As Famous as “Chocolate” Myers?

ChocolateM2
BobLee
January25/ 2016

It won’t make the Top Five Most Viewed of the 2,000+ “incredibly insightful” columns posted here since 1998; but it’s already among my personal favorites.   I LOVE the Maceo Parker column.

If I can link Maceo Parker to “The Greatest College Athletic Scandal in Human History”; or to “Duke Lacrosse”, we can get “the numbers” up?

That column was NOT about My Hometown.  It was about YOUR Hometown if you grew up in “a small town”.   Define “small town” however you please, so long as you consider it yours.   Maybe you decry it’s lack of sophistication as “a Mayberry”…. or maybe you love it BECAUSE it was “a Mayberry”.  It’s Yours.

Kinston NC

New York City is the quintessential NOT small town; but the Castle Hill neighborhood of The Bronx is kinda small, encompassing just a few city blocks.   If you grew up in Castle Hill in the early 80s, maybe you knew a girl named “Jenny” a/k/a “Jenny From The ‘Hood”…. a/k/a “J-Lo”.   “Jenny” couldn’t play the saxophone but she could dance.  She got into show business and has done pretty well.

Everybody comes from somewhere and someone knew them before they became “somebody”.

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St Louis, like NYC, is too big to have “small town pride” but it’s neighborhoods sure do.   Now it has been PC-ed to The Hill, but a South St Louis neighborhood of Italian immigrants used to be Dago Hill.   Back in the 20s, two boys named Joe and Larry grew up playing baseball in Dago Hill.   Joe Garagiola became sorta famous making up quotes that Larry Berra supposedly said.  One of Joe and Larry’s pals nicknamed Larry “Yogi”.  That nickname “stuck”.

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Joe was born in New Eagle, PA but “grew up” in Monongahela, PA.  It is likely both small Western PA “coal mining towns” claim him.   Heck, an entire state also claims him.  I’m not sure he’s ever set foot in his “namesake state”.

There was “another Joe” who was from nearby Beaver Falls, PA.  That one became so famous that saying “from Beaver Falls, PA” tells many of you who he is…. Connect the dots to figure who those two “not average Joes” are.

Everybody comes from somewhere and someone knew them before they became “somebody”.

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Monongahela, Pennsylvania…. Valdosta, Georgia…. Redondo Beach, CA.  There are certain towns that I call “Marine platoon towns”.   In those WWII movies in the 60s, the marine platoons were always made up of the same collection of young Americans GIs – (1) a street-wise kid from Brooklyn ALWAYS…. (2) a farm boy from the Midwest…. (3) an Indian ??….. (4) a quiet kid “with a dark past”….. (5) a grizzled “Sarge” who was “tough” but “fair” and always “got shot”…. and (6) an unlikely hero who was nice looking but not Tab Hunter handsome who was from a small town with a cool name like Monongahela PA, Valdosta GA  or Redondo Beach CA.

As proud as I am of Kinston, it does not have that staccato ring of “a Marine Platoon town”.  “Hickory” sorta does.   “New Bern”, like Kinston, doesn’t.  It is a very subjective and I am the sole judge of it.

Having Pure Artesian Well Water (Kinston) or Where The Lewis & Clark Expedition Began (Wood River, IL) is more notable.

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In the small Ozarks community of West Plains, Missouri (pop 11,986), the city limits signs on boPreacher Roeth ends contain (or at least used to) a suffix – “Home of Preacher Roe”.   “Preacher” Roe was a MLB pitcher most notably for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1948-56).  The city fathers thought so much of “Preacher” that they named the street that went by the grocery store he owned Preacher Roe Boulevard.   It’s the only “Boulevard” in West Plains.

Does Goldsboro have a Clyde King Boulevard?  It oughta, don’t you think?

(NOTE:  Leave room to insert a Preacher Roe anecdote from Kennel.)

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Then there was this kid from Millville, New Jersey (pop 28,000) who committed to playing baseball at ECU in 2009 but decided at the last minute to “go pro” and has done pretty good in his first few years “in the big leagues”.   How many of you’ans knew that Mike Trout almost went to ECU?

Kristen BalboniIf Mike Trout HAD gone to ECU he woulda been a teammate of Seth Maness from Southern Pines…. now a middle reliever with the St Louis Cardinals.  Seth Maness was a classmate at Pinecrest High School with Kristen “BalBiz” Balboni who is now an on-air reporter for FoxSports…. formerly of ESPN’s Mike & Mike.

