Look for us in our new location at newsobserver.com/pasttimes.
Forty years ago this fall, evangelist Billy Graham held an eight-day crusade in Raleigh and attracted his largest North Carolina crowd to date. About 29,000 people filled Carter Stadium (before it was Carter-Finley) for the Sunday night opening. N&O writer David Zucchino described the scene:
From Wilmington and Shelby and Raleigh and Garner they came, decked out in their Sunday best to hear the Gospel as told by the son of a dairy farmer.
They converged on Carter Stadium Sunday night like a tornado, bottling up traffic for miles to get a glimpse of Billy Graham in person.
An N.C. State-Carolina football game couldn’t have drawn a more devoted following. The crusade wasn’t supposed to start until 7:30 p.m., but the stadium was already dotted with picnics, blankets and coolers at 5. By 6, the lower decks were almost packed and folks began to scramble to the upper deck to beat the rush.
About halfway up the top deck, in what would’ve been 5-yard line seats for a football game but not a bad place to watch a religious crusade, sat Linn Wakeford, 14, and Cathy Grimes of Raleigh.
They had arrived before 5 p.m., in plenty of time to save a few rows of seats for 60 members of the St. Giles Presbyterian Church, who still hadn’t shown up. Linn and Cathy said they chose the upper deck because the seats had backs on them. They said they wanted to be comfortable.
Down in the lower deck, across the field from where Graham would be preaching in less than an hour, J.T. Knight of Knightdale was talking about his lack of problems.
“No trouble at all getting here,” he said, pointing out toward Blue Ridge Road. “I came in on 64 East, and the Beltline and hardly even slowed down.”
Knight came to the crusade with his wife and his mother-in-law, Mrs. J.F. Keith of Montreat, Graham’s home. Mrs. Keith said she had heard Graham preach in Montreat in 1955, when she had met his wife.
“They’re real nice people,” she recalled.
Knight agreed. “Every generation has to have an evangelist,” he said. “Graham seems to be the one for this generation. He’s a tremendous Christian, and with his organization and technology, he really comes through. Of course, he just keeps on preaching from a book that’s been talked about for years and years.”
Don Grove of Durham thought Graham did a mighty fine job of spreading organized religion, too. Grove, who sat in the end zone bleachers with his wife, Joan, and their child said Graham reaches a multitude of people that no other man alive could reach.
“Then, too,” he added, “people can come dressed as they are and feel comfortable about it.”
But Grove, like most of the people on hand, was dressed in conventional church clothes. Indeed, the crowd seemed very much a churchgoing group, with business suits and dresses prevalent.
Most were adults – middle-aged and older – accompanied by junior high and high school children. There were comparatively few college students or young adults on hand.
But young or old, they all stood and sang when the chorus opened the night’s festivities and listened intently as Graham’s amplified voice bellowed across the green fields.
Earlier in the evening, however, a man with a crew cut sat quietly with his family on the last row of the lower deck, peering out across the field as if Graham were already speaking.
A friend walked up behind him, ran his knuckles across the top of his companion’s head and asked, “What do you want to go and sit on the back row for?”
“I’m a Baptist,” the man answered. “A true Baptist.” The N&O, 9/24/1973
Earlier in the day, Graham brought his message to the Sunday morning service at Duke Chapel, covered by Ernie Wood:
About 1,500 persons jammed the regular pews, sat on the floor and stood in the doorways of the Duke Chapel. About 200 more overflowed into nearby Page Auditorium and onto the chapel grounds, where loudspeaker systems were set up so worshipers could hear the service inside.
Graham, speaking at Duke for the first time since 1952, refused the university’s regular honorarium, which was given, along with a special offering, to a relief program the Graham organization is running for drought-stricken West Africa.
During the service, a small band of protesters held an “alternative” service on the chapel lawn to protest what they said was Graham’s approval of American policies in Southeast Asia. ...
But the protest seemed to have little effect on the morning service. The N&O 9/24/1973
This week’s “World of Bluegrass” festival is not Raleigh’s first experience hosting the cream of the musical crop. Here in the quaint language of the turn of the (last) century is an account of the first state fiddlers’ convention held in 1905.
