Drake Grindhouse Theater

drake theater

I found this image on Flickr (link at end of post). There were also images of other theaters in NC from the 60’s-80’s. I definitely spent a lot of time at the Charlotte theaters displayed on the page.

I stumbled upon this picture of Drake Theater in Wilson from the 1960’s while researching an earlier blog post.  It was one of the few grindhouse theaters in NC (I read that there was another one in Kinston called the Paramount).  What was a grindhouse theater?  It was a theater that mostly played B movies.  Think exploitation films (sex, violence and romance).

According to historian David Church, this theater type was named after the “grind policy,” a film-programming strategy dating back to the early 1920s, which offered continuous showings of films at cut-rate ticket prices that typically rose over the course of each day. This exhibition practice was markedly different from the era’s more common exhibition practice of fewer shows per day and graduated pricing for different seating sections of large urban theaters. (David Church, “From Exhibition to Genre: The Case of Grind-House Films,” Cinema Journal, vol. 50, no. 4 (2011): https://www.academia.edu/6632128/From_Exhibition_to_Genre_The_Case_of_Grind-House_Films. Also see David Church, Grindhouse Nostalgia: Memory, Home Video, and Exploitation Film Fandom (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).

The Drake was originally the Carolina Theater which opened in 1930 but became that Drake Theater in ca. 1943.  The Drake came to an end in the mid 1970’s after becoming  more of a XXX theater.

Here is a link to an article on the theater and a link to the Flickr page that I found the image.

Noble’s Chapel ca. 1918


Class at Noble’s. The boy to the back right of the boy with the black suit is James Willard Williams

nobles chapel2

This photo was taken in the 1920’s. The church was near Sims and I believe that Noble’s Baptist Church is now at the site.

A patron came by yesterday with a photograph of a group of students at Noble’s Chapel. Her great grandfather, named James Willard Williams, is in the picture.  She told me that he was born in 1909 which led to the 1918 date of the image. The patron didn’t have much information on the Chapel, but I found an image in our collection of the outside of the building, which is now, supposedly, no longer standing.

A History of Farming In Wilson County Through Tools

history of faming in wilson


My favorite tools are the draw knife and the antique bee smoker.

Created a display of historic farming tools in the first floor display cabinet.  Lewis Neal, Wilson County local history collector extraordinaire,  was kind enough to let me borrow several tools from his collection.    The farming tools are from different eras of Wilson’s past (those eras being cotton and tobacco) with some other odds and ends thrown in.

IMG_20151117_091334382 IMG_20151117_091325308 IMG_20151117_091258943 IMG_20151117_091248432

Local History Reference Collections for Public Libraries (featuring the Wilson County Public Library)

Local history reference collections

Local history library book

                                          My flier is included in the chapter on Virtual Solutions.

Hot off the American Library Association Editions press is the newest in the ALA Guides for the Busy Librarian series titled, Local History Reference Collections for Public Libraries by Kathy Marquis and Leslie Waggener.  Not only is it a great resource for a local history reference librarian, it also features the Wilson County Local History and Genealogy Room!  Thanks to this blog the authors from Wyoming were able to see a flyer that I made for the WCLH&G Room and wanted it in their book because they thought it was a “… great example for our chapter on “virtual solutions” for outreach and access, particularly your clever re-use of Office of War Information propaganda posters.”  I am very happy that they chose my flier to be in their great resource.

The Early 1900’s Woman’s Movement and the Formation of the Wilson County Library


The Connor family. Kate Connor, at the very top with her husband, Judge Henry Connor, was the first president of the Wilson Library Association. Elizabeth Connor is married to Kate’s son, one of her 12 children, and was the the president of the Wilson Woman’s Club when the library was first opened in 1921. The library would be run by the Wilson Woman’s Club until 1939.

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of giving a talk titled, “The Relationship between the Wilson Woman’s Club and the Wilson County Public Library.”   it was in celebration of the Wilson Woman’s Club’s 100th anniversary.  There was a nice crowd of 35-40 people, mostly from the Woman’s Club and the Friends of the Library and here are some of the highlights.
           Beginnings of the Wilson Woman’s Club

  • The Wilson Woman’s Club had its origins in a feminist and progressive movement that swept the nation at the dawn of the 20th century landing on the front porches of Wilson in 1914.
  • And on the front porch of Mrs. WA Finch of 212 West Nash Street, the Wilson Woman’s Club was born in May, 1915.
  • The Club soon moved to a small frame building on Pine Street and Carrie Sparger Coon became its first president.