 

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I’ve posted several Quirkies about The Mississippi River and the community of Cape Girardeau MO – halfway between St Louis and Memphis.  “Cape” is very similar to Greenville NC – home of a large state university and a regional medical center.

In the early 60s, the Corps of Engineers constructed a 20’ high concrete-reinforced “Flood Wall” protecting downtown Cape from the annual flooding of The Mississippi.  It was controversial because it blocked the view of the River and access except thru two “gates”.   It was appreciated however because it saved “Downtown” from being under 10’ of flood waters several times each year.

So they have a 20’ high concrete wall running 6,000′ along their downtown…. whattcha gonna do?  ….. Lets paint something on it celebrating our history – Cape’s, Missouri’s, et al – with a mural of famous people.

Cape Wall

Sounds simple enough…. ya gotcha obvious – Mark Twain, Stan Musial, Harry Truman, Yogi Berra, Jesse & Frank James, Calamity Jane, Kit Carson, Thomas Hart Benton, and Rose O’Neill (creator of the Kewpie Doll) and “The Maceo Parkers’ of Missouri” who gained fame in the music biz.   Kansas City, alone, claims over 30 “jazz legends”.

And there was this local kid who started out as a DJ in a teeny tiny local AM radio station – KGMO.   As with most DJs he used an on-air persona – “Rusty Sharpe” – which became “Jeff Christie” as he became a radio nomad thru the 70s.  One thing led to another and he too ended up on The Wall.   PLUS, the local Tourism Bureau highlights his growing-up life in their Tour of Fame of Cape Girardeau…. These days he uses “his real name” which is the same as a prominent family of attorneys and judges – Limbaugh.  Now you know….. the rest of THAT story.

No one argued putting infamous “killers” – Frank & Jesse James – on The Wall but there WAS a bit of controversy when Rush Limbaugh’s picture was added in the late 90s.  But El Rushbo is up there over near “The Red House” – a re-creation of the log cabin where the founder of Cape Girardeau purportedly lived – who was a personal friend of Meriwether Lewis.  Turns out A LOT of folks around “Cape” claim to be “friends of Meriwether Lewis”.  Go figure.

Every town has people who did something that amounted to some footnote in History.

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Beyond Maceo Parker, Celebrity Chef – Vivian Howard, “My Name Is Earl’s” Jaime Pressley and A LOT of basketball luminaries et al, Kinston also boasts The CSS Ram Neuse.   A Confederate “gun boat” which shares a fate with the S.S. Titanic – both “sunk” on their maiden voyages.

The Ram Neuse was built up river in Seven Springs but ran aground outside Kinston on its way to fight the Ram NeuseYankees on April 22, 1864. …. 100 years later, it was salvaged from the river and now rests in a very impressive Historical Museum where Dupree’s Children Shop used to be on Kinston’s Magic Mile.  That might sound kinda hokey…. but it really IS quite impressive.

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Perusing the Reader Comments from the Maceo column you will see that “moi” is chided for not knowing about “the VERY famous” Maceo Parker.   YIKES!

I didn’t, but I coulda chided back…. betting that my harumphing “chider” was not aware of Danny “Chocolate” Myers of Winston-Salem.   Talk about “Famous”!

“Chocolate” Myers was Dale Earnhart’s “fueling facilitator” when The Intimidator was winning umpteen NASCAR championships in the 80-90s.   “Fueling Facilitator” is “The Gas Can Man” in a pit crew.   Try Chocolate Myerswinning 100s of races without a darn good “gas can man” coming “over the wall”.   “That big guy with the beard next to Dale” became a for-real NASCAR Legend in his own right.

Was “Chocolate” more / less famous than Maceo Parker?  That depends on whether one is at a James Brown concert or at a NASCAR race.

Andy Warhol forever defined “fame” as everyone’s allotted “15 minutes”.   I’ll argue that if one comes from a small town, those 15-minutes can last Forever ….. just ask “Preacher” Roe.

