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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Rutherfordton

Posted April 13, 2011

We’re featuring North Carolina towns with the most letters and syllables this week in our Hometown Hello segment. Today’s spotlight is on Rutherfordton.

When I was in the fifth grade a new family moved in on North Anderson Street in Morganton. Wayne Crosby came from upstate New York. His father Stanley had taken a job in the thriving furniture industry of Burke County. I had never heard anyone talk like Wayne before. He enunciated every syllable.

Wayne told me about a family trip to pick up some sewing supplies for his mother Annette. As the two of us were sifting through our baseball card collections Wayne said: “We went to this neat place called Rutherfordton.” He pronounced the city with equal emphasis on each syllable – Ruh-thur-ford-ton.

I was perplexed. I had never heard of this place. “What was the name of it,” I asked. Even more emphatically Wayne accented each syllable.

“Oh, you mean “RUV-ton,” I said. “Wayne, you’ve got the pronunciation all wrong! It’s not whatever you said it was. It’s called “RUV-ton.”

Well, that’s the lazy way Morgantonians called it. Why make it four syllables when two will do?

This may have been the genesis of my broadcasting career. I now realized that there were different dialects and that mine wasn’t necessarily perfect. I began listening to radio broadcasts and mimicked the speech pattern of announcers. People call me a polished journalist today but I admit I will cringe every time I have to say “Rutherfordton!”

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  • dharper22 Apr 16, 2011

    Shortly after moving to Raleigh in 1975 I was driving east and came to Pinetops. Nice name. Shortly we came to Conetoe. I said someone had a sense of humor...Pinetops and the Cone-toe. My passenger, a native, laughed and said "it's Con-E-tow."

  • 4Cats Apr 14, 2011

    ginlee00 - LOL I'm the same way! We used to go to FAR City all the time, especially at Christmas to see the light displays.

  • moppie Apr 14, 2011

    I'm from Topsail Beach, where all the locals say "Topsul", Burgaw is "Brgaw", Clinton is "Clinnon", and Wilmington is "Wilmton". I came to Raleigh in 1991 for school, and it's amazing how much it's changed since then. It's sad that we don't hear the "native tongue" spoken a lot anymore. I was at my children's PTA meeting a few weeks ago and they asked for a show of hands of who was FROM this area. Out of 100+ parents, only 8 of us raised our hands!

  • butterpie Apr 13, 2011

    My step father, who is now 92, grew up in Forest City, and recently he took me on a tour of the town and gave me some history. Like it was originally called Burnt Chimney. And there's a corner there called Greasy Corner, and no one knows why. He showed me the warehouse where food was given out during the depression. It's really nice to hear about those towns from people who lived there so long ago.

  • butterpie Apr 13, 2011

    We used to visit that area when I was young to see family. We would also go to Churvill (Cherryville) and Linkurn (Lincolnton.) It's so nice to hear those accents. After living in Raleigh for years and years, it saddens me to think I've lost so much of the western NC sound.

  • eyesblue Apr 13, 2011

    Perhaps your blog needs to do more to build NC awareness. I enjoy hearing about places in the state where I might not have visited...learning new things about those places, things to do there, history, etc. It's a real shame when someone uses be "from eastern NC" as an excuse for never having heard of a place in some other part of the state.

  • Wheelman Apr 13, 2011

    I grew up in Wilson. Back then the locals pronounced it "Woolson". Not sure if they still do. Left there about 40 years ago and have only returned a few times.

  • westoflyra Apr 13, 2011

    I'm not sure I've even heard of Rutherfordton. Forgive me, I'm from eastern NC, lol.

  • ginlee00 Apr 13, 2011

    I grew up in Rutherford County. I was in high school before I realized that the neighboring town was "FOREST CITY" not "FAR CITY"

  • ziradog Apr 13, 2011

    One of North Carolina's finest mountain dulcimer makers lives in Rutherfordton, & teaches wood working at the high school. His name is Richard Beard. He also makes fine guitars in his shop. Check him out next time you are up there.

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