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.
“We didn’t even know what a union was,” says textile mill worker Christine Galliher in discussing the 1929 plant strike at the North American Rayon Corp. in Johnson City, TN. “We’d never heard tell of a union. But we just decided that we wasn’t going to work for this wage. We just wasn’t going to work for $10.08 a week. But as it happened, there was a carpenter and a union man, John Penix. He called someone that he knew in the labor movement, and they came here and organized, and it was just one big mess.”
On March 25, 1944 Boston banned the novel Strange Fruit. “The boldest indecent passages I have ever seen,” sniffed Boston’s Police Commissioner Thomas F. Sullivan. Author Lillian Smith, for many years director of the Laurel Falls Camp for girls in Clayton, GA, achieved instant national fame as a result. The book centers on the forbidden romance between a white man, Tracy Dean, and a black woman, Nonnie Anderson.
Jackson County, AL has the highest concentration of caves, springs and sinkholes of any county in the United States. Tucked in among the Paint Rock River watershed’s underground splendor is one of Appalachia’s most magnificent canyons, a 150-foot-wide bowl-shaped natural amphitheater that sits between 200-foot-tall limestone walls.
We’ll wrap things up with a brief 1939 profile of one Andy Orville Bozzel and his family, of Appalachia, VA. “He is now in the C.C. Camp and is receiving thirty dollars per month,” says Maude R. Chandler, who wrote this life history for the Works Projects Administration/Virginia Writers’ Project. “Of that amount twenty two is sent home to his parents. He got to go to the C.C. Camp by his mother taking him to the welfare office and asking that he be signed up. Since going to camp he is completely self supporting. He has been there only a short time. I received this information from his mother. His mother told me that she asked him if signed up to go to night school in Camp and he answered, “You know I did for I want more education.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Benny Sparks in a 1977 recording of Wreck of the Old 97.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.