Monday, March 30, 2009

Whiteville, the Fine Arts, and Michael Jordan's Jump Shot

It now all seems like another world. After I left the bakery and went to work for the Boy Scouts in early 1981, I found myself living in Whiteville. You’ve probably never heard of the town. Whiteville is the county seat of Columbus County. But that ain’t saying a whole lot since North Carolina has 100 counties and therefore a 100 county seats. Being a county seat isn’t anything special. I can’t say that I disliked the place. I found the town to be pleasant and there was much I enjoyed about living there. But since my time there included a failed marriage, I’m left with bittersweet emotions about the place.

Whiteville is an interesting town. It’s a town divided. The old part, where I lived, centered on the courthouse which sat in the middle of the two major cross streets. While I was there, they opened the bypass around the town, allowing folks passing through to avoid the traffic circle around the courthouse and its various statutes to the war heroes: those who fought for the Confederacy, in Hearst’s war of expansion and in the various World Wars. The commercial district was a mile south, around the railroad tracts. Folks told me that when they put the tracks in, they insisted that they be one mile south of the town so the engines would disturb things around the courthouse. I found that logic to be suspect as the old Wilmington and Manchester Railroad didn’t have a bend in their tracks between Delco and Fair Bluff and most likely the straight line missed the courthouse. Furthermore, in 1853, when the tracks were laid, I doubt there were many people in the county who’d even seen an iron horse. The tracks would later become a part of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and by the time I arrived were just a spur line for the Seaboard Coastline.

Having the parts of town a mile apart, with the traffic circle around the courthouse on the north end, created a wonderful set-up for cruising. Folks would come from around the country to drive the loop that circled the courthouse, stopping off and on to talk to folks in the opposing lane. I’d been told about this custom which had been going on for decades, but didn’t register until one Saturday night I went to the movies. When I came out, at 9:30 or so, there were hundreds of cars on the street. I quickly learned that if I wanted to get to the other part of town on a weekend night, you needed to avoid the main streets.

Whiteville, in the early 1980s was still a tobacco town. Large warehouses stood around the edge of town where, starting in late summer, farmers from across Columbus and Bladen and Brunswick County would sale their dried golden leaves. However, I would be wrong to say it was just a hick town without much culture. What other town with 5000 citizens could draw in the Atlanta Symphony to perform in the local 1,000 seat high school auditorium? The concert, part of the music arts program, was a sell-out.

Like most folks in town, I had no idea that fall when I purchased season tickets to the arts programs that the Atlanta Symphony would be performing the same night that Carolina would be playing for the NCAA championship. It was the Spring of ‘82 and there were lots of men in town who really didn’t want to be there, but we were shamed into coming because, after all, it was the Atlanta Symphony. It would be bad to have a lot of no-shows for the concert. So I sat near the back of the hall. In the foyer, those who were bright enough to volunteer to staff the ticket windows had set up a TV. They’d figured out that once everyone was in, they could listen to the background music while concentrating on the game. The game would go down in history as a classic battle and we missed it all. As the performance ended, we treated the symphony with a warm applause when, from the lobby, a cry came out that could mean just one thing. Carolina had won. People went crazy. The musicians, overcome by this suddenly enthusiastic crowd, bowed and bowed. Little did they know the applause was actually for Michael Jordan, who’d hit the game ending jump shot, giving Carolina the victory of Georgetown.

Oh yeah, in case any of you don't know, Carolina won last night and will be playing one again in the Final Four, which is next weekend in Detroit.


  1. :)

    Only now I know that Michael Jordan was playing for Carolina at one time. Somehow I would never have guessed that.

    So, did you dress up for the Symphony too?

  2. A town named Whiteville in the South?!? Interesting.

    Yeah...I would love to be a fly in your household for a MSU/UNC final.

  3. I just noticed your new profile picture. I don't know why but the first thing I thought of when I looked at it was an old lady at a Pioneer days event. It's been ages since I've came for a visit. Is that the look that you're going for these days? ;-)

  4. These days, the guys just take their I-Pod Touchs with earphones. A beautiful thing, really.

    And yes, the new pic. Funny, but with the winter pic with glasses, I always imagined you with dark hair and features. When I saw the one from Mexico I was shocked (in a good way) that you are so fair.

  5. Mother Hen, Jordan and I grew up in the same town! Yes, I dressed for the symphomy too, I didn't get real informal till after living in the West for a decade

    Murf #1: come Monday, someone may be homeless. #2: Is it my reading glasses?

    Fantasy Life: What kind of features? I like a hat, that way I don't have to worry about showing off my bald spot.

  6. Ah, the things we do for love. ...or to avoid a squabble. :)

    I'll bet the Atlanta Symphony was a frequent guest after all that enthusiasm!

  7. I saw that game-ending shot of Michael Jordan's and I hope to see Carolina's winning shots next week, too!!

  8. Yes as well as the hat pushed back off your head like that.

  9. I already said this on Murf's blog, but I really like the new pic!

    I hate traffic circles. HATE 'em.

    And I drank out of a Tar Heels cup at a friend's yesterday. Do not think this in any way means that I'm cheering for them: I'm all about Villanova. The friends are just UNC Alumi, so I kept my mouth shut.

  10. Sage: My father's first career was as a baker and small business owner. The Atlanta Symphony was one that I worked with a lot during my years as a Director of Marketing & PR for a classical radio station. Cool post!

  11. Great memory for the times... it seems so long ago.

  12. Stephanie, I don't know if they ever came back--I left there in January 1984. But I did enjoy the Symphony

    Diane, I'll try to get up a post this evening on the fishing trip

    Kenju, Yes, may there be many such baskets--that '82 game was so back and forth and had so many Hall of Famers playing--Worthy, Jordan, Ewing...

    Murf, the hat is floppy and I was keeping it out of my eyes

    TC, you're friends should have put something in that cup to convert you!!!

    Michael, Several years ago I had six or so posts describing my experience in the bakery

    Beau, it seems so long ago and then it doesn't... Time's funny in that way

  13. That was definitely one of the classic championship games. Jordan's shot and then Brown's inexplicable pass to Worthy. And those were some classic Carolina/Georgetown teams through the early to mid eighties, for sure.

    It does NOT seem like it happened 27 years ago. That's gotta be a miscalculation on my part.

  14. Jordan was from your town? You gotta be kidding me! He surely doesn't speak like someone from the South.

  15. Btw, cheers to informality. I think I'll die if I need to dress up. No way. I can never do that! I'm too rough actually.

  16. Great story.

    I miss those "cruising Main Street" days, although we burned up a lot of gas driving between Gordon's Stoplight Drive-in and the Majik (sic) Mart.