Wandering Billy

Greensboro’s War Effort

Remnants of the ORD recall the Gate City’s role in World War II

By Billy Eye

“They’re Germans, don’t mention the war.” — Basil Fawlty

Greensboro’s Army
Air Forces base was commissioned 75 years ago, all the excuse I needed to wander the confines of what was once Basic Training Camp No. 10 / Overseas Replacement Depot, an essential WWII installation. It was huge. Beginning at Summit, the facility, also known as ORD, extended outward in both directions from Bessemer Avenue down to English Street. It was bounded to the south by Lee Street (now Gate City Boulevard) while extending northward well past Wendover.

In operation from 1943 until 1946, the camp was initially charged with training and outfitting airmen and WACs; after V-J Day the mission shifted to processing returning troops back into civilian life.

It was an enormous operation requiring 3,200 permanent military personnel and hundreds of civilians. Trainees of note included motion picture stars Donald O’Connor and Sabu (Dastagir), the Elephant Boy, but by far the most famous recruit was future movie idol Charlton Heston who was married, yes, right here in Greensboro days before shipping out in 1944.

After the base was decommissioned, the land, some 650 acres, was parceled out for Summit Shopping Center, Alpat Restaurant, Best Products, McKnight Hardware, subdivisions and other varied interests. In the 1950s a golf course occupied the area where the sprawling rifle range had once been. NCA&T’s athletic field fits neatly inside that footprint today.

Despite decades of rampant development, remnants of BTC-10 / ORD are there for those willing to poke around a bit.

Venture east down Bessemer from Summit, and look for Bojangles’ on your left. The red brick building directly behind the drive-thru on Westside Drive was one of the nine Post Exchanges (PXs). Expanded in the rear for an auto parts store post-war, the facade is exactly as it once was, with a rusty signpost (sans sign) still standing at attention out front.

Two doors down is an honest to goodness metal Quonset hut that served as Chapel No. 1, unless this building was moved from its original spot. There are two other Quonsets that I know of inside the center city limits, one off South Elm and another on Lydon Street.

Continuing down Bessemer, that triangular patch of grass across from KFC was where the headquarters building once stood, hence the name of the street. Shame it couldn’t have been preserved. I had a peek inside before its demolition a few years ago, a good portion of it appearing as eerily vacant as it must have looked when the last recruits locked the doors behind them in 1946.

Taking a right off Bessemer onto Winston you’ll see an unrestored, vacant metal building made “off limits” by fencing. Note the cinderblock foundation. These structures were never meant to be anything but temporary. We were going to win the war after all!

Beginning at Warehouse Street and continuing over to English you’ll find, perhaps, the highest concentration of the remains of ORD. Those neat rows of warehouses, wooden frames now covered in vinyl siding, were originally processing centers for troops arriving by train. The easily recognizable train depot, end of the ORD line, is currently a Berico fuel distribution center, seen in the top right corner of the above photo taken by Col. Paul Younts.

A block north on English Street are two side-by-side troop barracks, one with original doors and plank-wood front porch.

To the east on Cain Street sits another barrack, repurposed as a lodge hall. I believe this is the location where some 300 German POWs were housed, just outside the camp’s perimeter. Because of a manpower shortage, many Germans spent their days working on nearby farms and were apparently well-liked. African-American soldiers complained, rightfully, that enemy combatants were afforded better accommodations than they were.

Long gone is the massive Kitty Hawk Amphitheater and the multiple dance halls and nightclubs featuring entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ronald Reagan with wife Jane Wyman, Jeanette MacDonald, opera singer Grace Moore, boxer Max Shapiro, and Lon Chaney. ORD’s Officer’s Club was reputed to be the nation’s finest.

Greensboro’s Army Air Forces base was a proving ground for thousands of fighter pilots, bombardiers and crucial personnel engaged in a war that, by necessity, would have to be won in the skies.

Heroes all. We stand in their shadows.


On a related note, VFW Post 386 at 1206 American Legion Drive will be holding their highly anticipated hot dog sale from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. beginning the first Saturday after Labor Day and continuing on Saturdays through April.  OH

Billy Eye would love to write a book on ORD if someone would fund it. Thanks to photographer Nathan Stringer for the modern ORD pics you just enjoyed. 

Simple Life

A Beautiful Blue Marble

Finding meaning in the universe, however large or small

By Jim Dodson

While digging out an old flower bed this summer I found, of all things, a beautiful blue marble buried more than a foot deep in the earth.

I decided it was either evidence of a lost race of marble-playing pioneers or simply belonged to a kid who lost it in the dirt when our house was built. That kid would now be over 75 years old.

Either way, this beautiful blue marble, resting in the palm of my soiled palm, reminded me of an image of the planet taken by the crew of the final Apollo mission as they made their way to the Moon. The photograph was dubbed The Blue Marble because it revealed a fragile blue world that is home to “billions of creatures, a beautiful orb capable of fitting into the pocket of the universe,” as NASA elegantly put it.

