faced with new fight: how to overcome a deeply entrenched white-bread reputation, acquired because so few of its 750 members are minorities….”

— From “Vanilla People’s Alliance seeking Neapolitan look” by Paul Brown in the Raleigh News & Observer (Sept. 7, 1994)

Despite its name and its longevity, the People’s Alliance has never made much of a dent outside Durham, but it continues to advocate for a wide range of progressive causes such as affordable housing, living wage and mass transit. 


New in the collection: Fli-Back paddleball

Paddle-shaped board with an image of a cowboy or gaucho on horseback swinging a rope with a ball on the end. The word "Fli-Back" is printed above the image.

“In 1931, James Emory Gibson began manufacturing paddle ball games after being inspired by a promotional toy his daughter brought home. As demand for the games grew, Gibson began producing paddle balls, yo-yos and spinning tops under the name Fli-Back.

“Although Fli-Back was sold to the Ohio Art Company (makers of the popular Etch-A-Sketch) in 1972, the company continued to manufacture Fli-Back paddleball games in High Point until 1983.”

— From “Fli-Back items continue to live on at museum” by Jennifer Burns of the High Point Museum, Oct. 2, 2004, in  the Greensboro News and Record

I visited the Fli-Back plant in 1976, when annual sales still topped 5 million but were speeding downhill. As an early paddleball promoter lamented to me, “There isn’t a kid on earth who can hit the damn thing a second time, because nobody’s taught them how to do it.”

New in the collection: Ronnie Milsap pass

Plastic card with an image of Ronnie Milsap and the words "Suite, January 23, and Ronnie Milsap."

“Born blind into an Appalachian family [in Robbinsville, N.C.] named Millsaps, he went to live with grandparents at age one. According to his 1990 autobiography, Almost Like a Song, his mother regarded his blindness as divine punishment and asked his father to take Ronnie away.

“At age six, having heard gospel music at church and country music via radio, he entered the State School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite harsh treatment, he blossomed musically, learning the school’s classical techniques while absorbing pop styles available on radio….”

— From Ronnie Milsap’s Country Music Hall of Fame bio (2014)

This pass is from Milsap’s 2015 show at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel  in Prior Lake, Minn.

New in the collection: S. LaRose watch parts tin

Watch parts tin with the words "S. LaRose Inc." in the center of the cover. The words "Materials, Tools, Supplies, Greensboro, N.C." circle around the name of the company.

S. LaRose Inc. was a familiar presence in downtown Greensboro from 1939 until its dissolution in 2006. The family-run, mail-order wholesaler must’ve distributed thousands of these watch-parts tins, if how many appear at flea markets and on eBay is any indication. This one is an inch in diameter, but at least two larger versions survive.

LaRose Properties remains one of downtown’s most significant property owners and developers.

New in the collection: Sir Walter room key

Skeleton-style key with plastic key fob with the words "Hotel Sir Walter."

“In the 1950s, back in the days when legislators stayed in downtown Raleigh’s Hotel Sir Walter during legislative sessions, you couldn’t buy a drink anywhere in town.

“And didn’t need to. Each of the 45 liquor salesmen who supplied N.C. ABC stores had three cases of liquor a month to give away – and much of it was delivered to the loading dock of the Hotel Sir Walter and quickly stored (wink, wink) in a room ostensibly rented to A.B. Carter. Notice anything cute about Mr. Carter’s initials?

“A memorable front page from the News & Observer on May 28, 1957 featured seven photographs of liquor arriving, being unloaded, carried into the hotel and delivered to certain rooms by a bellhop around noon. The local Alcoholic Beverage Control board office was notified at 3 p.m. and sprang into action. And sprang. And sprang. After, oh, about an hour and a half, ABC agents finally entered the room where the contraband booze had been taken – and it was empty. What a surprise. The newspaper’s photos proved what had happened, and once again the state’s ABC law enforcement officers looked like Keystone Kops – without as much action….”

— From “Liquor in North Carolina, from A to C” by Jack Betts in the Charlotte Observer (Dec. 3, 1995)

“A.B. Carter” was actually Frank Sims, former lobbyist for the Association of County ABC Boards, who was later fined $100 for registering at a hotel under an assumed name. 

Forgive me if I like to imagine one of those deliveries being made to this key’s Room 940.

New in the collection: Auto safety pamphlet

Booklet cover featuring images of soldiers fighting, an explosion on a road, a wrecked car, and the words "Worse than War"

“1 — I will not hang on the back of trucks, busses, automobiles, or horse drawn vehicles while skating.

“3 — I will not play baseball, football, basketball or roll hoops on or near the streets or highways.

“7 — I promise not to stand on the side of the highway and ‘hitch-hike’ (beg rides)….

“9 — I will not climb telephone, telegraph or electric light poles.”

— From the “10 Point Safety Pledge” proffered in “Worse Than War,” a booklet published by the Carolina Motor Club (1930s?)

Although the cover illustration suggests World War I, the Lost Cause scores a vivid walk-on role:

“Almost a century later we read of that futile war between the states, with brother fighting against brother, that sent the southerners back home to desolate plantations, with their negroes gone, their wives and children quivering with hunger, and their brothers sleeping on the battlefields at Gettysburg….”

New in the collection: Billy Graham pinback, LA 1963

Red pinback with the words and phrases "Billy Graham Crusade," "Choir," and "Los Angeles 1963."“Since beginning his ministry in 1947, evangelist Billy Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents….  “Graham gained national prominence after his 1949 Los Angeles crusade, which took place in a circus tent that held 6,000 people. Originally scheduled for three weeks, the campaign was extended an additional five weeks.

“Graham returned to L.A. for his 1963 Southern California crusade, which was held at the Coliseum Aug. 15 – Sept. 8. The final-night crowd of 134,254 remains an all-time Coliseum record.”

— From “The Greatest Non-Sports Moments in Los Angeles Coliseum History” by Discover Los Angeles  (Feb. 25, 2021)

A sample from Graham’s Los Angeles sermons and one from the crusade’s 5,000-voice choir.