Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Viewing entries by Lulu Zilinskas

“Dear Santa”: A Collection of Newspaper Holiday Wishes

Clipping from a large illustration from The Cherokee Scout. There are three children gathering around an older family member who is about to read "The Night Before X-Mas". Behind them is a scene of Santa in his sled in the sky and stockings by the fireplace.

Full-page illustration in The Cherokee Scout, December 14, 1928.

As 2020 comes to a close (hooray!), all of us are wishing for many things in the coming year, whether it’s as simple as a meal with family or as grand as international travel. In the spirit of intention setting, and for a little escapism, we thought it would be fun to search through the DigitalNC newspaper collection for accounts of wishes from years past. What was found were an abundance “Dear Santa”s, funny and touching wish lists from children (and a few adults) to the man in red, printed in local newspapers in the hopes they would be seen and granted. Some holiday wishes also snuck in, too. So, like a virtual, time-traveling wishing tree, here is a collection of entertaining messages to bring a little cheer.


Dear Santa,

I would like to rub Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I have never seen him. I love you and your reindeer. I would like a race car.

Please put it under my Christmas tree. My brother wood like some money left under the tree. Mom wants a ring. Dad wants three wishes.

Kevin Crisco, 1st Grade


Dear Santa,

I like you because you have been nice to me for six years. Look good because you may be surprised. This year, I want a typewriter and a new desk.

Love Your Friend,

Natalie (Tyner), 1st Grade

P.S. Thanks for giving toys to me, my friends, and all kids.


Dear Santa,

I want a bike for Christmas and a teddy bear and a little cat, too. I like your deer because they are fun to play with.

Karima Freeman, 2nd Grade



Danbury, N.C.. Dec. 16.

Dear Santa Claus:

I am a small girl, but my wants are many. I would like some flower vases, box of stationary, some candy, oranges, and nuts. Your devoted friend,

Annie Campell.



Dear Santa,

How are you? Are your reindeer and elves good? My name is Kevin Tsui. I am eight years old and I live with my mom and dad, and brother. The school that I go to is North School. I am a good boy and I am a good student in school. What I want for Christmas is a Sega CD and Mortal Combat II, a Panther hat, a Secret Sender 6000, a Dell computer and a NERF Ballzooka, a model Porche, Sega game gear, a Kasparov MK12 chess computer, and a NERF Arrowstorm.

Love, Kyle Tsui



Student opinion poll: Bellespeak

What is the ideal Christmas present?

Rose L. Coleman



Chicago, Ill.


“A car and my tuition paid.”


Amanda Henley


Political Science

Harrisburg, Pa.


“My ideal Christmas present would be to have my college debt paid off.”



Dear Santa,

I have been a very good boy. Please bring me a watch and all the transformers and space things and everything else you can think of.

Drew Howell


Dear Santa,

Please bring me five things: Fish Stick, Cabbage Patch Doll, Swing, Bicycle, Paint Brush.

Dennisha Edwards



Dear Santa Claus,

My age is seven. I weigh 55 pounds. I will leave some food out for you. I am 4 ft. 2 in. tall. My favorite TV program is a Christmas Parade. My favorite food is fruits. I want for Christmas oranges, apples and grapes and five surprises.

I love you,

Kathy Lynn Matthews

Norlina, N.C.



Dear Santa,

I’m hungry. I’ve tried to be a good girl this year, and I would have too, without this damned roach incident. Claus-man, when I put that bug on Hope’s plate in Lenoir, I though[t] she’d see it before it got to her mouth. Some folks just can’t take a joke. Anyway I haven’t eaten since Sunday, and I was hoping you’d make an early run this year to bring me some food, nothing fancy, some gruel or porridge will suffice. I’ll be waiting at the bus stop on Stadium Drive. (I’ll be the one with ribs poking through her jacket.

See ya soon, (tonight?), Annice


Holiday wishes:

I want a half inch of snow on Christmas morning and sunshine in the afternoon.