Some experts say marbles are the oldest toys on Earth, found by archeologists in the tombs of ancient Egypt and the ashes of Pompeii, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Even America’s Founding Fathers were known to play a mean game of marbles when they weren’t busy forming a nation.

The earliest marbles were made of dried, molded clay. In the mid-19th century, however, a German glassblower invented a pair of special scissors that could cut and shape molten glass, making glass marbles affordable for the first time. Glass marbles quickly dominated the market, particularly after industrial machines made them more efficiently, further lowering their price. “Valued as much for their beauty as the games played with them,” the National Toy Hall of Fame notes, “marbles inspired one 19th-century enthusiast to describe the twisted spiral of colored filament in glass marbles as ‘thin music translated into colored glass.’”

Because my family was always on the move during my first seven years of life — following my father’s newspaper career across the Deep South — I had few if any regular playmates and plenty of time to fill up on my own come endless Southern summers. Books and marbles and painted Roman armies filled those quiet hours when the air sounded roasted by cicadas. Everywhere we lived from Mississippi to South Carolina, I found myself a cool and comfortable patch of earth beneath a porch or a large tree where I played out the Pelopennesian War or shot marbles in a large ring scratched into the dirt.

I excelled at shooting marbles, often whipping my dad when he came home from work. His necktie loosened, he would come outside with a cold beer to see if I had any interest in coming to supper, squatting to play me a quick game before we went in to eat. The object of the game we played was to knock as many marbles outside the ring without having your “shooter” wind up outside as well.
I forget who told me that it was good luck to play with a marble that matched the color of your eyes. Accordingly, my shooter was always blue.

I could spin and skip marbles like nobody’s business in those days, and even carried a small sack of my favorites with me whenever my family went on vacation or visited elderly relatives. Politely excused, advised not to wander far, I could slip outside and find the nearest patch of earth for a little marble- shooting practice.

Then along came the spring of 1964. I watched Arnold Palmer win his final Masters green jacket on TV and began swinging a golf club in the yard, making a list of 11 things I intended to do in golf. At the top I hoped to someday meet the new King of the game.

That summer I made the Pet Dairy Little League and began reading about Brooks Robinson, the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” in the sports pages. Robinson played third base for the Baltimore Orioles. I laid hands on an official Brooks Robinson fielder’s glove, vowing that in the unlikely event that I didn’t grow up to be the next Arnold Palmer I might become the next “Mr. Hoover,” as Robinson was also called.

In effect, I lost my marbles that summer of ’64 — or at least put them away forever.

Arnie won the Masters, and Robinson had his best season offensively, hitting for a .318 batting average with 28 home runs. He also led the league with 118 runs batted in, capturing the American League’s MVP Award and his fifth Gold Glove. In the American League MVP voting, Robinson received 18 of the 20 first-place votes, with Mickey Mantle of the Yankees finishing second, much to the delight of my colorful uncle Carson.

He took me to my first Major League ballgame when I got sent up in late summer to spend a week with my uncles and their German wives in Baltimore. Uncle Carson was a big Irishman who worked at a tire factory and had season tickets to “the Birds,” as he fondly called them. He couldn’t abide Mickey Mantle. “I’d like to knock that smug smile off that overpaid showboat’s kisser,” he said to me during the pre-game warm-ups as both teams took the field in Memorial Stadium.

Uncle Carson’s seats were a dozen rows back along the third base line. He encouraged me to bring my new Brooks Robinson fielder’s glove along because he was confident I could get it autographed by “the greatest third baseman ever.”

Sure enough, when Robinson appeared on the field, stretching and chatting with other players, including several on the detested Yankees team, Uncle Carson sent me scurrying down to the dugout where a crowd of kids clustered, seeking autographs.

When Robinson ambled over, I asked him for his autograph and he smiled and said “Sure, Kid. Where you from?” At least I like to remember it this way. Honestly, I was too tongue-tied and in the throes of awe to remember what he actually said.

Up in the stands, however, as Mickey Mantle sauntered past, Uncle Carson cupped his massive hands to his mouth and hollered, “Hey, Mantle! You’re a stinking bum! You couldn’t hit the side of a barn if they pitched underhand to you!”

For the record, I’m not sure this is precisely what Uncle Carson yelled at Mickey Mantle, either. But it’s certainly within the ballpark, as they say, because Uncle Carson was a world-class heckler, a one-man leather lung, the ultimate obnoxious Oriole. Mickey Mantle just laughed and kept walking.

When I got back to our seats, Uncle C was buying a couple of cold beers.

“How old are you now?” He asked as the vendor moved along. He was holding two large cups of beer.

“Eleven,” I answered truthfully.

“That’s old enough.” He handed me a National Bohemian beer, my first ballpark beer. A moment later, facing the field of play, he calmly remarked, “Just so you know, Squire, some things need to stay at the ballpark.”’

I knew exactly what he meant.

Funny thing about life on a beautiful blue marble. 

I failed to become the next Arnold Palmer. But at least I grew up to collaborate on his memoirs, becoming a good friend of the game’s most charismatic figure.