    The Wilson Woman’s Club Establishes a Library
  • In December 1898 the first book club was formed by Wilson County women.
  • In 1900 the book club formed the Wilson Library Association.
  • At first there was only 6-15 members with Kate Connor as president. There was a subscription fee of $1.00 to join and 10 cents a month to become a member.
  • A member was only allowed to check out one book at a time.
  • The library occupied space over a pharmacy and was run by librarian, Sue Pettus.
  • According to a 1903-1904 ledger there were 84 men registered and 124 women with 83 of them married/divorced/widowed and 41 single.
  • Unfortunately by 1909 the WLA was no longer in existence and Wilson was without a library for twelve years.
    Library is Open, at Certain Hours
  • On December 1st, 1921 the Wilson County Library was established in the Wilson Woman’s Club building on Pine Street. It was primarily financed by $2 a year subscriptions. Elizabeth Connor (daughter-in-law of Kate Connor) was president at the time and they had a total of 758 books from 500 donations and the leftover collection from the Wilson Library Association.
  • Gertrude Blount McLean (1875- 1949) was its first librarian and would later be the library’s historian.You can’t keep on and on wanting something as badly as we wanted a public library, something had to be done about it and in 1921 the women of Wilson did something.”
    Gertrude McLean


    Article in the Wilson Daily Times on 3 Dec, 1921, one day after the library opened. I thought they might say something more profound.

    The Wilson Library Becomes Public

  • In 1920 women were finally given the right to vote.
  • In June, 1922 the Wilson city council finally acquiesced to providing the library $30 a month so that subscription fees could be abolished.
  • According to Valentine, the fact the women were the primary supporters of the library and were now newly empowered voters, may have been the reason that the city council was finally swayed to support the library.
  • Now that there were no more subscription fees Wilson had its first municipal public library even though it was still run by the Wilson Woman’s Club.
  • Although the library was begun in the Wilson Woman’s Club building it was moved in 1923 “…to make it appear more of community library” above the Woolworth’s on the corner of Nash and Tarboro streets.
  • In 1925 the library moved its 3,800 books and 27 periodical subscriptions into two rooms in the new Wilson County Courthouse, which would be its home until 1939.
  • Mattie Moss was made Wilson Woman’s Club librarian in 1922 and Blanche Hines was made the Library’s chairwoman and would hold the position until 1939. Mrs. Hines “…remained the real force behind the library…”The Wilson County Library becomes the Wilson County Public Library
    We cannot cut the libraries and pinch our way out of the depression. We must continue to invest in intellectual and spiritual resources of youth and the people.– State Librarian, Carrie L. Broughton

    Why move from a semi-public Woman’s Club Library to a government run and financed library?

  • Space in the courthouse was cramped, funds sparse, and there was limited public supervision.
  • Lack of strong funding provided by the city and county government.
  • 2000 books had been lost from the inventory during the 14 years of its operation, which the county and city government may have concluded was from poor oversight.
  • It was decided that the town was large and prosperous enough (24,000 pop.) to maintain a full-time public library.
  • There was money to be had from the suddenly charitable Federal government that was trying to end the Depression.A Building of its own
  • As appropriations increased for the library during the Depression, plans were made in 1937 to construct and manage a library independent of the Woman’s Club and move out of its cramped facilities in the Wilson County Courthouse.
  • The federal government would provide half of the money for the construction of that library as a part of its anti-Depression measures.
  • The Neo-Georgian building was erected for $75,000 and was dedicated on December 8, 1939.
  • Nancy Gray was appointed the first library director and Mattie Moss was the assistant librarian.

Assistant Mattie Moss, Librarian Nancy Gray and a student manning the front desk not long after the library had opened in December, 1939.



The stacks in 1945.


Martyr of Loray Mill, New book on the Loray Mill Strike of 1929

martyr of loray millKristina Horton, great-granddaughter of Ella May has written a new book on the murdered labor leader, mother of nine and balladeer titled, Martyr of Loray Mill: Ella May and the 1929 Textile Workers’ Strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. 