-Dr. Rebecca Duncan


I want a basket full of kittens and unlimited Starbucks coffee.

-Jessica Feltner


If you’re interested in looking for some more “Dear Santa”s, try searching “dear santa” or “Christmas wish” in the quick search bar on our newspaper collection page. Try the advanced search if you’re looking for specific years. In addition, The Kings Mountain Herald has a gigantic collection of “Dear Santa” messages. From 1981 onwards, you can find them in the last issue of the year.

Photographs from Johnston Community College in the 1990s Now Online

A clipping of a photo of an icey lake in winter at Johnston Community College. The photo features snow, trees, deer, and geese on the lake.

A clipping of a photo of animals and an icy pond at Johnston Community College in 1996.

Approximately 130 photographs from Johnston Community College have been digitized and are now available online, adding to our vast collection of Johnston Community College photos. This batch is from the mid-1990s, highlighting Johnston Community College’s campus, staff, educational programs, and various events.

Annual events, such as Week of the Young Child, were especially prevalent in this upload. Most frequent were the Christmas open houses. While each Christmas open house showcases festivities and decorations, a common thread through the years are the extravagant quilting displays. In several shots, people demonstrate their quilting techniques for onlookers.

This batch also includes photos of retirement parties, the nursing department, and the truck driver training program as they go for test drives around the community. Construction of both the softball field and health building are documented. Additionally, there are photos of the open house for the new Cleveland Campus.

Photo of a bagpipe player with kilt on playing the bagpipe. The musician is walking to the right while three children walk behind the musician, covering their ears.

Bagpipe player Reit McPherson at the Johnston Community College 1996 Christmas Open House.

To see all of the photographs in this batch, click here. To learn more about Johnston Community College, visit their partner page here or their website here.

DigitalNC from Home: Oral History Transcription

As all of us at the Digital Heritage Center carry on our work from home, we are continuing to utilize the time outside of our regular duties to enhance DigitalNC. One such project is adding transcriptions to our collection of North Carolina Oral Histories.

Transcriptions are the written text of audio files, which are, in our case, recordings of oral histories. The oral histories on DigitalNC vary in length, ranging from two minutes, to two hours, and beyond. Typing out transcriptions from scratch takes time- a lot of time. To help us out, we use the transcription software, Sonix. Once an audio file has been uploaded to Sonix, the software “listens” to and creates text of what it heard.

Screenshot of a Sonix transcript without edits. The text reads "(speaker): Okay, actually, I'd rather you sit there cuz that swings squeak squeaks. I want to show you so you got to cut off. No, it's running and we'll look at that when we finished. I will okay. (speaker): Okay, do you cook collard? Yes, I do. I want you to sit there soon. It's Queen this you tell me from start to finish exactly how you cook your collards. Okay. I'll get my put my meat in the pot. Yes, but if I got a smoked meat I put that in there and then I put a little Lord in them. Then I put a little sugar and salt and red pepper."

An example of a Sonix transcript before editing. This transcript came out relatively coherent, but needs speakers and will be assessed for faithful translation. For example, did the narrator say “Lord” or could it be “lard”?

Unfortunately, audio transcription software does not produce a faultless transcript. After Sonix creates the new text, we listen to the original audio and edit the errors. Edits include replacing or removing incorrectly heard words, adding in missed punctuation and paragraph spacing, and attributing the various speakers. We also remove speech fillers (think “um” and “er”) and note when speech is unclear with a bracketed question mark ([?]).

Editing also requires consistency. Here are some of the guidelines we follow to create dependable transcripts:

  • If the speaker does not stick to formal standards of grammar throughout the conversation, we do not correct it, but non-standard contractions are written fully (as in, goin’ becomes going)
  • If one speaker talks over another, we try to put them in order as it makes sense in the conversation
  • If a speaker expresses laughter, we enter that into the text using brackets ([laughs]).

