Our Vanishing Americana by Mike Lassiter
Someone once said, “If you start forgetting how things began, you stop beginning things.” With undaunting energy and perseverance, Mike Lassiter spent six years traveling across the state of North Carolina, looking for the lifeblood of small towns, community icons and historic businesses―the beginnings of Tar Heel commerce, livelihoods, family enterprises. At first it was old storefronts and signage that captured his imagination; soon he became enamored with the people inside the buildings and their stories.
In the old days, before big box retailers and interstates, folks relied on mainstays within their communities. Pretty much whatever anyone needed they purchased at the general store. (As they say at Mast Store, the granddaddy of all N.C.’s general stores, “If you can’t buy it here, you don’t need it.”) Back then, folks gathered their news while sitting around a pot-bellied stove at the hardware store, or in a chair at the barber shop. The local druggists whipped up cures for whatever ailed their customers (or their customers’ livestock); likewise they created some of the tastiest confections known to youngsters, ice cream sodas and orangeades. For entertainment, nothing beat the picture show or a meal out. Today, some of these institutions still survive―a few thriving, others mere skeletons of their former selves. Often, just a faded signpost or abandoned marquee is all that’s left and must suffice to conjure a memory of how life used to be.
This book explores not only beginnings, but continuations, and sadly a few endings, too. It showcases second-, third- and, in a few rare cases, fifth-generation businesses. Nine chapters, each devoted to one business genre―from general stores to barber shops to theatres― include an informative and entertaining essay and numerous photographs. A county-by-county index follows, making Our Vanishing Americana a testament to North Carolina’s unsung heroes and an indispensable guide to the state’s treasures.
About the Author:
Mike Lassiter is a North Carolina native, raised in Statesville. A graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Law, he currently practices law in our hometown. His passion for photography and appreciation for days gone by, combined with his love of driving the state’s backroads resulted in this book.