Section: Seersucker and Sunshine

When We Were Young


From the pen of Marsha L Burris

 The first time I stole a vehicle, was Junior McLaughlin’s old pickup truck.  I was 14 and my accomplice, Joy, was 12.  We had the good sense not to drive it out onto the highway.  In fact, we had not taken it out for pleasure but for basic transportation.  Joy and I needed to get down to the tree house.  It was located beyond her back yard and across the field.  We were in a hurry and we didn’t want to walk.  I can’t remember the particulars or the why-fors now, it’s been forty-five years.  But I recall clearly that we were in a rush.

I was qualified to drive us because I had observed my Grandpa Lawson shifting gears on the column in his 1949 Mercury many times.  Junior Mac’s truck was no different that I could see.  In my daydreams, up to this point, I had confidence in my abilities. After all, my daddy pit-stopped for Ned Jarrett and Darrell Derringer in the NASCAR heydays of 1960s and a part of that surely rubbed off. 

Image      Keys were always left in the ignition in those days.  Car stealing was not yet a problem in Newell and the rationalization was that, with this system, you never needed to wonder where you left the keys last.  Without much forethought, I jumped up into the driver’s seat of the pickup.  Joy took shotgun.  I dropped the gear shift lever down into first gear and off we punted through the grass.  A clutch was employed, but not synchronized.  I would have to work on improving my precision in subsequent heists but we were young and the jerking head snaps left no lasting injuries.  As we approached the tree house, I realized that in my motoring imaginings, I had forgotten to visualize that, as the driver, it was up to me to stop the vehicle.  Perhaps if I had applied the brake in a more timely fashion we would not have hit the tree.  Luckily we were crawling along at a snail’s pace (we could have walked faster) and little more than cosmetic damage was done to the tree or the truck bumper. 

We reached our destination, but with the truck resting against the tree, it consequently needed to be backed away from it.  I already knew before we started off on this adventure that I lacked the knowledge of where reverse lived on the gear shift column which is why I planned to drive down and around the tree in a big arc and basically figure-eight it back to home base.  Now we were skunked and I had no idea how to back away from the tree.  We had no choice.  We walked back to the house and asked Sissy for assistance.  Sissy, unlike us, had an authentic and official driver’s license and the acquaintance of Reverse.  She extricated the truck from the tree and drove it back to its parking spot near the house.  She suggested we leave it there.  Joy and I did not get in trouble over this escapade.  Sissy keeps secrets.

The next time I drove a car, it was only somewhat illegal. I had permission, but not from the DMV (I possessed only a learner’s permit). I did have permission from the owner of the car.  My legality was improving. 

I mowed Mrs. Cothran’s yard as one of my summer jobs when I was a teenager.  She lived across the railroad tracks from us on Old Concord Road.  I had not gauged the amount of petrol required for the two acre job and needed to run up to Clark’s Gas Station to get more.  Mrs. Cothran was busy so she offered to let me take her 1965 Dodge Dart GT on the mile and a half trek.  So, in my favor, not only did she know I was driving her vehicle, but she encouraged me to do so, even though I had over-stated my skill set.  Just a little.    

She pressed several dollar bills into my hand for the gas and for chili burgers all around.  I dropped myself into the bucket seat and eyed the four-in-the-floor stick shift, complete with a diagram of the gear positions etched on top.  My heart went pitter-pat.  I gently guided the key in the ignition, depressed the clutch, started the motor, slipped the stick forward, and gave it some gas.  A lot of gas.  Too much gas.  It stalled.  I repeated the steps but with less gas.  I staccato-putted out of the driveway and onto the road.  I gave myself a little whiplash with the stop-start-stop-start that took place between gear #1 and gear #2 and gear #3.  I never actually made it to gear #4, but (and I’m not bragging here, just stating a fact) I arrived at the station without incident and back again.  Mission accomplished. 

In the next auto caper, I involved the McLaughlin family again.  Joy’s sister, Denise, was dating the basketball star from the local university.  We thought that was kind of cool.  He drove a dilapidated old VW bug and that was pure groovy.  I’m not sure why.  One Friday night, Bob and Denise had gone off in Denise’s car.  Joy and I, left to our own devices, had our usual plans of looking for adventure.  Adventure on this night took the form of driving Bob’s VW around the block.  To be clear, blocks in Newell are not like city blocks – our block measured right around four linear miles. 