It was “Fiddlers’ Day” in Raleigh. High above the shouts of the applauding multitude the catgut and the horse hair in conjunction rolled out sounds of melody while the heel and toe beat sympathetic time.
It was the time of the contest in the North Carolina Fiddlers’ Convention, an organization which had its birth in the fertile brain of Mr. “Buck” Andrews, the jolly president of the city railway, and which, at its first meeting, has fiddled to a glorious success. It was not a violinists’ recital, mind you, but it was an “Old Rosin the Bow” that was so good and so natural that “Buck” Andrews is hereby christened the “Patron Saint of Fiddlers.”
It was intended to have the contest at Pullen Park, but the rain interfered and it was transferred to Pullen Hall at the A. and M. College. Here after half-past 1 o’clock there was a crowd variously estimated at from 800 to 1,000 people, all intent on the fiddling to come and beaming with smiles anticipatory of the real music without frills they were going to hear. While waiting three fiddlers on the rostrum gave some preliminary touches which tuned up the crowd for more and just then it was that “Buck” Andrews, followed by nine other fiddlers, came marching down the center aisle. There was a storm of approving applause; that made “Buck” look as happy as a big sunflower.
The judges were there ready to judge, these being Dr. B. F. Dixon, State Auditor; Hon. John Nichols and Mr. Junius D. Turner, the latter acting in place of State Treasurer Lacy, who was sick at home. An agreement was made to give each fiddler five minutes time, let him play what he wanted to play and how he wanted to play it. In starting the ball to rolling and the fiddlers to fiddle Mr. Andrews asked the crowd to keep quiet and let the fiddlers tune up, as the air was damp.
The fiddlers were the genuine “stuph.” They wore no frills or swallowtail dress coats. There was not a white tie in the bunch, nor were there collars enough to go round. Some had on slick-looking “store clothes,” but the majority were right off the farm with mud on their shoes and their regular every-day clothes. It was fiddling, not clothes, that was in demand, and the plainest of the fiddling bunch wore the greatest applause.
Then the first man was announced, and he pulled his chair up close in front of the committee, all being on the rostrum and the fun began. Fiddler after fiddler fiddled, foot after foot patted time, fiddles were thrust against chests and shoulders and necks and under chins, the fiddle necks were elevated and lowered, the bows swept over the catgut, the crowd yelled and applauded and shouted in its joy and at last the contest was over and the judges went to decide, though the crowd had already made up its mind. It had decided that No. 12, who proved to be Mr. R. C. Page, of Raleigh ... was the winner, and to him it had given a regular ovation of the William Jennings Byan kind as he played, demanding an encore.
But the judges thought different, and when they returned announced that the “Champion Fiddler” was No. 8, Mr. C. E. McCullers, of Raleigh, with a contest for second place between No. 12, Mr. R. C. Page, and No. 9, Mr. J. W. Sauls, of Garner, who must play off the tie. At it they went, Mr. Page playing “Leather Britches” with all his might, while Mr. Sauls tried the “Chapel Hill Serenade.” Still they were tied and Mr. Page was called on to play “the same piece.” He did so, the crowd was aroused and was storm-swept with applause. Up jumped Dr. Dixon, who pulled Mr. Page to his feet and cried out, “Notwithstanding the decision, here stands the best fiddler in North Carolina.” Then the happy crowd shouted some more, for Page was the favorite of the day, though McCullers got the diploma as the “Champion Fiddler,” worth $7.05 in cash, and Page the second “Champion Fiddler” diploma worth $2.05 of wealth, the titles to be defended next year on Labor Day....
So ended the contest, but while the committee was out “making up their minds” the fiddlers by twos gave a concert that won with the sweetness of the real melody given. Applause flowed from the bung hole, there being no spigot in this event.
