Unwanted distinction: ‘Wreckingest road’

“In seven months there had been eight passenger train pile-ups on the three main lines running down the east coast to Florida resorts — the Seaboard, Atlantic Coast Line and Florida East Coast Railway. Three of the wrecks were in North and South Carolina, where the swift streamliners slide through the night.

“In James Boyd’s ‘Marching On,’ a novel of the South in the 1860s, Big Bill the Brakeman, who rode the historic Wilmington-Weldon (N.C.) run, bragged that he worked on ‘the wreckingest road in the Union.’ The Carolinas were beginning to wonder if they were getting to be the wreckingest states.”

— From Time magazine, Jan. 14, 1946

Bill of Rights? How ‘American’ is THAT?

“In the autumn of 1940 James Boyd, the engaging historical novelist and essayist from North Carolina, recruited an outstanding cast of writers to prepare a series of radio scripts….  Unsponsored and unpaid, this group called itself the Free Company and took as its mission a dramatic presentation of the Bill of Rights. ‘Our only purpose,’ Boyd explained, ‘is to remind people, in this hour of danger, how precious the American way of life is.’

“The writers felt determined to reach the broadest possible audience and by May 1941 there were, indeed, more than 5 million faithful listeners. Despite the self-evident ‘Americanism’ of the scripts, however, more conservative listeners and the Hearst papers disliked the internationalism and liberal tone….

“Boyd’s ‘team’ included William Saroyan, Archibald MacLeish, Stephen Vincent Benet, Orson Welles and Paul Green. Their 11 programs were heard on CBS and enjoyed extensive rebroadcasting  despite the flak…. More than 7,000 copies of the scripts were sold, and the Free Company received more than 10,000 fan letters.”

— From “Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture” by Michael Kammen (1991)

Weekend link dump: from horses to thieves

— In the Pilot of Southern Pines, Stephen Smith finds a silver lining in the theft of the historical marker identifying the Weymouth Center as the former home of novelist James Boyd.

— Volunteers in Eden retrieve a  sunken 40-foot bateau replica from the Dan River.

— Ben Steelman answers a reader’s question about the checkered tenancy of downtown Wilmington’s old Masonic Temple, aka St. John’s hall. 

— Is North Carolina’s official state horse really unAmerican?