I have personal interest in this book in that I grew up in Gastonia and worked in textile mills putting in air conditioning units and duct-work during the summers that I was in college.  Moreover, my great-grandfather was employed  at Loray Mill, although he had gone into business for himself before the strike started.  But not everyone had that option, especially not Ella May who was a single mom working to feed nine children, 4 of whom died of whooping cough in one day.  This is her testimony in Washington DC about the labor conditions of southern mills:

“I’m the mother of nine. Four died with the whooping cough, all at once. I was working nights, I asked the super to put me on days, so’s I could tend ‘em when they had their bad spells. But he wouldn’t. I don’t know why. … So I had to quit, and then there wasn’t no money for medicine, and they just died.”

The strike began because of the “stretch-out” system.  A system where weavers and spinners were required to double their work for less money.  Ella May thought that the union would be the best way to  improve conditions for her children so she joined the strike and eventually became one of the leaders and rallied the workers with her ballads.  Here is a description of peoples reaction to her taking the stage at a rally from the book’s introduction:

“Journalists sprang to Gaston County North Carolina. One of them witnessed a scrappy young female textile worker with guitar in hand ascend a speaking platform.  At once the reporter was “transfixed” by her presence and the music that “bubbled” from her.  Other textile workers were drawn in, attentively listening to her “full, throaty voice,” chuckling at her attacks on mill bosses, nodding at testimony to hardship.  The crowd delighted  in how she “gave songs in the mountain style, with an odd sort of yip at the end.”  Another female striker commented, “Purtiest singing I ever heard.”  Others agreed.  The balladeer with the magnetic aura in the center of a national controversy was Ella May.”

Soon afterward Ella May was “…deliberately shot (and killed) for her interracial organizing and her role as balladeer and speaker,” by a group of vigilantes called the Committee of 100 hired by the mill owners to break the strike. No one was ever indited even though there were over fifty eyewitnesses.

The strike was one of the most import strikes in the history of American labor.  Although it achieved little reform at Loray Mill (they lowered the hours to 55 a week) it galvanized people wanting better wages and living conditions all over the US and Europe.  Ella May herself was influential and was called by Woodie Gutherie “…the pioneer of the protest ballad”  (Huber 2009). Pete Seeger even recorded some of her songs (3).

I have not quite finished the book, but so far I have found it to be a well researched and personal account of Ella May’s short but consequential life.  The author deftly navigates a city and surrounding county that has never celebrated the strike as a pivotal event in the history of American labor, but as an embarrassment and something to be forgotten.  One thing I like about the book is the fact that Horton has a compilation of ballads composed around the strike, including Ella Mays famous, Mill Mother’s Lament.  It also has an appearance the director of Barton College’s Hackney Library and Gaston County native, George Loveland.  He wrote a book on the strike, For Our Little Children: Growing Up in the Shadow of the Loray Mill Strike, which I have read and found to be richly drawn and like Horton’s book, a very personal account of the 1929 event.

ella may grave

Ella May’s grave and her surviving children, all of whom went into an orphanage.


Loray Mill Strikers. Sign in the lower right says “To Hell with the Hank Clock.” These clocks timed each task on the looms and weaver to make the worker go at a quicker pace and were a major grievance of the strikers.

eleven year olds who worked in Loray

Young boy employees of Loray Mill. They would advertise for children of small stature so they could easily go into the looms and fix thread breaks. The boy with the coat is listed as eleven years old.


“Been at it right smart for two years now.”

warping maching

A young girl working at a warping machine at Loray Mill.

national guard

“Two women confront an armed soldier during the Loray Mills Textile Strike.” Photo from the Edward Levinson Collection



1. Huber,Patrick. “Mill Mother’s Lament: Ella May Wiggins and the Gastonia Textile Strike of 1929.” Southern Cultures. (2009): 83. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.


3.Old Hat Records


5.Government and Heritage Library Blog

6.Our State Magazine


The last will and testament of Henry C. Rountree.


Another reblog from Black Wide Awake. There’s more good info in this post than most newspapers.

Originally posted on Black Wide-Awake:

H Rountree Will p 1

H Rountree Will p 2

Last Will and Testament of Henry C. Rountree.

Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry C. Rountree, of Wilson in the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina, being of sound mind and memory does make and publish this my last will and testament revoking all former wills at any time before made.

And as to my worldly estate, and all property real, personal or mixed of which I shall die seized and possessed, or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease, I devise, bequeath and dispose of in the following manner:

First. My will is, that all of my just debts and funeral expense shall by my executor hereinafter named be paid as soon after my decease as shall by him be found convenient.

I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife, Emma Rountree, all my household furniture…

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