This is where transcription work gets tricky. These guidelines may prompt questions during the editing process such as, How much laughter is enough to allow for [laughs]? or, What if the speaker has a regional accent that represents much of their personality and culture as expressed in the recording and I would like to point to it through non-standard contractions? There are no hard and fast answers to either question. Both rely on what the transcriptionist feels is most appropriate to faithfully represent the narrator’s story. This makes the transcription a participatory product, not just an automatic copy.

Respect for both the narrator’s speech and intent is the primary focus for a transcriptionist. In a perfect world, the interviewer would ask the narrator to look over the final document to approve of the content. However, because the Digital Heritage Center obtains all of our oral histories through our partners, plus the fact they are often recorded over 20 years ago, we are not able to consult either the interviewer or the narrator.

This leaves us to follow best practices, making sure to keep in mind our biases. Respecting the intersectionality of the narrator is an important dimension to this work. Many of the narrators in our Oral History Collection are Black and use African-American Vernacular English. Others speak with strong regional Southern dialects. As we draw up the final transcript, we have to take into consideration our own positionality and watch for editorializing and over-interpreting.

Screenshot of an edited Sonix transcription. The text reads Mary Lewis Deans: Tell me how you heard about it. Kermit Paris: I was working in the bakery in [?]. I don't know, just before Carolina Theater opened up [?], once before I used to live right there. We was on the railroad tracks when I heard it. And, sure enough, I reckon ten or fifteen minutes after then, some artillery had come down the train, I remember that, going north. Artillery and some tanks was going down. They had guards on the flat cars, I'd seen some soldiers on the flat cars at that time. I do remember that.

An example of a Sonix transcript after editing.

Why are we transcribing oral histories? Not only does adding text to the audio make the record accessible, but researchers are now able to scroll through interviews for relevant information without having to listen to the entire recording. The text within the transcripts is fully searchable when doing a full text search on DigitalNC, which makes them appear in many more searches than they would have with just a basic description. That being said, accessibility is a first step and we are looking forward to continually refining our transcripts and supplemental description work with an eye to equitability and transparency.

To take a look at all of the oral histories we have online, click here. And if you’re interested in glancing through the many oral histories with either original or newly made transcripts, click here.

Recent Issues of Elon University Student Newspapers Now Online

177 new issues between 2012-2018 of Elon University student newspapers The Pendulum and The Edge are now available for online browsing. These new resources are available on DigitalNC thanks our partners at Elon University.

Elon University is a private university located in Elon, Alamance County, North Carolina. Originally founded in 1889 as Elon College, Elon University obtained it’s current name in 2001. Elon University’s first student-run newspaper, Maroon and Gold, began publication in 1919 but was discontinued in 1970. The campus news outlet was eventually reinstated in 1974 as The Pendulum. In addition to the many audio and visual news shows Elon University now provides, The Pendulum continues weekly publications to this day. As it is a student-run newspaper, they follow the academic calendar year, which means issues fall off during the winter, spring, and summer breaks.

Holding multiple awards from the Associated Collegiate Press, The Pendulum informs both the campus and local community of news within and beyond the university. Besides updates on sports and campus initiatives, students actively use this space to voice opinions on topics ranging from politics to religion to activism. These recent uploads cover the before, during, and after effects of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Elon University’s student population, highlighting the many intersections of student experience.

The Edgeformerly known as Elon Edge, is a supplemental magazine affiliated with The PendulumMuch of the content covered in the Edge is focused on entertainment, such as music, fashion, local events, and interest pieces.

To view all issues of The Pendulum, click here. To focus on the issues of The Edge, click here. And to take a look at the entire collection of Elon University student newspapers from years 1910 to 2018 by front page, click here. For more information about Elon University, you can visit their homepage here.

New Issues of UNC Charlotte The Carolina Journal Added

Over 50 issues of The Carolina Journal, also titled as The Journal, the student newspaper published by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, are now available on DigitalNC thanks to our partners at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This upload spans about two years, from August 26, 1974 to May 1, 1976.

