I have never given much thought to the origin of the term "high cotton" before now. Even though word and phrase origins are one of my hobbies, this is one that, over the years, has escaped me. I may not know the origin of the term but I know its meaning, and it certainly describes my situation at the Duke game in Kenan this year.
I wrote earlier about donating my Big Little Book collection to the Rare Books Section of the Wilson Library. Several weeks after I made the jaunt to Chapel Hill with my little friends, I received notification that I was being afforded membership in the Chancellor's Club which I understand is limited to individuals who make donations to the University of $10,000 or more in a given year. I just made it since my collection was appraised at $10,000.
It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to nurture "little Corey's" (see previous article) interest in UNC so I checked with the Development Office to see if it would be possible to have him and his father as a guest in the Chancellor's box for the Duke game. Fortunately, we were able to work this out and it provided me with a golden opportunity to show off the University to 'little Corey' in hopes that the memory of the day would influence him when it comes time for him to chose a university.
I have been aware of the Chancellor's box since it was completed but, for one reason or another, I had not personally been there. I didn't even know where the elevator was but some kind soul directed me to the proper location and up we went. I had to convince two security persons that I had, in fact, been invited to be with the big wheels, albeit for a short period of time. I didn't have any paperwork to support my contention since an oversight at the Chancellor's reception at the Law School prior to the game wasn't realized until I was half way to Kenan from the Law School. I figured we didn't have time to return to the Law School and make it to the game in time for the kickoff.
To say the Chancellor's box is luxurious is an understatement. It reminded me more of a classy hotel meeting room with all the amenities you might expect. There was a wide variety of food and much to the delight of 'little Corey' a yogurt machine with 3 flavors that was self operated. There was closed circuit television so one could see what was going on elsewhere in Kenan as socializing took place. Everyone I spoke with was very friendly and a couple of people admitted to me that they weren't regular attendees in the box either. That made me feel much better, knowing that I wasn't the only one who was a outsider to this affluent scene. I should note that I was the only one in the box with a Carolina sweatshirt and cap on along with white tennis shoes. I came as I always come to games in Kenan and no one gave me any funny looks because of the way I was dressed.
The food was worthy of comment. They had pulled barbecue, sliced roast beef, and many other delicacies served by a chef in the traditional high hat. A slight step up from where I usually eat, Bullocks or Allen and Son's Barbecue.
A somewhat humorous situation occurred at the pre-game reception. As we were going into the Law School, I noticed, at a distance, the Chancellor and his wife going into the building ahead of us. When we got into the building the Chancellor was standing alone inside the door and I re-introduced myself to him since I had met him previously in Richmond. In an attempt to engage in some small talk, I said to him, "I figured if I followed you, I would wind up in the right place." He then informed me that he was waiting for his wife who had gone to the Ladies Room. This explains why the Chancellor seemed to be looking for something when he and his lovely wife entered the building. Enough said.
I recall sitting once before in the Chancellor's box back in the early 60's. We were attempting to form an alumni chapter in Charlottesville and I went by Chancellor Aycock's Office before a game to see if he could address our group before the UNC-Virginia game later in the year. After he and I talked for a while and I was preparing to leave his office, he asked me if I was going to the game later that day. I told him yes and he pulled out a handful of tickets from his coat pocket and asked me how many persons were in my party. I was so taken back that I told a little white lie. I was alone but I figured I could make a call to Raleigh ( my home town) and get someone to attend the game with me. So I told him "two." He handed me the tickets and told me the tickets would allow me to be his guest in the Chancellor's box.
I immediately went to a telephone and called Raleigh. In fact, I made several calls to Raleigh but I was unsuccessful in getting anyone to attend the game with me. To make a long story short, it was one of the few times I have ever attended a game in Kenan alone. I remember well the waiter in a white coat serving sandwiches and soft drinks off a tray and me trying to pay him. A nice gentleman seated next to me discreetly informed me that there was no charge. A little out of my league.
Of course, the old Chancellor's box was nothing like it is today but you can rest assured I told everyone who would listen about my experience there. I remember the game also. It was with South Carolina, we won and Ken Willard ran a kickoff back for a touchdown. I'll bet he remembers that game.
So for one day I was in "high cotton." The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the term relates to cotton plants planted early in the season and allowed to grow until while other plants were planted later and would not be as tall. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there would be less wear and tear on the back if one were to pick the high cotton rather than the low cotton if there is any such thing. Maybe high cotton translated means being in a privileged position. That pretty well sums up my situation at the Duke game and I'll let you in on a little secret. I could get used to it.
So I'll be moving along now. I've got to hit some flea markets to see if I can find some more Big Little Books to maintain my membership in the Chancellor's Club.