Then came the committee, and Dr. Dixon delivered the first diploma and the second, saying that a year hence the Fiddlers who held the title of champions first and second would have to defend these against all comers a year hence on Labor Day. The N&O 9/5/1905
Courtesy of Martha Andrews Wing
Billed as the “Battle of the Sexes,” the historic tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place in Houston’s Astrodome 40 years ago this week. The Associated Press and the New York Times News Service covered the match and the spectacle.
From Flatbush to Venezuela, millions of people shed their worries for a while Thursday night to concentrate on a tennis match in Texas. The main ingredient was something as all-American as mom and her apple pie – a good old hustle.
And it fell flat on Bobby Riggs’ face.
Television cameras recorded Billie Jean King’s straight-set smashing of the 55-year-old Riggs, the ultimate hustler who built the $100,000 winner-take-all match into the Battle of the Sexes, which the fairer side won easily.
“I won five bucks from my husband,” said Mrs. Brian Hendricks, a Miami housewife. “He was so upset after the second set he went out and walked the dog.”
For some it was sweet victory in seeing Riggs, the man who believes women belong in the bedroom and kitchen and no place else, futilely chase Mrs. King’s backhands in a heavily populated Astrodome.
“When I get back to Congress I’m going to collect,” said Rep. Bella Abzug, D-N.Y., who said she’d placed bets with some of her colleagues.
Mrs. Abzug and actress Marlo Thomas joined the entire staff of Ms. magazine at a New York party. Feminist Gloria Steinem, a principal editor of Ms., said she sent Riggs a telegram before the match saying it would be “all right to cry” when he lost. Her comments were barely audible over the screaming crowd, which erupted each time Riggs faltered.
ABC, which televised the event, estimated that an average of 48 million persons had watched the 21/2-hour match.
In Venezuela, the only country outside the United States to receive a live telecast, television officials estimated that nearly a million of the country’s 11 million citizens watched.
In an atmosphere more suited for a circus than a sports event, the 29-year-old Mrs. King ended the bizarre saga of the 55-year-old hustler, who had bolted to national prominence with his blunt putdowns of women’s tennis and the role of today’s female.
A crowd of 30,492, some paying as much as $100 a seat, watched the best-three-of-five-set struggle, the largest single attendance ever for a tennis match. Millions more viewed the event on national television.
Even before the first ball was struck, it became evident that this was to be no ordinary tennis event.
Instead of the traditional walk onto the court, the players entered the stadium with the flourish of something out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.
Mrs. King came first on a Cleopatra-style gold litter that was held by four muscular track and field athletes from nearby Rice University and an Astrodome employe. One of the toga-clad carriers was Dave Roberts, one of the world’s finest pole vaulters.
Riggs was transported into the stadium in a gold-wheeled rickshaw pulled by six professional models in tight red and gold outfits who had been dubbed “Bobby’s bosom buddies” during his stay here.
A band, seated behind what would have been home plate for baseball, blared brassy march music while brightly costumed characters from Astroworld frolicked for the large crowd.
Large banners, seldom displayed at staid country clubs where tennis languished as a sport of the classes for much of this century, were sprinkled throughout the stadium. One hand-printed sign on brown meat wrapper-type paper read: “Ochomochoc, Wis. says beat him Billie Jean.”
The King-Riggs match was the first tennis event ever booked in the Astrodome.
“This may be a great place to watch a baseball game,” said Jason Morton, the umpire, “but it’s not exactly ideal for tennis. You can’t get a feel of the match sitting up that high.”
Most important, perhaps for women everywhere, Billie Jean convinced skeptics that a female athlete can survive pressure-filled situations, ...
“I feel this is the culmination of 19 years of tennis for me,” Mrs. King said afterward, excited at her victory yet relieved of the enormous burdens she had seemingly carried on her shoulders in recent weeks. The N&O, 9/21/1973
Courtesy of the N.C. State Archives, J. C. Knowles Collection
The News & Observer 9/16/1963
It seems that every year it gets more expensive to get our kids through school, and it wasn’t any different for families in 1961. Writer Jane Hall introduced N&O readers to the Wallis family as they totaled up the cost of a free public education.
