Thief Might Have Done a Favor
Probably you haven't noticed, but the historical marker identifying the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities as the former home of novelist James Boyd has disappeared from the corner of May Street and Vermont Avenue.
The marker had stood at that location since its dedication in 1950. It read: "JAMES BOYD (1888-1944) Author of 'Drums' and 'Marching On' & other historical novels. His home is 3/10 mile east."
The marker has been missing for more than a year, so I checked with the Southern Pines Police Department, and although they were very helpful, they had no knowledge of the missing marker or of James Boyd.
I phoned the Office of Archives and History, an agency within the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, and they acknowledged that the missing marker had not been removed by DOT for maintenance.
It's been stolen and will be replaced in the near future by a new, modified marker. Agency spokesperson Ansley Wegner said that historical markers are frequently stolen or destroyed in traffic accidents.
"We've found missing markers in bars and rec rooms," she said. "When we replace the marker, we'll make Boyd's name and the dates of his birth and death smaller. That will allow us more room to expand the description."
I was reminded of the missing Boyd marker when I read a press release concerning a new historical marker to Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The new marker was dedicated on May 6 and is located in Asheville on Broadway Street near the Buncombe Turnpike. It reads: "ZELDA FITZGERALD 1900-1948 Writer, artist, Jazz Age icon; wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. On Mar. 10, 1948, died in Highlands Hospital fire, ? mi. S."
The new Boyd marker on the corner of May and Vermont, should state that the Boyd house is now the home of the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities.
If space permits, the marker might also note that F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Thomas Wolfe and Paul Green were frequent guests at the Boyd home.
Fitzgerald visited with the Boyds in late June 1935 while he was dividing his time between Baltimore and Asheville. Zelda had begun her sojourn at Highlands Hospital, where she was being treated for schizophrenia. Boyd and Fitzgerald carried on an extensive correspondence, and after Fitzgerald's visit with the Boyds, he wrote a thank-you: "In better form I might have been a better guest, but you couldn't have been better hosts even in a moment when anything that wasn't absolutely-that wasn't near perfection made me want to throw a brick at it."
North Carolina novelist Thomas Wolfe arrived at the Southern Pines station on Jan. 21, 1937, at 4:47 a.m. He walked to the Boyd house, climbed in an unlocked window and fell asleep on the living room couch.
Sherwood Anderson was the most frequent out-of-state literary visitor, and Paul Green, who lived in Chapel Hill, was likely to drop in on the Boyds whenever the spirit moved him.
Journalist Jonathan Daniels, press secretary to FDR and Harry Truman, wrote that the Southern literary renaissance began in the living room at the Boyd house.
Despite his obvious hyperbole, Daniels may have been, in part, correct. The literary conversations between the Boyds and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Sherwood Anderson, Paul Green, Maxwell Perkins, and other friends and writers are the heart and soul of much of 20th century American literature.
The thieves may have done the town a favor; it's time for an updated James Boyd historical marker.
Contact Stephen Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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