Once upon a time, a landline was a very big deal

“On Dec. 16, 1948, Ray Hewitt installed a telephone in the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Pace in Alamance County — the millionth rural telephone added by the Bell System since the end of World War II….

“[Hewitt’s wife] Martha, a telephone operator in Burlington, made the connections so Pace could speak with President Truman at the White House. (The president’s number: National 1414.)

” ‘The president’s words cannot be heard,’ the Southern Telephone News would report later, ‘but whatever he is saying seems to be pleasing farmer Pace. Mrs. Pace smiles as she watches her husband and looks mighty proud.’

“Everyone seemed to be crammed into the Paces’ farmhouse that day. There was a film crew. The ceremonial calls, broadcast live by WPTF in Raleigh, were carried by 16 N.C. stations.

“Also at the house were Sen. J. Melville Broughton, Gov.-elect Kerr Scott, Southern Bell President Hal S. Dumas and radio star Kay Kyser ….”

— From “President Truman on the line” by Mark Wineka in the Salisbury Post (Jan. 5)

 

Harbinger of South’s reaction on race? Not exactly

“As North Carolina Democrats go to the polls this Saturday to pick a candidate for United States Senate, the politicians here will be looking for the first clue to the political impact on the South of the Supreme Court’s ruling against public school segregation.”
— From “North Carolina Poll Will Be First Hint of South’s Reaction” in the Wall Street Journal (May 27, 1954)
That “first clue” to response to Brown vs. Board of Education turned out to be misleadingly positive: In the Democratic primary, incumbent Sen. Alton Lennon, a hardline segregationist, narrowly lost to moderate former Gov. Kerr Scott. 
In Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of Segregation” (2000), John Drescher casts the race as both a rematch of Frank Porter Graham vs. Willis Smith in 1950 and a precursor to Sanford vs. I. Beverly Lake in 1960.
 

Cole got listeners out of bed, farmers out of mud

On this day in 1952: Collier’s magazine profiles Grady Cole as “Mr. Dixie.” Cole, a homespun announcer who wakes up the Piedmont every morning on WBT, has been Charlotte’s premier celebrity since 1929.

“Cole says he’s still not a professional radio man,” Collier’s notes. “But he snows under all rivals, and his droll news and weather reports bring him $100,000 a year.” His share of the Charlotte audience: 71 percent.

Gov. Kerr Scott is credited with the state’s massive rural road-building program in the early ’50s, but it was Cole who generated popular support with his long-running “Get Farmers Out of the Mud” campaign.