Free public schools?
Any family with a gang of kids knows better. It costs real money to get the youngsters through high school.
No one knows this simple fact of life better than the J. B. Wallis family.... The family moved here form Florida in 1951. They have seven children, ranging in age from three to 16 years old.
Four are in the Raleigh Public Schools this year. A fifth enters in September. Two more young Wallises will enter in 1962 and 1963, respectively.
It costs the Wallises a minimum of $447.50 per year to keep four youngsters in school....
The $447.50 figure includes school lunches and bus fare twice daily, items of expense not directly attributable to the schools but necessary, nevertheless.
Grammar grade costs are lowest. The Wallises pay $84.50 per year each for Jimmy, a fifth grader, and Ann, a third grader, both at Myrtle Underwood School.
During the 36 weeks that school keeps each year, Jimmy and Ann spend $72 for twice-daily bus fare, five days a week; $90 for 25-cent lunches daily; and $7 for book fees.
The cost increases in junior high.
For Dick Wallis, 12, a seventh grader at Daniels Junior High, his parents pay a minimum of $131.50. A breakdown for Dick shows:
Four dollars, book and supply fee; 50 cents, towel fee for gym; $1 locker fee (50 cents is refunded at the end of the year if the lock is returned); lunches, $90; and $36 bus fare....
Beginning in junior high, shop training, home economics and art courses are offered.
The basic materials are supplied by the schools but if a student makes something for himself -- and what student doesn’t? -- he must pay for the materials himself....
Dick is not taking any of these courses this year but he does take music. He plays the trumpet and owns his own horn. the classes are free, and he only has to pay a small fee for sheet music.
The cost increases again in senior high.
The Wallises pay a minimum of $147 for Jack, 16-year-old 11th grader at Broughton High. A breakdown for Jack shows:
Book fee $8; locker, $1.25 per year; towel fee for gym $2; lunches, $90; bus fare, $36; student activities’ ticket, $4; annual $4.50; school newspaper, $1.25....
The last three expenditures are not required but it poses some difficulty for a student to get along without them.
Food costs also go up as the student progresses. In the grammar grades students may buy only the 25-cent lunch, which includes milk. In junior and senior high school, students may choose what and how much they eat.
Although clothes are not figured in the over-all minimum costs, they are an additional expense.
"Once they’re in junior high you begin to feel it,” Mrs. Wallis said. "It takes more clothes for them. We try to save all summer so that we can pay the clothes bill when the children enter school in September."
Her husband added, "We try to make out for a little less than $300 to get the whole bunch ready for school in September but we usually spend more than that.”
The boys present the clothes problem, according to Mrs. Wallis. They wear out and outgrow their clothes. Consequently, there are few, if any, hand-me-downs.
The cost of boys’ clothes increases as they grow older. By the time a boy reaches high school, his clothes will cost almost as much as his father’s. At a minimum, the Wallises will spend $75 each to get Jack and Dick ready for school in September.
Jimmy, an Underwood student, is still in the T-shirt and dungaree stage. Hence, his clothes cost will be much less, approximately $40.
"Ann is not much of a problem," Mrs. Wallis said,” because I sew for her. Besides, girls aren’t so hard on their clothes. They can pass things on to one another."
Gym clothes are another school item not figured in the overall minimum total. Bermuda shorts and shirts are needed for gym classes, beginning in the seventh grade.
According to school officials, student may wear any Bermuda shorts and shirts which they own. Teen-age custom, however, requires students in the 8th grade and above to wear white shorts and shirts for gym. The type which teenagers wear cost about $1 each, according to Mrs. Wallis. Tennis shoes for boys run about $6 a pair....
Any other high school expense is voluntary but frequently necessary. For instance, if a student participates in club activities, it will cost something. ...
Broughton’s two major social events require extra money, especially for boys.
They’re the Queen of Hearts ball, which is school-wide, and the junior-senior prom which is limited to the two classes. The juniors pay for the prom.
