New in the collection: Yogurt Pump pinback button

Tasty Dipper button from Yogurt Pump“Dropping our bags in our room at the Carolina Inn after a half-hour drive west by rental car procured at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, we hoof it several blocks to the Yogurt Pump. Fleeing a luxurious room in a historical hotel for a local frozen yogurt shop may seem odd. But then YoPo, as it is known, is not your typical purveyor of chilled dairy treats. Just ask any of the students and alums who cheerfully stand in lines extending well outside its unassuming door….”

— From “There’s more in Chapel Hill than the Tar Heels, a family finds” b in the Washington Post (Sept. 14)

According to this thumbnail history, the Yogurt Pump opened on Franklin Street in 1982. A Daily Tar Heel classified the following year suggests potential customers still needed a little guidance: “Come try free samples…. at the former location of Austin’s Sno-cones, between Mr. Gatti’s and Pizza Hut on the way to He’s Not Here.”


When Paul Green dozed off for a good cause

“When [Richard Wright] learned I was from Chapel Hill he assumed immediately that I knew Paul Green, with whom he had written the play Native Son. He said, ‘The sleepiest man I ever saw.’ He laughed and talked and laughed that laugh which he later admitted was his first line of defense, though it felt that afternoon like offense. He claimed that Green would go to sleep when they were writing dialogue for the most exciting moments in the play. ‘I’d say a line and look over and there Paul would be asleep.’

“Five years later when I was again in Chapel Hill, teaching, I met Hugh Wilson, a cousin of Paul Green’s, who told me how exciting and dangerous those weeks were when Wright was in town working with Green on the play. ‘Of course he couldn’t stay at the Carolina Inn and there was no other place, so we got him a room down on Cameron Avenue in that big Victorian house behind those two giant magnolias. When the Ku Klux got wind he was there in a white neighborhood, they put out word they were going to kill him. Wright never knew that. Night after night Paul and I walked shotgun on that block. Paul would go up Ransom and I’d go down Cameron for a block or so and then we’d walk back and stand on the corner awhile, then patrol again. All night. I don’t know how Paul could write the next day’….”

— From “Richard Wright: The Visible Man” by Max Steele in the Paris Review  (Fall 2003)


He paid high price for being a Communist

On this day in 1954: Junius Scales, head of the Communist Party in the Carolinas, is arrested by the FBI and charged under the 1940 Smith Act with membership in an organization advocating violent overthrow of the government. Scales, a longtime resident of Chapel Hill, is a scion of a prominent Greensboro family — both his father and grandfather were state senators.

Scales will be convicted at his trial in Greensboro and sentenced to six years in prison. In 1961, after an unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Scales (who resigned from the Communist Party in 1957, soon after the Soviet invasion of Hungary) begins serving his sentence at the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa. On Christmas Eve 1962 President John Kennedy frees Scales, the only American to spend time in prison for being a Communist, by commuting his sentence to parole on his own recognizance.


There were better places than Grabtown. And worse.

“They used to write in my studio bios that I was the daughter of a cotton farmer from Chapel Hill. Hell, baby, I was born on a tenant farm in Grabtown. How’s that grab ya? Grabtown, North Carolina. And it looks exactly the way it sounds.

“I should have stayed there. The ones who never left home don’t have a pot to pee in, but they’re happy. Me, look at me. What did it bring me?”

— Ava Gardner, quoted by Rex Reed in “Ava: Life in the Afternoon” (Esquire magazine, May 1967)


Is ‘nostalgia for Chapel Hill’ listed in DSM-5?

“Not long after moving to the University of Southampton [England], Constantine Sedikides had lunch with a colleague in the psychology department and described some unusual symptoms he’d been feeling. A few times a week, he was suddenly hit with nostalgia for his previous home at the University of North Carolina: memories of old friends, Tar Heel basketball games, fried okra, the sweet smells of autumn in Chapel Hill.

“His colleague, a clinical psychologist, made an immediate diagnosis. [Sedikides] must be… ”

— From “What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows” by John Tierney in the New York Times (July 8, 2013)


It wasn’t just Carolina in James Taylor’s mind

“When [James] Taylor was three, in 1951, his family — led by his father, Isaac, a doctor educated in Boston, and his mother, Trudy — had returned to the state where Isaac was born, North Carolina. Isaac had accepted a job as an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

“On the surface, their new home in Chapel Hill was idyllic: eight rooms, 25 acres, a hammock in the backyard. Music was everywhere. An upright piano took up residence in the living room; in the kitchen, the Taylor kids — oldest brother Alex, followed by James, Livingston, Hugh, and Kate — would pull out cans from the cupboards and break spontaneously into the jingles for each product. The chil­dren would sing sea shanties, Woody Guthrie songs and sing-along favorites like ‘On Top of Old Smoky’ …  James took cello lessons, briefly played in Chapel Hill’s first Young People’s Orchestra and performed once with the North Carolina Symphony, playing the ballad ‘Blue Bells of Scotland’….

