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 the story of Zelda Fitzgerald’s final years. Late on the night of March 10, 1948, a fire started in a kitchen of the main building of Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Spreading rapidly through a dumbwaiter shaft, flames reached every floor, and, in spite of efforts by hospital staff and local fire fighters to evacuate everyone from the building, nine patients died. Among the victims of the fire, identified only by her slipper, was Zelda Fitzgerald.
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.
“As rich as we are as West Virginians in our natural resources, it is indeed lamentable to relate that more than eighty per cent of our fuel and raw material is utilized outside the state,” said the newly elected governor Henry D. Hatfield in his inaugural address, delivered on March 14, 1913. “If this condition is left unchecked, what will be the ultimate result to the state and its citizens? What are we going to do? Are we to permit this injustice to go on without any restraint until it is too late? I wish to say that if my efforts can accomplish anything, these conditions shall not endure.”
Fans like the Smoky Mountain Railroad because it is short, completely independent (in more ways than one), and sticks staunchly to steam power—represented by three extraordinary locomotives, the like of which there is not anywhere else. They like also its galloping rails, which are rough enough to thrill but not sufficiently out of line or surface to derail more than once a trip.
Next, we’ll hear a leg stretcher of a yarn from one Fess Whitaker, of Letcher County, KY. Whitaker had been elected county jailer in 1917 and decided to run for county judge in 1921. But while on the campaign trail he got caught up in a street fight, a disturbance of the peace that led to his incarceration in the very jail he supervised, and earned him the nickname “The Jailed Jailer.” While imprisoned, Whitaker continued his campaign and was eventually elected.
We’ll wrap things up with a look at Zane Grey, who is rightly known today as the “Father of the Adult Western.” The author wrote more than 80 books, featuring rich western imagery and highly romanticized plots with often pointed moral overtones. He’s the best-selling Western author of all time, and for most of the teens, 20s, and 30s, had a least one novel in the top ten every year, inspiring scores of imitators.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Blue Ridge Institute Archives at Ferrum College, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by the Dixie Playboys in a 1941 recording of Oh, Dem Golden Slippers.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.