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: High Point poster stamp

Blue paper with silver illustration of High Point building and the words "High Point Market, January 15-27, 1934"

“In 1919, the High Point Enterprise announced plans for the center, releasing a statement that didn’t mince words: ‘High Point aspires to become the foremost furniture market on this continent.’

“Though this goal might have seemed a bold claim at a time when Grand Rapids still held dominance as the country’s furniture capital, the manufacturers of High Point pulled it off: In 1920, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building opened for its first show, following a year-and-a-half-long, $1 million construction project. That year, attendance at the show numbered in the 700s, with visitors from 100 cities….

“Of course, even the savviest of business leaders couldn’t have protected the industry from what would happen less than a decade after the new center’s unveiling. With the economic devastation of the Great Depression, furniture sales fell to half their 1920s numbers….”

— From “How a Small Southern Town Became the Furniture Capital of America” by Hadley Keller in Architectural Digest (Oct. 13, 2017)

Although digital enlargement suggests a poster, this is actually a 3- by 1.5-inch advertising label known as a poster stamp. The blue eagle symbol in the corner indicates compliance with the wage and price policies set by the New Deal’s recently created National  Recovery Administration.


High Point cracks down (except on ‘furniture men’)

On this day in 1927: High Point Mayor H.A. Moffit orders that all future public dances must stop at midnight. According to a dispatch in The Charlotte Observer, the mayor’s announcement followed “a series of four terpsichorean events staged in connection with the furniture exposition. The mayor made an exception . . . in order that the visiting furniture men might be entertained more elaborately.”


Booker T. Washington signed it — and the rest is mystery

“On a warm January day in 1903, the most famous and influential black leader in America came to San Diego.

“Booker T. Washington created such a stir that roughly 15 percent of the city’s population showed up to hear him speak on ‘The Negro Problem.’

“Washington’s visit is a little-known episode in the city’s halting march forward on civil rights, and now it has a fascinating footnote, a bit of cross-country serendipity involving an autographed first-edition book, a library sale and a retired law enforcement administrator with a keen eye for what things are and where they belong.

“The book is ‘Character Building,’ a 1902 collection of speeches by Washington. He signed it and gave it to his host in San Diego, George Marston, the city’s most prominent merchant, who in turn cherished it enough to put one of his personal bookplates on the inside of the front cover.

“And then, somehow, it wound up in North Carolina 112 years later….”

— From “Book bought in North Carolina comes home to San Diego” by John Wilkens in the San Diego Union-Tribune (Sept. 5)

It was High Point Public Library volunteer Bill Phillips who spotted the book, paid $2 for it and donated it to the San Diego History Center. But Phillips has not a clue to its puzzling past: “I hope some unsuspecting person will come forward and say, ‘Oh, that was in a batch of books I left there.’ “

Might any Miscellany readers know (or want to speculate) how “Character Building” made its way from San Diego to High Point?


In High Point, Langston Hughes made sales, not waves

“Our engagement here in High Point has been most pleasant. This morning, I read to the various colored schools, and at the white high school. Sold gangs of books….”
–From a letter from Langston Hughes to Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP (Dec. 8, 1931).

As noted by Nicholas Graham, Hughes’ eventful stay in Chapel Hill has been well chronicled. Less so his subsequent visit to High Point. I haven’t been able to find an account of his appearance at “the white high school” (High Point High), but the student newspaper at (white) High Point College covered what seems to have been a thoroughly uninflammatory reading at (black) William Penn High School:

“Langston Hughes, called by some ‘the greatest living negro poet,’… explained his compositions by telling the stories and incidents which gave rise to them….

“[His] love poems expressed the colored peoples’ life of romance. Most of the poems were short, with a clever sense of realism and emotion.

“Spiritual or religious poems…expressed the negroes’ emotions. Just opposite his spirituals are his ‘blues’ poems. They represent the emotional life of the negro, dealing with his troubles and loneliness….

“Perhaps his best known poem is ‘The Negro Mother,’in which he pays tribute to the colored race of all past ages and predicts for ‘the colored children’ happier and more worthy achievements.

“[Professor of religion] Dr. P. E. Lindley…reports a very enjoyable and delightful evening. He considers Hughes a very prominent rising negro scholar and poet.”


A magazine dies, its High Point readers move on

“My wife, Hadley, started receiving [the Wilson Quarterly] when she was 15 or so, a gift from her grandmother Ruth, who had read the magazine, I believe, since it was founded, in 1976. In the early ’80s, she and several other women were part of a book club, in High Point, North Carolina. As Virginia Fick, another member, told me, they’d attended a symposium at High Point College called ‘Shakespeare and Women,’ and wanted, Fick said, ‘to read, think about, and discuss new ideas.’ Ruth suggested using the Wilson Quarterly as a basis for their discussions, and so the Wilson Quarterly Study Group was born….

“In 2012, the Wilson Quarterly released its last print issue. It was to become a digital-only publication, they said….  A writer at the Nieman Journalism Lab wondered, ‘If WQ’s readers are print purists — and the cerebral, dense content in the magazine suggests they’re more likely to carry AARP cards than fake IDs — then how likely are they to follow the quarterly into a digital realm?’

“The North Carolina group stopped reading the magazine. ‘They lost us,’ Patricia Plaxico told me. ‘We are from the school that makes notes and highlights.’ The group does still meet, however; members just select articles from other publications.”

— From “On the Wilson Quarterly: 1976-2014” by Paul Maliszewski at n + 1 (Feb. 10, 2014) 


Murdoch denies hacking link dump phones

“Colonial America’s Interstate 95.” (Or maybe I-81?)

David Goldfield gets his turn at bat in the Disunion blog.

— Alas, high-altitude vandalism didn’t end with Elisha Mitchell’s monument.

— Did I really kill half a morning reading these obsessively detailed histories of moribund malls in Eden, High Point and Hendersonville?

If link dump’s all wet, don’t blame the rain

The last word on Tar Heel Bread?

Philanthropic apples drop far from High Point tree.

— Was Asheville really part of  Walt Disney‘s world?

Whistling’s “electric Dylan” moment.

— Unlikely Confederates:  Sons of Chang and Eng.

— One less drive-in movie, one more display lot for metal buildings and carports.

— Wouldn’t  Thad Eure get a laugh out of the rise of ramps in ritzy restaurants?