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People, photos tell the history of N.C.

By Amanda Hickey

When Mike Lassiter began sneaking out of the office early on Friday afternoons in 1999 to see what the counties surrounding Statesville offered in terms of N.C. history, he had no idea how big his fascination would become.

Lassiter, a lawyer from Statesville, was on a mission to try and capture what N.C. was in the 19th and 20th centuries.

That mission resulted in his book, “Our Vanishing Americana: A North Carolina Portrait.”

It’s been a wonderful experience and the response has been far greater than I expected, Lassiter told guests at the Friends of the Library event on Oct. 23.

Lassiter showed guests a powerpoint presentation which included many of the photographs presented in his book.

“It makes me feel good that I preserved that for future generations because it is vanishing,” Lassiter continued.

Lassiter’s method of travel was simple.

“I would take a map and drive the county,” he said, explaining that he would also occasionally rely on tips from others.

The book covered 100 counties, including Brunswick, Wilson, Burke, Graham, Granville and Robeson.

It also included old gas stations, including a Shell station.

A theatre in Chapel Hill that opened in 1927 was also featured in the book.

However, one of Lassiter’s favorites, was Sutton Drugstore that opened in 1923.

“It used to be a drugstore with a lunch counter; now it’s a lunch counter with a drug store,” Lassiter said.

Other sites featured in the book were a Dairy Queen in Charlotte that was typical of the 1940s and 1950s, a Krispy Kreme in Raleigh, an old billiard hall in Winston Salem, a bicycle shop in Statesville and a put putt course in Wilson.

While the places were the focus on the book, “the real story is the folks inside these places,” according to Lassiter.

Lassiter also took photos of the people who run the stores and restaurants and learned the stories of their businesses.

“Once they got over the long hair I had, they were very open about the history of the store,” Lassiter said. “The people were a lot of the enjoyment I got out of this.”

Despite the enjoyment Lassiter got out of photographing North Carolina, there were also some horror stories.

Lassiter had car trouble in Ash County and had to hitchhike to Boone to rent a car. He also got a ticket in Moore County.

When asked if he just paid off the ticket, Lassiter answered that he went back and took care of it himself just so he could take more pictures.

The book was finished in December 2006. It consists of 244 pages and 565 photos.

The flag is present in 68 photos.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke The print edition of The Pine Needle
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Updated: Sunday, November 4, 2007
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