If a boy takes a girl to either function -- and they all do now, Mrs. Wallis said -- he sends her a corsage which costs about $5. The boy also has to have $2 or $3 in his pocket "just in case."
Still another item in school costs is the PTA. Dues are $1 per year. Membership is not required, but most parents belong. "I’m a member of the Broughton, Daniels and Underwood PTAs," Mrs. Wallis remarked, "And I have to pay dues to all three. That irks me. I think one membership should cover all....
"What is even more irritating is that in each school the PTA has a special day for a drive among parents for contributions to meet the PTA budget. At Broughton, parents may donate whatever they wish but at Daniels and Underwood they ask for $2 per child.
"Parents have the privilege of saying no but it can be difficult, as the drive is for 100 per cent parent participation. The notices are sent home by the children and a child can be made to feel it if his parents don’t conform." -- The News & Observer 5/7/1961
Photos courtesy of N.C. State Archives. Duplin County Schools
Every once in a while, street crews will uncover remnants of the old Raleigh streetcar system. Streetcar tracks were in use here until 1933. By the summer of 1938, streetcars across North Carolina had pretty much become a thing of the past.
The streetcar, once pulled by a horse but in more modern times propelled by electricity, is making its last stand.
Set for hearing before the Utilities Commission ... are joint applications for authority to install busses in the last two North Carolina towns using streetcars -- Salisbury and Spencer, which are served by one street car system.
Since the applicants are the towns themselves and the Duke Power Company, operator of the two systems, no opposition is expected and the application probably will be granted.
R. O. Self, chief clerk of the State Utilities Commission, said that at one time streetcar systems were operated in 12 other cities -- Winston-Salem, Durham, Raleigh, Wilmington, Goldsboro, New Bern and Burlington.
Then, about 1932, the streetcar began to slip. First city to use busses was Durham, Self said, and at about the same time Asheville began to supplement with busses, which were used as new developments sprang up.
Following that, city after city discarded their clanking, bell-ringing streetcars and installed bus systems.
Now, like bones of a dead monster, the tracks of the old lines lie under city pavement, for the companies considered it not worth the trouble and expense to take up their tracks.
The automobile really killed the streetcar -- that, and the expense of equipment and track laying.
Of course it didn’t cost much to operate the vehicles when they were horse-drawn and could travel over wooden rails, and there was no pavement problem to bother operators.
But about 1900 electricity began to replace old Dobbin; cities began to cover mud holes and dust with pavement; and soon automobiles began to appear.
Few realized it, but there were the beginnings of the streetcar’s slow passing.
Equipment became more costly; streetcar companies had to bear part of the paving expenses; and then the automobile began to muscle in on the transportation business.
Once the slipping began, it continued. Self said that companies lowered rates, which in some places were seven cents per passenger, but no fare adjustments brought back the lost business.
The streetcar had never made profits remarkable for their great size.
"There was a time when streetcars more than paid expenses," Self said. "but that kind of business was never very lucrative."
However, neither have busses made high profits, Self said, mainly because depreciation of a motor vehicle operated all day is high. The N&O 6/5/1938
As the last of the state’s streetcars were retired, Pittman Stell, a Wake County surveyor recalled he drove Raleigh’s first streetcar on Christmas Eve in 1886.
"The next day... we drove all over town promiscously so that people could see the new car. A Negro boy, Joe Penny, helped me handle the two mules furnishing our power.
"Before long we had six cars, each driven by a pair of mules. We had 75 mules in all because we would drive a pair two hours and then swap for fresh ones.
"The mules all had bells on their harness, and folks said they could hear the bells tinkling a block away and run to meet the street car. Our main junction was the State Capitol.
"Our three main routes were down Fayetteville, Martin and Hillsboro streets. We specialized in carrying train passengers to and from the depot.
"We ran on tracks, but the mud would get os deep sometimes that we’d have to shovel it up in piles to each side so we could go through. The front and the back of our cars were just the same. To shift directions all we had to do was unhitch mules from one end and hitch them up at the other.
