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home : community : community June 26, 2019

5/16/2019 12:11:00 PM
Letters From The Trenches: Dear Kit, Coming May 18
Actor Hardin Minor portrays his own grandfather in World War I play
Charlotte’s Hardin Minor will portray his own grandfather, Capt. Nathaniel Hardin Massie (1897-1967), in a one-man show about one man’s experience in World War I on Saturday, May 18 at the Lincoln Cultural Center. 
Charlotte’s Hardin Minor will portray his
own grandfather, Capt. Nathaniel Hardin
Massie (1897-1967), in a one-man show
about one man’s experience in
World War I on Saturday, May 18 at
the Lincoln Cultural Center. 

(Top) Members of Nathaniel Hardin Massie’s 51st U.S. Marine Company posed for this picture prior to combat during World War I. (Bottom) Nathaniel Hardin Massie talks to his wife, Kit.(Photos Courtesy Hardin Minor)

(Top) Members of Nathaniel Hardin
Massie’s 51st U.S. Marine Company
posed for this picture prior to combat
during World War I. (Bottom) Nathaniel
Hardin Massie talks to his wife, Kit.


(Photos Courtesy Hardin Minor)


  • WANT TO GO? Regular-admission tickets for the show are $15 each. Tickets for seniors and veterans are $10 each. They may be purchased using the Website at www.eventbrite.com or at the LCHA offices on the second floor of the Lincoln Cultural Center. 


Thomas Lark
Staff Writer


LINCOLNTON, N.C.––Charlotte’s Hardin Minor is perhaps best known locally as a mime and for comedic, whimsical work.

For some 40 years now, Minor has carved out a unique role for himself as a performer, including dancing, juggling, singing, clowning and Vaudeville slapstick, as well as being a creative director, choreographer and more.

But at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Lincoln Cultural Center, he’ll be turning serious as he portrays his own grandfather, Capt. Nathaniel Hardin Massie (1897-1967), in Letters from the Trenches: Dear Kit, a one-man show about one man’s experience in World War I.

“I was named for my grandfather. I was his namesake,” as Minor told The Herald this week, adding that his own full name is Hardin Massie Minor. “So when I was growing up, he was Big Hardin, and I was Little Hardin. To this day, I still think of him as Big Hardin. I was in awe of him. He commanded your attention as a reader, storyteller, a fixer, a fireworks nut (he taught soldiers how to use flamethrowers in World War II), a jokester, a punster and a taskmaster with a heart of gold. He died in 1967, when I was 15. I really knew him as an older man, a grandfather. I adored both him and my grandmother, GrandKit.”

Letters from the Trenches: Dear Kit is a fundraiser for the Lincoln County Historical Association, according to its chairman, Bill Beam. Also this week, Beam said all proceeds would benefit the LCHA, and he hopes many folks will attend the performance.

“This will be an educational and entertaining program the whole family will enjoy and remember,” he said, especially encouraging military veterans and school students to attend.

According to LCHA spokeswoman January Costa, regular-admission tickets for the show are $15 each. Tickets for seniors and veterans are $10 each. They may be purchased using the Website at www.eventbrite.com or at the LCHA offices on the second floor of the Lincoln Cultural Center. 

A treasure trove of letters

As Minor explained, the discovery of his grandfather’s wartime letters, not quite a year ago, led to the creation of the play.

“When I came upon this cache of 183 letters down in our basement in his World War I footlocker, which I use in the show, I suddenly had a window into their lives as their relationship was beginning when they were 18, 19, 20 years old,” he said. “These letters trace their friendship, established when he was at the Virginia Military Institute (1914-16), follow his decision to enlist and finally reveal his most heartfelt feelings of love, desire, hope, humor and courage as he wrote back during that fateful year of 1918.

“As I began to read them aloud,” he continued, “I would melt down, crying, gasping for breath and feeling the most complete admiration and love for who they were together and apart at this critical moment in history. My wife (Linda Dellinger, whose mother, Mary, has Lincolnton ties) would declare that I would never be able to make it through a complete rendering. She vowed to get a squirt bottle and hit me whenever I started to falter! Gradually, I gained control of the emotional spigot and found ways of continuing.”