The first thing that should have made us question the good sense of this joy-ride (pun intended) was that there was no front passenger seat.  We trooped back into the living room, snatched a couple of cushions off the sofa and piled them on the floor board to make a place for Joy to sit.  Seeing out the window was a little difficult for her but Joy is tough.  She endured.  We edged out of the driveway of Gobbler’s Knob and onto Grier Road toward Orr Road.  We bravely passed my house where Rusty reigned.  I didn’t toot the horn.  I’m not that dumb.  But we peered inside the wide open picture window to see if the television was flickering.  We continued down to the chemical plant and rounded the curve.  Unimpeded by flashing cross-arms, we passed over the railroad tracks and proceeded to the stop sign at Old Concord Road.  I had a little trouble here.  The Bug slowed, but only imperceptibly.  No problem, I had done my homework.  I understood gearing down.  I geared down.  Clutch depressed, gear shifter nudged into third gear, clutch released.  Clutch, second gear.  Finally, I hit first gear.  Employing a California stop as I checked for cars to my left, I made a right onto Old Concord Road without complying with the letter of the law regarding stop signs.  

We picked up speed on this two-mile straight-a-way until we came to the Newell-Hickory Grove Road intersection.  I braked, but the brake was sloppy, slushy.  Same results as before.  I geared down again.  Still no cars in sight so we bumped over the railroad tracks again and sped down the hill, then back up as we approached Grier Road above Joy’s house.  Again, without coming to full stop, we turned right and were back to Gobbler’s Knob on our left.  Home sweet Home.  As I maneuvered the VW back into the precise place where we found it, Joy and I noticed Denise’s car had returned.

            Uh oh, busted.  Now what?

We formulated a plan.  It did not include using Junior Mac’s truck.  I’d learned my lesson there.  But not much.  We plucked up our courage and chose to face the music.  We walked into the house where Denise and Bob were eating burgers and fries and watching ‘Love, American Style’ or something like it on TV.  They looked at us accusingly. 

            “Did you take my car?” Bob asked.  He knew the answer so we said yes.

            “But…,” I pleaded our case.  “We thought you’d gone out on a date and would be gone longer.”

Bob ignored the logic of my argument and grilled us further.

            “Do you have any idea why I parked it, and why we took Denise’s car instead?”

            “Because Denise didn’t want to sit on the floor board?”  Joy and I asked in unison.

            “No. Because the brakes are gone and it’s not safe to drive.”

            “Oh.  So, that’s what’s going on!” I was pleased it wasn’t me or my driving skills.

Bob gave us a good talking-to.  There were threats of telling the adults, but blackmailing us to cover some of Denise’s chores worked out better for all of us.  I contemplated my actions.  They were reckless.  I needed to take responsibility for the choices I made in life so I pulled back and cranked down on grand theft auto for a while.  A good long while…

            …until my brother Robert bought his 1964 Candy Apple Red Ford Fairlane V-8 with high performance parts.  I had my own car to drive by then, a 1965 2-door hardtop forest green Ford Falcon Futura coupe with white side panel inset.  It was a fine ride.  But.  It was automatic.  Where’s the challenge in that?  Robert had invested time and effort and money in souping up his baby.  It sounded fast and it was fast.  But I wasn’t allowed to drive it.  I had no standing in my brother’s world of really sporty cars.  Dad had street cred, though.  And on occasion, when he got home from work (Dad worked for a Ford dealership – we were a Ford family) he wanted to experience a growl under the hood rather than the purr of the Ford LTD that he drove.  He’d tell Robert ever so nonchalantly, “Son, I need to run up the street to pick up some things at the store.  I’ll just take your car since it’s already out and in the drive way.” 

Dad, let the engine warm up a skosh, then he backed gently out onto the road.  Between our driveway and the house next door was the length of a football field and a half.  Within that distance, Dad eased out of first gear and transitioned smoothly into second gear.  As he slipped out of sight, and by his way of thinking, beyond hearing too, he gunned it.  Pedal to the metal, until he had wound through each gear in turn.  Well, that looked rather exciting to me.  To my credit, I asked my brother’s permission to drive his car.  When he declined my request, I had no option but to resort to Plan B.  When the time was right, and Robert was out with buddies (and he had left his car at home) I liberated it.  I hopped in and did a little three-point-turn, then nosed out of the drive.  When I gave it a little gas and began to let the clutch out, my knee flew back from the recoil hard and fast and it almost popped my jaw.  The clutch was so tight that it kicked back with a force that would rival any mule-kick.  Ow.  I limped the car back into its parking spot.  Pain made me lose any incentive to drive Robert’s car again.  And this was the last job I will cop to… 

In the 1960s, we had no Wii, and no Netflix.  We didn’t have Nintendo or Atari to virtually satisfy our lust for adventure.  We got it the old fashioned way.  But we never engaged in self-imposed missions for glory since bragging would have landed us in hot water with the parents.  I’m amazed that we survived our shenanigans. 

