Christmases enlivened by explosions, real and simulated

Thanks to Linton Weeks at NPR for these two North Carolina examples of the mostly forgotten tradition of Christmas pranks:

— “Early on Dec. 25, 1953, the town of Stony Point, N.C., was rocked by an explosion near the railroad tracks that woke local folks and shattered store windows. According to the Statesville, N.C., Daily Record three days later, ‘It is believed that for a Christmas prank, someone set off a charge of some explosive, probably dynamite, failing to realize the damage which could result.’ ”

— “In her 2013 book The Legacy of Bear Mountain: Stories of Old Mountain Values That Enrich Our Lives Today, Janie Mae Jones McKinley tells of a Christmas prank her grandfather — a railroad man — pulled on his two brothers-in-law in rural North Carolina [near Zirconia in Henderson County] during the Great Depression. It was customary for neighbors in the valley to shoot shotguns in the air on Christmas Day. People would take turns and the one who had the most ammunition was the winner — and by extension, the most prosperous. McKinley’s grandfather figured out a way — using a wooden board and a sledgehammer — to make a noise that sounded exactly like a shotgun blast. So he could outlast everyone. ‘After it b’come clear I’d won,’ McKinley’s grandfather would explain while laughing, ‘I kept smackin’ the board with the hammer ever few minutes for awhile — to show ’em I still had plenty of shells!’ ”

 

Football as played before the concussion protocol

“The Yale and Harvard football teams played (?) at Springfield, Mass., last Saturday a match game which was little short of a free fight. Of the 22 men engaged, six were taken off the field injured, and… one lay for seven minutes on the field unconscious….

“Excepting the bullfights of Mexico and Cuba, there has been no sport quite so brutal as football, as it is played to-day, since the tourneys of the Middle Ages and the gladiatorial contests which delighted the elite of ancient Rome….

“[At least] prize fighting is a trial of strength and of skill; football, of brute strength only….”

— From “The Gridiron and the Prize Ring” in the Statesville Record & Landmark (Nov. 29, 1894)

Hat tip / “Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man” by Julie Des Jardins (2015)

The Record & Landmark didn’t mention instances of such savagery closer to home, although football had taken root in North Carolina several years earlier.