Some years ago, I even had the chance to tell Brooks Robinson about Uncle Carson at a dinner where I was the guest of honor for my sports journalism and books. The event’s hosts had secretly invited the greatest third baseman of all time to sit beside the honoree, who was nearly as tongue-tied and in awe as he was in 1964.

“I think I remember your Uncle Carson,” Robinson told me with a laugh. “Or at least a few hundred others like him — especially up in Yankee Stadium. They made your uncle look like a minor league heckler, I’m afraid.”

We had a fine time chatting about the Oriole’s golden seasons and lamented their cellar-dwelling ways these days. In 1966, Robinson was voted the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and finished second to teammate Frank Robinson in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, and the Orioles went on to win their first World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the 1970 post-season, Robinson hit for an average of .583 in the American League Championship and tagged the Cincinnati Reds for a pair of homers on their way to a 4–1 shellacking and their second World Series title. It was Robinson’s defensive prowess that snagged the Series MVP, however, and prompted Reds manager Sparky Anderson to quip, “I’m beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped this paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first.”

At the end of his final season in 1977, having collected 16 Golden Gloves, Robinson’s No. 5 jersey was retired. Six years later, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. “It all seemed to pass so quickly,” Brooks Robinson told me that night we ate supper together. “But what amazing memories.”

As another hot summer ends, as overdue rain and cooler nights heal my withered garden and herald the post-seasons of golf and baseball, my friend Arnold Palmer is gone and this month the Birds — per usual — are dwelling deep in the American League cellar, their glory years just a pleasant memory.

Having lost all my marbles but having found a blue one buried in the earth of my own garden, I’m probably where I should be at this moment and time on this fragile blue planet, lucky to have a quieter world I can hold in the palm of my hand.  OH

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at jim@thepilot.com.

Train Spotting

Train Spotting

Mike Small’s photographs capture the romance of the rails

By Billy Ingram    Photographs by Mike Small

The soundtrack of the South is in the music of the rails; horns like a hundred off-key saxophones serving as the chorus for a melody sung by wheels skating and skipping across iron. As singer songwriter Paul Simon once said, “There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.”

Our city earned her nickname, “The Gate City,” because of our proximity to the railroad so it’s fitting that few American photographers have captured these mechanical age marvels in a more spectacular fashion than Greensboro’s own Mike Small. “I got into trains when I was a kid,” he tells me. “In the second or third grade I was drawing pictures of trains. Then I found out you can just take a photo, you don’t have to go to the trouble of doing the artwork.”

Mike started, well, small. “I got my first camera for Christmas in 1967,” he recalls. “It was a Polaroid Swinger, not a real quality camera. Almost all of my pictures taken with film were from a manual Canon FT. My current camera is a Canon PowerShot SX130, a high end point-and-shoot.”

He’s photographed just about every aspect of a train’s life here — switching freight cars at the yard in Aberdeen, a passenger line awaiting a crew change on a snowy day at the Pomona Yard, a Southern Railway southbound freighter crossing the trestle over the James River, an Amtrak Carolinian rounding the curve just north of the Hilltop Road crossing, even a rail line taken out of service in 1976 between Greensboro and Rural Hall in Stokesdale where the depot was moved and converted into a house. 

Small’s dramatically staged photographs have appeared in numerous national magazines over the last 40 years or so. “I took lots of pictures of the Seaboard Air Line which merged with Atlantic Coast Line to form Seaboard Coast Line in the eastern part of the state. I liked the different color schemes,” he says of the line that dubbed itself the “Route of Courteous Service.” Small photographed one of those locomotives next to a restored former passenger station built in 1900 that today serves as a railroad museum in Hamlet.

In 2011, Small ventured back to where he grew up, near the tracks south of Thomasville, to snap an iconic photo of a locomotive chugging through fall foliage in the early morning hours, a freight train, he says, that ran from High Rock through High Point, Thomasville and Denton. “A milepost indicates 12 miles to High Point,” Small observes nostalgically.

Multiple people have told me of being in some far-away locale only to see the photographer whip by on his three-speed bike on his way to meet a train, camera in tow. “I spent a lot of time photographing Southern Railway’s Southern Crescent passenger trains which used to run through Greensboro in the 1970s,” he recalls. Of one memorable image he tells me, “Engineer Joe Beal is leaning from the window of the northbound Southern Crescent No. 2 in 1978, at the Greensboro passenger station.” An ice and sleet storm was underway so they were having trouble keeping the windshield frost-free: “That locomotive is a General Motors Electro-Motive Division E8A, built between 1949 and 1953,” he says enthusiastically.

Since 1970, Southern Railway’s fabled flagship passenger train the Southern Crescent traveled in both directions between New York and New Orleans, with stops in our nation’s capital, Atlanta, and our own downtown depot. “I remember the Southern Crescent E units, they called them, locomotives with the streamlined nose,” Small says. At some point in the night, on that 1,377-mile trip, the New York bound express and the Louisiana bound train could be expected to pass each other, but rarely in Greensboro.

