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View of NC through Morton’s lens noteworthy

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I miss my annual trips to Grandfather Mountain each August for the Camera Clinic that was always hosted by my late friend, Hugh Morton, the founder of the beautiful nature destination.

I was reminded of my fondness for those trips when I came across a favorite book in my recent move. Hugh Morton’s North Carolina is an expansive collection of Hugh’s photographs with commentary from him for each one, plus an outstanding foreword by William Friday. Oh, yes, it is my classic book which I bought several years ago, and my friend, Mavis Dew, also bought one. Neither of us had finished reading it because we often get wrapped up in things to do after a mountain visit, but we had to buy the new books while first offered while we were on the mountain. I’m glad to have time to enjoy it now.

You may recall that last year I moved from my home of 30 years into an apartment in my son Jimmy’s home. It seems like it often takes a move to find things, even if they are very important and treasured like this book. As soon as I discovered it, I began reading and looking at the marvelous pages — mostly in color just like Hugh had shot them.

I found that the handsome book’s contents are in three parts following the preface: Scenes, People and Events, and Sports. If you ever visited Grandfather Mountain, you will love this book and what it presents in great color or intriguing black and whites.

Hugh was an environmentalist, and also a photojournalist. His photographs were printed in many publications through the years. From the book jacket: “Hugh Morton was on the scene for some of the most important events in the history of twentieth-century North Carolina, and he always carried his camera with him.”

The foreword by William Friday is outstanding as it tells some interesting facts about Morton which you may not have known. Take this for example: “Hugh’s love of photography began when he was a boy at summer camp. Later, as a staffer for The Daily Tar Heel at UNC, his subjects ranged far and wide, including his famous photo of the university president, Dr. Frank Graham pitching horseshoes.”

Hugh was a noted authority after his part in saving Grandfather Mountain when the Blue Ridge Parkway was being built. Peggy and I always respected Hugh for his part in the viaduct being built on the north side of the mountain instead of the original plan which was to cut right through the mountain.

I remember very clearly the first time I met Hugh on “his” mountain when my wife, Peggy, and I attended our first Camera Clinic there way back in the 1950s. Both of us were really excited to meet him so close up in Grandfather Mountain’s Let it Rain Shelter and again on the second floor of the souvenir shop. The event always happened close to my birthday, so it was a treat to attend every year. Don Nelson, then Nikon representative and emcee of the Camera Clinic, always went through a list of jokes he had found before he started the speakers. When he learned it was my birthday, he began to honor me by saying: “Now everyone stand up and say: ‘Happy Birthday, Bob!’” Everyone did, every year! This went on until he had to retire after many years for health reasons.

I really missed him when attending the clinic two years ago after a long time of not attending. The amazing thing about my most recent attendance: The new speaker also started the program just like Nelson had for many years.

When we bought our books from Morton, I think it was in the cafeteria at Grandfather Mountain, and I am mighty proud of his handwritten inscription: “To Robert Allen, a great cameraman and friend.” He meant a lot to North Carolina, and we really missed him when we visited Grandfather Mountain after his death.

I highly recommend this book with so many interesting scenes from North Carolina. Daughter-in-law Ginger is good at finding things on the internet. She tells me that the book is still available online from the University of North Carolina Press.


Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, invites comments at (984)235-7294 or robertwallen29@gmail.com.

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