The Sauline Players Theatrical Troupe Thrilled Audiences in 20th Century

Did you ever see the Sauline Players perform? Chances are you did if you went to school in the piedmont of North Carolina in the early- to mid-1900s.

As I write that, though, it occurs to me that I don’t know if they performed at the schools for black children. I hope they did, for their performances were a real treasure for those of us who lived in rural areas and didn’t have easy access to live theatrical performances.

Two of the 91 local history articles in my new book, Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1, are about the Sauline Players. I’ll share some highlights from those articles in today’s blog post.

When I researched the Sauline Players for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper in 2011, I was surprised to learn that the theatrical troupe was based in the small Gaston County town of Belmont, North Carolina. I have fond memories of their performances in the auditorium at Harrisburg High School in the early 1960s when I was in elementary school.

In 2010, I learned that Joseph Sauline was with another traveling acting troupe in Charlotte in the 1920s when that company went broke. Not to be outdone, Mr. Sauline stayed in the area and organized his own acting group — the Sauline Players.

An online search in 2010 led me to a Sauline Players listing on the acting resume of Ms. Joan McCrea. I was able to get in touch with her agent, who in turn gave Ms. McCrea my contact information. Imagine my surprise one day when I answered the phone and found actress Joan McCrea in Los Angeles on the other end of the line!

The ensuing correspondence with Ms. McCrea turned my single newspaper article about the Sauline Players into a two-part series.

If you want to know more about the Sauline Players and other local history articles I wrote for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper, look for my book, Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1.


Harrisburg, Did You Know?
Cabarrus History, Book 1,
by Janet Morrison

Where to purchase Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1

Paperback available at Second Look Books, 4519 School House Commons, Harrisburg, NC

Paperback and e-book available from Amazon:  ­­­­­­­­­­https://www.amazon.com/Harrisburg-Did-You-Know-Cabarrus/dp/1888858044/.


Since my last blog post

My book received a lot of positive and well-placed publicity last week. The proprietor of Second Look Books in Harrisburg tells me sales have been brisk.

I took a long enough break from formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 2 to design the cover for the paperback. Then, it was back to formatting. I’m pleased to have the cover designed so I could mark that task off my to-do list.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading a couple of books now. It’ll be interesting to see how many I get read in January.

Remember the brave, freezing people in Ukraine.

Janet

2022 is in the Rear-View Mirror

2022 has been a good year for me. Coming out of the worst days of the Covid 19 Pandemic has given me a chance to try to get back into my normal routine.

Being able to once again go out in public (except to medical facilities) without wearing an N-95 mask is a nice change from 2020 and 2021. It still feels odd to eat inside a restaurant or travel. All the things I used to take for granted are more appreciated now.

2022 was a year of accomplishment for me as I published Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 the last week in November. It’s been exciting to see it well-received and appreciated.

Publishing the book gave me a sense of accomplishment I didn’t expect as I was able to format it and design the cover. I even learned how to make a QR Code that will take people to my website! I still have trouble remembering what the “Q” and the “R” stand for, but I’m making progress. Those are small technological accomplishments in the big scheme of things, but they are huge for me!

The formatting of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2 is coming along nicely, so watch for it perhaps in February. I’m on my own schedule for that, so that lessens the pressure of meeting someone else’s deadline.

I hired a company to redesign my website. I’ve now seen the home page and the “about” page, so it’s coming together. I look forward to unveiling the new website in a few weeks. The URL will still be JanetMorrisonBooks.com.

I’ve made progress working on my family genealogy and putting the information in a software program that will allow me to easily share the information with others in the family. They might not appreciate it now, but I’d like to think they will later.

The decluttering I did early in the year is but a distant memory now. (Why did I keep this stuff?) My writing projects sidetracked me. I must make time for more decluttering in the new year.

I’ve read some good books this year, but my writing has derailed my reading list the last several months. Too many books, not enough time!

The historical short stories I’m writing have taken a back seat to the Harrisburg local history books, but I look forward to turning my attention back to them now that Book 1 is out. In fact, I edited one of my stories on Saturday.

The older I get, the more I realize I’m racing against the clock to get all my projects finished. Too many interests and projects, not enough time!

As you look back over 2022, I hope you remember the good times and all your blessings. I can’t forget the sad times or the difficult times but, when I stop and think, I know I’ve been truly blessed this year. I hope you feel the same way about 2022 as we prepare for a new year.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read! I’m reading a book of poetry by Ray Griffin. The name of it is Threshold. I’ll write more about it in my next blog post.