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Section: Seersucker and Sunshine

When We Were Young

Joy McLaughlin, Recording Genius

From the pen of Marsha L Burris

I grew up in Newell where Joy McLaughlin got the best Christmas presents of all my friends. Sometimes I already knew what would be under her tree before she did. So would anybody else who happened to be shopping in Woolco at Tryon Mall on Christmas Eve in the mid-1960s. If you were there, you heard Junior Mac singing Yuletide carols at the top of his lungs while pushing a cart up and down each isle filled to the brim with gifts. My dad, Jim, never shopped – that was Rusty’s domain. So I didn’t even know men were allowed to shop all by themselves. I was intrigued.

One particularly memorable Christmas present for Joy was a tape recorder. A little portable reel-to-reel device. My memory’s a little fuzzy on the make and model, but it looked a little like this:

Its function and the uses for which it could be employed were as clear in Joy’s imagination as the Christmas morning she unwrapped it. The year was probably 1966. Joy, who would have been about eleven years old (two years younger than myself) called me on the telephone as soon as she was free and told me to get myself up to her house as soon as I could. When I fulfilled my familial obligations I did just that. The reel-to-reel tape recorder pre-dated cassettes. Heck, it was even before 8-tracks. Some manual dexterity was required to feed the thin brown magnetic tape from the feed reel through the tape head to the take-up reel just so. But then when that step was complete, and the record-lever was clicked on, every word, every sound, every little peep within hearing distance of the microphone, could be picked up and preserved. With this technological marvel, we hit pay dirt and we knew it. We hadn’t heard of Karoke back then, or Lip Sync, but that didn’t mean we didn’t engage in the activity. The latest Broadway show tunes were always playing on the McLaughlin phonograph and a handy hairbrush served as a mic for our performances. The tape recorder meant we could capture those performances for posterity – something for which we somehow did not foresee any likely future embarrassment.

Another exciting utility Joy thought up for this gift included special interviews with members of the household. We asked thought-provoking questions as we interviewed Junior Mac, Jewel, Nanner… We asked the questions that were on everybody’s mind:

• Now Mac, tell the truth. Did you really like the M&M pancakes we made for you that morning at the beach?  It’s my favorite pancake recipe ever.

• Nanner, what do you put in that pot of stewed okra to make it so tasty?  Salt. Now, don’t mess around in here. I’m busy.

• Jewel, why is it we always pile into your bed when it storms?  Go ask Nanner.

Joy and I (never short of exciting and fresh ideas) thought it would be brilliant to secretly plant the tape recorder and microphone in places where we hoped to catch her sister Denise doing or saying something incriminating. Our dastardly plan included the hopes of blackmailing big sis and therefore compelling her to do our bidding. That never really panned out. I must confess that Denise was much too smart for us. She spotted the machine every time, detected our ruse, and shut it down before we could capture anything useful.

We were not completely deterred. Together, Joy and I developed radio talk shows, radio dramas, and we even dabbled in a little faux sports casting. No Christmas gift had ever been used with such creativity before or since. Wonder where those old tapes are now.

Thinking of you this Christmas as always, my friend.

Listen to Podcast here

Posted in Christmas, Newell, North Carolina, Seersucker & Sunshine, Southeast U.S., Southern Belles, Southern Blog, Southern Culture, Southern Muses, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Section: Seersucker and Sunshine

When We Were Young

That’s Just Klaus

From the pen of Marsha L Burris

My sibs and I grew up in Newell, in a 1950s brick rancher that sat on the northwest corner of Mary and Osborne Yeomans’ dairy farm. When you grow up on a farm, there is no shortage of chores. Even if you’re a kid, there is always work to be done and as young’uns we learned that under no circumstances should we ever use the phrase “I’m bored”. That just opens up the dialog of “Well… let me give you something to do to fix your boredom.” And nobody wants that dialog opened up. Least of all kids.

My brother Robert and I never admitted to being bored because, basically, we were never bored. Excitement ruled our lives. Few events failed to attract our attention, most of which we manufactured ourselves. Playing make-believe is the prerogative of every eight-year-old and in the summertime, Robert and I spontaneously combusted into our imaginary worlds frequently.

A favorite activity of ours was to dive into the ditch that ran along Orr Road at the edge of our front yard, with cap guns and holsters, wooden rifles and sling shots. From there we had a clear shot at our enemies. We had no shortage of enemies because we watched Combat!, Gun Smoke and The Rifleman. We had just three networks then so it was easy to agree on what to watch each night (mostly whatever Daddy wanted to watch) so the only argument Robert and I had was who would play Sgt Saunders, Mr. Dillon or Lucas McCain as we went outside to re-enact the episode we had watched most recently. The ditch was our usual destination because in our minds it became a foxhole, a mine shaft, or even Death Valley (valley = ditch   Get it?) We were protected within that versatile ditch and had the advantage of seeing without being seen. Well, in our minds anyway. Besides, what did we know? We were not even in the double digit age group yet. Barbara, our big sis, never joined in. She was much too refined to roll around in weeds and muck. She would be found indoors doing something much more frivolous than protecting the homestead… like doing her nails or reading Dostoevsky. And little Andy? Well, he wasn’t even a gleam in Jim’s eye yet.

