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 piece by guest author Kevin McGuire, who gives us his insights on the Appalachian folk toy known as the whimmy diddle. McGuire’s website Playful Plans is an extension of his thirty-five-year career as a woodworker and twenty years authoring woodworking project titles. He designs innovative vintage-inspired playthings for young people. His books are currently included in over one thousand library collections in the United States and in many international collections from Iceland to South Africa to Australia.
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.
Charles Howard Hopkins’ family moved to Berea KY in the early years of the 20th century. His father, who was in the oil business, worked many states away for months at a time. And Hopkins’ mother had a kidney condition that was worsening all the time. The young schoolboy found a way through it all by shining in the school spelling bee.
‘Musty’ is one of those old-fashioned words you don’t hear used much anymore. You might on occasion refer to a damp basement that way, and that’s about it. But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the word struck fear in the hearts of mountain folk. We’ll take a look at the connection between musty corn and the disease pellagra.
Actress Tallulah Bankhead was no stranger to politics. As you’ll hear in this next piece, she says “There were Alabama Bankheads in one or another of the houses of Congress for sixty consecutive years.” She uses her considerably barbed wit to skewer candidate Thomas E Dewey in a 1948 political rally speech for Harry Truman.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of how Ruby Falls, inside Lookout Mountain, TN, was discovered by accident. In 1928, Leo Lambert’s construction crew was digging out an opening for an elevator shaft to connect one section of the Lookout Mountain Cave to another when one of the men noticed air rushing up through a small crevice. We’re glad they thought to investigate further.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Frank Hutchison in a 1926 recording of The Train That Carried My Girl From Town.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.