That didn’t deter the shutterbug from lying in wait with lights and camera positioned just in case they converged here. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get that shot; I had to just keep watching for the southbound train to be sufficiently late so that it got here at the same time as the other one,” Small explains. Many nights he stalked the Greensboro depot hoping to capture both Southern Crescent passenger trains awaiting boarding at the same time, “I got the shot around 2:30 a.m. with thick fog in the air. That photo was published in Trains magazine in 1979, a calendar in 1984, and as a Vanishing Vistas print,” he says proudly.

In another chance Southern Crescent passing in the night, one shot in color, Mike notes, “The northbound No. 2 is at left and is on time. I lit the nose with a large press type flash bulb. Train No. 1, at right, was about an hour and 15 minutes late.” 

Southern Railway (“Southern Railway Serves the South”) was famous for its polished handrails, plush wide seats, onboard chefs, attendents in starched uniforms fluffing white tablecloths in the club cars. That 1940s style attention to detail was no longer economically viable by the late-1970s.

Southern joined Amtrak much later than most other railroads, the last of the Southern Railway passenger trains were also the very last privately owned, long- distance passenger trains in the United States. The remaining freight lines were merged with Norfolk and Western in 1982 to become Norfolk Southern. “Some of the locomotives around here they keep rebuilding,” Small says. “They go back to the ’70s. Then you have the very modern ones, the ones with the wide nose. They’re not my favorites, though.”

In a photo taken from the Guilford College bridge at GTCC in Jamestown, a northbound Norfolk Southern train with double-stacked containers is seen powered by two Union Pacific locomotives. In recent years the railroad has added a second track between Greensboro and Jamestown.

Another colorful image depicts a Norfolk Southern container and trailer train snapped from the Cornwallis Drive bridge. It is, Mike Small points out, “The only place in Greensboro that I know of where a train can be photographed on the Washington and Atlanta mainline with the city skyline in the background.” 

You can still ride the rails from Greensboro to the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Crescent. Many of its 1970s pre-Amtrak streamlined stainless steel-and-glass passenger and dining cars are still in use, with remodeled interiors, outfitted with modern conveniences. You’ll need to be at the downtown depot around midnight. Breakfast will be served as you pull out of Atlanta, luncheon on the other side of Birmingham.

Sure, some of the starch is out of the collars and the food is no longer prepared on board, but rail travel is one of the few rare, authentic travel experiences around — one that has changed so little it would be familiar to your grandparents.

It’s the only way to fly!  OH

A frequent contributor to O.Henry, Billy Ingram prefers traveling by train..

Scuppernong Bookshelf

Clubbin’ It!

Favorite book club selections run the gamut of literary genres

Compiled by Brian Lampkin

We’re often asked here at Scuppernong Books for an updated list of the best book-club books. Every book club is created differently, so it’s difficult to determine what exactly a “book-club book” is. Undaunted, let’s take a crack at creating a relatively contemporary list, a mix of new hardcovers, recent paperbacks and personal favorites.

Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, by Alan Lightman. (Pantheon, $24.95, 2018). That elusive mix of science and spirituality that so many of us long for. “A lyrical and illuminating inquiry into our dual impulse for belief in the unprovable and for trust in truth affirmed by physical evidence.”  — Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Last Ballad, by Wiley Cash. (HarperCollins, $26.99, 2017). Set in Gastonia, N.C., in 1929, this novel takes the historical fact of labor unrest in the textile mills and turns it into a deeply moving account of one woman’s struggle against the forces of greed, racism and misogyny. Great fiction with a purpose!

The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones. (Putnam, $26, 2017). A UNCG professor, Jones sets this dystopian future in Greensboro and parts west. Lethal ticks, border walls and class segregation are all part of this too-near future.

Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty (Amistad, $28.99) & Potlikker Papers, by John T. Edge (Penguin Press, $28, 2017). Two excellent books on the history of food in the South.

There There, by Tommy Orange (Knopf, $25.99, 2018). The hottest book in the literary world. Orange is Cheyenne and Arapaho, and this book explores contemporary Native American life: “Not since Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine has such a powerful and urgent Native American voice exploded onto the landscape of contemporary fiction.”

The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Andrew Lawler, (Doubleday, $29.95, 2018) & The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kiernan. Histories on the opposite ends of North Carolina, and both fascinating and nationally regarded works.

Florida, by Lauren Groff (Riverhead, $27, 2018). Another contender for all the year-end literary awards. “As fine and beautifully crafted as any fiction she has written, [Groff] is one of the best writers in the United States, and her prize-winning stories reverberate long after they are read.” —  LA Review of Books 

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jessmyn Ward (Scribner, $26, 2017). “Ghosts, literal and literary, haunt nearly every page of Sing, Unburied, Sing — a novel whose boundaries between the living and the dead shift constantly, like smoke or sand. Set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi (a place rich in oil rigs and atmosphere, if almost nothing else), the book’s Southern gothic aura recalls the dense, head-spinning prose of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor.