On August 22, 1975 the newspaper title switches from The Journal back to The Carolina Journal. Coinciding with the return of The Carolina Journal name is the departure of the art focused cover pages and creative layout that marked The Journal’s tenure. By the start of the school year in 1974, the newspaper layout slowly returned to a traditional format.

Along with updating students and the local community on campus developments, The Carolina Journal also frequently advertised notable guest lecturers. Father Daniel Berrigan, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and Faith Ringgold, an artist and Black feminist, both spoke at UNCC. In addition, UNCC sports were commonly reported on. The 49ers had particularly noteworthy basketball seasons in 1974 and 1975.

To see all of DigitalNC’s digitized content from The Carolina Journal, click here. To view all student newspapers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, click here. And to visit UNCC’s homepage, click here.

New to DigitalNC: More Smithfield High School Memorabilia, Photos, Newspapers

Red white and blue paper shield, next to paper cut out that includes menu grapefruit, boiled ham, vegetable salad, potato chips, pimento cheese sandwich, tomato, pickle, rolls, butter, ice cream, cake, tea

Program from the 1942 Smithfield High School Junior-Senior banquet

DigitalNC has added additional photos and ephemera from Smithfield High School, located in Smithfield, Johnston County, North Carolina. This most recent batch documents SHS Junior-Senior banquets, music and drama, and graduates/graduations, and also includes issues of the student newspaper, the Smithfield High Times. This addition was made possible thanks our partners at the Smithfield High School Alumni Association.

Thirty-five issues of the High Times have been added, spanning the early 1950s to the late 1960s.  Starting in 1937 and lasting until 1969, High Times was published semi-regularly by students at Smithfield High School As a high school newspaper, topics ran the gamut, from informational to entertaining. Examples of material covered include school clubs, contests, career days, scholarships, field trips, sports, honor roll announcements, gossip, and fashion. While the newspaper wasn’t published on a set schedule, issues often came out around Thanksgiving, winter break, and at the end of the school year. Each issue features a hand drawn cover page while various smaller drawings add homemade detail to columns within the newspaper. There is a marked switch to a more professional layout in 1968, only spanning two issues.

Among the photos and ephemera added in this most recent batch you’ll find photographs of graduating classes, along with ephemera about graduates dating from 1909-1969. Snapshots and programs from Junior-Senior banquets are another highlight, with handmade menus based on each banquet’s theme. Finally, there are collections of programs, newspaper clippings, and photos related to music and drama activities at the school.

To view all issues of the Smithfield High Times by cover page, click here. You can view everything the Alumni Association has shared on DigitalNC on their contributor page. You can view the items by subject on their exhibit page. To learn more about the Smithfield High School Alumni Association, you can visit their homepage here.

A Look Back at The Charlotte Post Collection

Just under 50 issues of The Charlotte Post have recently been added to the DigitalNC newspaper collection, rounding out the rest of  2006 and ending on October 11, 2007. If you have been following us closely, you may have noticed that over the past two years we have routinely been scanning and uploading issues of The Charlotte Post. In fact, we now have a grand total of 1,041 issues available to view online! We think this is a cause to celebrate. In this blog, we’ll go through a brief look back at our entire Post collection. Many thanks go out to our long time partners at Johnson C. Smith University for supplying all the issues in this collection.

While a majority of our Post issues are from the mid 1970s to the mid 2000s, the earliest issues come from the 1930s. Since its debut in 1878, the Post has provided an African American perspective on news local to Charlotte, North Carolina and beyond. While we only have three issues from the 30s, they contribute Black voices to our primary source material of that period.

Weekly issues from the 70s through 90s continue to highlight the African American community in and around Charlotte. While the tagline for the Post in the 30s was “The Paper with a Heart and Soul”, in the early 70s it changed to “Charlotte’s Fastest Growing Community Weekly” and then finally landed on “The Voice of the Black Community”. Weekly features become frequent in this era of the Post, such as “Beauty of the Week” and The B.E.E. (Black Entertainment Events) Line.

