Quite a few years ago I ran across a 1940s playsuit in a novelty print that showed all the tourist spots in Western North Carolina. At the time I was not really collecting; I was more of a vintage wearer. So I passed on the piece, thinking I could not justify the $25 price tag. Of course, it started to haunt me, and so I went back to the antique mall where I had spotted it. And of course it had been sold.
Then about six or seven years ago I ran across another playsuit of the very same pattern in an Asheville store. It is possible that it was the very same piece, but this time the price was $125. My thrifty soul was challenged. On one hand, I really, really, wanted that playsuit, but on the other hand $125 was so much more than it had been before. My cheap side won out and I left without it. Unfortunately, the old haunting began again, and as before, when I returned the playsuit had been sold.
I’ve spent the years since searching for it online, but so far I’ve had no luck. Still, I keep searching.
I did spot this hankie on ebay last week, and wasted no time in buying it. And though it shows a wider region, it is still a nice vintage piece of the place that I call home. (Though my little town is not actually on the map…)
The maker was “Louise” of whom I have zero information.
My little town is located between Lake Junaluska and Asheville.
After I received this in the mail I set about trying to pinpoint a date. The first thing that seemed to be a clue was the little skier. He is located close to what is today the Cataloochee Ski Area, which was opened in 1961. It is probable that people were actually skiing in the Great Smoky Mountains Park before that time, however.
Other clues were the lakes and dams shown. All were built either by the TVA or by power companies in the 1920s and 1930s, the latest one shown being Norris Dam in 1936. I’m not so sure that Louise was terribly familiar with this region, as there is only one Waterville Lake, not two as she pictured.
But the most puzzling clue was the Max Patch Landing Field. Max Patch is a mountain of around 4600 feet. It was cleared by farmers for pasture land in the early 19th century, and today it is considered to be quite isolated, even through the Appalachian Trail passes over it. It is not exactly the place I’d ever want to land an airplane, but it seems as if starting in 1926, that is exactly what was happening. I found a fantastic photo taken from the air of a biplane on top of the mountain. Be sure to play around a bit with the photo, as it can be moved and enlarged, and make sure you note the cows.
According to a long time resident of the area, World War II ended the days of the Max Patch Landing Field. Modern planes needed more surface in which to take off and land.
My best guess is very late 1930s, or possibly in the 1940s.
A word about stereotypes:
Another hint this is probably from the 40s is the gratuitous drawing of the black baby eating watermelon. This was a pretty standard racist motif that was used when depicting the South, and it makes no sense whatever for it to have been used considering that watermelons need a longer growing season that we have here. Note also the potato man, the Cherokee in Plains feather headdress and the lazy hillbilly playing the banjo.