American Wolf, by Nate Blakeslee (Crown, $28, 2017) “[ American Wolf] is a startlingly intimate portrait of the intricate, loving, human-like interrelationships that govern wolves in the wild, as observed in real time by a cadre of dedicated wolf-watchers — in the end, a drama of lupine love, care, and grief.” — Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake

“Gripping and fascinating! Wolf versus wolf, wolf versus man, man versus man.” — Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and Hag-Seed

Hard to argue with those two writers!

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins, $24.99, 2018). Barracoon employs Hurston’s skills as both an anthropologist and a writer, and brings to life Cudjo’s singular voice, in his vernacular, in a poignant, powerful tribute to the disremembered and the unaccounted.

And, Finally, let’s mention Scuppernong’s own Steve Mitchell and his novel Cloud Diary (C&R Press, $18, 2018). It is a tender account of young love that predictably falls apart, but somehow sustains a remarkable care that manifests many years later as one of them is dying of cancer. Subtle, moving and writerly. Steve would also be happy to attend your book club.  OH

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

The Accidental Astrologer

Cool Temps, Hot Dishes

September’s stars serve up a medley of sweet and sour

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

Sugar Lump, there was a time when you had less going for you than a scared Beagle in a hailstorm. Now, you have a busier social life than the Kardashians. Everybody is watching, wondering, waiting for you to make a move and follow suit. If you still have a little bit of Snoopy in your soul, lie down, put your feet up and think first.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

It is entirely up to you if you want to direct everybody in the drama of life, but it would sure help if you had any idea about what you are doing. The advice you have sworn by is about as helpful as a room deodorizer in a bus station. Change gears or you may strip the transmission, Sugar Pie.  Recalibrate.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Oopsies were made. That’s a charitable way of saying you’re wrong more often than right lately, but enough people stand by you anyway. Charisma? Yup. Regrets? Nope. But Sugar, don’t squander all this goodwill in one month.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

I wish I had a restraining order for everybody who tried to attack you for having an “original” idea that was behind its time. Not a typo. Honey, if you can just pretend to regret being too big for your britches you might not get your comeuppance.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

The seasonal change has got you all flubbed up. But as soon as the first cool evening settles, all will feel better and brighter. There’s a whole lot of hot air hitting you from a close acquaintance that has Spam for brains. Grab a fan and pay them no mind.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

You’ve been on the sliding board of life and it has felt like the first time on the playground — scary, too fast and at least a little skin left on the sliding board on the way down. But you arrived at a safe place, Honey Bun, and things do go right at last.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

You’ve made an important correction, Sweet Thing, and you get to reap the benefits. You’ve shared a lot of credit, helped others and boosted your karma. It wasn’t easy to make the change you did but you put your big pants on and did it.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

Two people are walking back into your life and there will be a test of your strategic powers. This is destiny, Sugar, so just remember that you are in the Schoolhouse of Life for a reason. Your best will be good enough and you shall pass without scars.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

You’ve got a generous, intelligent, powerful nature, and when people get on your good side they are in for a treat. It is myth-making to watch you do your creative best. These times remind your friends why they hang in there, and they do.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

You cleared a big hurdle and now you graduate to the next. Your abilities to redeem yourself never fail to amaze — and sometimes stupefy. In the end, Buttercup, there is another task to face. It will look easy after summer’s challenge.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Lordamercy, if you were surprised by the breaks you got, you never let it show. You have a better poker face than the professionals. The cards are in your favor, and you know how to play them. So deal or draw. The game is yours, Sweet Thing, but don’t hold ’em.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

You are legendarily strong and stoic. You are a born leader and you know it. But you also have a shadow side that is the opposite. When did you last let anyone know that? It is possible to show that side to others and not lose a bit of face. Try it, Sugar.  OH

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.

In the Spirit

Three’s Company

Three drinks, three ingredients

By Tony Cross

I asked a close friend the other day what I should write about in my next column. She replied, “Like, how to make a drink.” She’s obviously not one of my 12 readers; 10 if you don’t count my parents.  Instead of just walking away, I asked her to enlighten me. Her response, “Something good. But, like, easy to make.” That I can do. So, for those of you who want a few go-to cocktails that only involve a few steps, here are three suggestions. And, even if you don’t mind making a mess out of your kitchen, I think you’ll enjoy these.

The first time I tried a Negroni cocktail, I was in disbelief about how terrible it was (forget the fact that I made it). My palate was as sophisticated as a 4-year-old; obviously, my taste buds had some growing up to do. Months later, Campari and I became well-acquainted, and soon best pals. So, the first time I tried the Boulevardier cocktail, I was smitten. Spicy rye whiskey paired with bitter Campari and rounded out with sweet vermouth was love at first sip. In fact, I loved this drink so much that I made one (maybe it was more?) for myself every single evening last summer when I returned home. For the whiskey, my standards are either Wild Turkey Rye or Rittenhouse. Both pack a punch and are moderately priced. The sweet vermouth, however, has changed during the course of the 100 that I’ve prepared. I used to use Carpano Antica, which is a lovely sweet vermouth that has beautiful notes of vanilla and orange, but now I like a more bitter-forward style. Cocchi Dopo Teatro is a ridiculously good vermouth that infuses quassia wood, rhubarb and cinchona. The base wine is blended with Barolo Chinato. The result: a vermouth that’s perfect for sipping on its own but I love it in a Boulevardier. You be the judge.


