We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the left side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here.
We open today’s show with a look at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1939 proclamation changing Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the 3rd Thursday in November. FDR’s break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association to extend the Christmas shopping season by one week. Roosevelt had rejected the association’s similar request in 1933 on the grounds that such change might cause confusion. The 1939 proclamation proved him more right than he probably would have liked.
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
Albert Hash’s custom built instruments can today be found in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum of Bristol. The legendary fiddler was the founder and leader of the well-known White Top Mountain Band. Our next piece is a compilation of articles by his friend Muncy Gaultney, who wrote the My Ashe County Home column in the Ashe County NC newspaper “The Plow” during the 1960s-1980s.
Breaks Interstate Park, located astride the SW Virginia/eastern Kentucky border along the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River, is one of only two interstate parks in the nation. Perhaps the scale of the 5-mile-long, .25-mile-deep gorge that forms the park’s centerpiece cannot rival that of the Grand Canyon, but the 250 million year old “Grand Canyon of the South” IS the largest gorge east of the Mississippi.
Fall means that the persimmons are getting ripe and it’s time to gather the sweet, pulpy fruit. The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a Native American tree in the southeastern United States. Diospyros is from the Greek, and means “fruit of the gods,” and many country people would agree with the meaning. The Algonquin Indians called the fruit “pessamin,” or “pasiminian” and are credited with its common name, and the Cherokee Indians are the ones who first introduced persimmon sweet bread to the Europeans.
Never say never! During World War II while the Army, Navy and Civil Aeronautics Agency were constructing airports for the war effort, attempts were made to have the agencies approve a field in Kanawha County, WV. All requests were turned down because of the large amount of grading that would have to be done. The county then went ahead and undertook the largest grading project on a commercial airport ever attempted.
We’ll wrap things up with an excerpt from “Memoirs of a Western Historian, by B. Dwaine Madsen, a Mormon missionary in the 20s and 30s. “Everyone in the headquarters seemed to pity me for being sent to such a godforsaken place,” he says. “My own feelings at the time were mingled apprehension and anticipation, because East Tennessee District was considered the ‘pits’ of the mission. However, I knew that Kirkham was not trying to ‘punish’ me and chose to regard it instead as a test of my mettle. In retrospect, I’m actively grateful for his decision.” Let’s find out what he learned from his time there.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Ernest Stoneman in a 1928 recording of “On the Banks of the Ohio.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.