The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 1:13 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

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By Julie Terry Cartner

I met Frank when I was a teenager, probably sixteen years old. He was my sister Polly’s first serious boyfriend, then fiancée, then husband. When I chose to go to college seven hundred miles from home, Polly and Frank became my surrogate parents. Without a car of my own, the only way to get home was to fly, not an expense my parents could afford, but it was generally easy to get a ride to Atlanta for a visit.

They met Dad and me at Catawba on move-in weekend, and helped us set up my dorm room, hanging curtains, putting posters on the wall, and arranging the furniture. We drove around Salisbury finding all the good places, Roses for small items like bathmats and school supplies, Food Lion, Food Town at the time, for groceries, and a local drug store and bank, all within walking distance of the campus.

We discovered Al’s Nighthawk and College Barbeque and had dinner at Prince of Pizza. When Dad left to drive back to New York, Polly and Frank headed back to Atlanta after reassuring me that I could visit them any time I needed to get away. They came back on parent’s weekend and visited several more times over the course of my first year.

I stayed with them over Thanksgiving weekend and several other three-day weekends during the next four years. I took it for granted. Of course, my sister would welcome me into her home, but I never gave enough thought to the kindness of Frank, that he also welcomed me into his home. He was Frank, my almost-brother, in my mind.

When I stayed with them, we cooked together, played cards, talked, went to Braves baseball games and out to eat. In other words, they gave me a break from college life. They gave me glimpses of their life as a young couple, glimpses of what life would be like after college.

Frank wasn’t a grandstander. He wasn’t interested in being the social butterfly or the life of the party. He was Frank, and that was enough. He was a man I could count on, a man I could respect. He treated my sister with love and care, and he treated me as he would a younger sister. I was always comfortable around Frank.

Did I appreciate them? Of course. Did I ever tell them how much their love, support and open-door policy meant to me? No, not in so many words. Did they know? I sincerely hope so.

My sister passed away almost thirty years ago, and, still a young man, Frank moved on, re-married and had another whole life without me in it. I always assumed I’d see him again one day. I even made plans to visit once, but illness kept that trip from happening. If I had seen him, I would have told him how much he meant to me. I would have told him how much I appreciated his welcoming spirit. I would have told him, now that I’ve had small children, how grateful I was that he welcomed me into his home, even when his life was full with two small children.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda… we’ve all been there. Frank passed away recently, without ever hearing my thank yous. Knowing Frank, he would have been kind; he would have been generous with his reproachless acceptance of my teenaged selfishness. He would have understood how overwhelming life can be with small children and life in general.

But I never gave him the chance. Even with the lessons learned during the covid years, I still made the same mistake, taking time for granted. Relationships are important, more important than money, possessions, or jobs. And yet, how often do we put the people in our lives on the back burner, assuming we’ll get to them later? Thank yous are important. Nothing is more valuable than the people in our lives, and we need to ensure they know they’re appreciated.

It’s too late to tell him personally, but still, from the depths of my heart, I say, thank you, Frank. You were a good man.

Race Cars in 1924

By Marie Craig

An advertisement in the October 10, 1924, Davie Record newspaper described the Charlotte Speedway.  On Saturday, October 25, at 2:00 pm there was to be a race of 250 miles over 1.25 mile board oval track with probable speeds of 115 miles per hour.  Seventy-five thousand people could be accommodated.  It cost $2 to be in the infield and $5 to have a grandstand seat.  There would be $25,000 in prizes for the winner from the eleven contestants.  The route was North Carolina hard surface highway No. 26, with Southern railway providing shuttle rides every 30 minutes.

Using the information from this ad, I created pages 45 and 46 of my book Mary Ellen’s Diary, 1924.  Following is the entry in her fictitious diary.

“Our Davie Record had an astounding advertisement this week.  Just south of us, down near Charlotte, there is a car race track.  I think I heard my dad mention it the other day, but I had no idea how big it is and how fast the cars go.  I asked my mother if we could go this Saturday, October 25, to the race since it’s not very far away.  It’s a brand new track near Pineville and would be fun to watch.

“ ‘Absolutely, not, Mary Ellen!  I won’t have my family at such a dangerous, noisy place.  Who knows what kind of people would be there.’ ”

“I didn’t mean to get her so upset, but I guess I’ll just have to be content with reading the ad again.  Seventy-five thousand people can watch that race!  I wonder if that many will actually come.  The cars can go 115 miles per hour.  I didn’t know anything could go that fast.  The prizes total $25,000!  I’d race for that much money.  But I didn’t say that to my mother.

“I looked at our book of maps and tried to find something that is about 115 miles away.  I finally decided that the distance from Mocksville to Black Mountain is pretty close to 115 miles.  We rode the train to Mooresville and then to Black Mountain last summer.  It took us a long time to get there.  But if I had a race car, I could get there in one hour!  Maybe I’ll get one when I get older when I can hide it from my mother.

“One reason it took so long to get there was because it is real steep from Old Fort up to Black Mountain.  It was scary and exciting at the same time!  The train really worked hard to get us up the mountain.  It was still warm weather, and the windows were open.  The smoke from the engine blew in the windows, and when we went into the seven tunnels, the smoke was real strong inside the train.  We had a good time with our relatives up there, and they took us up on some more mountains.  The trees were so pretty, and you could see for a long way when you were up on top of a big mountain.  We had to come home so my dad could go back to work, but I wanted to stay.  Mama said I had to come home and get ready to go back to school.  The ride back down that steep mountain to Old Fort was easier, but I sat there wondering if the train’s brakes would hold.  Then we were on flat land and the engine speeded up to bring us home.

“I like trains and hope to ride many more, but I still think about those race cars and wish I could see them.  Maybe somebody from Mocksville will go and tell me about it in the newspaper or in person.  That would be fun to hear about.”

After writing this page, I decided to research this old speedway.  Following a blog on the UNC library site about it, there was this information: “The track, a daringly-banked mile oval, is built of two-by-four wooden boards. The cars, one-seat ancestors of modern-day Indy racers, reach speeds of 130 mph. The drivers wear pilot-style caps and goggles.

“The speedway is part of a national circuit of board tracks that lifts racing from its dirt-track origins. But the Charlotte Speedway closes in 1927, victim of a dangerously-deteriorating surface — boards pop out and stand upright — and shrinking crowds. In 1960, some 25 miles to the north, Charlotte Motor Speedway will open, again making Charlotte a racing hub.”