1 1/4 ounces rye whiskey

3/4 ounce Campari

3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine all ingredients in mixing vessel (or build it in your rocks glass). Add ice, stir for 50 revolutions, and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with orange slice or orange peel.

It’s still warm enough to have one more month of summer drinking, even if fall is a few weeks away. One of my absolute favorite poolside cocktails is the Caipirinha. Made with cachaça, a rum distilled from sugar cane indigenous to Brazil, this cocktail is so good, it’s hard to just have one. If you have cachaça, a lime and sugar, you’re good to go. Please note that Bacardi, or any other clear rum, is not a substitute. Cachaça’s grassy flavor comes from its lower sugar content that’s produced when it’s juiced. A lot of rum is made with juice that comes from molasses.  If your lime is small, use the whole thing; if it’s rather large, 3/4 of it will do. Start by cutting the lime in half lengthwise (think of the top and bottom of the lime as the north and south poles). Take each half and cut the ends off each pole. Then, take each half and cut down the center from the poles. You’ll have four pieces of lime now. Cut off and discard any slithers of white pith that remain. The pith will add a bitterness that’s not needed for this drink. Once that’s done, cut each of the four pieces down the middle widthwise. You should have eight little pieces of lime. Place those into a sturdy rocks glass. I say sturdy because you will be building and muddling into this glass. If it’s a brittle glass, it might break and you could cut yourself. Blood would be a fourth, and totally unnecessary, ingredient. Add two teaspoons of white sugar, and muddle. When muddling, try not to annihilate the limes; you’ll want to gently muddle while twisting the muddler to extract not only the lime’s juice, but the oils as well. Add 2 ounces of cachaça, and crushed ice (yes, the type of ice makes a difference — crushed ice for the win.)  Now, with a bar spoon (or regular spoon, if you don’t have one), gently stir everything in the rocks glass for about 10 seconds. Top off with more crushed ice.  This will be just a touch spirit-forward, especially if your sugar sinks to the bottom of the glass. Another option would be using 1/2 ounce of simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water). If this gets good to you, try adding a couple slices of pineapple or strawberries when muddling.


2 ounces cachaça

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 to 1 whole lime

This last drink takes some time — three weeks, to be exact, but don’t let that deter you from having this amazing cocktail. I totally stole the base of this recipe from bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler’s Bar Book that came out four summers ago. In it, Morganthaler gives us the specs for a recipe he found in a book printed in 1939 from Charles H. Baker using his strawberry-infused tequila. All you’ll need is one quart of strawberries and 16 ounces of a good reposado tequila. Dice the strawberries, add them to a Mason jar, and fill with tequila. Seal the jar, and leave in a cool, dark place for three weeks. Shake the jar for about 15 seconds a few times each week. When the time is up, voila! Strain through cheesecloth, and you’ve got yourself a winner. It’s delicious by itself, but when I decided to put this on my drink menu, I didn’t want to sell this neat or over ice. I was afraid that it would be gone just like that. So I decided to make a cocktail with it. I made a syrup from lavender buds and added lime juice — essentially a riff on a margarita. It was delicious, but it still sold out quickly and, in turn, I learned that when making three-week liquor infusions, it’s best to make more than less. 

Bit by a Squirrel

2 ounces strawberry-infused reposado

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/4 ounce lavender syrup

Put all ingredients in cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake it like it’s hot, and then strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a few lavender buds.

Lavender Syrup: take 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of baker’s sugar, and place in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 ounce of dried lavender buds. Once the syrup has cooled, strain out lavender.    OH

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

O.Henry Ending

I’m With the Band

For this drummer, the heartbeat of camaraderie goes on

By David Claude Bailey

On fall Fridays after I fired up the charcoal in our backyard in Sunset Hills, I’d sit and watch the sun go down and pop my first IPA. In the distance, faint but insistent, I could hear the rhythmic, tribal thrum of Grimsley High’s drumline. But you don’t just hear drums, you feel them, deep down, where it matters. Primal, appealing to our innermost sense of rhythm and communication, no wonder schools use them to whip fans into a fury.

Drums and I go way back — to my mother’s kitchen where, convinced that I was a child prodigy, she’d allow me to turn her pots and pans into misshapen hulks until my sister pleaded with her to make me stop. In eighth grade when James Moore brought a carload of instruments so we could try out for band, I went straight for the snare drum. For the next four years, drums were my constant companion.

For this clueless and clumsy oddball in a small town like Reidsville, being in the marching band allowed me to join the tribe, and with zero athletic ability, be part of football and basketball season. Despite my straggly goatee, my longish hair and my stupid grin, I was someone, someone special, in fact, first drummer in the marching band. An introvert by nature, my central position in the marching band helped me grapple with sometimes being the center of attention. And little by little I realized that having power over others was an important responsibility.

