“In Durham [one of the places Joan Didion’s parents lived during World War II] we had one room, with kitchen privileges, in the house of a fundamentalist preacher and his family who sat on the porch after dinner and ate peach ice cream, each from his or her own quart carton. The preacher’s daughter had a full set of Gone With the Wind paper dolls, off limits to me.
“It was in Durham where the neighborhood children crawled beneath the back stoop and ate the dirt, scooping it up with a cut raw potato and licking it off, craving some element their diet lacked.
“I knew the word even then, because my mother told me. ‘Poor children do it,’ she said, with the same determinedly cheerful expression. ‘In the South. You never would have learned that in Sacramento.’ ”
— From “Where I Was From” by Joan Didion (2012)
“South Square Mall in Durham was opened in August 1975 as a 790,000-square-foot regional shopping mall at a cost of about $25 million.
“The original anchors were Belk-Leggett (later renamed Hudson-Belk) and J.C. Penney. Montgomery Ward was built as the middle anchor several years after opening — only its second location in North Carolina.
“Montgomery Ward closed in 1985 as part of a corporate downsizing. A year later that space would be filled by Ivey’s (later Dillard’s). South Square closed in 2002 due to competition from the newly-opened Streets at Southpoint mall.”
— From southsquaremall.com
Montgomery Ward closed the last of its stores in 2001. This badge has a pre-’70s look, but I’m not finding evidence of an earlier presence of Montgomery Ward in Durham.
Soap Box Derby used to be be big, both nationally and in North Carolina. Today the derby apparently survives in the state only in Morganton, where it has its own track at the Burke County Fairgrounds under the sponsorship of the Morganton Optimist Club.
Newspaper archives offer a look back at the race’s glory days in Raleigh and in Charlotte.
In 1970 a Durham contestant won the national championship. Less illustriously, a 1993 champion from Huntersville — perhaps influenced by the local culture? — was stripped of his title for using unapproved materials.
On this day in 1917: Black business leaders C.C. Spaulding and Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore tell the Durham Chamber of Commerce that 1,500 to 2,000 blacks have left the city in the previous 90 days.
The exodus of black Southerners to the North, begun during Reconstruction, has accelerated since 1900, when white supremacists resumed legal and political dominance.
On this day in 1948: Former vice president Henry Wallace, now presidential candidate of the left-leaning Progressive Party, attends its state convention in Durham. The convention nearly turns into a riot as anti-Wallace demonstrators march with signs, explode firecrackers and pelt Wallace with eggs.
Running against Harry Truman, Thomas Dewey and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, Wallace fares poorly in North Carolina and everywhere else; he receives no electoral votes.
[Wallace’s unlikely North Carolina ally.]
“On October 13, 1944, a North Carolina citizen was brought before a judge in traffic court for having parked his car immediately in front of a sign that read ‘No Stoping’…. The defendant argued that the missing letter in the sign meant that he had not violated any law. Brandishing a Webster’s dictionary, he noted that ‘stoping’ technically means ‘extracting ore from a stope, or, loosely, underground.’
” ‘Your honor,’ said the man, ‘I am a law-abiding citizen, and I did not extract any ore from the area of the sign.’ The judge…let him off….”
— From “Just My Typo: From ‘Sinning with the Choir’ to ‘the Untied States’ “ by Drummond Moir (2014)
The absence of attribution aroused skepticism, but I found a corroborative contemporary account in the Burlington Daily Times News. The court was in Durham, and the imaginative defendant was A. E. Floyd.
Lucky Strike [since appearing prominently in “Mad Men”]
THEN Once this best-selling brand in the United States (and the cigarette of choice for Don Johnson’s character on “Miami Vice”) was selling 23 billion cigarettes a year.
NOW Its seemingly omnipresent place in Don Draper’s hands may not be the direct cause, but sales have grown by 35 percent since 2007. Even Don’s public cri de coeur against ever representing tobacco companies again, published in a letter to The New York Times after Lucky Strike left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in Season 4, hasn’t put much of a dent in sales.
— From “A Lucky Strike, Indeed: ‘Mad Men’ Enters Its Final Season in an Altered World” by Lorne Manly in the New York Times (April 11)
“A popularly circulated saying about warehouse people was that ‘they work like hell, drink like hell, and loaf like hell.’ But the long months of loafing came to an end when Durham’s warehouse district woke up and the auction season began.
” ‘During these busy days,’ [Leonard] Rapport observed [circa 1940], ‘shooting galleries, medicine shows, sidewalk preachers, string bands, 10¢ photographers, beggars, and flimflammers have established themselves along Rigsbee Avenue or on its cross streets.’
“Rapport vividly described the intensity of the warehouse district at night: ‘All during the night — warm for November — the streets are alive with men. The cafes are filled. Shooting galleries and fruit stands stay open until one and two or later. There is a movement of men walking, riding; and all-night stirring; slow talk, laughter, lights, shouts of drunks, music of guitars, radios, shouting of doormen, the rumble of a heavy truck on the wooden drive.’ ”
— From “Reasons to Talk About Tobacco” by Pete Daniel in the Journal of American History (December 2009)
Leonard Rapport, a Durham native and UNC graduate (’35), joined the Federal Writers’ Project to collect the life stories of tobacco warehouse workers. As this passage suggests, his eye for the scene was remarkable.
Rapport left his papers to the Southern Historical Collection, where they are being processed.
“Inside or outside his [Durham] photo studio, Hugh Mangum created an atmosphere — respectful and often playful — in which hundreds of men, women and children opened themselves. Though the late-19th-century American South in which he worked was marked by disenfranchisement, segregation and inequality — between black and white, men and women, rich and poor — Mr. Mangum, who was white, portrayed all of them with candor, humor, confidence and dignity….
“The images that remain — about 700 glass plate negatives preserved in Duke University’s Rubenstein Library — were salvaged from the tobacco pack house on the Mangum family property where the photographer built his first darkroom. For decades, the negatives caught the droppings of chickens and other creatures living in the pack house. Today they are in various states of deterioration. Some are broken and the emulsion is peeling on others, but the hundreds of vibrant personalities in the photographs prevail, engaging our emotions, intellect and imagination.”
— From “A Penny Picture Photographer in the American South” by Sarah Stackein the New York Times (Aug. 27, 2013)
In 1978, Richard Maschal of the Charlotte Observer visited Durham to cover the American Dance Festival. In a class of leotard-clad students, he recalled later, “One stood out. She had a beautiful face, the image, I immediately thought, of a Renaissance madonna….We sat on a bench, and I asked her name. ‘Madonna,’ she replied…. She seemed remarkably self-possessed for a teenager and incredibly self-absorbed….
“She [said] she found the styles of dress in Durham stodgy and conservative. She had a rather low opinion, too of the clubs and other sources of entertainment….”
Could Madonna have found Durham so boring that she would choose Charlotte over the Triangle for her first-ever tour stop in the Carolinas? Surely not!