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 right 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 segment from an April 2000 oral history with G. Gordon Bonnyman, who talks about how his father organized Hazard Kentucky’s Blue Diamond Coal mine in 1916. “It was a financial success and it was a successful mine,” Bonnyman recounts. “It fell my lot to wind it up because it worked out and it worked out. I mean it worked back. They retreated the mine.”
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.
Lillian Exum Clement was nominated as a Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s House of Representatives two months before the 19th Amendment, granting the vote to women, was ratified in August 1920. She won the general election in November and, on January 5, 1921, took her seat in Raleigh, becoming the first woman elected to the North Carolina General Assembly.
Next, we’ll walk through the first exhibition of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, held in 1933 in Blacksburg, VA. In the accompanying show catalogue Allen Eaton of the Russell Sage Foundation describes the variety of hearth brooms to be seen in the hall. “This is an indigenous product of the Highlands. I have never seen a home, however humble, in these mountains that did not have at least one fireplace in it,” he says. “The hearth broom is made of broom straw grown at home or in the region, and tied usually with thongs of some native bark. If a handle is attached it is of course of native wood.”
If you’ve ever been through Dalton, GA you’ve probably noticed it bills itself as the bedspread capital of the world. In the early part of the 20th century vacationing families headed towards Florida on US Highway 41 found the roadsides in and around Dalton—‘Peacock Alley’—clustered thick with family stands hawking chenille bedspreads and quilts of all sorts. Big business came rolling in by the late 1930s. Dalton’s B. J. Bandy was reputedly the first man to make $1 million in the bedspread business.
In the summer of 1945, one white executive quietly, secretly, plotted an assault on baseball’s systematic practice of racial discrimination. He knew that baseball was robbing itself of a goldmine of talent when it indulged itself in the evil luxury of racial prejudice. And, being the game’s reigning genius, he knew how to right the wrong: he knew what steps to take and he knew how to dodge the lethal slugs. This man’s name was Branch Rickey. He was the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a storied, old National League ball club. A dramatic race incident from his young manhood in southeast Ohio put him directly on the road that lead to his hiring Jackie Robinson for the Dodgers.
We’ll wrap things up with an article on worm fiddling from the July 23, 1937 edition of the Florence AL Times Daily. “A new industry has sprung up in the Joe Wheeler Lake area,” the paper tells us, “where numerous followers of Izaak Walton spend their time fishing in the fisherman’s paradise created by the TVA.” The writer goes on to explain how worm fiddlers work their magic to get the worms to come up to ground level, where they can then be rounded up and sold to the fishermen.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Vernon Dalhart in a 1928 recording of “My Blue Ridge Mountain Home.”
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.