Time in a Bottle

My latest little journey took me down to South Carolina, so on the way home I took a slight detour, winding my way along scenic Highway 74 through the Appalachian Mountains to the small town of Lake Lure, North Carolina, most recently made famous as the setting for the movies Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans.

The town was created during the Roaring Twenties, when a group of Asheville businessmen built a power dam in a deep gorge carved out by the Rocky Broad River, and began selling residential building lots around the newly formed mountain lake. In 1927 they opened the Lake Lure Inn, a quaint three-story hotel overlooking the public beach alongside Highway 74.

In August of 1935, F. Scott Fitzgerald spent one of his “wasted weekends” sequestered in a room at the Lake Lure Inn, failing once again to revive his stalled writing career before returning to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

In September of 1936, an even more famous American, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, also left the Grove Park Inn for Lake Lure, where his aides had arranged for the president to have lunch on the lawn of the inn. Although the fact that President Roosevelt had polio was well-known, in 1936 few realized how severely handicapped their president actually was, as he was unable to get out of a car, climb any stairs, or even walk without crutches, a wheelchair, or an assistant. On this warm September day, the president’s driver literally pulled the open limousine up next to the appointed table on the freshly-mowed lawn, where John Roosevelt, his college-age son, helped the president slide out of the back seat and into a nearby chair.

After lunch the presidential motorcade headed south, with a planned pause-and-wave to the assembled mayor, town council, and residents of the small town of Shelby (imagine Mayberry with Andy Taylor and a nervous Barney standing by). Nearly the entire town had been lined up along either side of the highway since early morning, waiting anxiously — with flags, banners, and hand-lettered signs in hand — to catch a glimpse of their beloved president as he slowly drove by.

But as the motorcade approached Shelby, the president leaned over and informed his Secret Service agent that the lemonade he had consumed during lunch at the Lake Lure Inn was now insisting on making an exit. The quick-thinking agent instructed the driver to make an abrupt left turn, taking a side street off Highway 74 toward a thicket of trees. As everyone in the car looked away, President Roosevelt relieved himself in a special bottle always available to him in the car.

By then the line of official cars and their puzzled occupants had also followed the limousine down the narrow side street, preventing the president’s driver from turning around and resuming their planned itinerary down Highway 74 and past the entire town of Shelby — including all of the school children released from their classrooms for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the president of the United States.

Instead, the agent in charge ordered the driver to continue down the narrow Warren Street, behind the crowds and parked cars that had jammed all access back onto Highway 74. It was not until the president’s limousine had reached the opposite end of Shelby that the driver was able to make his way back onto Highway 74, leaving everyone in the small town of Shelby wondering what had happened, as they helplessly watched the stream of official cars and their beloved — and unseen — president disappear from view at the far end of town.

Until next Monday,

Make this a great week!