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BobLee

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mike preddy
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mike preddy

Kingston, Edenton, Smidton–Every one in NC lives in a small town, save those in Pantherville. However, they may try as they will, but Mt Airy, aka Mayberry, is the quintessential “small town” USA. Two waterways, Lovell’s Creek and Arratt River (might be 2-3 feet deep) run through and around this village of yore, downtown hasn’t changed very much since I graduated MAHS in ’66, and the folks still greet you with a “good day”. I took my family back there a year or so ago, getting out of the car on Main Street, in front of Rees’s Clothing store, it… Read more »

Zebraman
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Zebraman

Great couple of riffs on small towns and home towns, Bob. You’re on a roll! Fond memories of “home” and of the characters that made our deeply ingrained memories memorable is some good feelin’ juice, for sure. Kinda like the vibe emanating from ol’ Brooks & Dunne’s tune Red Dirt Road. Everyman’s got a “red dirt road” of one sort or another. Mine was I-40 from LA to Durham. (Mellencamp’s Small Town also comes to mind.) Good storytelling is advanced by great characters. And those folks abound in small towns. I really liked the bit about Lawrence/Larry Berra being given… Read more »

James Sterling
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Actually there is a Porter Wagoner Blvd in West Plains, MO plus Joe Jones Blvd (your guess is as good as mine). Last time I was in West Plains I could have sworn I drove down a street named after Jane Howard, but I could not find it on my map. Maybe Miss Dolly eradicated it.

NCSU68Grad
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NCSU68Grad

Chocolate is a down to earth individual. Had the privilege of talking to him for quite some time circa 2005 or so. He eventually “put down the can” and then became the “Safety Officer” for Childress Racing (RCR). He was a featured speaker at a NCDOL safety conference (with a NASCAR theme) in Greensboro. Did a great presentation and very practical and soft spoken. He spoke about racing safety and the fact the Dale (Sr.) did NOT like the constrictions of the Simpson harness and would wear it a little on the “loose” side. Simpson had actually sent Dale letters… Read more »

Da judge in Charlotte
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Da judge in Charlotte

Bob, as I recall, Chocolate Myers was from Lexington. Richard Childress, owner of Earnhardt’s car, had his garage in the unincorporated community of Welcome which is located just north of Lexington. My hometown of Lexington is a small town; Winston-Salem is not a small town.

Porgie
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Porgie

Happy to say that Meriwether Lewis has been a friend for many years. And I know the “Amphibious” comment will go on forever, but getting like water running off a ducks back. Kind of reminds me of the oft used phrase but not heard much lately “the Carolina way”.

Mary Page
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Mary Page

Love, love this one!! The very best come from these small towns Americana! Thank you for going in this direction!

TheCowdog
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TheCowdog

Ah, the multiverse at work. You mention the Ram Neuse in a hometown, small town, muse and I shall trumpet the slayer of CSS Ram, the Albemarle.

My hometown celeb was the intrepid Robert Cushing or, as uttered by the townfolk of Plymouth, “Dirty Little Robert Cushion.” His daring midnight run on the Roanoke laid the iron clad to rest on the silty bottom, and saved the day for the Yankee Blues.

Wildatheart
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Wildatheart

My favorite small towns are Milford, home of Gil Thorpe and Mayfield, home of the Cleaver family. Growing up my home town, Aulander was more like Mayfield. It only and one or two people over a thousand but had three car dealerships which made it possible for you to buy any car made in America right there.

Joe
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Joe

For years I was the most famous person from Aberdeen, NC. However, I never had any physical recognition…like streets or statures. Then a 3 star athlete named Charles Schakelford showed up and broke all my records. I believe that is his last name. However, he had the benefit of being black and attending the consolidated county school combining Aberdeen and Southern Pines[our dreaded enemy.]

Doug
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Doug

The small town of Edenton DOES have that nice ring to it. That Leo Hart’s Duke teammate Wes Chesson is an Edenton, NC product adds a little extra panache. Furthermore I have long anointed the Edenton Aces as the finest sports nickname for a high school team in all the land. I heard of some good ones but never heard of a better one. I’m obviously pleased to have played a small part in your Rod Serling moment just by saying the name Maceo but more pleased to know the column was not really about just Maceo. It was about… Read more »

rivlax
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rivlax

Interesting you mention James Brown. He’s probably the most famous person from my hometown of Augusta, Ga. And, no, before anyone asks, Bobby Jones and J.B. Fuqua were not FROM Augusta. Bobby, from the Atlanta area, just started that little golf tournament and J.B., from Prospect, Va., began his rise to billionaire status by buying a local radio station, at which, by the way, James Brown used to shine shoes as a kid. Small world.