From the vantage point of our ditch, Robert and I could watch the freight trains roll by. They whistled their approach toward each crossing near our property on a regular schedule. You would think that the deep rumbling of 130 tons of steel passing near your home would keep you awake at night, but we were so used to the sounds that we woke up if a train wasn’t on time.

Now, you might ask yourself:
Why in the world would two kids find watching box cars rolling lazily by on a summer’s day fascinating?

That would be a good question, and, there were several reasons.

One, we did not have Wii or Xbox back then.

Two, looking for graffiti emblazoned on the sides of the tankers was visually interesting. Even then. Not as imaginative as you find now, but usually some artist had spray-painted the name of a distant city they were proud of on this canvas of sorts. And as the artwork moved down the track, we paused and daydreamed about that place and what it might be like.

Three, and this is a very important reason, we were on the look-out for marauders. Without being asked, Robert and I assumed the responsibility of keeping Newell free from marauders.

You’re welcome.

But the best part of train-gazing was when we saw a boxcar with its door panel slid back in its track and we could peek inside. That’s when our imaginations really kicked in.

We saw all kinds of things in those cars. Or believed we did. Ammunition for one – most likely going to fortify our enemies. We contemplated tossing grenades (dirt clods, some people called them, but we knew different) at the cache of ammo but we were pretty sure Rusty would not want us close enough to the train to be able to complete that mission. And the Wrath of Rusty was to be avoided when possible.

We believed we saw livestock of Biblical (think: Noah’s Ark) proportions being transported to the cowboys out West, even though it was just the train to Raleigh. But in all the westerns we had seen, everything the West needed came from the East. So even though I know now that Newell, NC was not considered the livestock capital of the world, we were sure that we occupied the center of the universe and all good things had its genesis here.

After spotting an open car, our imaginations kicked into high gear and once or twice, inside those opened-door box cars, Robert and I saw Hobos.

“Did you see that?”
“Inside that car. A man was leaning against the far wall.”
“A Hobo?”
“Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure.”

Somehow, even at our tender age, we were worldly enough to have heard all about Hobos and even though I think the term ‘Hobo’ may have a somewhat derogatory connotation associated with it, we romanticized this population. To us, Hobos were homeless wanderers of their own volition – not that we even knew that word then, but we knew the concept – and Hobos found work in exchange for food and maybe some cash, in whatever place they had wandered to. And, to get from place to place, we knew they hitched free rides on freight trains as their desired mode of transportation. And we were convinced that our freight trains were rife with them. Although we probably didn’t know that word either. It was only logical, though. Hobos were known far and wide for using empty freight cars as no-cost-limousines. Here were empty freight cars. Ergo, we were destined to have Hobo traffic on our freight cars. Strangely, even though we had amassed a surplus of weapons, when Robert and I spotted what we imagined were Hobos, it scared us. We weren’t use to their exotic lifestyle and when we were frightened, we had to run back to the house to fortify our courage with a chocolate chip cookie or two.

Of course, after revealing our whereabouts to get cookies, we were then likely to be appropriated for chores. Playtime is important to children all over the world, and pretend-play is important to a child’s cognitive development. Whatever. Frequently, our playtime was interrupted without thoughts for our cognitive development needs and chores were substituted in its place. Doing chores on a farm meant that meals appeared at prescribed and regular intervals. It was hard to argue against that kind of common sense.

Mr. Yeomans, who was Pam-pa to us, usually assumed all responsibilities in the animal husbandry category of chores. Weeding vegetable gardens and harvesting those vegetables usually fell to the children. On the rare occasion that Mam-ma and Pam-pa were out of town, feeding and watering Molly (the cow), Ricky (the pony), and Lassie (the collie) could be *ahem* farmed out to one of us kids. I liked earning money Please see my story called ‘Risky Business’ here and I volunteered for duty.