Once we arrive in the new millennium, issues become longer and have strict sections. These sections cover a wide range of topics typical of modern newspapers: editorials, weather, life, religion, sports, real estate, business, A&E (arts and entertainment), and classifieds. Special editions were also intermittently added to issues, such as the CIAA Basketball Tournament edition and Top Seniors.

The Post continues to be printed to this day and we hope to add many more issues of it for future digital viewing. To start your own Post collection exploration, click here to browse by year. If you would like to look at all African American newspapers on DigitalNC, click here. And to learn more about JCSU, click here.

The Black Mountain News Now Online

DigitalNC has added a new title to our newspaper collection: The Black Mountain News. Covering the initial five years of publication, from 1945 to 1950, 272 issues of The Black Mountain News are now available to view online. We would like to thank our partners at Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center for contributing the microfilm that made this possible.

Located on the western side of North Carolina, Black Mountain is settled in the mountains of Buncombe County, not far from Asheville. As stated previously, The Black Mountain News was a new periodical in 1945.  Marketed as the first newspaper created specifically for the Black Mountain and Swannanoa communities, the newspaper initially divided space by township. Different nearby towns occupied specific sections of the newspaper, such as the Swannanoa Section and the Old Fort News. Interestingly, the size of these town sections visibly decreased as time went on, moving to shorter news letters, and room was made for general weeklies such as This Week’s Editorial.

Notably, the date range of these additions also covers the period immediately after World War II ended, with the first printed issue dating September 6th, 1945. Victory bond advertisements can be found in these early issues.

For a look at all of the front pages of The Black Mountain News we have so far, click here. For more information on Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center, click here.

New Issues of The Chowan Herald Now Online

Just over 130 new issues of The Chowan Herald are online and ready to view. The issues span the early 1980s, from 1981 to mid-1983. These additions to our digital newspaper collection are made available thanks to our partners at Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library.

Serving Chowan County, North Carolina from the city of Edenton, The Chowan Herald focused on local news happenings along their side of the Abermarle Sound. Local politics frequently made front page news, especially during the local elections to county board offices.

At other times, The Chowan Herald focused on their community members, as evidenced by DeMint Frazier Walker’s obituary. A prominent community figure and principal of the eponymous high school for thirty one years, Walker’s accomplishments were detailed in the front page article located to the right.

To view all issues of The Chowan Herald, starting with our earliest issue from 1934, click here. To learn more about Shepard-Pruden Memorial Library, you can visit their homepage here.


A Visual Dive Into Yearbooks from the 1960s and 1970s

As we continue working from home at DigitalNC, we’re putting our efforts into areas different than our normal day-to-day. Sometimes, you find yourself sucked into things that would be glossed over if not for this change. I found myself absorbed in yearbooks, specifically from the 1960-70s.

While updating metadata on yearbooks, I began to visually notice differences by the decade. There was an obvious break in the standard presentation starting in the 60s. One of the big differences in the 1960s and 70s yearbooks was that they deviated from the conventional by utilizing monochromatic color and blank space to create areas of interest.

Other eras did not benefit from the same camera technology, but these 60s and 70s students utilized the fast-acting updates to great effect. Candid photographs became popular and were integrated into the aesthetics of yearbooks. Often, the layout created a mood through the arrangement of pictures, explaining the story visually.


Unlike their predecessors, 60s and 70s yearbooks used less text to review the academic year and instead opted for explanations via visual Rorschach tests. Attitudes of two-page spreads were up for interpretation from the pairing of photo and text.

But the biggest impression I was left with from looking at these yearbooks was how much creativity was squeezed into every page. Students obviously relished the chance to showcase their own versions of life on the many campuses of North Carolina.

As I keep scrolling through the yearbooks, I’m sure I’ll find more to enjoy. If you would like to start your own treasure hunt, you can click here for all 8,000 (and counting) yearbooks, or, if you enjoyed these decades and want more, click here to start with only the yearbooks from the 1960s and 1970s.