Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What would be worth fighting for today?

I absolutely love how Our State magazine republishes and re-posts some of its past articles. Even for a Carolinaphile* like myself, I'm constantly learning new things. For instance, earlier this week, Our State promoted a 2016 article by the great Philip Gerard on an interesting footnote of history, something he called The Great Oyster War.

Now, it wasn't exactly a full-scale war. More of a "skirmish," if anything. Writes Gerard:
As wars go, it was a minor affair, pitting a few hundred off-islanders against a small, determined band of about 40 Ocracokers. But the stakes were as high as they get: control of precious watery territory, defense of a community’s livelihood, and the preservation of an endangered fishery.

It began with a government survey, quickly escalated into piracy and an attempted murder in broad daylight on the streets of New Bern — and ended as a footnote in history, most recently recorded in the Ocracoke Island Journal.

Please read the rest of this fascinating story. It's a great snapshot into how folks react when their livelihood is threatened. Also, how does one become the modern Oyster Commissioner? I totally want that gig.

But this got me thinking: is there a modern equivalent of something that would lead Tar Heels to stand their ground and take up arms against outsiders who are infringing on a way of life?

My first inclination was over barbecue, but even within the state there is a passionate yet respectful rivalry that is East-West centered rather than North-South. (It's a very civil Civil War, if you will. Plus, we all can agree that Eastern or Lexington is superior to South Carolina 'cue.)

Here are some other topics that could lead to an uprising, in no particular order:
  • Taking away our "First in Flight" designation. (Looking at you, Ohio.)
  • Federal mandate that bans The Shag as being "too risque"
  • The Quebecois coming down to take our hockey team
  • A "reboot" of the "Andy Griffith Show"
  • Moving the ACC Tournament to some northern place like New York City. (Oh, wait ....)

What else?

*I may have just made up a term. 

Image courtesy of Carolinafishmarket.com

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Latest class of N.C. Sports Hall of Fame announced

The Old North State has produced its fair share of superstars in the sporting world. And some more folks are about to be recognized for their contributions.

The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame recently announced the 2018 class of inductees. This year's class includes people involved in sports as diverse as baseball, golf, tennis, volleyball -- and even speedskating - though this year's class skews to baseball.

“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich North Carolina’s remarkable sports heritage, and the individuals have certainly earned the honor of joining the 336 men and women who have been previously enshrined,” said Nora Lynn Finch, president of the Hall. “This is our 55th class, and we look forward to celebrating this special time in our state’s sports history."

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article193709249.html#storylink=cpy

Here, courtesy of the N&O, is a bit more about this year's inductees, who will be enshrined on May 4 in Raleigh:

DONNA ANDREWS: An outstanding golfer, Andrews won a major title on the LPGA Tour and five other tournaments during her time on the tour from 1990 to 2005. She finished in the top 10 in money earned in a season three times. The Lynchburg, Va., native is now a teaching pro in Pinehurst.

SCOTT BANKHEAD: Bankhead, an All-American pitcher at North Carolina, had a 10-year major league career, including six with the Seattle Mariners, with whom he won 14 games in 1989. The Raleigh native and Asheboro resident produced two of the best seasons in Tar Heel history.

HAL “SKINNY” BROWN *: Brown pitched for six teams in his major league career, which spanned from 1951 to 1964. His best season came in 1960 with the Orioles. Baltimore battled the Yankees all summer for first place in the American League race before finishing second. Brown, born in Greensboro, went 12-5 with a 3.06 ERA that season.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article193709249.html#storylink=cpy

CHRIS CAMMACK*: Almost 50 years after graduation, Cammack still ranks as one of N.C. State’s best all-around baseball players. The Fayetteville native starred at third base for four years, earning all-ACC honors four times and set the Wolfpack record for single-season batting average with a .429 mark in 1969. He was also a point guard on a state championship high school basketball team at Fayetteville High.

JOEY CHEEK: Cheek, a Greensboro native, has won three Olympic medals in speed skating. He began as an inline skater as a teen before switching to speed skating. He won medals in the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games. He is also a well-known humanitarian, co-founding Team Darfur, an international association of athletes devoted to raising awareness of humanitarian crises related to the war in Darfur.

WES CHESSON: Chesson, a native of Edenton, played for former Duke star Jerry McGee in high school at Holmes High and then went on to Duke himself. He was a star receiver and punter for the Blue Devils in the late 1960s. By the time he graduated, he was the leading receiver in ACC history and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.

LAURA DUPONT *: A native of Louisville, Ky., Dupont moved to Charlotte as a teenager and quickly dominated the state’s junior tennis tournaments. She attended North Carolina, where she won the pre-NCAA national collegiate championship. After graduation, she joined the WTA Tour, where she was a standout in both singles and doubles.

MINDY BALLOU FITZPATRICK: Fitzpatrick, a native of Sea Level, was a volleyball and basketball standout at West Carteret High School. She went on to become a collegiate basketball star at South Carolina, where she played from 1983-86 and was a three-time All-American. She later became a championship surfer.

