Oh, c’mon now — you know you can’t resist clicking on “1935-2013 Map of North Carolina’s Confirmed Unprovoked Shark Attacks.”
That link comes via a New York Times account of how Cape Cod merchants have cannily alchemized shark fear. And of course the Times can’t pass up the opportunity to recall Mayor Vaughn’s classic line in “Jaws”: “You yell ‘Shark!’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” (If “Jaws” were being remade yet again, this time on the North Carolina coast, the mayor no doubt would declare “You yell ‘rising sea level!’ we’ve got a panic….’)
And whom did Steven Spielberg cast as the “Jaws” mayor? Why none other than North Carolina’s Murray Hamilton, who both was born and died in coastal (Little) Washington. Hamilton’s lengthy character-acting credits also provide the answer to the eternal headscratcher “Who played Mr. Robinson?”
“My first newspaper job was at a small daily in eastern North Carolina [the Washington Daily News] where my family lived. I worked there summers when I was in college….
“I had a month off one college winter and needed a study project for school. So, I went to the newspaper and proposed a Civil War history of the town based on a diary of a Union Navy officer I had found in the local library.
“In 1862, Lincoln sent Union gunboats to a number of small river ports in the Carolinas to keep Southerners from getting war materials. This was the case in my little town. But when I read the diary, my eyes opened wide.
“According to the author’s account, the town’s elders paddled out in a rowboat to greet their Northern captors with open arms. They were merchants who found that the Southern cause was bad for business, and they were treated to an elegant dinner with wine aboard one of the Yankee gunboats.
“Naturally, when my series was printed, it was not well received. One of my critics was a self-styled historian who would fit right in with the Sons of Confederate Veterans…. The experience taught me that anything written about so painful a period has to be undertaken with great care.”
— From “Why Southern history can be so dodgy” by blogger Peter Galuszka