Saturday I drove 180 miles west to Shelby, North Carolina to conduct an interview for a project that will reveal itself soon (knock on wood). Photographer Helen Woolard went with me. For countless many, Shelby will always be known as the hometown of North Carolina State University basketball icon David Thompson. DT and the University of North Carolina’s Phil Ford were the two best players to ever play in the Atlantic Coast Conference (the rest are chumps). It occurred to me to try to find DT’s childhood home. While wandering around downtown as Helen was shooting photographs, I sent a note to a listserv of college-basketball-oriented folks, asking if anyone had DT’s childhood address. Nobody did. Next time I’ll do more preparation. An old friend on the listserv ran into DT at the State-UVA game in Raleigh later that night and mentioned to him that I had inquired about his home address earlier in the day. It sounded like he was amused.
Phil Ford, by the way, was from Rocky Mount, the same hometown as Buck Leonard, Thelonious Monk (see, JLP is one degree away from anything), and Allan Gurganus. I hope these small towns are still producing people like this.
Downtown Shelby was marked by more evergreen ‘live oak’ trees than I think I’ve ever seen in a downtown like that. I find these towns to be fascinating, maybe because I grew up in a similar one. In some ways these towns are all the same (the confederate soldier statue in front of the courthouse), but they are all different.
p.s. (I recently found UNC coach Dean Smith’s childhood home in Emporia, KS).