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 the story of Kentucky born Baseball Hall of Famer Earle Combs. As a ballplayer nothing about Earle Bryan Combs was commonplace except his throwing arm; that seemed ordinary only because he shared the Yankee outfield with Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth, both exceptional and accurate throwers. Combs was a dangerous hitter, a fleet, graceful outfielder, and the best leadoff man baseball had yet seen. In the annals of “Murderer’s Row” he is celebrated as first in line of that wrecking crew.
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.
Before the video game, before television, the marble-take-marble world of commies, steelies, aggies and glassies kept children hunkered in the dirt and out of trouble. Marbles games like potsies and chasies flourished in many a Depression era schoolyard nationwide. With the glass marble’s rise to predominance, America truly became the marble-making capital of the world. By the first half of the twentieth century, great West Virginia companies like Peltier, Alley, and Marble King began to work their wizardry in glass.
America’s most sociable bird has been getting ready to pack up and head south for the winter the last couple of weeks. That would be the purple martin (Progne subis), a bird whose usefulness was already recognized in Appalachia by the early Cherokees, who hung bottle gourds horizontally on long poles to attract them. Not only did the birds eat prodigious amounts of insects, but they also drove crows away from cornfields and vultures away from meat and hides hung out to dry.
Her schools earned plaudits from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt. The Boys Industrial School motivated communities throughout the South to begin educating their young people in earnest, blazing a trail for the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical school in each of Georgia’s congressional districts. As a result of her 40 years of work in education, Martha Berry (1866-1942) is among Georgia’s most prominent women of the first half of the 20th century.
We’ll wrap things up with a short excerpt from a 1978 talk given by Mrs. Mary Chiltoskey to the Western North Carolina Historical Association. In it she describes the ancient Cherokee sport of chunkey games. “Now anybody could play chunkey: boys, girls, old men, old women, anybody, but usually boys played it. One thing about playing chunkey; you didn’t have to get into any special gear. You didn’t have to have shoes with cleats on them; you didn’t have to have a certain shaped bat or a ball that was a certain size. You just had to have a stick. Any old stick would do.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Library of Congress American Memory Project, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Henry Reed in a 1967 recording of ‘Hop Light Ladies.’
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.