Sunday, June 7, 2015

What Sacrifices Did Your Ancestors Make For You?




On Sept 6, 1934, Labor Day in Honea Path, South Carolina at the local cotton mill workers protested working conditions and supported Labor Unions. When it was over 7 men were dead, one of them was my ancestor, Charles Livingston Rucker. 


Charles was the son of Mary Jane Dixon, my great grandmother, Addie Elizabeth Dixon Edwards sister.  Charles was my grandmother, Nancy Edwards Matherly's first cousin.


In 1934 the General Textile Strike grew to the largest labor strike in American History. The workers at Chiquola Mill, the local cotton mill in Honea Path, circled the mill in protest of unsafe working conditions and low wages.  A fight broke out and shots were fired. The day is known as Bloody Thursday.

Most local history books have recorded very little about the incident and local's kept their mouths shut about what happened that day. Fear, threats and intimidation were used to silence the story. Those that supported the union were fired and kicked out of mill housing or required to never speak of the incident or become involved in union organizing.

 Not one person was ever charged for the murders that tragic day.  Over 10,000 people attended the funerals of the slain men.

Today a monument is erected in the local park in Honea Path, just a mile from the mill to honor those who died that day. The stone is etched with the words "They died for the rights of the working man" and the names of the men who lost their lives standing up for something they believed it.  Charles Livingston Rucker was one of them.  


Do you know what sacrifices your ancestors made for you?


More information about the documentary "The Uprising of 34" can be found at http://www.pbs.org/pov/uprisingof34/film_description.php

Friday, June 5, 2015

Freaky Friday - Walt Disney's Fascination With Death


The story of Walt Disney, for all its wholesome charm, would never earn a G rating. Like many of the brilliant cartoonist’s creations, it is a tale inextricably tied to death and, in Disney’s case, one that starts with a stunning act of animal cruelty — and we don’t mean the slaughter of Bambi’s mother.
It was a lazy, hot Sunday afternoon, and 7-year-old Walter Elias Disney was bored. Spying a big brown owl in an orchard near his family’s Missouri farm, the boy crept up behind the animal and grabbed it. When the frightened creature started to fight and claw, Disney panicked, throwing it to the ground and stomping the life out of it. It was an act that haunted his dreams for years, and that episode and other close encounters with death would mark Disney’s life and his work — and thus the collective imagination of Disney fans across the globe.
There is a persistent, and unsubstantiated, rumor that Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body resides in a vault, waiting to be restored to life when summer returns to Arendelle and modern science triumphs over death. It’s easy to see how the rumor may have been started since, from the beginning of Disney’s career, as chronicled by professor Gary Laderman of Emory University, the American icon had a curious obsession with death. As early as 1929, on the heels of his first big splash with Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie, Disney offered a bizarre follow-up entitled The Skeleton Dance, which opens, not surprisingly, with a terrified owl perched in a tree.
Disney’s creative animations take the dance with death to a whole new level.
Even danse macabre doesn’t do justice to the five-minute short in which animated skeletons cavort in a graveyard, using each other as instruments and pogo sticks. Theater managers were aghast. “What’s he trying to do, ruin us?” one asked Walt’s brother Roy. “You go back and tell Walt. More mice, tell him. More mice!”
But if Disney was in touch with anything as much as his own mortality, it was the sentiments of his audience. The graveyard romp turned out to be a macabre hit, and over the next decades, as America faced economic hardship, war, nuclear annihilation and drastic social change, Disney’s films helped the nation navigate good and evil, vice and virtue. And for most of his early tales, as Laderman observes, “death, or the threat of death, is the motor, the driving force that enlivens each narrative.”
From the evil queen’s desire to kill a beautiful maiden in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), to the wooden puppet in Pinocchio (1940) who must die to be reborn as a real boy, to the fawn in Bambi (1942) witnessing his mother’s (off-screen) murder, the Grim Reaper looms large over many Disney tales. And while death is a fixture in some of the greatest children’s literature, including Grimm’s Fairy Tales — on which several of Disney’s biggest hits were based — Disney’s animations take the dance with death to a whole new level. In the somewhat disturbing “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence in Fantasia (1940), for example, monstrous demons and bare-breasted female ghouls join skeletons and other nocturnal creatures to plot the invasion of a small mountain village.
Disney’s personal encounters with death continued to multiply during that period. As his daughter Diane would later recount, in the early 1930s, a fortune-teller informed the famous animator that he would die at age 35, prompting a burst of productivity from the paranoid Disney, and leading him to avoid funerals for the rest of his life. Perhaps the most scarring incident, however, was the tragic, accidental death of Disney’s mother, Flora. In 1938, following the success of Snow White, Disney bought his parents a home in North Hollywood. Shortly after moving in, they complained of gas fumes coming from the furnace, and Disney promptly dispatched some studio hands to fix it. The furnace was not fixed properly, and Flora died from asphyxiation a few days later.
We will never know exactly how such events influenced Disney’s creative output. But as Laderman is quick to remind us, it is not the presence of death that gives so many Disney films their “mythic power in American culture” — it is the happy ending or redemption for which death so often serves as the conduit. Bambi’s perseverance in the wake of losing his mother, Snow White finding happiness with her prince or Pinocchio with his father — these are the moments that drew generations of fans to Disney’s compelling brand of family fantasy.
In the end, it was lung cancer that brought the dancing skeletons to Disney’s door in 1966. But his death, like those depicted in his films, would be transcended by the millions of lives he touched along the way.