I was an efficient deliverer of services and to provide the services I was contracted for during the Yeomans’ absence in a timely manner I jumped on my bike and rode up the dog path through the field between our houses. This mode of transportation was faster than walking and walking was for sissies. Specialized bicycle classifications like “Mountain Bikes” or “Off-Road Bikes” had not yet been dreamed up. But our Schwinns could get the job done. In fact, most terrain in a dairy community is “off-road”. So I bumped across fields, through lawns and right up to the dairy and livestock barns on my trusty two-wheeler. An old bathtub sat behind the barns with a plug in its drain hole. My job was to keep it filled with water every day and to put out grain or hay, as required, for the animals.

On one assignment, as I was making the rounds, I caught a glimpse of something red flitting past a doorway. Red and black flannel. A shirt with a human inside it – where there was not suppose to be any humans.

Now, red flannel is kind of like the Burris family coat of arms so I immediately suspected a family member was sneaking around trying to startle me, and they were being pretty successful. But Daddy was at work, Robert had not followed me, and Momma was much too busy to play games. That left Barbara and I knew she was back at the house reading some Faulkner. No one else lived close by. I had no idea who or what this apparition was. When you live in an imaginary world a good bit of the day, imagination has a way of playing tricks on you, but I was pretty dang sure I had seem ‘something’.

Terrified, I did the only sane and practical thing I could do. I jumped on my bike, rode like the wind, and found the biggest bravest soul I knew. My Momma. Out of breath, but finally safe after my close encounter with danger, I started relating what I had witnessed.

“Oh, that’s just Klaus,” Mom reassured me casually.
“Klaus?” (It rhymes with mouse) “Who is Klaus?”
“Klaus, the Hobo.”
“We have a Hobo?”
“Yes, of course. Don’t you and Robert see them on the train when you’re in the ditch?”

She knew about the ditch?? And the Hobo-sitings? She was brilliant!

“Actually,” she continued. “You might call Klaus a nomad or a Hobo, but he’s really just a guy who prefers to keep to himself. And when he’s in the area, Pam-pa pays him to do odd jobs, gives him food and invites him to enjoy milk from Molly. I guess I’ll need to make him a plate for supper.”

Blimey. Our very own Hobo – and I didn’t even think they really existed. I thought we made them up in our minds. But Klaus was real. I told Robert. He was skeptical. Our entire play framework revolved around making stuff up so why would he believe me? I’m not sure if Robert ever saw Klaus the Hobo himself. I cannot remember. I sure wish I could ask him…

Listen to PODCAST here

Posted in Seersucker & Sunshine, Southern Culture, Southern History, Southern Muses, The South, Uncategorized, Vanishing Charlotte | 2 Comments

Thompson’s Bootery and Bloomery

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I have a clear image in my head of a circa early 1970s Valentine’s Day display window at the old and unfortunately long gone Thompson’s Bootery and Bloomery .If you are of “old Charlotte” you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, Thompson’s was a lingerie store specializing more in the campy and not so much in the elegant. The store’s two huge plate glass display bays fronted on the intersection of Independence Boulevard and Pecan Avenue. There were at least four (maybe six?) manikins in the windows unabashedly decked out in scanties usually in honor of which ever holiday happened to fall that month. From New Year’s to Christmas and everything in between, Thompson’s had you covered, or not so much, for your intimate needs of the season. Whether you wanted to dress up as a Leprechaun or a Pilgrim mother, Thompson’s  would help you get the job done. Or if all you required was something short and see through, Thompson’s had that too. If you were traveling in the east bound lane of Independence, you could only hope the traffic light at that intersection turned red so you could take in the lavish monument to the secret vamp in Charlotte’s womanhood.

In this particular display, the manikins were dressed in various versions of pink and red teddies and sheer peignoirs, all with matching mule slippers of course, and accessorized with boas in complimentary colors, but the hands-down outstanding outfit was a torso sized white satin heart trimmed in red ruffles that would have only barely just covered a woman in the front and there was no telling what may or may not have been covered in the back. I suppose the idea was to present yourself as a life size  candy box.

I thought a lot about that outfit and wondered what would you do with it. Should your husband come home on Valentine’s evening and find you in this heart, lounging nonchalantly on the divan, welcoming him with a casual, “Hello sweetie, how was your day?” Or would you excuse yourself after dinner to slip into something more comfortable and show up in this? More importantly, was this the kind of thing men actually wanted you to parade around in at home for romantic evenings? I was fairly certain my parents never did such things. But you never know about parents, and I cringed at the possibility of my mother having a secret wardrobe. But no, not my mother. My mother would never wear or do anything that would compromise her dignity and knowing her, she would have personally kicked the ass of anyone who intimated she should. But I digress. The candy box heart nightie was still pretty special.

I think Thompson’s also sold children’s shoes–Buster Brown if I’m not mistaken. What a sensible one-stop shop for a modern action mom on the go–unmentionables and children’s shoes. And there was a dog grooming parlor in the adjacent shop, so you could also drop off your poodle for a bath and a fluff while you shopped for lingerie with espièglerie.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a photo anywhere–which, if you remember this place, is a crying shame.

