New in the collection: promo pinback for editor’s biopic

Pinback button promoting The Newspaperman film

 

This pinback button rewarded Kickstarter donors supporting a documentary-still-in-progress on Pikeville native and UNC alum Gene Roberts, one of American journalism’s great editors. (His jowliness gave him the irreverent newsroom nickname “The Frog.”)

“In 1972,” the filmmakers write, “Roberts left a position with the New York Times to join the struggling Philadelphia Inquirer as executive editor….The Inquirer had not won a single Pulitzer Prize in its 150 years of existence — but just three years later the paper won a Pulitzer for national reporting. Over the next 15 years it would win 16 more Pulitzers….”

Roberts’s father was himself a newspaperman (and preacher!) in Goldsboro, whose accomplishments included coining “Hoover cart.”

 

Remembering the late-night easy listening of Carl Kasell

“Kasell got his first radio gig when he was 16; he hosted a late-night, easy-listening music show on WGBR in Goldsboro, N.C., playing romantic songs and waxing poetic about young lovers all through the evening. (You’ll want to click the listen link at the top of this page to hear a clip of that!)

“Once he got a job on-air, only one thing kept him off: He was drafted in the 1950s. After his Army service, WGBR welcomed Kasell back by giving him his very own morning drive-time music program, ‘The Carl Kasell Show.’ ”

— From ” ‘I’ve Enjoyed Every Minute Of It’: Carl Kasell On His 60 Years In Radio” at NPR (May 16)

Let’s hope Kasell finds his final appearance as official judge and scorekeeper of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” almost as memorable as his tour of Wilson Library.

 

Recalling (again) Goldsboro’s brush with annihilation

Is anyone else surprised at the wide attention being given this account of the near-disaster over Goldsboro in 1961?

Yes, it’s a scary-fascinating story, but other than the undeniable lure of “declassified documents” I’m not seeing much that Jessica Sedgwick didn’t cover quite nicely five years ago in her This Month in North Carolina History post.

You could make the case, of course, that there are worse subjects to overreport than a barely-averted nuclear holocaust.

 

Goldsboro antiwar protesters use hammers, blood

On this day in 1993: Four protesters, including longtime peace activist Philip Berrigan, slip onto Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro and symbolically attack an F-15E Strike Eagle jet with hammers and bottles of blood.

Arrested some 100 times, the 70-year-old Berrigan has spent a total of six years in jail. He and the rest of the “Goldsboro Four” will be found guilty of destruction of government property and serve several months in jail.

 

Sherman’s army: ‘ragged, bareheaded, shoeless, brave, jolly’

On this day in 1865: George W. Nichols, a major in Sherman’s army, writes in his journal in Goldsboro:

“Our army [needs] not only to be reclothed, but to gain the repose it needs. Mind, as well as body, requires rest after the fatigues of rapid campaigns like these. These ragged, bareheaded, shoeless, brave, jolly fellows of Sherman’s legions, too, want covering for their naked limbs.”

 

100-year-old candidate peered through ‘revolutionary’ lens

On this day in 1990: Dr. Henry Stenhouse, a Goldsboro ophthalmologist, announces his candidacy for Congress. At 100, Stenhouse is perhaps the oldest person ever to run for office in North Carolina. “I’m a revolutionary,” says Stenhouse, who opposes welfare, seat-belt laws and AIDS research.

After a campaign that includes an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” Stenhouse finishes third in a three-man race for the Republican nomination, although he handily carries Goldsboro and Wayne County. He will live to be 105.

 

Bombs away!… Umm, on second thought….

“It don’t really scare me. I guess it maybe should,” Billie Schronce told the Gaston Gazette. “Me and my grandson said if it goes off, goodbye world, goodbye.”

So long as nobody gets blown up, it’s hard to beat a good bomb story such as this one from Gaston County or — on a much more historic scale — this one from Goldsboro.

But this episode from 1988 is still my favorite:

A caller reported a “bum” on the floor, but the York County, S.C., sheriff’s dispatcher heard “bomb.” That’s why eight firefighters, three sheriff’s deputies and the emergency preparedness director converged to disarm a transient sleeping in a gas station restroom.

