Friday, February 23, 2024

RonnieAdventure #607 - North/South Carolina: Mayberry, High Point, Richard Petty, Cotton Press, Lake City, and more

After crossing back into North Carolina, we stopped in Mount Airy, also know as "Mayberry U.S.A."

Andy Griffith was born June 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, and lived with relatives because his parents could not afford a house. For the first several months, neither a crib nor a bed were available, so Andy slept in a dresser drawer.

When Andy was three years old, his family moved to the "blue collar" side of town and purchased the house that he lived in until he finished high school. For those that are really into the Andy Griffith culture, the house is now available as a nightly rental. 

Another popular attraction in Mount Airy is Aunt Bee's Motel Room Shrine at the Mayberry Motor Inn. The motel owner, Alma Venable, was a fan of Frances Bavier, who played "Aunt Bee" in the Andy Griffith Show; so she collected a number of Bavier's personal items when they were sold at auction in 1990. The items are now on display in motel Room 109.

Parked in front of the motel are Andy's squad car and Emmett's pickup truck.

Located downtown are Floyd's City Barber Shop, Mayberry Courthouse, shops, and Wally's Service Station. The courthouse was not used when filming the show, but the building has been modified to look like the series courthouse. 

The Andy Griffith Museum contains a large collection of Andy Griffith's memorabilia and is just a short drive from the downtown area. There is also a playhouse connected to the museum and an Andy and Opie (Ron Howard) statue is located on the same site. 

TV Land commissioned the Andy and Opie statue in early 2000, but when the statue was completed they put the statue in Raleigh, the State Capital, rather than Mount Airy where Andy was born. When TV Land wanted to film a "Back to Mayberry" special, Andy refused to participate in the filming unless they made a second statue and had it placed in Mount Airy. Since there could not be a "Back to Mayberry" special without Andy, TV Land agreed to commission a second statue for Mount Airy, so now there are statues in both Raleigh and Mount Airy. 

High Point, North Carolina, is known as the "Furniture Capital of the World" because of the large number of furniture manufacturers in the area. The High Point "Furniture Capital of the World" sign is located in front of the "World's Largest Chest of Drawers," which is 38-feet tall. The Chest of Drawers was reported to be lighted at night, but when we arrived the lights were out; so I am including a web picture of the "World's Largest Chest of Drawers." Apparently, someone closed the middle drawer with one sock sticking out. 

Web Picture - Photographer Unknown
We arrived too late and the Richard Petty Museum near Asheboro (population 27,156) was closed, so I have retained it on my Bucket List for my next trip to the area. The museum was reported to contain a number of Richard's race cars, along with his personal items. 

After leaving Asheboro, we drove through Candor, the "Peach Capital of North Carolina." Since we were not there during peach season, we did not find any fresh peaches. However, as we headed south, we drove past numerous peach tree groves on both sides of the road. 

While we were driving south, every few miles along the way there were advertising signs for Town Creek Indian Mound State Historic Site. This was not on my list of places to stop, but I could not resist after all of the advertising; so I made a slight detour, only to find that the site was closed.

The National Railroad Museum and Hall of Fame is in Hamlet (population 6,025), North Carolina. Located on the museum site is a visitor center, restored 1900 passenger station, and a collection of railroad memorabilia. There are multiple buildings to explore, but we only had time to stop at the visitor center. Someone that loves trains could spend all day here.

After crossing into South Carolina we stopped in Bennettsville (population 7,020), which is located along the Great Pee Dee River. Around the courthouse are a variety of monuments, murals, and historic structures. Actually, the entire downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Directly across the street from the courthouse is the historic James O. Breeden Buggies-Wagons-Harness Store, which was closed. 

The reported "World's Oldest Cotton Press" is located near the intersection of Interstate 95 and South Carolina State Highway 38. The cotton press was built in 1798 and was powered by oxen or mules that rotated the beam to tighten the press. It seemed really unusual that the press was not protected in some type of enclosed structure. 

In 1958, the U.S. Air Force accidently dropped an atomic bomb just outside of Florence (population 39899), South Carolina. Fortunately, the nuclear portion of the bomb was not armed and only the high-explosive trigger detonated on impact, leaving a crater 35 feet deep and 70 feet wide. 

Railroad conductor Walter "Bill" Gregg and his family lived near the impact site and they were all injured by the explosion. Their house and outbuildings were totally destroyed and some buildings within a five-mile radius were damaged by the blast.

Located outside of Lake City is a giant cross that is 110-feet high with 64-foot arms. It weighs 100,000 pounds and is visible for two miles in any direction. 

Dr. Ronald E. McNair from Lake City, South Carolina, was one of the astronauts that perished on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during the launch. In his honor, a nice memorial has been constructed on the city library grounds.   

Friday, February 16, 2024

RonnieAdventure #0606 - West Virginia/Virginia: Coal House, Matewan, Pinnacle Rock, Shot Tower, and more

After reading an article about The Coal House, I decided to take a side trip to Williamson (population 3,042), West Virginia.

The Coal House was constructed in 1933 from Winifrede Seam Coal that was mined in the area and donated by local coal companies. At the time of construction, it was the only building in West Virginia that was constructed with coal. Even though the building is called  "The Coal House," it was never used as a residence. The building weighs over 65 tons. 

A weather-resistant varnish was placed on the building's exterior two-foot-thick walls to protect the coal from erosion, but the interior walls were not treated. In 2010, the interior of the building caught fire, causing extensive damage to the building's interior. There was little or no damage to the buildings exterior.

In 2011, the interior was restored and the building is now used by The Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce.  

Standing above a fountain in front of the building is a statue of Indian Chief Logan.

