[I found this photo with some of my grandmother's papers. It was likely taken in the 1930s. The boys and location are unidentified.]
Debra stumbled across this Model Railroader forum posting by a user who identifies simply as CLTRRFAN, and states that in the mid-70s he lived in the apartment below E. L. Moore and was fortunate enough to see the setup for the famous blow-up of The Cannonball and Safety Powder Works that appeared in the April ’77 issue of Model Railroader. Given the ephemeral nature of the internet, here is CLTRRFAN’s post in its entirety,
Hello, new community member, I found this community from a search on E.L. Moore. I lived downstairs from him in an apartment building in Charlotte, NC in 1975-1976. I saw his setup for the powderhouse explosion article. He was a vagabond in the '30's, and I think he worked at children't photograpy for his vocation. I deeply regret not getting to know him when I had the chance.
[reference: Where did the ideals from [sic] well known craftsman kits come from? Model Railroader forum, posted 1 Feb 2014]
It’s curious that E. L. Moore may have referred to his life in the 1930’s as a ‘vagabond’. To me it puts a romantic spin on what might have also been the life of a hobo, an itinerant labourer, a drifter, or simply an out-of-work casualty of the great depression. It might have been a hard life. Maybe a homeless life. Maybe he did find it to be a good life and the vagabond label might be spin-free. And vagabond comes from the same root as omnivagant, so its choice as a description of his life has a little extra meaning for my writing.
Also, this forum post made me think that Mr. Moore’s setup story to his Molasses Mine build, which is seemingly a tall tale about how he came to learn about the legendary Smoky Mountains mine while doing some time in the Bryson City jail during the summer of 1930, might have a grain of truth to it. Not the mine part :-) but the time in jail part. Vagrancy laws were quite different then, and jailing a ‘vagabond’ as ‘encouragement’ to leave town wasn’t out of the question. I’m thinking of going back through those other ‘tall tales’ of his with a little less skeptical eye and see if there is some pattern I’ve overlooked
I hope that CLTRRFAN reappears on the forum and can provide some further information.