Carologue: Not so far out anymore

1970s cultural catalog was just ahead of it time

jwise@newsobserver.comAugust 26, 2012 

“Carologue” came out 40 years ago, but it doesn’t look its age. Its cover may be tattered, but a lot of what’s inside is as 21st century as it was in the Age of Aquarius.

Subtitled “Access to North Carolina,” “Carologue” is a 120-page tabloid-size compendium of essays, explanations, telephone numbers, addresses, reviews, resources and factoids from the coast to the mountains. It’s also a snapshot of a culture in change, with items ranging from draft counselors to outdoor dramas and psychical researchers to the state Extension service.

Some of the subject matter is dated: a chart of “Zone Therapy Reflex Areas” on the soles of the feet. Some regard issues that are still hot: gay rights, for example, or where to buy “natural” food.

There is a range from the far-out – such as a religious interpretation of disease by Alice Stedman of Charlotte – to the most Establishment – an Outer Banks legend by Charles Whedbee, a judge in Greenville – to a blend of both – a study on recycling by the Durham Chamber of Commerce.

“There wasn’t any kind of overarching vision,” said co-editor Arnie Katz, who now lives in Orange County between Chapel Hill and Durham. “We spread out across the state and we were looking for things we thought were neat.”

Crisscrossing the state

Katz recalled a Chatham County stonemason named Steve Majors who was converting an old tobacco barn into a house; and spending time with Winston-Salem novelist John Ehle, who contributed an article on a mountain lady who made cheese by an old English recipe.

“We would talk about what we wanted to include ... go out and look things over, and we found a lot more,” said co-editor Stephen Hoffius, now living in Charleston, S.C. “A lot of things we had never heard of suddenly surfaced.

“It was a full-time job for nine months, maybe a year,” Hoffius said. “It required crisscrossing the state several times in a car ... and sitting on the telephone for a ridiculous amount of time trying to get information and convince friends to write articles.”

Friends were part of the project all along, from conversations at the outset to putting together stacks of printed pages. One friend, David Burkhead, did the typesetting and pasteup. What it lacked in slick production values it more than made up for in the sheer amount of information and its variety.

Selling out

Deborah Swain, then a Laurinburg schoolteacher, wrote a piece on “How to keep your maiden name” – a highly unconventional thing for a woman to do in 1972.

“They tried to give me a diploma at Duke with my husband’s name on it,” said Swain, now on the library science and communications faculty at N.C. Central University. She got that changed, and still goes by the family name that goes way back in her hometown of Plymouth, N.C.

“It’s part of my heritage,” she said.

Hoffius and Katz printed 5,000 copies of Carologue and had it ready for sale in early December 1972 – in time for Christmas.

“We filled up our respective Volkswagens with copies,” Katz said. “I headed west and Steve headed east.” Ahead of time, they had sent copies to every book-review editor they could find, and once they hit the road they made calls in person that led to a lot of coverage.

The News & Observer gave it a top of the page, six-column spread in a Sunday feature section, with a photo of the long-haired, bearded editors on a front porch. In Charlotte, they were on television. The Greensboro Daily News said:

“Some of man's lost powers of free will are as irretrievable as the untamed frontier of western Carolina. But some of those powers are reclaimable. The articles collected here provide, in most cases, both evidence that this reclaiming is being done, and assistance in doing it. Some of them provide marvelous reading as well. 'Carologue' is a mighty nice Christmas present for North Carolina.”

The editors were amazed how positive their reception was, and by Christmas they had sold 80 percent of their stock.

Within a month or two the rest were sold.

“We easily could have printed more,” Hoffius said, “but we were just so exhausted from the whole thing we didn’t.”

Then and now

The editors went on to other careers: Hoffius as a freelance writer and editor, Katz in energy-conserving construction. Over the years, most of the “Carologues” that have survived have done so in boxes in attics, though copies do appear occasionally for sale online or from dealers in rare books. And from time to time there comes assurance that “Carologue” is, years later, having its effect.

“Over the years, out of the blue, somebody would call me,” Katz said. “The one that was most meaningful to me was a guy ... said he grew up in a little town in North Carolina, gay. And until he read the “Carologue” he didn’t know there were any other gay people in North Carolina.

“That totally changed his life, that he was able to find community.”

Bob Chapman, now a real-estate developer and entrepreneur in Durham, contributed an article on counter-culture radio. In 1972, he was manager of two such in the Triangle, WFAR and WDBS.

About 10 years ago, Chapman said, he got a call from a Weldon K. Smith in Brooksville, Fla. who wanted to just say “Thank you.”

Chapman had mentioned Smith, then a Greensboro disc jockey, in the story. As things happened, a woman who read it looked Smith up, they got together and as a result, Smith said, he was married to the love of his life – and was still on the radio.

Looking through the “Carologue” now, Chapman said, is a nostalgia trip – “Every page as I open it, I say ‘Wow’,” he said.

“The ‘Carologue’ really captured a wonderful moment of excitement and people going in wonderful directions and doing things,” Hoffius said. “We just captured a snapshot of what was going on.”

The snapshot, though, is also a reminder that much of what was avant-garde and controversial then has become thoroughly mainstream: recycling, at-home childbirth, organic food, “Women’s Lib,” the Eno River Association.

“For whatever reason, we were looking at real fundamental issues and ways people were trying to respond to those issues outside the mainstream, and some of them turned out to be useful,” Katz said.

“It was a very smart group of folks putting it together,” Swain said. “They were aware of all the changes going on in our society and thinking far ahead ... intellectual, well-read and in touch with North Carolina.”

As Hoffius and Katz tell it, they were just looking for something to do. Both attended Duke in the ’60s, but only met later after going elsewhere and trying various occupations and then coming back to Durham just knowing they wanted to be there. They were introduced by a mutual friend and found their ideas meshed.

“It was a very great partnership,” Katz said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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