BILL HAYES: Hayes spent 27 years as a college head football coach and won 195 games, including stints at N.C. A&T (1988-2002) and Winston-Salem State (1976-87). After his coaching career, he served as athletic director at his alma mater, N.C. Carolina Central, Florida A&M and Winston-Salem State.

JACK HOLLEY*: Holley was an outstanding athlete at New Hanover High School and graduated from Guilford College. He coached 46 years at the high school level, and his football teams won 412 games, which placed him in the top 10 nationally at one time. His stops included Tabor City and two long stints at Wallace-Rose Hill, among others.

PAUL JONES*: Jones, born in Thomasville and a graduate of East Carolina, compiled a brilliant basketball coaching record at Kinston High School. He spent 38 seasons there, from 1957 through ’95, and his teams won 662 games and 18 conference championships along with two N.C. High School Athletic Association state titles and four runner-up finishes. He also coached a team to a state title in baseball.

MIKE MARTIN: Martin has built one of the greatest collegiate baseball programs in the country in his 38 years at Florida State. The Gastonia native has the most wins and the highest winning percentage of any active coach. Under his direction, Florida State has become a fixture in the national polls and NCAA Tournament play.

FRANK “JAKIE” MAY*: A Youngsville native, May had a 14-year major league career. The left-hander pitched for three National League teams between the 1917 and 1932 seasons. He had 72 major league wins, including 15 for Cincinnati in 1927, and finished his career with a 3.88 ERA.

JOE WEST: West was born in Asheville, graduated from Rose High in Greenville and played football at Elon. He is the longest tenured umpire currently working in major league baseball, with over 40 seasons, and prior to his induction in the Hall has worked in six World Series, nine League Championship series and three All-Star games.

FRED WHITFIELD: Whitfield has teamed with Michael Jordan to run the Charlotte Hornets. President and chief operating officer of the franchise, which he joined in 2006, the native of Greensboro graduated from Campbell University and is in that school’s sports Hall of Fame. Thousands of young people in Charlotte have benefited from his civic work over the years.

*Inducted posthumously

Read more here: http://w

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article193709249.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/article193709249.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Finish this sentence: You can't call N.C. home if you haven't ...

This was an actual request I got from a friend the other day.

"Finish this sentence: You can't call North Carolina home if you haven't ..."

My immediate, gut reaction was to answer with a place that you must visit. The next thought was that it has to be somewhere unique to the state.

"Visit Jockeys Ridge," was my answer. (I do think that's a good one.)

My second answer was Grandfather Mountain.

But it's such a good question, and one that's open to all sorts of interpretation. Instead of just focusing on locations, perhaps it's actual ACTIVITIES that are required of North Carolinians in order to earn (or keep) their N.C. ID cards. These could be things like:

Attended an ACC basketball game.

Hiked to the top of Mount Mitchell.

Visited Old Salem.

Hit the slopes.

And so on.

So, what would YOU say is the answer to this great question?

Jockeys Ridge photo from Our State. Grandfather Mountain image from ExploreAsheville.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back when the bright lights hit the lake

Back in high school in Harnett County, I would sometimes here my classmates talk about going to Lake Artesia. For whatever reason -- maybe I wasn't invited (thanks, guys!)? -- I never made it to Lake Artesia. I think, in my mind, I imagined it being a smaller White Lake.

Earlier this week, my mother -- a proud Sampson County native -- talked about Williams Lake and the great musical acts that would play there in the 1950s and '60s. "We would say we were going to a friend's house for the night, but we'd instead go to Williams Lake."

I just had to look up the history of these places -- hot spots that were quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

Like my mother, Michael Parker is a Clinton native. Parker has written about Williams Lake and Lake Artesia. It's pretty remarkable the acts that made the trek down these back roads to play for sometimes up to 700 rural North Carolinians back in the day. (But, to be fair, every North Carolinian was a rural North Carolinian back then.)

Williams Lake was located near Mingo Township, in the northeastern corner of Sampson County, closer to Newton Grove and Dunn than it was to Clinton ...  The club had been drawing teenagers from all over eastern North Carolina since the 1930s, when a pavilion was built on the lake and the swimmers asked the owner, Clayton Williams, to put in a jukebox for jitterbugging. After a hard day in the tobacco and produce fields, which were the primary summer jobs for teenagers back then, a night at Williams Lake was a just reward. But its heyday was in the ’60s, when the shoulders of the country roads leading to the lake were clogged with the cars of kids looking to shag to the music of The Tams, The Drifters, and Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs. ...

Lake Artesia -- or "Amnesia" -- was similar, but different.