The play’s genesis was thus a painful one.

“I felt somewhat embarrassed that I was going to publicly reveal my grandfather’s innermost sentiments,” said Minor. “He, like every other doughboy, did not know from one battle to the next whether he would survive, so he professed his love in numerous ways in each letter. He and she would most likely not allow me to do what I’ve done.”



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Portraying his grandfather thus is both an honor and a matter of serious responsibility, as Minor revealed.

“Telling this story is at once liberating and daunting for me,” he said. “There is a fine line that I tread, as I maintain my identity as a grandson while shifting into first-person as my grandfather. It happens during the show. I begin as me, transform into Nathaniel Hardin Massie and then shift back to the grandson as the narrative concludes. With each run-through and each performance, I am immersed more completely into that time and this man’s mind and heart.

“Since I came to love and adore them as I developed from a young boy into a teen, I had a tremendous respect for who they were and what they asked of me,” he added. “They helped to define my sense of self, of purpose, of right and wrong and of what they called the esprit de corps. They had a great friendship with each other, and they so valued the friends who were such a part of the living of their lives. They had a sense of fun that came out in the way they read to us or told the stories of Kipling, Twain, Lewis Carroll or of the Bible.”

When he was old enough, 8 or so, Minor would accompany his grandfather to graduation ceremonies at VMI. He recalled John Glenn being a commencement speaker, circa 1960.

“I would attempt to play the VMI fight song solo on my cornet in front of the retired brass and gathered professors,” Minor remembered. “Granddaddy was orphaned at 6, when his father died unexpectedly, and his mother left him with an uncle, Dr. Robert K. Massie, Sr. So VMI became Big Hardin’s place of identity and destiny. All of these memories come flooding back when I step into the time, place and emotional context of these letters.

“So this show is completely different from anything I’ve ever attempted,” he added. “It’s honest acting, a serious portrayal of a time when Big Hardin was transforming into full manhood by serving his country with the training he had learned. At VMI, they are proponents of the citizen-soldier. There is a revered statue of Cincinnatus, the famed Roman general, who had become a farmer but returned to military service when his country demanded.”

To prepare, Minor delved deeply into the history of the Great War.

The show is, he said, “a story I’m proud to tell,” adding that the research “has deepened my respect for all of our veterans and service personnel, while simultaneously giving me a bitter taste for the stupidity, cruelty and waste of war and the big business of waging war.”

Had it not been for Vietnam, Minor says he might have gone to VMI. Instead, he went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1970-74), where he protested the Vietnam War. And things come full circle: Minor has donated his grandfather’s letters and related World War I scrapbook to the Southern Historical Collection at UNC’s Wilson Library.

“When I found the letters, I realized it was a gift that I should share by bringing them to life,” he said. “I did so in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.”

Thus the show’s first performances co-incided with that event in November of last year. Minor’s performances were free; his way of giving back to the community in honor of his grandfather and all military veterans and service personnel. The donations garnered at the door were evenly divided between the Veteran Bridge Home, Charlotte Affordable Housing and Minor’s neighborhood association.

“It was a privilege to pay tribute and give public thanks for the lives of my grandparents,” he said. “I am a better man for having done so. And I couldn’t have done this without the encouragement of one of Lincolnton’s finest native daughters, my wife of 34 years, Linda Dellinger, nor without the help and support of our two boys, Massie and Tucker. And I would be remiss if I did not include Linda’s sister, Frances (Tachi), who worked so hard to ensure the success of my initial performances.

“When folks recognized what I was doing and why, the support swelled like a river running clear in the spring,” he added. “I have so much to be thankful for, such as Walter Clark and his lovely family, for seeing the vision and making it happen in Lincolnton. And the great thing is that this show now has a life of its own. I’m trying to find the venues around the city and the state that will help me invite veterans from all eras to experience what I have come to know about my grandfather.”


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