When we were old enough to be out on our own and brave enough to think of such a thing, a friend and I went into the store on a lark. The salesladies looked like they had worked there since the 60’s and they were delightful. They were sweet, they wanted to show us every piece of the inventory, did we want something special, we should absolutely feel free to try on a much as we liked. Although they looked like they were all grandmothers, no one batted an eye when a woman walked in an the first words out of her mouth were “Do y’all still have crotchless panties?” Someone went to the stockroom to get a pair for her and this woman turned to us and said, “My old man just loves these–if you’ve never tried them, you should!” leaving us naive school girls from south Charlotte wide-eyed, slack jawed, and intrigued. For the record, we left empty-handed, which really was too bad as anything from that store would surely be a museum piece these days.

Does anyone else remember Thompson’s or have a story about having shopped there?It was so not-Charlotte and it would still be so not-Charlotte. Back in the day when Charlotte’s cultural identity was more conservative and churchy, Thompson’s was one of those places that no one liked to talk about although it was right there in your face with its huge display windows on the corner of one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Although still conservative and churchy, these days many residents take great satisfaction in broadcasting their preference for all things “eclectic,” but even for them Thompson’s wouldn’t be posh enough or artsy enough. To have shopped at Thompson’s meant that you were bursting with so much self-confidence, you didn’t give a flip what the rest of the town thought about you and that is very not-Charlotte. Even as the decades roll by Charlotte is more than ever a town that is predicated on conformity and driven by status anxiety. Thompson’s was light years ahead of its time.

from the desk of Paula M. Stathakis
Posted in Back when Charlotte was Interesting, Historic Mecklenburg County, Vanishing Charlotte | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Day in the Life

From The Charlotte Daily Observer, Wednesday February 10, 1897.

Who says nothing ever happens/happened in Charlotte? On this day 114 years ago, it was non-stop activity in the Queen City and environs.

From the Communal Notice section:

A number of flats were washed away by the recent rise in the river

Professor Hanna and his wife have moved to their pretty home on Tenth Street

Mrs. G. Holbrook who died in Mt. Holly was buried on Monday

Manager Gray has reduced the price of admission to The Gay Parisians from $1 to .75

The County Commissioners should take the new court house in hand before it is too late (a new court house was under construction and the consensus at the CDO was that it was ug-lee. This practically reduced the architect, Frank Milburn, to tears and he subsequently wrote a letter to the CDO asking them to stop making fun of his building because it was going to be really nice when it was finished)

You be the judge: was it pretty or not?


In case you’re interested, this was Mecklenburg County’s third courthouse and the only one that had a dome. It has long since been demolished.

Dr. Wilder was called to Mt. Holly yesterday to see someone sick in Abe Brown’s Family (again w/Mt. Holly–apparently this was before the concept of doctor-patient confidentiality)

Mr. and Mrs. George Newcomb moved yesterday to Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Kendrick’s where they will live in future

Mr. E.L. Martin has about finished the repairs to his residence and he and family will move back shortly. Fire drove them out

Rev. Dr. Barron of Tryon Street Baptist Church has been here for a few months and he has conducted nine funerals

Mr. J. S. Cannon who is enjoying the rest and quietude of Lake Wacamaw writes “I feel like I am put out of the world without the Observer. Please send it

The path to learning is at last unobstructed. The Library steps have been cleared of the debris that has lain there since improvements in the building began

Squire Maxwell, who next to fighting Mayor Smith of Matthews, holds more offices than any other man in the county returned to the Temple yesterday after several days of grip, pneumonia, and salivation eeewww

When it rains or when a thaw sets in after a freeze, the sidewalk from Charlotte, Columbia, Augusta crossing to Morehead Avenue or the west side is almost impassable by reason of the water running from the yards that side of the street. The matter could be rectified with very little trouble by the property owners **ahem**

From the society section, or Nature at High Tide: Some of the people who were stemming the currents of sunshine yesterday:

Mr. J.W.D. Laughter and his wife left last night for Clifton, Georgia where they will locate. He is to go into the melon business

Miss Celeste Anderson of Statesville left yesterday for Chester, South Carolina

Dr. Eddleman and niece little Sally Dixon will be home from New York  this week. The child got so homesick they had to bring her home

Stylish cards were received here yesterday reading as follows

Mr. and Mrs Benjamin F. Long

At Home

Thursday evening February the eleventh

Eighteen hundred and ninety seven

From Eight to Twelve

Statesville, North Carolina


Mrs. Ralph Van Landingham is to lead the german Thursday night which insures its success. Miss Beulah Barker, one of Statesville’s prettiest girls will be over to attend. She will be the guest of Misses Carrie and Lottie Maffitt

Mrs. R.L. Gibson entertained at dinner yesterday in her own charming style Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Reese, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carson, Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Carson, adn Miss Addie Williams

And because it was 1897 and it was the south, the Observer also included things like this in the inventory of daily activity:

Will Johnson, colored, who was arrested Saturday night for stealing a pair of shoes from Gilreath’s proved to be an adept. He and two ‘pals’ got three pair at Belk Bros Saturday night. The shoes were recovered and the darkies sent to jail.