The club itself — an A-frame flanked by two wide wings that resembled, inside and out, a rustic lodge — was a good ways off the highway, down a sandy lane dead-ending in a huge field converted into a parking lot. A booth was set up at the highway. They charged by the head. ... During the three or four summers I spent going there, the bigger-name bands — The Tams, The Drifters, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs — seemed to regularly change members. But no one cared if this was the “original” Drifters. We just wanted to get up on the roof or under the boardwalk. We wanted to be young, be foolish, be happy. We wanted to say to the security guards who accused us of climbing into and out of someone’s dank trunk, What kind of fool do you think I am?

 Of course, Parker asks the legitimate question -- the same question any logical person would ask: Why? And how? What was it that led to these small "bodies" of water to attract national touring acts?

It’s a mystery to me now how these two lakes — one of them not much more than a pond — in the middle of the middle of nowhere, both within a half hour of my hometown, drew national talent night after summer night. There must have been money in it, despite the revenue lost to trunk and wood, but surely these bands could have made more in conventional dance clubs in Raleigh or Wilmington, Charlotte or Greensboro, places we small-town, rural kids thought of as big cities.

I’m just happy these places existed, for even though I know one of them only by the aura it left in the memories of its patrons, if it was anything like the one I knew in my teens, it was magical. A sweet drive down back roads, past tobacco barns and head-high corn in field after field as the brutal summer sun finally cast shadows and brought shade. The thrill of entry, legitimate or not. The chance of meeting someone you did not know whom you’d like to get to know better. Most of all, the music, which — after a long day cropping tobacco or packing produce or, if you were lucky enough, basking in a plastic chair overlooking squealing kids splashing about in some swimming pool — took you to the place where music takes you, which has nothing to do with parking lots or ponds. Lovelorn lyrics, tight horn sections, thumpy bass, and chugging rhythm guitar — these sounds are what turn my time there into a field of dreams.

Any first-hand stories from Williams Lake or Lake Artesia you care to share?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We just got a new island, y'all

Nature is a mysterious and beautiful thing. Don't sleep on nature!

Since April, so-called “Shelly Island” has grown from a small sandbar to a full-fledged island in the Outer Banks island group, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Now about a mile long and three football fields wide, it’s right off the coast of Cape Point, a popular surf spot on Hatteras Island. 

Locals are cruising over in rafts to pluck shells from the new island’s sands, Travel + Leisure reports. An inlet with dangerous currents, sharks and stingrays separates Shelly Island from shore, making it dangerous to visit without proper expertise, according to Paul Paris, a research scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Studies Institute.

Monday, May 08, 2017

All over the web: N.C. first-graders spin for a new state symbol

It's not very often that we get to talk about a potential new state symbol. Heck, the last time we addressed it was about a decade ago. (That effort apparently didn't result in the bullfrog being named the state amphibian. But we did gain a state frog a few years ago.) 

But some first-graders in the AVL know that we have been missing out. Students in Miss Patti Evans' class at Dickinson Elementary would like a creepy crawly to be designated that official state spider.

In groups of two, the students studied a dozen of the state’s most common spiders including the trapdoor spider, which hides underground to wait for prey. They also studied the jumping spider and the wolf spider.

The students made posters and compiled facts about each spider. They then voted on their favorites.

The day of the crucial classroom vote, students stood up and talked about their spiders, trying to win over classmates. In the end, the golden silk spider came out on top.

Among the rationale: the spider's bites aren't poisonous, AND they eat mosquitoes. Of course, aren't mosquitoes the state bird? (I keed, I keed.)

Best of luck to the students!

(Apologies for the headline. That was the best I could do with spider puns on a Monday.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Are we losing beach music?

Thanks to the power of social media, some friends and I had a very nice time the other day reminiscing about beach music and the memories that those songs conjure up. Songs like "With This Ring" and "Carolina Girls" and " You're More Than A Number In My Little Red Book" and so on. Beach music is arguably the one style of music that is most synonymous with the Carolinas. The Shag dance itself, some say, originated off the Carolina Beach boardwalk.

For some of the older folks in the discussion, the conversation took them back to times shaggin' in Myrtle Beach or Atlantic Beach. For me, it was more about thinking back to the songs we listened to while spending summer evenings in my grandparents' cottage on Topsail Island and then, later, enjoying concerts at various college events featuring General Johnson and the Chairmen of Board, the Embers and even Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. (My wife and I even learned the Shag for our wedding reception.)

But the discussion also touched on something else: is beach music dying? As one person commented on Facebook, "My big thing is how much all this great stuff has faded into history. The new generation needs to be educated. How about we form a 'Beach Music Revival Society?' "

Thankfully, through conversations like this and through events like the North Hills Beach Music Concert schedule in Raleigh, beach music continues to live on. (The N.C. State University marching band even plays "Hey Baby" in-between the third and fourth quarter of football games, which results in a stadium singalong.) Even some of those same bands continue to tour and perform. But let's do our part to keep it alive. In fact, we've created a Spotify playlist that is open; feel free to add appropriate beach music songs.

In the meantime, enjoy these oldies and (definitely still) goodies.