New in the collection: Sauerkraut label from Dobson

Wood's Best Kraut can label


“The large canning plant of J. G. Wood located at Copeland [outside Dobson] was totally destroyed by fire Thursday. The fire is thought to have started from a boiler room and was discovered about 9:30 p.m. The building was of wood construction and local means of stopping the fire were of no avail. Mr. Wood was operating the plant at full capacity and… had one carload of blackberries and one carload of kraut canned and ready for shipment which was lost. Also stored in the building were 700 barrels of kraut ready for canning….”

— From “Wood Canning Plant Burned” in the Mount Airy News (Aug. 24, 1945)

Wood Canning Co. seems to have survived the fire and was listed as recently as 1960 in the North Carolina Directory of Manufacturing Firms. But for half a century the state’s unchallenged kraut capital was Boone.


How a clever sign maker pointed travelers to Boone

“Boone, the county seat of Watauga County, was our destination, and, ever since morning, the guideboards and the trend of the roads had notified us that everything in this region tends towards Boone as a center of interest. The simple ingenuity of some of the guide-boards impressed us. If, on coming to a fork, the traveler was to turn to the right, the sign read,

“To BOONE 10 M.

“If he was to go to the left, it read,

“M 01 ENOOB oT”

— From “On Horseback”  by Charles Dudley Warner (1885)

I’m not reproducing the second sign precisely — all the letters were mirror-image backward.


Mr. Dickey, we’re revoking your poetic license

“It was in sitting for the composition of this aluminum life mask [shown on the magazine’s cover] that poet James Dickey was temporarily blinded. Sculptor William Dunlap, artist in residence at Appalachian State University, was forming the plaster cast when calcium seeped through to Mr. Dickey’s eyes and produced an alkaline burn that scalded the corneas. The poet was raced from Boone, North Carolina, to Johnson City, Tennessee, for medical treatment that saved his vision.

“The experience, which left him sightless for several hours, contributed to the store of feeling from which the poet’s second novel [‘Alnilam’] proceeds.”

— From Esquire magazine, February 1976

“Esquire exaggerated the incident…. Dunlap immediately drove Dickey to the emergency room of the local hospital, where the attending physician allayed Dickey’s fears of blindness. Because Dickey continued to worry, however, Dunlap subsequently drove him to an eye clinic, which determined that his eyes had recovered….

“As with [his false claim of having diabetes] Dickey embellished his imagined blindness, using the uncertainty of his blurred vision…  to bring heightened attention to himself.”

— From “The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life, 1970-1997” (2005), edited with commentary by Gordon Van Ness

Death noted: A playwright who caught the pitch

“During the Depression, my [physician] father went back to Boone, and I lived for four years of my early life in Boone…. The other plays are OK, at their best, but the pitch of the voices… in my Appalachian plays…  is a little sharper because I heard that when I was a child.”

— Playwright Romulus Linney, recalling for an interviewer in 2002 one of his many North Carolina influences. Romulus Zachariah Linney IV’s great-grandfather was a Taylorsville lawyer and three-term Congressman.

Linney died Saturday at age 80, prolific and widely respected though never having achieved the fame of an August Wilson or a Horton Foote (or of Laura, his actress daughter).