Discover more from North Carolina Rabbit Hole
The funeral home moved out. The toy store moved in.
A truly haunted combination of businesses in Fallston, plus typical Hillsborough stuff, Drake in App State gear, and what would happen if you let beetles have their way with a vineyard.
Hello all! Back in an earlier incarnation of this newsletter, I (occasionally) used to write up a combination of reader questions and weird little things I saw from the week that was. Well guess what? I’M BRINGIN’ IT BACK. OCCASIONALLY. Behold, the return of Tiny Rabbit Holes.
Hillsborough: A town where people are standing in the forest, reading books
You know what might be the best running path in the state? The Riverwalk in Hillsborough, that’s what. On Wednesday, as I made my way back from speaking engagement in Cary, I stopped off for a run. I started with a lap at the old Occoneechee Speedway, ran for a few miles along the Riverwalk, passed downtown, then headed out on the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail. You get a heavy dose of Eno River, dead NASCAR track, abandoned quarry, and replica indigenous settlement, all in just a few miles! Plus, I didn’t twist my ankle trying to scoot down a mountainside a stop speed. Just a flawless victory.
However! As I got back to my car, I saw what may be the most Hillsborough sight ever: A man standing alone in the woods near the parking lot, reading a hardcover book. A lot of authors and poets live in Hillsborough, so the fact that one of them couldn’t bear to go into the woods without a heavy book feels right.
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Anyhow, this run went so much better than a similar one last week, when I had to squeeze in a run in the evening. I woofed down a Bojangles supremes combo then immediately did an hour of speed work. It did not go well.
Lake Tahoma! Where the HOA comes sweepin’ down the plain.
Here’s a question from Rabbit Hole reader Michael Konen:
It’s a casino! Or, at least it was.
Lake Tahoma is not a place I’m super familiar with, maybe because it’s private and has been that way since it was created 98 years ago. Investors built a dam in 1924, then built power plant to supply juice to nearby Marion. They also built a casino that sat on the lake which hosted things like luncheons and orchestras.
In 1929, an investor from Cleveland bought the lake, renovated the casino, and had really big plans to put in things like golf courses and a hotel. Extraordinarily bad timing!
In 1945, the state looked at making the lake and surrounding area into a state park, but those plans fell through. Today, the whole lake and surrounding area is controlled by a homeowners’ association, which allows the casino to be rented out for weddings or whatnot.
Fish in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones and Actually Glass Fish Houses Are Just Aquariums, Right?
From Rabbit Hole supporter Anson Burtch:
One teensy problem: Shouldn’t the houses be in the water if they want fish to live in them? (ducks to avoid objects thrown by fishermen).
What happens if you just don’t do anything to a vineyard?
I have a story out in this month’s Our State magazine about the only teaching winery on the Eastern Seaboard. It’s at Surry Community College in Dobson, and I had a fun time envisioning how a horde of beetles and the ravages of disease would destroy a vineyard if you just decided to let nature have its way.
Also, the students make a variety of wine that comes in a bottle WITH A BOTTLE CAP ON IT. That is low-key bad ass. I say this with love: It’s the tuxedo t-shirt of wines.
Happy 30th birthday to Charlotte’s tallest building and alleged threat to small aircraft
The Bank of America Corporate Center turned 30 this week. Ten years ago, when it turned 20, I produced this short documentary for WCNC (I called it that because I had to justify putting a 7-minute-long story on the 11 p.m. news somehow).
I really enjoyed combing through the old WCNC tape archives to make this. But I really enjoyed talking to former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, who told me that he “wanted something that reeked of power and wealth, but was warm and friendly.” I don’t know how anyone can say stuff like that and come off as somewhat endearing, but McColl can pull it off.
He also said… this:
We had to go to the FAA to get permission to go to the 66 stories because a Cessna 421 taking off on runway five couldn't clear this. And so today, if you're flying a 421 and want to come straight off a runway 5, that won't work. You’d best bank.
That’s sort of true. In 1989, the FAA got into a spat with NCNB (Bank of America’s predecessor) over the tower’s height, which it said posed a “hazard to air navigation” to air traffic coming in from the east, particularly smaller planes that use runway 5/23. That runway cuts across one of Charlotte-Douglas airport’s three parallel runways. It’s not pointed directly at the skyscraper itself. Still, there was a worry that it would make things really tough on pilots and air traffic controllers. The FAA said at the time that it couldn’t stop construction on the tower, but it could cut off federal funding for the airport, and its decision might make it really hard for the new tower to get insurance. Seven months later, after interventions from members of Congress, the FAA gave up.
Anyway, here if the face that McColl made after telling me this story:
A Combo Funeral Home/Toy Store
After I wrote about the funeral home in Laurinburg that had an actual mummified corpse on display for 61 years, Rabbit Hole reader Tim Peeler told me of my egregious oversight:
Ah yes, the “Jones' Good Ass BBQ & Foot Massage” of its day.
Stamey’s own website said that its original owners simply ran a general store, but then started selling burial clothes, caskets, and other “funeral merchandise” in 1900. In 1912, they decided to up their game and get into the embalming business. Skip ahead to 1924, when the Stameys built a new store and set aside the third floor as the funeral home. They embalmed the recently departed up there until 1952, when the funeral home moved out. After that, the third floor housed furniture, appliance, housewares, and toy displays. Nothing sounds like “you’re going to accidentally open a portal to the netherworld” quite like selling toys in the same space that once contained untold numbers of corpses.
The store itself closed in 1994, is now used as an events center, and was added to the National Register of Historic (and possibly cursed) Places in 2019.
Drake (feat. Yosef)
Last thing: Here’s eastern North Carolina reporter (and highly enjoyable TikTok presence) Justin Odell Lundy dropping a truly cursed tweet into our timelines.
Apparently Drake wore a “Too soon to be retro but too old to be swaggy” Appalachian State shirt to 21’s “Freaknik” birthday party in Atlanta a few days ago. Forget the nice things I said about Boone. The Mountaineers are going to lose every game forever because of this.