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Enough Already

Southern Muses has returned from a sabbatical during which we wrote a book or something and we’ve spent most of our time since mid-January recovering from the experience. And then this happened.

Which by the way –I think this is great stuff for Charlotte–personally I’m tickled pink.

Then this happened and now I feel I must peel myself from the sofa and wade through the sea of Krispy Kreme boxes to weigh in on a subject that has already received far too much attention.

Continue reading

Posted in Charlotte NC, DNC, DNC Charlotte 2012, Michelle Obama & NC Barbecue | 1 Comment

Christmas Edition: White Christmas Part II

pigeons in the dogwood

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Christmas Edition: Christmases Past

Christmas Day 1776

The waning months of 1776 were not pretty ones for the Continental Army. Things began to go seriously downhill in November.

Fort Washington, situated on a bluff high above the Hudson River on the northwestern end of Manhattan Island and its sister Fort Lee across the river on the New Jersey palisades were supposed to secure the lower Hudson. And they probably would have had their defenses not been compromised by a deserter named William Demont who gave the plans for Fort Washington to the British. With this critical information to hand the British seized Fort Washington on November 16, 1776. Four days later, the British arrived at Fort Lee to find it abandoned. Major General Nathaniel Greene had ordered its evacuation and pushed the remainder of his troops towards Hackensack, New Jersey where he intended to join Washington’s forces. Once in the empty fort, the British helped themselves to the valuable stores of food, artillery, and ammunition that had to be left behind.

Washington watching the capture of Fort Washington from Fort Lee

The loss of these forts was a disaster for the patriot cause and for Washington personally. There were many in the Continental Congress who routinely questioned the wisdom of putting him in charge of the Continental Army and these events only served to further erode what support he had left. After his defeat at White Plains, Washington seriously considered abandoning Fort Washington, Greene convinced him the post was essential and that he could hold it securely.

But by December George Washington was in a frantic retreat into New Jersey. Prospects were bleak. The Continental Army was poorly supplied, ill fed, and scarcely clothed. More than 2000 militia men from Maryland and New Jersey were at the end of their term of enlistment and they left for home. Morale was at an all time low. Washington’s plea to General Charles Lee for reinforcement fell on deaf ears. Lee wanted Washington’s job, and the sooner Washington imploded, the better.

On December 11, the rag-tag army scrambled onto any boat they could find, and destroyed those they couldn’t use, to cross the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Allegedly, as the British forces got to Trenton, they saw the last of the Continental forces rowing away. In an ironic twist, General Lee belatedly arrived in New Jersey, to help Washington on December 13, but was captured at Basking Ridge. John Sullivan assumed command of Lee’s troops and took them to Pennsylvania to meet with Washington.

By now, everyone in the general vicinity was in retreat, including the Continental Congress, which was in session in Philadelphia. They packed their bags and reconvened in Baltimore for a few weeks. The British forces, thinking the possibility of further rebellion or uprising was unlikely in the harsh winter months decided to hunker down for the season. They would secure the areas they already occupied and believed Washington and the Continental Army to be sufficiently crippled as to be of little consequence for the time being. Washington was unaware of these plans until late December.

But new things came to light by late December.  Two of Washington’s scouts captured a person of interest, probably a British spy, on the outskirts of Trenton. This person, John Honeyman, was definitely a spy, but he was one of Washington’s spies. Honeyman was a Scots-Irish weaver who had been conscripted into the British forces during the French and Indian War. When the hostilities ended he remained in America, married, and settled in Griggstown,New Jersey. As tensions escalated between the American colonists and the British government, his sentiments fell decidedly on the American side. He used his accent and his lowly, unobtrusive social position to the advantage of the patriot cause. He roamed quietly through Trenton gathering intelligence that he presented to Washington on December 22, the day of his capture. Washington insisted on a private meeting with Honeyman, who informed him Cornwallis had called off the British advance, that British forces were settling into their winter encampments, and New Jersey was occupied by Hessians under the command of Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall.

