New in the collection: Miniature souvenir TV sets

Miniature TVs with images of the Outer Banks and Blowing Rock

Before flat-screen TVs there were chubby TVs — and these miniature souvenir knockoffs made in Hong Kong.
“Blowing Rock N.C. on television” offers eight click-through color images, including Grandfather Mountain and Tweetsie Railroad. (Spot any unlisted Hugh Mortons, Stephen Fletcher?)
Viewers of “Outer Banks N.C. / television” can gaze at only a single color slide of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which opened in 1963 (and is about to be replaced). Original price sticker: $1.39.

Wrights weren’t only inventors on Outer Banks

On this day in 1906: A decade after Guglielmo Marconi of Italy sent the first radio signal, Reginald Fessenden makes the first voice transmission. From a station in Brant Rock, Mass., he broadcasts to ships at sea a program of two musical selections (including his own violin rendition of “O, Holy Night”), a Scripture reading and a short talk.

Fessenden, a native of Canada who had been Thomas Edison’s chief chemist, laid the groundwork for his breakthrough during two years’ research on the Outer Banks; barely a dozen miles away, the Wright Brothers were preparing to fly at Kitty Hawk.

A storm almost sank the Fessenden expedition on the way to Roanoke Island. Conditions continued to be harsh — crew members often had to wear mosquito netting — but 50-foot transmission towers were erected on Roanoke and Hatteras.

Reg Fessenden was considered by at least one contemporary scientist to be “the greatest wireless inventor of the age — greater than Marconi.” But the question of who would profit from radio was complex and treacherous, and Fessenden lost out in extended, bitter litigation over patent rights.


A tree grew (and grew) in Betty Smith’s garden

“[The ailanthus tree] rarely lives more than 50 years, so any chance of finding [Betty] Smith’s original tree still growing in Brooklyn was out of the question.
“But [Nancy] Pfeiffer told me about the ailanthus her mother planted in the walled-in garden behind her home in Chapel Hill, where Smith lived almost her entire life and where she is buried. Back in 1945, when 20th Century Fox came out with the movie version of Smith’s book (directed by her former Yale classmate Elia Kazan), someone had the clever idea to send ailanthus saplings out to critics….
“Pfeiffer is quite sure the tree [shown in an old photo of the Chapel Hill garden] is one of the saplings from that early publicity campaign. Later on, however, they had to take the tree down when it threatened to topple the garden wall.
“Betty Smith and her family took shoots from the aforementioned ailanthus and planted them around [their] cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In 1993, the cottage and an ailanthus from one of those shoots had to be moved back from the shore because of erosion. The tree continued to grow tall until the house was sold in 2002. Since then the house and tree have been… replaced by a large rental unit.”
— From “Seeds: One Man’s Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers….” by Richard Horan (2011)

Lit-crit link dump calls for guitar backup

Gastonia native “strengthens her already credible claim to the title of best living American writer.”

Greensboro praised (?) as “that true American anomaly – a place where there seem to be more people writing serious books than reading them.”

— Much to applaud, per usual, about Mary Chapin Carpenter‘s country-and-Eastern show last night in Charlotte. “I Am a Town,” her tribute to the sad two-lane from D.C. to the Outer Banks, always moves me. Also notable: on bass guitar, Chapel Hill’s ubiquitous Don Dixon.