“The sense that they were in the South but ‘of the North,’ as James recalled, led him to feel isolated early; summers in Massachusetts only intensified those feelings.

“Even a hundred years after the Civil War, Taylor felt in his bones the difference between Southerners and, he re­called, ‘Yankees and outsiders,’ and he was caught between them.”

— From “Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970” by David Browne (2012) Hat tip, delanceyplacecom

Taylor is scheduled for two performances during Democratic National Convention week, the latter as President Obama’s warmup act at Bank of America Stadium.

Chapel Hill to Time: We’re not snoozing!

We…  object to the reference to Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh as “a sleepy corner of eastern Carolina.” Wake up! Chapel Hill has long been known as the “Intellectual Center of the South.”
Get out of your concrete office and come down to visit modern, industrial North Carolina.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
— Letter to the editor of Time magazine, February 4, 1957
In later life, Sonny would become better known as Eli — and as author of “The Provincials.”

A tree grew (and grew) in Betty Smith’s garden

“[The ailanthus tree] rarely lives more than 50 years, so any chance of finding [Betty] Smith’s original tree still growing in Brooklyn was out of the question.
“But [Nancy] Pfeiffer told me about the ailanthus her mother planted in the walled-in garden behind her home in Chapel Hill, where Smith lived almost her entire life and where she is buried. Back in 1945, when 20th Century Fox came out with the movie version of Smith’s book (directed by her former Yale classmate Elia Kazan), someone had the clever idea to send ailanthus saplings out to critics….
“Pfeiffer is quite sure the tree [shown in an old photo of the Chapel Hill garden] is one of the saplings from that early publicity campaign. Later on, however, they had to take the tree down when it threatened to topple the garden wall.
“Betty Smith and her family took shoots from the aforementioned ailanthus and planted them around [their] cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In 1993, the cottage and an ailanthus from one of those shoots had to be moved back from the shore because of erosion. The tree continued to grow tall until the house was sold in 2002. Since then the house and tree have been… replaced by a large rental unit.”
— From “Seeds: One Man’s Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers….” by Richard Horan (2011)

Gallup-ing Jehosaphat! A happiness recession?

Unsettling news indeed: The “well-being” of North Carolinians reportedly ranks 36th in the nation. Gallup’s composite index weighs 20 factors, such as stress, obesity, job satisfaction, nighttime safety, happiness…. Happiness? Tar Heels come up short in happiness?

Why, it hasn’t been that long ago — the ’70s, actually — that John Shelton Reed was explaining why no less than 90 percent of North Carolinians considered their state “the best, all things considered.” In sum: nice neighbors, nice weather. (Among the dozen other states studied, Massachusetts came in last at 40 percent.)

Mt. Airy native Donna Fargo even claimed the title of  “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”

So what happened? In the intervening four decades, have newcomers from Massachusetts been stealthily U-Hauling their  gloom and naysaying past the interstate welcome centers? Or are 21st century North Carolinians simply unhappy, for whatever reason, in a state they may still consider the best?

Gallup asked, “Did you experience feelings of happiness during a lot of the day yesterday?” For reasons I’m sure make sense in the opinion-harvesting community, the results are presented by congressional district. Thus, North Carolina’s happiest districts are Four (Durham, Chapel Hill) and Nine (Charlotte region minus Charlotte), both at 90 percent “yes.” Its unhappiest district: Seven (Wilmington, part of Fayetteville) at 84 percent.

Finally, this caught my eye: In response to “Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?” the 94 percent yes in North Carolina’s District Four was topped only by the 95 percent yes in California’s District 48.

Curse you, Laguna Beach.

Link dump arrives in egg, Miscellany fans go gaga

Break-in at Central Prison!

— Muskogee, Paducah or Chapel Hill?

— Reel-to-reel of MLK in Winston-Salem makes digital debut.

— Sorry, just couldn’t resist writing “Dateline: Spearfish.”

— Would historic Skyco be better remembered if it didn’t have to share its name with a mobile home builder, a paragliding outfitter and a supplier of knuckle boom grapple trucks?