We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:
We open today’s show with a salute to baseball icon Shoeless Joe Jackson, written by guest author Arlene Marcley. “There are still folks around the Greenville area who knew Joe,” says Marcley, who’s the founder and president of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library in Greenville, SC. “Most of them were kids during the ‘40s, when they learned to bat and throw from the old man who ran the liquor store on Pendleton Street.”
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.
In Appalachia Santa Claus comes the weekend before Thanksgiving. Since 1943, the Santa Special, more commonly known as the Santa Train, has traveled 110 miles through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee to distribute loads of candy, toys and other goodies to eager bystanders, most of whom have made it a family tradition. The train typically passes through more than 30 towns delivering Christmas cheer. Did you see it go by?
Next, listen in on this 2005 interview with Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt of the University of Texas/Austin as she discusses the politics of certain Appalachian foods. “In the South, biscuits and cornbread have a lot to say about food as a path to morality,” Engelhardt says. “Hidden in the choice between cornbread and biscuits is an entire cultural history.”
Before there were interstates, when everyone drove two lane roads at leisurely speeds, Burma Shave signs were posted all over the countryside in farmers’ fields. Five small red signs with white letters, about 100 feet apart, each containing 1 line of a 4 line couplet……and the obligatory 5th sign advertising Burma Shave, a popular shaving cream. Appalachia had them, sure. Appalachia also had a road sign painter for God by the name of Henry Harrison Mayes.
We’ll wrap things up with an appreciation of Ohio hymnist Leila Morris. She wrote about 1500 hymns in all, over a 37 year period. In her lifetime Leila Morris’ songs were translated and sung in Africa, India, China, and Korea. Her best known songs, ‘Nearer, Still Nearer,’ and ‘Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart’ (both penned 1898), and another, ‘Sweet Will of God,’ (1900) can still be found in hymnals today.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Ferrum College Collection at the Blue Ridge Institute, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian harmonica by James Henry ‘Cripp’ Diggs in a 1963 recording of Valleydale Theme.
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.