In mid-June of 1939 a yellow-trimmed, red trailer home equipped with air conditioning, 2 sound systems, and electric lights rolled into downtown Asheville. Emblazoned on the sides of the trailer were the words “Big Boy“. The following advertisement appeared in the local newspaper.
Big Boy was born in Black Mountain in 1934 as the only male in a litter of five. His father–a Poland China–had come from Indiana to start a family. His parents weighed in at a measly four or five hundred pounds apiece. Big Boy spent his boyhood days in Black Mountain. By 1938 he tipped the scales of a Black Mountain veterinarian at 1975 pounds and set out on a tour of North Carolina in the red trailer. According to a delightful article in the January 7, 1939 edition of the Rocky Mount Telegram, Big Boy had no address “for he’s a traveling man.” The author allowed that Big Boy’s visit in Rocky Mount was a chance to see “potential barbecue on the hoof for 10 cents a view.”
Big Boy lost weight on his 1938 statewide tour despite being fed a daily ration of three gallons of hog ration, corn, and “bits of green food”. “No slops for this aristocrat” wrote the author of the article in the Rocky Mount Telegram. He also received a daily beauty regimen of brushing, spraying, and greasing. During the tour Big Boy had been “handled by strategy and corn”: one day his handler spent three hours coaxing “his hog highness” into the red trailer.
In April of 1939 Big Boy made a stop in his birthplace of Black Mountain. The following headline appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times on April 30th.
“Displaying a temperament as erratic and explosive as that of the most eccentric star of stage or screen, “Big Boy” said to be the world’s largest hog, exhibited his nearly a ton of hams, bacon and side meat near Black Mountain yesterday for a Fox Movietone newsreel cameraman and the glory of pigdom and Western North Carolina.”
According to the story Big Boy led a “merry chase about the pasture while a bevy of Black Mountain school girls in shorts”, a cameraman, the publicity director for the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and W.H. Hunnicutt a Black Mountain attorney waited for him to calm down. The author of the article wrote that Big Boy had been “cooped up in his show pen for months” and was “squealing with delight and snorting like the exhaust of a ten-ton truck.”
When Big Boy calmed down, he allowed the girls to “curry his hair, put a crimp in his tail with a curling iron, and place a ribbon about his neck. Big Boy only objected when his nose was powered with a huge powder puff.”
Plans were in the offing to drive Big Boy up to New York City for the opening of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
You just can’t make this stuff up. I’m on the hunt for Big Boy’s Fox MovieTone newsreel: one of three made in the Asheville area in 1939. Perhaps in the future we’ll all be able to see Big Boy gamboling in the field!
Posted by Terry Taylor, A.H.S (self-conferred) Friends of the North Carolina Room board member