New in the collection: Mt. Airy toaster key fob

Square keychain fob with outline of a toaster and the letters P. and S. and the words Mt. Airy, N.C.

“In the late 1950s, the Proctor Electric Co. built an ultra-modern, $1,500,000 manufacturing plant which became the largest in the country devoted exclusively to electric automatic toasters.  In 1959, a mere two years after opening, the plant produced its 1,000,000th toaster. Close to 50 different models of toasters were made, many under the brand names of Universal, Sears and Montgomery Ward. Mount Airy soon became known as the ‘Toaster Capital of the World.’

“Proctor Electric merged with Silex Corp. in 1960 and then with Hamilton Beach in 1990. In 1998, Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex [the P.S. on the fob] closed its plant in Mount Airy.

“In the early 1950s the initial grading and excavation for building the toaster factory uncovered a large Native American burial ground. Newspaper accounts noted skeletons, pottery, projectile points, beads and pipes being unearthed and treasure seekers coming to collect these items. An open invitation was issued for the public to come and ‘hunt for relics.’ Sadly, this occurred before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 or guidance for protecting Native American grave sites or properties.”

— From “Toast of the Town – Proctor Electric and the Native American Artifact Dig” from the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

New in the collection: Siamese-twin descendant pinback

Pinback button featuring photo of Alex Sink and the words "Governor 2016, Alex Sink."

“Born to Chinese parents in what is now Thailand, Eng and Chang Bunker became famous throughout the world as ‘Siamese twins.’ After years of being displayed at exhibitions, they settled in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1830s. They married two local sisters and had a total of 21 children.

Adelaide ‘Alex’ Sink is the great-granddaughter of Chang Bunker. Sink was the chief financial officer of Florida from 2007 to 2011. She also ran for governor of Florida in 2010. She grew up in the Mount Airy home built by her great-grandparents Chang and Adelaide Bunker….”

— From ” ‘Siamese Twins’ Still Fascinate, Two Centuries Later,” a Tell Me More interview with Sink on NPR (June 5, 2013)

The North Carolina Collection includes holdings related to Chang and Eng Bunker and its Gallery includes a permanent exhibition on the Bunker twins.

Storm warning in Florida: Here comes Kester Sink

Mt. Airy native Alex Sink, 62, is the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida. This account appeared in the St. Petersburg Times during her successful 2006 campaign for state chief financial officer:

“Sink is the great-granddaughter of ‘the twins,’ as she calls them. She grew up in the house Chang and Eng built….  She speaks of their commitment to education, intellectualism and the business savvy for a couple of P.T. Barnum circus attractions to decide to cut out the middle man to make enough money to become farmers….

“Strangers would come to see her house growing up. On the streets of Mount Airy, people would sometimes stop and ask the little girl with the hint of oriental features, ‘Are you one of the Bunkers?’…

” ‘We didn’t talk about it a lot. I grew up in a puritan age and there was always the sex thing,’ she said, referring to twins’ nearly two dozen children. Then there’s the pride in community: ‘Here are these two circus attractions who ended up settling in redneck North Carolina and were accepted in the community.’

“Sink’s father, Kester Sink (a very un-PC pistol we last saw ogling waitresses at a West Tampa campaign event during her husband Bill McBride’s gubernatorial campaign in 2002 —  precisely why, Sink says, he’ll be kept out of sight in this campaign) still lives in the Eng/Chang home and talked to National Geographic:

” ‘Sink, a successful businessman who owns the largest chunk of Bunker land, does not suffer fools and ferociously protects the Bunker legacy. “They were not freaks,” he says with a stare that dares you to think otherwise. “They were human beings who had a tremendous physical adversity to overcome. They left their home in Siam, their mother and family, and immediately picked up the language, mores, and manners of their adopted country. They were gutsy, smart, and self-confident.” ‘ ”

This just in from the Mt. Airy News: Kester Sink, now 86,  “so far has only participated in [Alex’s] campaign from a distance [but] is planning to journey to Florida as the governor’s race hits the home stretch.”