Take the Sun Fun Parade. It was in Myrtle Beach, which had a deserved reputation for its libidinous and wild atmosphere. But what sticks in my mind is not the raucous night in the motel with 25 coed band members and maybe three chaperones. What I remember best is Art Frazier, standing in the middle of the street, blowing his whistle four times to get things going and hoisting his baton high in the air to begin our 2-mile-long, fun-in-the-sun strut. It was totally my responsibility to set the pace so we would catch up with the Shriners’ crazy little cars, which were buzzing around in front of us. I did this by speeding up the cadences — until people began looking at me with concern, especially the tuba players struggling to swing their massive horns from side to side. Eventually, we closed the distance, at which point I slowed the beat down to the pace of the rest of the parade, screaming out the names of the cadences we played until Art announced which marches we’d play. Never mind the 100 percent wool uniforms that exuded a naptha-heavy mothball aroma as the 93-degree temperature beat down on our navy-blue-and-gold school colors. Or the sweat that dripped off the leather bands that held on our ridiculous Nutcracker toy soldier hats. Or the bite of the drum strap after 10 minutes. Or the blisters you earned from the drumsticks, an extra pair of which rattled around in my pocket so when the heads snapped off, flying like bullets through the air, you had a spare pair. It was a heady affair, prompting a really rare commodity among teenagers: deserved pride in a job well done after hours of practice.

Things got pretty tribal on the bus rides back from football games, when you might get a come-hither look from Ruby, to join the “wild” crowd at the back of the bus. For to be a band member meant acceptance into an otherwise exclusive club. Al, perhaps the best-looking and coolest guy in our class, who gave me advice on dating; Jimmy, who accepted me though he ran around with a group that had a lot more fun than I ever would; Kathy, the only female drummer, with naturally blonde hair and a flippantly joyous personality, someone who wouldn’t have given me the time of day had I not been a member of the drumline. Their fathers weren’t members of the Penrose Park Country Club as my father was, nor did they fraternize with the beatnik crowd that I ran with. But we were best of friends and I learned so much from them.

At age 40, I wrote a letter of apology to Mr. Moore, aka “Curly.” I can see him now, waving his baton madly and screaming — the only way he could be heard — “Drums! Drums! Drums! Please! Not so loud.” That memory occasions a twinge, no, a stab of remorse because there was always genuine pain and concern in his voice.

I told him how he had instilled in me an appreciation of music that has since been at the center of my life and has helped me navigate some really rough times. Mr. Moore graciously wrote back and said he was glad I’d learned to love music and didn’t remember my being particularly worse than anyone else.

That, of course, stung like the devil, but I’m getting over it.  OH

Contributing Editor David Claude Bailey still enjoys drumming on tabletops, car dashboards, and just about any hard surface until he drives his children, wife and workmates crazy. To hear some RSH cadences, click on www.rshdrumline.com, a website created by O.Henry frequent photographer Mark Wagoner..

Papadaddy’s Mindfield

My New Food Home

By Clyde Edgerton

This is a story about a way to get healthier without medicine, through food. No, don’t stop reading, please.

I had 20 migraines between October 2016 and April 2017. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about hitting myself in the head with a hammer, then decided to see my doctor. She gave me a prescription for migraines. One pill made me feel so bad I decided I’d rather have the headaches. I checked in with a neurologist, who basically told me he didn’t know what I should do, beyond keeping a migraine diary to discover my “triggers.” I envisioned a life of diary writing with continued migraines. I wanted quick relief — I wanted a relief app.

A friend suggested a book: The Migraine Brain. I read it. It had a bunch of “Don’t Eat This” lists, and while the lists didn’t always agree, they did overlap on certain foods. I was desperate. I went cold turkey and stopped eating or drinking anything beyond veggies, brown rice, fruit, and water — with beans for protein, and sparkling water for some pizzazz in my life.

I admit that I’ve silently looked down my nose at vegetarians. I once wrote in a book that when new parents get the baby seat all situated and fastened into the car, a cousin is going to come along, say it’s not put in right and then call the authorities. That cousin, I said, will be a vegetarian. If that’s funny, I’ve told folks, it’s because it’s true. Now I are one myself. (From that old joke: “I always wanted to be a grammarian and now I are one.”)

Here I was looking to become not only a vegetarian, but also a vegan — somebody I once visualized as soft-spoken and polite, wearing flip-flops, apt to be found sitting in a dark back room, listening to a podcast about . . . oh I don’t know — animals. 

I was willing to sit anywhere and drink spinach smoothies and listen to even classical music if that would help stop the headaches. I would become a veggie vegan spokesperson. A veggie vegan warrior, maybe — if by chance the headaches stopped.

I cut out all gluten, sweets, dairy products, alcohol, soy, bananas (the only fruit on most all the no-eat lists in the book I read), eggs, coffee and meat. I was that desperate.

Beans and rice, with sautéed onions and peppers, became my first island of refuge — my first meal friend.

This meat/potato/biscuit puppy was surprised that the world didn’t collapse. My fresh food list led to a new — I’ve got to say it — happiness. Because the migraines stopped cold — as if a miracle had descended — and a respite from the pain of migraines made up for any initial worry about food.

