Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On the Road

    Aware of my great admiration for Charles Kuralt, Warren and Becky Sparrow. CHS54's original rovng correspondents,  discovered a bunch of snapshots hiding in a seldom used drawer somewhere in their Winston Salem mansion a couple of weeks ago and were kind enough to send copies to me.

The photos were taken at Grandfather Mountain at the 40th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge in 1992.  Kuralt was the featured speaker that day, five years before his untimely passing. 

Becky Sparrow
Warren Sparrow
Charlie Justice was in attendance as well as Hugh Morton, well known author and photographer who had inherited the Grandfather Mountain property from his grandfather.  Hugh was probably North Carolina's greatest photographer, having captured and published a number of coffee table books featuring spectacular scenes of 
the state's natural features as well as most of the leading athletic events of the 40's and 50's.

One of my favorites is his photograph of the city of Charlotte that he took from Grandfather Mountain, 87 miles away!

Charlotte ....from 87 miles away!     by Hugh Morton

Excerpt from Charles Kuralt’s Speech for the 40th Anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge — Sept. 2, 1992

M<orton & KuraltThank you. Nice to be here with so many old friends, and to join in celebrating the birthday of the Mile High Swinging Bridge. When the Mile High Swinging Bridge was completed, opened and dedicated on the afternoon of Sept. 2, 1952, I was starting my sophomore year at Chapel Hill. There was a great deal of fuss in the newspapers of the state about the Mile High Swinging Bridge, since — as we know — the owner and proprietor of the Mile High Swinging Bridge has never seen any reason to be diffident and retiring about the improvements to his property up here. And from all the stories in the papers, I got the impression that the Mile High Swinging Bridge spanned a chasm one mile deep. You can imagine how I felt when I came up here and saw it for the first time and observed to my surprise that the Mile High Swinging Bridge actually hangs about 80 feet above the ground.
It is calculated that six million people have come up here to see the Mile High Swinging Bridge. How many of them would have made the trip if it were advertised as the Eighty-Foot High Swinging Bridge? The owner and proprietor of Grandfather Mountain knows what he is doing.

Charles Kuralt
The first winter that the bridge was here, the winter wind came up 
and blew the bridge around and heaved it like a bedspread being shaken out the back door of the cabin by a mountain woman, and blew a lot of the boards out of the floor and forced the engineers to give the Mile High Swinging Bridge a second thought. The next spring, they attached those cables that hold the bridge to the ground below. I need hardly point out that since then, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which is NOT a mile high, is not swinging, either. So what we have here is the 80-foot high, tethered bridge. Big deal.

And yet, somehow, it IS a big deal, hanging here 5,305 feet above sea level, which give Hugh Morton a 25-foot margin against any truth-in-advertising lawsuits. If you measure from Wrightsville Beach, it IS a mile high. From the center of the bridge, on a clear day, you can see down into the Linville River Valley 16-hundred feet below to the west… and down into the valley to the east 4,000 feet below.
This is a sufficiently awesome experience to dissuade many otherwise brave men and women from walking across. An extensive survey of 10,000 Grandfather Mountain visitors found that 30 percent of the women, and 12.7 percent of the men come all the way up here and then do not cross the bridge! North Carolina’s all-time great athlete, Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice, who never had the slightest fear of being pounded by 300-pound linebackers, for the longest time could not bring himself to step out on the bridge… I guess on the theory that while linebackers can drop you to the ground, even they cannot drop you 80 feet to the ground! Charlie Justice has conquered his fear and now strolls across pretending not to be nervous, as do more than 150,000 other visitors every year. The Mile High Swinging Bridge has been wonderful for the economy of the mountains. Visitors stop in neighboring communities to stock up on everything from picnic supplies to T-shirts, and especially, if they know they are coming to the bridge, on Dramamine and Valium.

I don't know anything about who, or when this fellow did this. All I know is the caption on the picture is "Joe Clark." That's all the information the internet says about Joe Clark.

....other than Old Joe Clark is a fairly well known folk song.

And a pretty good one at that.

In fact, I think I hear some good old mountain music now......