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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Motor-Coaching through NC

Posted August 3, 2009 11:52 a.m. EDT

A good friend at NC State University dropped off a most interesting magazine this morning. Tim Luckadoo brought me the May, 1926 edition of National Geographic. The cover article is a 48 page spread on the Old North State. It’s titled Motor-Coaching through North Carolina by Melville Chater. It is a fascinating read.

Many of the black and white photographs look like something out of a John Steinbeck film. The author, who traveled more than 2,000 miles in the state on a 30 passenger coach, was clearly charmed by the wild horses on the Outer Banks. Chater did write about a tick epidemic that forced wild ponies to “be driven into a dipping sluice, where they swam through a bath of arsenic and caustic soda.” The writer also spent considerable time trying to explain the Elizabethan brogue of Ocracokers.

There’s an excellent photo of a young potter at his kick wheel in Jugtown. Another image captures mountain poverty in 1926. Chater wrote: “Life here near Marion is so primitive that the region has been called ‘The Land of Doing Without.’ A mountaineer generally handles not more than $300 cash in an entire year.”

A haunting photo of a ship wreck on Hatteras Banks is paired with a glorious image of live oaks draped in moss on Masonboro Island.

NC’s third richest crop at the time was timber and National Geographic article includes a photograph of a steam locomotive carrying tons and tons of timber out of the forests.

Chater wrote about NC’s economic transition in 1926: “North Carolina is passing through a renaissance. Due to her steadily intensifying shift from cotton fields to mill centers and from once-idle streams to throbbing dynamos, she has suddenly re-discovered herself on the threshold of industrial power.” Quite frankly I personally wish a few more of our streams were idle today.

I am going to recommend that Scott Mason do a Tar Heel Traveler story on this article. We’ll get permission from National Geographic and show you some of these marvelous photographs and colorful descriptions of our state 83 years ago.