During the first month of different eating habits, I discovered excellent gluten-free breads in the freezer section at the grocery store while rediscovering simple cornbread (no gluten), corn chips, oatmeal, and ah . . . homemade granola. Refried beans became a favorite — and in any Mexican restaurant I could find a friendly meal. (Hold the cheese, please.)

More and more restaurants are catering to people who eat the way I now eat. You might be surprised. I’ve found great sushi. Sometimes with sushi I cheat a tad with a little white fish meat, as in the “Lean Queen” specialty roll at Yoshi Sushi Bar in Wilmington. I’ve called for it for takeout so many times — they see the incoming number and answer with, “Got it.”

When you are somehow restricted, a result may be liberation. Narrowed choices may bring greater enjoyment.

I discovered a bean burger cut up on a salad at PT’s.

I started satisfying my sweet tooth big time with cantaloupe, honeydew melons, and sweet potatoes — two in the oven on aluminum foil, hit 350 degrees and the timer for 1:37. And a rice cake with almond butter and honey is succulent.

And, listen . . . ice cream. I’ve screamed for it all my life. Several non-dairy, non-sugar (or very low sugar) ice creams are out there. Try it before knocking it. I make a tiny milkshake several times a week: a few ounces of almond milk and with a couple scoops of Nada Moo or S.O. ice cream substitute.

I lost 20 pounds in three weeks — and a year later, I’m still down 20. It helps that I’m walking two miles a day.

Narrowed choices have forced my finding really good recipes. I look forward to breakfast like never before: a layer of frozen blueberries, a layer of gluten-free granola with a few roasted pecans or maybe some trail mix for crunch, then a layer of a favorite in-season fruit with a dash of salt. Top off with ice cold almond milk (or hemp milk or flax milk). A dessert for me is often pecans and strawberries with strong decaf coffee. My old molecules have accepted new molecules coming through the door. Did I mention homemade granola? Or toast, avocado and fresh tomato? Gluten free pizza crust — served in many pizza parlors now?

I did try one steak a couple months ago. It landed in my stomach like a hiking boot.

My last physical exam showed lower cholesterol than ever, lowest weight in 50 years (by 20 pounds), and lower blood pressure than ever. You are what you eat.

My impetus to change my eating habits was 20 migraines in a few months. I’ve heard that a new habit materializes in two weeks to a year. I’ve passed the one-year mark. And yes, I’ve adjusted a bit: I’m back on an occasional egg and a serving of fish. But there are many reasons not to yield — not to return to my old-food home. I have a new new, better, tastier food home.

If you think you could feel better — consider cutting the gut-makers. Go lean. At least don’t scoff at us vegetarians, vegans, and hybrids. Consider joining us. Try it for one month.  OH

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.


(Women’s) Clothes Make the Man

An exhibit of fashion illustrations by Kenneth Paul Block lights up Alamance Arts

The lines are swirling, approximating movement. The gaze is almost always distant, cast toward something or someone out of view. The gesture, typically a hand on hip, conveys assurance, resoluteness, a contrast to the elegant, decidedly feminine flourishes of ruffles, dramatic capes, cinched waists, loose strands of hair and gloves encasing long, delicate fingers.

Striking the balance between the strong and the demure was the intention of Kenneth Paul Block, a longtime illustrator for Women’s Wear Daily and its sister publication W. His stunning drawings form the basis of Kenneth Paul Block & the Masters of Fashion Illustration, on view through October 20 at Alamance Arts (213 South Main Street) in Graham.

His haute couture illustrations were “aspirational,” says Betty Morgan Block, a retired Elon professor who is the wife of Block’s nephew Steve — and serves as CEO of the Kenneth Paul Block Foundation, which is curating the exhibit. More focused on the women wearing the clothes, the drawings, she says, “sent the message: ‘This is what you can do. This is what you can be.’ He was a powerful advocate for women.”

A graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design, Block started his career at McCall’s Patterns, where, Betty Morgan Block explains, “his primary responsibility was to get the details right.” Hence, the artist’s early medium of pen and ink. His style would evolve after he arrived, in the 1950s, at Women’s Wear Daily, his perch for more than 40 years. It was advantageous timing, given that postwar designs of Givenchy, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, among designers who accentuated style, were embraced by women — Babe Paley and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for example — who would become icons of the era. During this period, Block’s own style became more vivid. His favored medium? “A felt tip marker,” says Betty Morgan Block, as well as watercolor, gouache and in one illustration, pen-and-ink and eye makeup. “He’d grab a crayon, whatever he could, that would look good on paper,” she adds.

It comes as no surprise that Block, who died in 2009, influenced generations of fashion illustrators. After a wilderness period during the 1990s when supermodels and expensive photo shoots dominated print media, artists, such as Bil Donovan, Jason Rooks, Lena Ker are today’s masters of the genre, which is seeing a resurgence online. Validation that great art such as Kenneth Paul Block’s, like great fashion, is timeless. Nancy Oakley   OH

Info: alamancearts.org