North Carolina 1940


It was a state far different than it is today – poor, mostly agricultural, still emerging from the Great Depression. North Carolina in 1940 was dotted with small towns made up of hard working, God fearing, and patriotic people, many of whom had fought in World War I. They knew what was happening in Europe – how in 1939, Hitler’s armies began invading and occupying one country after another. They listened to North Carolina native Edward R. Murrow’s radio reports of the Nazi bombings in England, Hitler’s next target. Still, many hoped they wouldn’t have to get involved with another conflict. December 7, 1941 changed everything. When the radio bulletins began about the surprise attack by Japanese planes on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor – a place most had never even heard of – North Carolinians knew their world had changed. As Bill Friday, a student at the time at North Carolina State, says, “You can’t imagine what happened to your thinking…you knew what was going to happen to you.” Young men were gung ho to fight. Children and families were scared about what it meant.

North Carolinians on Capital Square in the 1940s.
[North Carolina State Archives]

WEB BONUS VIDEO: NORTH CAROLINA’S VARIETY VACATIONLAND
The film, NORTH CAROLINA’S VARIETY VACATIONLAND, was discovered while doing research on UNC-TV’s documentary, NORTH CAROLINA’S WWII EXPERIENCE. It came to our attention while reading back issues of the NEWS AND OBSERVER on microfilm.

Here is the notation on June 20, 1941, Page 15:
North Carolina Film Shown Coast to Coast; “North Carolina, Variety Vacationland”; the film portrays the “fine vacation possibilities offered by the State of North Carolina”; Kodachrome sound movie, 20-minute version and 40-minute version; State News Bureau, Department of Conservation and Development, Raleigh.

The film was produced and photographed by Richard J. Reynolds and Dermid Maclean and presented to the N.C. Department of Conservation and Development. We located the 40-minute 16mm color film at the North Carolina Office of State Archives and History and had it digitized for use in our documentary. The film, which travels from the Outer Banks to the Western Mountains, has been divided into four segments for the Web:


1. The Outer Banks and the North Carolina Coast


2. Traveling from Orton Plantation to Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham


3. Traveling from Old Salem to Brasstown


4. Traveling from Cherokee to the Western Mountains