It’s been an unusually cold past week here in the United States. I hope you’ve stayed safe and warm wherever you are.

Remember the cold and brave people of Ukraine.

I hope you’re having a nice holiday season, no matter your beliefs.

Janet

#OnThisDay: 8 Valley Forge facts that will actually surprise you on this 245th anniversary

The encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge began 245 years ago today. We’re all familiar with the image of George Washington leading his troops across the frigid Delaware River. We know that it was a bitterly cold winter, but there are some interesting facts I hope to surprise you with today.

            1,700 to 2,000 soldiers died of disease at the six-month encampment.

            Food for the troops was scarce. The Oneida delegation, allies of the Patriots, arrived in May 1778 with white corn. Polly Cooper of the delegation instructed them on how to safely prepare the corn for consumption and stayed after most of her fellow Oneidans had left. She received a shawl from Martha Washington in thanks for her assistance.

            In December it went down to 6 degrees F., 12 degrees F. in January, 12 degrees F. in February, and 8 degrees F. in March.

            It was the last time United States soldiers served in a racially-integrated army until the Korean War in the 1950s.

            The volunteer drill master was Baron von Steubon, a Prussian military commander. The Prussian military drills and tactics he taught the troops were used by the United States military for the next 30 years.

            It is thought that 250 to 400 women were in the encampment, serving as cooks, nurses, laundresses, and menders of clothing.

            Mary Ludwig Hayes, a.k.a., Molly Pitcher, was at Valley Forge with her husband. She is remembered for jumping into service to help load a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse after her husband was wounded.

            Hannah Till was an enslaved cook for George Washington at Valley Forge. She purchased her freedom a few years later and became a salaried cook.

            We hear a lot about our “forefathers” but not enough about our “foremothers!”


Since my last blog post

Look who’s reading my book! He must have found it on Amazon or in Harrisburg, NC at Second Look Books or Gift Innovations! It’s in short supply in Harrisburg until I get my next shipment. If you prefer an e-book, remember it’s available for e-book and in paperback from Amazon.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever holidays you are celebrating.

I hope you enjoy time with family and friends.

Remember the suffering people of Ukraine.

I’ll see you again here at my blog on December 26 – the last Monday in 2022!

Janet

What I Tried to Read in November and How to Buy My Book

On the first Monday of the month I usually blog about the books I read the previous month. There was a good reason that didn’t work out this month. My local history book, Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1, had been published and I couldn’t wait to announce it on my blog last week.

It was a good month for that to happen because I didn’t have any earth-shattering news about the books I read in November. Working toward getting several books published in the coming days and months left me little time to read.

Most of my reading time was spent on books about the craft of writing and history books I needed for research. Those aren’t necessarily the type books my blog readers want to know about.

Those books included Sketches of Virginia, by Henry Foote and Artisans of the North Carolina Backcountry, by Johanna Miller Lewis. The “Artisans” book was especially helpful as I worked on my novel.              

I tried to read some fiction. It just didn’t work out well – partly because of my time constraints and partly because the books I chose didn’t grab my attention enough for me to make time for them.

I started reading Less is Lost, by Andrew Sean Greer. I really enjoyed his earlier book, Less. It was humorous. Less is Lost is probably humorous, too. I only got to page 12 in the large print edition. I’ll check it out again later.

I started reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. It is an odd story about a man who sets out one morning to walk to the mailbox. He’s worried about a former co-worker who has cancer and lives far away. Instead of stopping at the mailbox to mail a letter to her, he just keeps walking. I got to page 66 in the large print edition. He was still walking. I didn’t have time to read the next 381 pages to see if he made it to his destination.

I started listening to Mad Honey, by Jodi Picoult. After falling asleep too many times to count and having to re-listen to the first several discs, when I got to disc number four I seriously questioned why I was trying so hard. I don’t know if it was me or the book. It just didn’t work out. I’ve enjoyed other Jodi Picoult books I’ve read, but this one just didn’t work for me.


Until my next blog post

Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 is available on Amazon in many countries. Here’s the link to it in the United States: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1888858044/ for e-book; https://www.amazon.com/dp/1888858044/ for paperback. (Thank you, Rebecca Cunningham for cluing me in that there’s a way to shorten those outrageously long URLs Amazon gives a book.! This looks much better. I hope the links work!)