Rall was comfortably ensconced in Trenton and gearing up for lush Christmas festivities. Rall disdained the Continental Army as an “army of farmers” and did not bother to build fortifications around Trenton as he thought they were hardly necessary. Washington had not only been routed but forced to retreat, what was left of his army was shattered and starving. The last thing he was worried about was an attack from the rebel forces.

Honeyman’s information corresponded to other intelligence Washington had gathered. Knowing the British and the Hessians were off their guard, he decided to attack Trenton. Although the circumstances were, at best, awful, Washington needed a victory to raise morale and his sagging prestige. At the rate he was loosing soldiers, he also knew if he didn’t attack in December, he probably wouldn’t have a chance to try again at a later date.

On Christmas night 1776, the American forces re-crossed the Delaware River for what was supposed to be a 3 pronged attack on the forces in New Jersey. The weather was, of course, bad. The river was littered with chunks of ice. The boats were overloaded. We can say navigation was difficult, between the driving sleet and snow, the heavy boats, and ice floes, but that would be an understatement.

One segment never arrived at the destination. Another group arrived, but their supplies did not arrive with them, so they returned to camp. Only one contingent of three arrived ready to do business. Washington intended to strike before dawn but he wasn’t in place until 8:00 AM on December 26.

Loyalist observers had seen Washington’s advance and sent a note to Colonel Rall to warn him, but Rall was busy with Christmas dinner and put the note in his pocket where it remained unread. Rall was also placated by news from John Honeyman, who had “escaped” from Washington’s clutches. Honeyman told Rall the rebel forces were in such shambles that they were on the verge of mutiny.

By the time the Continental Army opened fire, Rall and most of the rest of the Hessian garrison were sleeping. The troops led by Nathaniel Greene and John Sullivan were able to get the upper hand before the Hessians could react.

Rall was mortally wounded and died shortly after the attack started. The crumpled unread note of warning was found in his pocket. The Hessian forces were left with no alternative but surrender.

Washington’s stunning victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776 was the first instance his troops defeated a regular army in the field. The Continental troops only lost two men, both of them from exposure. The Hessians suffered approximately 100 casualties and 900 others were taken as prisoners, and others are thought to have disappeared into the landscape. The Continental Army refurbished itself with six cannon, forty horses, and sundry other useful supplies the Hessians had on hand.

Thanks to this victory, Washington’s command was now secure and legitimate. The army had regained prestige and recruitment dramatically increased following the Battle of Trenton.

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Christmas Edition: White Christmas

For the entire week leading up to Christmas, all we heard about was the rare promise of  a White Christmas. The last time this happened around here was in 1947. The impending snow storm was all the weather forecasters could talk about. Because they wouldn’t let the topic go, it was all we began to talk about. “Are you on the road Christmas Day? Well, be careful–we’re supposed to get bad weather,” or “they’re predicting snow this weekend so stay so stay out of the grocery store if you can,” and  etc.

As the experts tweaked the forecast, we were assured it would not snow Christmas Eve, only on Christmas Day, and we might only get an inch, which is enough to make it count but not enough to cover anything decently. We all went to bed thinking, “ho hum, snow on Christmas, like that’s going to happen,” and we were vindicated on Christmas morning when we looked out of the window to see cloudy skies, but not a snowflake in sight. Off and on during day someone would have to say, “Where’s all that snow we’ve been hearing about?”

It started to rain about 8:00 PM. Folks wandered to the windows or the patios just to look and  occasional reports from anxious children, smokers en route to their outdoor exile, or the tipsy who were milling aimlessly around the house, drifted in announcing they could see a few snowflakes mixed in with the rain, and then they could see more, until it was clear it was finally really snowing. It didn’t look like it wanted to stick to anything, but it was snowing, and it was still Christmas day, so it could still count for something, maybe, if it kept at it.

By 10:00 PM there was a small accumulation and you could definitely say Charlotte had its White Christmas although it was too dark to appreciate it very much. By 11ish the snowflakes were little and wispy. This was probably the end of it.

Apparently not–

I bring you the Christmas Snow of 2010.

Happy 2nd day of Christmas

from the desk of  PMS
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Christmas Edition: Christmas Eve

We have arrived at the eleventh hour.

It’s Christmas Eve.

It’s beyond do or die time.

This is my favorite day of the year, because at some point you have to admit the rush is over. Christmas is coming whether you like it or not, whether you’re ready or not. It’s coming, you can’t stop it, and you may as well give in. The day doesn’t belong to you anymore.

At some point on Christmas Eve day or early Christmas Eve, I hope you can sense the quiet as the day winds down. At some point the madness stops, or it should, and there is a peace where there was chaos, serenity where there was craziness.

Enjoy the quiet and welcome the holiday with open arms.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Southern Muses


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