Logan was the leader of the Mingo Indians, but there is a lot of controversy if he was really a chief, what he did, and what he is alleged to have said. There are a number of quotes on a plaque by the statue, but some scholars dispute if the words were really his. 

Matewan (population 412) is located along a bend of the Tug River in West Virginia and was frequently flooded when the river overflowed its banks. It was said to be the most frequently flooded town in America.

In 1984, the Army Corps of Engineers started building a 2,350-foot-long floodwall along the West Virginia side of the river to keep the flood waters out of town. The floodwall was 30-feet tall with large steel doors that could be closed across local roads. In 1997, the floodwall was completed and is credited with saving the town from massive floods in 2002 and 2003.

Embedded in the concrete wall are various pictures and writings dealing with the history of Matewan. There is a hiking path along the river side of the wall, so visitors can view the entire length of the wall when hiking on the trail.

Located on the town-side of the wall are several historic markers, Matewan Train Depot, historic buildings and businesses along Main Street, painted murals of mining scenes, the intersection of Hatfield and McCoy Streets, and some beautiful trees that had not yet dropped their fall leaves. The railroad discontinued passenger train service to Matewan in 1969.

In 1920, Matewan miners that were occupying Stone Mountain Coal Company houses walked off the job and went out on strike. In retaliation, the coal company hired Baldwin-Felts Agency guards to evict the miners from the company houses. 

As the guards were leaving town, an argument broke out between Baldwin-Felts agents and Matewan Mayor Testerman and Police Chief Sid Hatfield. It is unclear who started the shooting, but two coal miners, seven agents, and Mayor Testerman were killed. Nineteen men were indicted for the killings, but none were ever convicted. 

Then, in 1921, Police Chief Sid Hatfield and another miner were killed  by Baldwin-Felts agents on the steps of McDowell County Courthouse in Welch, where they were to stand trial for shooting at a nearby coal camp. This killing started the largest labor uprising in United States history and the largest armed uprising since the American Civil War. The uprising became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Over 10,000 miners confronted 3,000 lawmen, and after five days of fighting, over a million round were fired by the two sides. President Warren Harding, by Presidential Order, then sent in the United States Army to stop the battle.  

A historic marker has been erected on Main Street honoring Sid Hatfield and recognizing his 1921 murder that sparked the Battle of Blair Mountain. Hatfield was also known as "Smilin' Sid" because of his flashy Gold Teeth. 

Although Welch, West Virginia, has only 3,590 residents, it is known for a number of firsts. In 1913, the first West Virginia public children's playground was built in Welch; in 1923, the first memorial building to honor veterans in the United States was built in Welch; in 1928, Minnie Harper from Welch became the first black woman legislator in the United States; and in 1941, the first municipally owned parking structure in the United States was built in Welch. The parking structure is still in use today. 

In 1960, John F. Kennedy stopped in Welch when he was campaigning for the presidency.

Pinnacle Rock is a 3,100-foot-long sandstone rock formation that is now part of a 400 acre West Virginia State Park, which includes Jimmy Lewis Lake, a playground, stone picnic shelters, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities.  

The parking areas, walkways, and stone picnic shelters were constructed in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

After crossing into Virginia, there were numerous signs along the interstate highway for Wolf Creek Indian Village Museum; so we stopped to visit the site. We arrived on a Sunday, the only day of the week that the Village was closed. Maybe next time I will arrive on a different day of the week. 

I stopped in Wytheville to take a picture of one of the largest pencils in the world, but Linda was more interested in the Edith Bolling Galt Wilson building across the street. 

Edith Bolling was born in Wytheville, Virginia, in 1872, the seventh of eleven children. Before Edith was born, her father owned extensive properties for growing cotton; however, after the Civil War, he lost all of the properties because he could not pay his taxes. He then turned to the practice of law to support his family.

The Bollings moved into a house on Main Street and shared the quarters with a large extended family. Many of the women had lost husbands during the Civil War, so the extended family consisted of grandmothers, aunts, and cousins.

Edith was mostly homeschooled until age 15, when her father enrolled her in a finishing school for girls. She did not like the school and left after one semester. Two years later she enrolled at Powell's School for Girls, which she later said was the happiest time in her life. 

While visiting her married sister in Washington, D.C., she met and married Norman Galt, a prominent jeweler. Twelve years later Norman died, so Edith assumed control of the business and was a very successful manager. 

Seven years later she met and married widowed President Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, and served as First Lady from 1915 to 1921. She is considered to have been a "Secret President" and the "first woman to run the government." After President Wilson suffered a severe stroke, Edith managed the Office of the President and functionally ran the Executive Branch of government for the remainder of Wilson's second term.

Either by blood or through marriage, Edith was related to Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Letitia Tyler, and the Harrison family. The home on Main Street where she was born in now used for a museum.

Just to the east of the Bolling House is Skeeter's World Famous Hot Dogs.  In 1925, E.N. Umberger started selling hot dogs for five-cents each, and the hot dogs soon became known as "Skeeter-Dogs." Originally, the business drew customers from the surrounding area; but over a period of time customers started coming from around the world to have a "Skeeter-Dog." A sign on the building states: "Over 69 Million Sold."

Jackson Ferry Shot Tower is one of the few remaining shot towers in the United States. The tower was constructed on the south bank of New River in 1807, to manufacture lead shot for firearms. 

The tower is 75-feet above ground and sits atop a 150-foot deep pit below ground.

Lead shot was made by pouring molten lead through a sieve at the top of the tower. Different sizes of shot were made by using different sizes of sieves. 

Lead droplets would fall from the sieve and would become somewhat rigid before reaching the bottom of the pit. Located at the bottom of the pit were large kettles filled with water that the shot landed in, completing the cooling process. The finished shot was then sold to hunters, traders, and merchants.