In case you live in the Harrisburg area and prefer to purchase Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1 locally instead of ordering it online, it is now available in limited numbers in Harrisburg at Second Look Books at 4519 School House Commons and at Gift Innovations at 4555 NC Hwy. 49. I’m pleased to announce that those local small businesses will have my book!

I hope you have a good book to read. If it happens to be Harrisburg, Did You Know?  Cabarrus History, Book 1, then all the better!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

“Reading Like a Writer”

In my last two blog posts I’ve written about the books I read in March. Last Monday’s post was nearing 2,000 words, so I decided to save my comments about Reading Like a Writer:  A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose, for today. I’ll just hit some of the highlights.

Reading Like a Writer 5182EVgCeCL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_
Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose

Chapter One:  Close Reading

I read and took copious notes from the first four chapters of this book and perused the rest of it. As an aspiring author, I loved how the first chapter confirmed that I read like a writer. It’s called “close reading,” and it means reading every word for the pleasure of getting every phrase – being conscious of such things as style, sentence formation, and how the author creates characters.

Based on what Francine Prose wrote, I no longer need to apologize for reading slowly. I’m trying to hone my craft by reading published writers.

Chapter Two:  Words

In the second chapter of Reading Like a Writer, the author recommends that you read slowly enough to read every word. She compares the language a writer uses to the way a composer uses notes and a painter uses paint.

To paraphrase Ms. Prose, reading to appreciate the writing is akin to not only admiring a beautiful painting from afar but also close up so you can see the brushstrokes.

I also appreciated Ms. Prose’s thoughts on the advice often given to writers, which is “Show, don’t tell.” Ms. Prose says this much-repeated advice confuses novice writers. I can vouch for that.

In editing my earlier manuscript for The Spanish Coin (before I started the complete rewrite), I took the “show, don’t tell” advice to the extreme. I was ruthless in cutting narrative, thinking I could best “show” through dialogue. It was all part of the learning process. Ms. Prose’s take on this is that showing is best done through “the energetic and specific use of language.”

Chapter Three:  Sentences

If I had known I would someday want to be a writer, I would have paid more attention in the 8th grade when we had to diagram sentences. I wasn’t very good at it, and I really didn’t see the point.

I hadn’t thought about sentence diagramming in years until I got to the third chapter of Ms. Prose’s book. She wrote about the value of diagramming sentences, and what she said makes sense to me now.

She lamented the fact that students are no longer taught to diagram sentences. Her explanation that sentence diagramming provides for the accounting of every word and provides a way “to keep track of which phrase is modifying which noun” gave me a way of understanding the value of the exercise that I could not have appreciated as an eighth grader.

I probably couldn’t diagram a complex sentence today if my life depended on it, but Ms. Prose might just be onto something when she insinuates that having that skill would help a writer.

This weekend I happened upon an article from the Huffington Post about diagramming sentences. Here’s the link, if you wish to take a look:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/diagram-sentence-grammar_n_5908462.html.

A word of warning, though, for those of you of “a certain age.” Reading the Huffington Post article, I soon felt like I’d entered a time warp. I don’t think our sentences had “complements” when I was in the 8th grade.

Chapter Four:  Paragraphs

In the fourth chapter of the book, Ms. Prose quotes master short story writer, Isaac Babel:

“’The breaking up into paragraphs and the punctuation have to be done properly but only for the effect on the reader. A set of dead rules is no good. A new paragraph is a wonderful thing. It lets you quietly change the rhythm, and it can be like a flash of lightning that shows the same landscape from a different aspect.’” – Isaac Babel

In all the various English courses I have taken, I don’t recall any teacher or professor ever saying to break for a new paragraph “only for the effect on the reader.” I’m still letting that sink in. It’s refreshing and freeing to think about it. It is for the writer to determine which rules are dead as far as her editor is concerned.

Chapter Seven:  Dialogue

Characters in a novel should “say what they mean, get to the point, avoid circumlocution and digression.”

Chapter Eight:  Details

Another interesting observation Ms. Prose makes is about details and the truth. She observes that details persuade that the truth is being told.

She points out that a piece of clothing can speak volumes about a character’s circumstances.

Chapter Eleven:  Reading for Courage

Continuing to fly in the face of common advice given to writers of fiction, Ms. Prose suggests that the trend in modern fiction that characters in a novel must be nice in order for the reader to identify with them is possibly not true.

She also says it’s not necessarily true that every loose end in a work of fiction needs to be tied up neatly by the end.

What a relief to read those last two theories! My characters don’t have to be nice in order for the reader to identify with them, and all the loose ends don’t have to be tied up at the end of the novel? This is in opposition to what I learned in fiction writing class back in 2001.

“Words,” by Dr. R. Brown McAlister

Chapter Two in Ms. Prose’s book brought to mind the title of the remarks made by one of the two guest speakers at my high school graduation. Dr. R. Brown McAllister, a beloved icon in Cabarrus County Schools at the time, had retired after many decades of teaching and working as a school administrator, and he had a dry but keen sense of humor. The printed program for the graduation ceremony listed “Words,” by Dr. R. Brown McAllister.

In his deadpan way, Dr. McAllister went to the podium and said something like, “I was asked to talk about words, so here I am.” That was in 1971 and I still don’t know to this day if he was asked to talk about words or to say a few words.

The more I attempt to be a writer and the more I read, the more I appreciate words.

Since my last blog post

I have made a social media plan and made an effort to do more on Twitter (@janetmorrisonbk), my writing-related boards on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049), and my Janet Morrison, Writer page on Facebook. Implementing the plan will be a challenge but I’m told I must get my name out there if I hope to sell any copies of The Spanish Coin if and when it gets written and published.

I did not get much reading done last week, but I’m trying to learn that I can’t do everything I want to do. I can’t even do everything I need to do.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve just started reading Every Note Played, by Lisa Genova.

every-note-played-9781476717807_lg
Every Note Played, by Lisa Genova

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time

If you haven’t signed up for my sometime-in-the-future newsletters, please do so by completing the form below.

Janet

Early X-ray and a Thimble

Did you know that a girl from the Rocky River community in Cabarrus County, North Carolina was the first person whose life was saved in the United States with the aid of the X-ray? Today’s blog post is an edited version of a local history newspaper column I wrote in 2006 for Harrisburg Horizons, a short-lived weekly newspaper. I usually blog about writing fiction, but this is an example of my nonfiction writing.

Discovery of the X-ray

Just three months after Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen of Bavaria discovered the X-ray, a scientist from Davidson, North Carolina used it in a Rocky River home to help save Ellen Harris’ life. It was a February day in 1896.

Dr. Henry Louis Smith of Davidson read about Roentgen’s discovery of the X-ray. He went to Dr. J.P. Munroe’s laboratory in the small medical school on the campus of Davidson College. The laboratory had the same equipment as that used by Mr. Roentgen.

Dr. Smith fired a bullet into the palm of a corpse’s hand. He then made a successful X-ray of the hand.

Ellen Harris Swallows Thimble

Soon thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. William Edwin Harris’ twelve-year-old daughter, Ellen, swallowed a tailor’s thimble. The open-ended thimble lodged in her throat and made it increasingly difficult for her to breathe or eat over the following days.

Tailor's Thimble
Tailor’s Thimble

Area physicians did not agree on a diagnosis. Three doctors thought she coughed up the thimble and damaged her throat in the process. One doctor speculated that the thimble hurt her throat as it passed to her stomach. Only one of the five doctors consulted thought the thimble was still in Ellen’s throat.

A man in Charlotte, the largest town in the area, told Dr. Smith about Ellen’s predicament. Dr. Smith asked the man to convey to Ellen’s parents his willingness to help them.

Ellen’s frantic father and mother believed that Dr. Smith could help their daughter. Mr. Harris traveled to Davidson in a wagon (a distance of about 30 miles — perhaps more in those days) and brought Dr. Smith and his X-ray equipment to his home near Rocky River Presbyterian Church on Rocky River Road.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris placed Ellen on a sheet fashioned into a hammock. Dr. Smith set up his crude X-ray apparatus. A large and heavy battery and induction coil powered the equipment.

According to a letter that Dr. Smith wrote to Dr. Robert M. Lafferty, he crouched on the floor under the girl. After an hour’s work with a fluoroscope, he got a fleeting glimpse of the thimble in the child’s windpipe. There was no lasting image on film like in X-rays today.

Dr. Smith returned to Davidson and the Harris family set out for a hospital in Charlotte. The doctors there refused to operate on Ellen. They wanted to see exactly where the thimble rested before they made an incision.

The Charlotte surgeons wired Dr. Smith their concerns. Surgery was Ellen’s only hope for survival. Without knowing the exact location of the thimble, though, the surgeons feared they would lose their patient on the operating table.

Dr. Smith immediately brought his X-ray equipment from Davidson to the hospital. Once more, the apparatus pinpointed the location of the thimble in Ellen’s trachea. The image paved the way for the operation.

The surgeons soon discovered that Ellen’s flesh partially grew over the rusting thimble. This made the thimble’s removal difficult and challenging. The arduous two-hour surgery saved Ellen’s life and put the Rocky River community on the medical history map!

My sources:

Early Medicine in Cabarrus, primary data collected by Eugenia W. Lore and edited by Jane Harris Nierenberg, 1990.  (Includes newspaper articles from The Concord Tribune, November 9, 1945, and December 10, 1945.)

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us, by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, 1971.

The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Peter R. Kaplan, 1981.

Hornets’ Nest:  The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, by LeGette Blythe and Charles R. Brockmann, 1961.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I finished Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner and have started reading Chasing the North Star, by Robert Morgan.) If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Save

First Author Event Scheduled!

My first author event/book signing for The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina will be held at the public library in Harrisburg at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, September 11th. This is exciting and a bit intimidating. Author events at the other three public libraries in Cabarrus County are in the works, but no dates have been selected.

I’ve tried for two weeks to arrange author events in the three public libraries in one of the counties in the foothills of North Carolina to no avail. It is disappointing. I really want to show my support for public libraries. I will turn my attention to the next county on my list and keep you posted.

Ending a chapter

I’m ending a chapter in my writing life this week. On Christmas Eve, I received an e-mail informing me that as of December 30, 2012, Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper will cease publication. I have written a local history column for the paper every other week since its second issue in May of 2006. I have learned far more about the history of Cabarrus County’s Township #1 than I could have anticipated when I set out on this journey. I enjoyed doing most of the research and loved doing the writing. The little bit of income this freelancing job gave me was icing on the cake.

It is time to start a new chapter, or perhaps return to an unfinished chapter as a writer. The manuscript for The Spanish Coin, my first attempt at writing an historical novel, has been on the back burner far too long. It is time to look at it with fresh eyes and get it published. It is time to look at other avenues of writing and see where that road takes me.

As I count down to my birthday in January… one of those dreaded birthdays that ends in a “0,” it seems fitting to take stock of what I have and have not accomplished and step into the next chapter of my life with boldness and enthusiasm!

another book recommendation

Thanks to my sister giving me an early Christmas present, I finally have a Kindle. The first book I downloaded was Bonds of Courage. Written by Sandy Hill, it is a wonderful work of historical fiction set in Pennsylvania during the American Revolution. The author draws on an intriguing piece of her family’s history and weaves a suspenseful story of war, kidnapping, and the desperate measures people will take in order to save those they love.

Reading good historical fiction like Bonds of Courage inspires me to turn my efforts back to getting the manuscript I’m calling The Spanish Coin published. Maybe 2013 will see that happen. In the meantime, though, I’m transcribing the handwritten Cabarrus County Board of Education Minutes from microfilm. I look forward to writing more newspaper columns about our schools when that research is completed.

While you’re waiting for my historical novel to be published, I highly recommend Bonds of Courage, by Sandy Hill, and I hope she will bless us with a sequel.

Getting back to research

For those of you who follow my local history column in Harrisburg Horizons newspaper every other week, my article was omitted last Sunday. It should be in the paper on October 7.

I neglected research for my local history column for a few weeks while I spent time making items to sell on Saturday, October 6 at the Harvest Fest at Harrisburg United Methodist Church. This is my first craft fair, so I’m eager to see how it goes. Variety is the spice of life, so I have enjoyed this recent diversion.

Monday will find me concentrating on my local history research and putting my fingers to the keyboard. Reading microfilmed records is tedious but full of surprises. I must psyche myself up to do more of that this winter.

Writing the newspaper column since May of 2006 has been a blessing to me, and I’m thrilled when people tell me how much they enjoy and look forward to my articles. I have enjoyed writing my “Did You Know?” column more than any other job I’ve ever had.

I plan to start blogging a couple of times a week to let you know what I’m working on and what I’m reading. Stay tuned.