 

Hoovercrats in ’28… Hoover carts in ’32

“In Wayne County, N. C., a depressed farmer cut off the rear end of his ‘disused’ automobile, fastened shafts to the axle, backed in a mule, went riding…. Soon the roads of eastern North Carolina were overrun with similar vehicles pulled by mules, horses, oxen, goats or a pair of husky boys. North Carolinians, many of whom had been Hoovercrats in 1928, transposed two letters of the term, called their conveyances Hoovercarts.

“In Goldsboro, one Gene Roberts, newshawk, promoted a Hoovercart Rodeo as a publicity stunt. Goldsboro entertained its biggest crowd since William Jennings Bryan spoke there 34 years ago. Some 400 Hoovercarts paraded through the town…. Filling stations did their best day’s business in many a month — selling hay….

“[Soon after] rodeos and parades were held in Oxford (469 entries), in Roxboro, Kinston and Wendell….”

— From Time magazine, Oct. 10, 1932

Sunday night gave me the opportunity not only to see my old friend Ed Williams inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame, but also to inquire about a longtime curiosity of mine: Who named the “Hoover cart” (the more common spelling), that emblematic vehicle of the Great Depression?

Gene Roberts, a Wayne County native who went on to a Pulitzer-studded newspaper career, told me the coinage in fact belonged to his father, Eugene L. Roberts Sr., Time’s aforementioned “newshawk,” who combined preaching with publishing the weekly Goldsboro Herald.

The Depression eventually ended, but the Hoover cart lived on, at least in political rhetoric….

“Nowhere in the United States this year have I seen a single exhibit of that famous North Carolina farm invention — that product of ingenuity and hard time, of personal despair and political mockery — the Hoover cart….

“First you had the Hoovercrats, and then you had the Hoover carts. One always follows the other.”

— President Truman, giving ’em hell in a campaign speech at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, October 19, 1948

The credit line on this photo of Truman admiring a Hoover cart will surprise no reader of the Miscellany or A View to Hugh.

Democrats in Eastern North Carolina were still getting mileage out of the Hoover cart even as late as 1952.

Who remembers Mattie Grady’s?

“For many [in the ‘other South’] the past isn’t even past. In Warsaw, North Carolina, people giving directions for a back road route to Goldsboro commonly included the instruction to ‘turn left at Mattie Grady’s store.’  This store had been closed for years, and while the building was still standing, it took a close inspection to make out the faint outline of Mattie Grady’s name. To someone born and raised in Warsaw, it would always be Mattie Grady’s store, even when the store fell down.

“But…  the growing number of people who have never farmed, the big city drug problem, the fleeing young people and the ubiquitous television culture do not bode well for such time capsules….”

– From “Southern Culture: An Introduction” by John Beck, Wendy Jean Frandsen and Aaron Randall (2009)

Union prisoners were grim sight indeed

On this day in 1865: A.O. Abbott, first lieutenant in the 1st N.Y. Dragoons, recalls the arrival in Goldsboro of a trainload of 700 fellow Union prisoners, these from Salisbury and Florence, S.C.:

“They had ridden all night in open flatcars, without a particle of shelter or fire. It was . . . a bitter cold, damp night, and, scantily clothed as they were, they had suffered beyond account. Three had died during the night, and were still on the train. Not one of them had a whole garment on, while nearly all were destitute of shirts or coats. A ragged or patched pair of pants, and a piece of an old blanket, constituted the wardrobe of the majority. Their faces were blackened by the pitch-pine smoke from the fires over which they had cooked their rations, while traces of soap and water were lost altogether. Hair and beard in their natural state. Yet all of this was nothing compared to their diseased, starving condition.

“In short, no words can describe their appearance. The sunken eye, the gaping mouth, the filthy skin, the clothes and head alive with vermin, the repelling bony contour, all conspired to lead to the conclusion that they were the victims of starvation, cruelty, and exposure to a degree unparalleled in the history of humanity.”