"Whenever there was a night show at the old Metropolitan Opera House, where Montgomery Ward’s is now located, all six of the street cars would line up in front, three facing one way and three the other. As soon as the show was over, we would load up with passengers, cluck to the mules and check out." The N&O 9/5/1938
Photo by Carolina Power & Light, courtesy of N.C. State Archives
As students settle into their routines this week, we take a look back at the state’s school children of the Depression and efforts by the Works Progress Administration to see they all had a healthy lunch.
Twenty-two million hot lunches have been prepared and served by WPA workers in child cafeterias in North Carolina during the past four years. No, Child’s restaurant chain doesn't operate in the State, nor is this a plug for those famous cafes; nor would women be eligible for work relief were they employed by a private concern.
These are hot school lunches for underprivileged children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their mid-day meal. School officials have repeatedly shown that for hundreds of the 72,578 children to whom these lunches are given, it is the only hot food for the entire day. So many children have been protected from "studying on an empty stomach" or staying away from school. Children by the hundreds who are very undernourished are given food as soon as they reach school in addition to the noontime meal.
In 90 counties, the project has been maintained in 706 schools. In keeping with the astrological number in lunches, the cost totaled at the end of the 1938-39 school semesters, $1,058,514 including $405,047 in sponsors’ funds for the school lunch program alone....
The repasts, prepared by the WPA project, supply a balanced diet. The menus are suggested in bulletins arranged by a dietician. Good food eagerly consumed by hungry young bodies gives those bodies a better chance to maintain health, gives a better attitude towards school, towards life. All portends a better future citizenry of the State.
Cleanliness and sanitary practices are rigidly enforced in kitchens and dining rooms. Moreover, the service is carried out under conditions which children would encounter in the world outside. Table etiquette is taught.
Another psychological factor is that the free lunches are served right along in the rooms where children of more fortunate parents pay for their meals. The real point is that no distinction is made and no child knows the status of any other’s meal ticket.
This project is sponsored by the several city, town and county school boards for the reason that there were (and are) so many hungry children thronging public schools. There also were many needy women, economic family heads, seeking WPA jobs whose only previous work experience had been as housewives. With little training, these women were qualified to cook and serve food. Thus, the reasons for the enterprise.
Foodstuffs are donated by sponsors with one exception. Correlated now as a project section is the WPA gardening and canning programs, conducted in 86 counties.
On the combined project, 1,150 persons, mostly women, have earned their livings by work. All of these have obtained health certificates after a rigorous food-handlers health examination.
The educational institutions are closed during summer months. Most housewives selected for the work knew how or have been taught to can, preserve and tend a garden. So, they, with others, are now assigned to that section.
The other WPA workers knew how to till the soil but they had no land to tend. Their labors are directed towards growing and harvesting vegetables. They are now reaping the butterbeans, tomatoes, potatoes, okra, corn, field peas, "greens" for summer canning.
Soup mixes and separate vegetables are being sealed in cans; corn, beans, field peas dried. During winter, this nutriment will be used in hot school lunches.
Modern, effective, sanitary processes are employed in preserving food. Screened canneries house the steam pressure cookers, the "hot water baths," the rooms where the vegetables are conditioned for their roundabout trip to young stomachs.
The project isn't satisfied with summer-grown produce alone. Winter gardens are cultivated all over the state so that fresh vegetables, too, may find their way to the school lunch tables. The winter crop depends upon the section. Potatoes, carrots, beets are "hilled;" cabbages, spinach, collards and mustard greens flourish during late fall, spring, and much of the winter. The News & Observer 8/13/1939
Photo source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Driving through Johnson City TN, one of the routes you might take includes a road called State of Franklin. It turns out that State of Franklin was a real state (though never formally recognized), and Jonesborough was its capital. On this date in 1784, the state of Franklin declared its independence from North Carolina.
Although it lasted only a few short years, the State of Franklin lives on in historical fiction, including a brief mentions in novels by Lee Smith and Charles Frzier. More information about the State of Franklin and what became of it can be found on the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources blog This Day in North Carolina History.
Photo source: Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee