Dirty Dancing Filmed at Lake Lure

August21On August 21, 1987, the blockbuster movie Dirty Dancing was released in theaters across the country.

Though set at a resort in the Catskills Mountains of Upstate New York, Dirty Dancing was shot entirely in Virginia and North Carolina. The filming came to the Southeast almost by accident. When the crew began production in September 1986, they found all the resorts in the New York mountains were closed, so they headed South.

Many of the film’s most famous scenes, including the “lake lift” scene where Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey in the water, and the shots of Grey practicing her moves to the song “Wipe Out” on the stairs on a mountainside were shot at Lake Lure. The nearby Rumbling Bald Resort’s golf course was used for the scene where Grey asks her dad for money, and the Esmeralda Inn was used for interior dance shots.

In 2010, the town of Lake Lure decided to begin celebrating its close association with the smash hit by hosting the Dirty Dancing Festival. Now an annual event, the festival draws thousands to Rutherford County each August to commemorate the now classic film and raise money for pancreatic cancer research.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Long Political Career for Governor Cameron Morrison

Gov. Cameron Morrison on his inauguration day in 1921. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Gov. Cameron Morrison on his inauguration day in 1921. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 20, 1953, “Good Roads Governor” Cameron Morrison died.

Born in 1869, Morrison attended school in his native Richmond County. He did not attend college, but briefly studied law before opening a practice in Rockingham in 1892. Morrison began his political career as mayor of Rockingham, before being elected to the state Senate in 1900. After serving there for one term, Morrison took a 20-year break from politics before being elected governor in 1921.

A Democrat, Morrison devoted himself to internal improvements. He prompted the legislature to fund the construction of 5,500 miles of hard-surface roads. He also advocated for improvements in higher education and increases in funding to the state’s charitable institutions.

Though he was a leader of the “Red Shirts” and promoted white supremacy tactics that included harassment and threats of violence against African American voters earlier in life, as governor, Morrison sought to improve race relations and all but ended lynching in the state.

Following his term as governor, Morrison returned to private life. In 1930, he was appointed to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate term. He served one term in U.S. House in the early 1940s, but was defeated in another bid for the Senate in 1944. He died in 1953.

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Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain Date Back to 1956

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

On August 19, 1956, the first Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held near Linville.

The Grandfather Mountain games were conceived by Agnes MacRae Morton and Donald MacDonald. Already active in with several Scottish-affiliated organizations in the U.S., MacDonald was inspired to start games in North Carolina after attending a similar event on a trip to Scotland. Morton heard of a similar gathering in Connecticut and thought that Grandfather Mountain would be the perfect setting to try something comparable in North Carolina.

The pair chose the August 1956 date to commemorate the anniversary of an important event in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion against in Scotland, though the event was moved to the second weekend in July two years later.

The Avery County event quickly gained international fame, and its competitions in athletics, bagpiping, drumming and dancing are recognized worldwide. The games also have the distinction of being the largest “clan gathering” in the world since it draws so many Scottish family heritage groups.

The tradition of highland games across North Carolina is owed to the face that the Tar Heel State had the largest settlement of Highland Scots outside of Scotland until well into 1800s.

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Origins of the “Lost Colony” Mystery

A sketch of John White discovering “CROATOAN”
on a Roanoke Island tree

On August 18, 1590, Englishman John White returned to Roanoke Island to resupply the colony established on the island in 1587.  White found the settlement abandoned. A single word “CROATOAN” was carved on a post in the fort.

In 1587, at the urging of fellow colonists, Governor White had returned to England to gather supplies for the blossoming colony. Before leaving Roanoke Island, White and the colonists agreed that they would carve a message in a tree if they moved. Additionally, a Maltese cross would also be carved if the move was a forced. Since White didn’t find that particular distress signal, he was hopeful that the colonists would be found alive. White’s granddaughter, Virginia Dare, had been born exactly three years earlier.

After arriving back in England in October 1587, White was prevented from immediately returning to Roanoke Island because of England’s war with Spain. His attempt to do so in 1588 ended when pirates stole all his supplies. Finally, he was granted permission to return in early 1590.

White had the misfortune of arriving at Roanoke Island in poor weather and terrible landing conditions, leading to the death of seven mariners by drowning. The weather forced White to leave without searching adjacent areas for the colony.

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Frank Stick, Lindsay Warren and Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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Surf fishing with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the background, circa 1956. Image from the State Archives.

On August 17, 1937, the U.S. House of Representatives authorized the country’s first national seashore at Cape Hatteras.

North Carolina Congressman Lindsay C. Warren sponsored the bill that sought to preserve the distinctive barrier islands of the Outer Banks. Because support for the park waxed and waned over the years, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was not officially established until 1953. The formal dedication ceremony was held in 1958.

The park was a long-time dream of conservationist and developer Frank Stick, who first came to the area on a fishing excursion in the late 1920s and was impressed with the pristine beaches and seemingly endless opportunities for recreation. He began lobbying for “a coastal park for North Carolina and the nation” soon after moving his family to the Outer Banks in 1929.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, administered by the National Park Service, now includes more than 70 miles of beach from Nags Head to Ocracoke. Initial plans called for a much larger park that included portions of Roanoke and Colington Islands. More than 2 million people visit the seashore each year to enjoy its beaches, fish, swim, surf, bird watch or see one of the lighthouses−Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke–that are found in the park.

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Diminutive Circus Duo Retired to Salisbury

John and Mariah Nail Mertz, circa 1883. Image from the Davie County Public Library.

John and Mariah Nail Mertz, circa 1883. Image from the Davie County Public Library.

On August 16, 1883, circus performers John Mertz and Mariah Elizabeth Nail were married on the stage of the Buckingham Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.

According to one story, the justice of the peace asked if they were old enough to wed because they were so small, with Mariah standing at 36 inches and John only about 10 inches taller. At the time they married, they were both around 30-years-old.

Nail was born in Mocksville in 1852. Her husband, Mertz, also known as “Major,” was born in Austria or Hungary around 1853. At age 21 he joined the circus, where he met Nail. After a long career of touring with several circuses, the pair retired from circus life sometime around 1911 and made their home in Salisbury. Mertz worked in Salisbury as a store clerk at T. F. Kluttz & Co., among other job.

The couple quickly became famous in Salisbury and has continued to live on in the community’s memory. Nail passed away at age 69 in 1922. Mertz died in 1938 at age 85. They are both buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery.

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Monroe Nathan Work of Tuskegee Institute, Chronicler of Black History

On August 15, 1866, Monroe Nathan Work, one of the most distinguished historians of the African American experience, was born in Iredell County.

Both of Work’s parents had been enslaved and, so with the promise of new horizons outside the South, the family moved to Illinois shortly after he was born. Work attended seminary in Chicago but decided that being a minister wasn’t for him and became a sociologist. While teaching in Georgia, he attracted the attention of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute.

At Tuskegee, Work found his calling and life’s work. At the height of the Jim Crow era, he dedicated himself to documenting African American life and history and to assisting those seeking social justice.

In 1912, Work began compiling The Negro Yearbook, a sort of almanac with information and statistics on the black experience. Among other endeavors he took care to document lynchings, lending credibility to the anti-lynching movement.

His masterwork was the Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America, which appeared in 1928 and included 17,000 entries.  That year he received the Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement.

Work died at his home in Tuskegee in 1945.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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