Article by:  Sean Braswell is a Senior Writer at OZY. He has five degrees and writes about history, politics, film, sports, and anything in which he gets to use the word “ennui.”
http://www.ozy.com/ozy-tribe/sean-braswell/1319#biography



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Ancestor Do You Wish You Could Have Met?



What would you ask them?  How would you spend a day together?

For me, more than one person comes to mind but for today I'm choosing my maternal great grandmother, Addie Elizabeth Dixon Edwards. Addie was a remarkable woman. 
Addie and Grissom Edwards  shortly after their marriage in 1897


She had 11 children, 8 of them after she went blind from glaucoma at the young age of 25.  I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for her.  My grandmother, was her oldest daughter and helped her mother to raise all the younger children and did most of the cooking for the family.  She had 8 children she never got to even see but was not an invalid by any means and took a very active role in running her household and raising her family.

Addie was born in Elberton, Georgia in 1880 to James Dixon and Nancy Charles. At the young age of 17 she married my grandfather Grissom Stewart Edwards in 1897.   She spent her entire life in Elberton. After raising 6 sons and 5 daughters and celebrating 58 years of marriage Addie died in 1955.

Addie & Grissom Edwards and all 11 of their children, my grandmother Nancy in the dark dress, about 1940

Addie was a strong and resourceful woman and raised a wonderful family. I was lucky enough to meet many of her children in my younger years.  My grandmother used to tell me that my hands looked just like her mothers, which makes me happy.  
Addie and Grissom Edwards at their 58th Wedding Anniversary Celebration  February 1955.

Who do you wish you could have met?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Harricanes ("hair-uh-cuns") Ain't On No Map

"The Harricanes", pronounced "her-uh-cuns" or "hair-uh-cuns"or some say "hairkins" depending on who you ask, is a real place with a real history.

Even though national prohibition didn't become law until 1920, good ole NC took the lead  in the fight of good vs. evil and was the first southern state to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages 11 years earlier, all the way back in 1909.  Of course," ain't nobody got time for that" and moonshine and liquor stills throughout North Carolina answered the call. Moonshine and North Carolina have a long and sordid history together including the area known as "The Harricanes" which encompassed parts of Wake, Franklin and Granville Counties in North Carolina.


The Harricanes was a place nobody claimed and nobody went to. To this day no one can tell you exactly where it begins and ends. I don't know precisely where it begins and ends but I do know when I'm IN it. If you take Highway 96 west of Youngsville and take a left at Pokomoke and travel west across the Granville County line where the road becomes Bruce Garner Road while you are in Granville County, and stay on that road until it crosses into Wake County where the road name changes to New Light Road then you are IN the Harricanes.  Exactly where it begins and ends north, south, east and west of that is anyone's guess. Some say it runs all the way to Highway 50 to the west and Highway 98  to the south,  and Pokomoke to the east, with the Grissom area of Granville County being just about dead center of the Harricanes. The Harricanes isn't on any map you will find, that's for sure. While you might find folks now that will admit to living there, back in the day  if you asked the folks around there, you would get a different answer each time. That is, IF you got an answer at all.  Most times the answer was "just up the road a ways" and up the road they would tell you it was "back that way" or "just over yonder". Because nobody lived in the Harricanes, or to rephrase that ,nobody SAID they lived there. The Harricanes was always someplace else.  

 The Harricanes had a reputation of being a place full of renegades and secrets. The area then was a well known dangerous place. In Raleigh's backyard, the Harricanes was the slums of  it's time, the "wrong side of the tracks" so to speak even though there were no tracks or boundaries that anyone would claim.  Even without a sign to mark  the Harricane's location anywhere, the invisible "Keep Out" sign was clearly hung.  A place known for moonshine, violence, cock fighting, gambling and late night dirty deals with a few dead bodies here or there, that was "The Harricanes".  Just the stuff that legends are made of except it was all true. Ok, mostly true.  It's been called many things over the years but I  kinda like "The Bermuda Triangle of the Triangle" description the best. 

Only the brave or just plain foolish intentionally went to or even through the Harricanes. You didn't just go for a Sunday drive through the Harricanes. The people of the Harricanes looked out for one another and had each others back. If you crossed one, you crossed them all and revenge was sweet. These folks stuck together. They were resourceful, independent and hard working. Despite what went on in the Harricanes that nobody talked about, they would all be in church come Sunday!

Folks from the Harricanes liked the bad reputation the area had and that bad reputation served a purpose. It kept people out and they liked it that way. The fewer strangers snooping around, the better. The only good reputation the Harricanes had was that some smooth, strong moonshine came from there if you were lucky enough to get your hands on a jar. Even if you heard about moonshine from the Harricanes through the grapevine, it was still only available if you knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody and even then it was doubtful.  Even the Revenue Officers didn't like to venture into the Hurricanes looking for stills. There are a few stories of when they did, rarely successfully.
 
My Mother, Betty Matherly, age 16
My mother was raised in the Harricanes, on Bruce Garner Road and depending on who you talk to about where the Hurricanes was or wasn't located, my father Valton Mitchell, raised on a farm near Pokomoke was too. I remember when none of the red dirt roads were paved and were lined instead with chicken houses, tobacco fields, rock houses and an old country store or two. While no one back then would have dared say it, I'm proud to say "My family comes from The Harricanes". I pronounce it "hair-uh-cuns". 
Back of my Grandparents home on Bruce Garner Road, Granville County, NC, about 1960



These days the Harricanes roads are mostly all paved and the area is full of subdivisions with homeowners who have never heard of "The Harricanes". All these years later nobody still can tell you where the Harricanes is. I'd say they did a pretty good job of preserving their secrets. The legend lives on.




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