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City Lights Bookstore posted events
5 hours ago
Gary Carden posted a video

2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
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Gary Carden updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Stories of Asheville's homeless

History of Asheville’s homeless: humanity on trialby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Jim Parton and Kirk Faulkner, two homeless men at A-Hope, where Jim is getting help finding housing and Kirk is making job connections.  Photo, 2017, by Rob Neufeld.“I admire my daddy more than any other human on…See More
Tuesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Writers at Home at Malaprops at Malaprops

March 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
A.K. Benninghofen, Lockie Hunter and Beth Keefauver will offer a free reading at the next installment of the Writers at Home series, presented by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP), at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street in Asheville. This monthly series of free readings is hosted by GSWP director and novelist Tommy Hays.See More
Sunday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Saturday
Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Bianca Spriggs at Three Top Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

March 30, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by poet, multi-genre artist, and core member of the Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State. Spriggs will also present a craft talk from 12:30-1:45 in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union. Free admission.For more info, see the press release http://www.news.appstate.edu/2017/03/06/bianca-spriggs/Parking info is at parking.appstate.edu.…See More
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 14
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Hester

HESTER      Growing up in Asheville,  N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “       My dad was about as straight an arrow as anyone could find. He seemed to a preadolescent, somewhat indolent son, frankly boring. Looking back from a perspective of 70 years, I…See More
Mar 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American musicians in Asheville

African-American musicians flourished in Asheville neighborhoodsby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike…See More
Mar 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Blind Man's Bluff

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the game Blind Man's Bluff is as old as the 16th Century. It was a game I never liked playing as a kid. I was always afraid someone would get hurt-namely me! Its one of those games that makes grown-ups yell things like "Somebodys going to…See More
Mar 9
Mary-Chris Griffin shared Rob Neufeld's discussion on Facebook
Mar 6
Bob Plott replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Hunters and Plott hounds
"Thanks for sharing this Rob--and the book plug too. I have never seen this photo before. I have several others from the 1942 article, but this was a new one. The man on the truck looking down is WWII hero Little George Plott--who I profiled in my…"
Mar 6
Tipper posted a video

I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

old VHS film from 2002, a little distorted by the video conversion process... This song features a high lead by Pap and a harmony underneath. In the key of D...
Mar 5
Tipper posted blog posts
Mar 5
Jan Schochet shared Frank Thompson's event on Facebook
Mar 4

A worker’s view of tannery work in Rosman

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Haskell Luker was 11 when the Flood of 1916 caused his dad, Americus Alfred Luker, to leave the farm where he worked and take a job with an acid (tannin) plant in Pisgah Forest. 

            “Daddy was going down there to make big money—you know how they talk,” Luker explained to Rowell Bosse in a 1991 interview. (The recorded interview is held by Transylvania County Library’s North Carolina Room, which is named after Bosse.)

            “Well,” Luker continued, “we went down there and stayed about a month,” and then the company shut the plant down “because the feller that done the oilin’ down in the engine room got killed one morning about 3 o’clock.  And after he got killed, why the people wouldn’t work of a night. They claimed they could see him down there.”

 

The engine of profit

 

            There are a lot of ghost stories about tragic lovers and vengeful victims in our folklore, but they barely rise above sensational value in the historical record.  However, the lingering ghosts of early 20th century industrialism in our region resonate with significance.

            The tycoons who came to these mountains when its natural resources opened up to them exhibited remarkable energy and ingenuity; as well as various degrees of enlightenment.  In all cases, cheap labor was one of the attractions, and profit a necessary bottom line.

            Joseph Silversteen came to Toxaway and established the Toxaway Tanning Company in 1902.  Behind him was his parents’ escape to Pennsylvania from Russian pogroms; and his entry, as a young apprentice, into the stench-filled industry of tanning.

            By age 23, he was ready for entrepreneurship.  He and new wife, Elizabeth, moved to Transylvania County, which they made their adopted home, benefitting it in numerous ways.

            Dateline: 20 years later.  “Transylvania’s great industries reveal real American story,” the Brevard News trumpeted. 

            “The story of industry in the Brevard section is closely linked with the progress of four large plants by Joseph S. Silversteen, these plants being the Transylvania Tanning company, at Brevard; the Toxaway tanning company, Rosman extract company, and the Gloucester Lumber company, all located in Rosman.”

            The Rosman companies employed about 600 people.  The tanners produced 500 hides a day; the lumber people, 30,000 board feet; and the extractors, 175 barrels.

 

Bottom of the ladder

 

            “I went out there at that old acid plant (the tannin extract company) and asked for a job and (the boss) told me, ‘Well, I'll let you work if I get permission from your daddy,’” Luker said about his first job interview after dropping out of school at age 15.

            He got hired as water boy, making the rounds delivering drinking water to the blacksmith shop; the pan house, where the syrupy extract was finished; the boilerplate room, where wood was boiled; the chipper shed; and the engine room.

            One day, a boy who oversaw the boiling was killed.  “One of them tanks they call the boilerplate...well the bottom blowed off it and killed that boy. And that scared everybody and they wouldn’t work in there.  Boss asked me if I’d work in there.  Well, I’d been around there a whole lot you know and seed what they done and everything, and I told him I didn’t mind it.” 

            Despite the dangers, the new job involved sitting around half the time doing nothing except making sure the pressure valves didn’t pop.  Plus, it was warm in the winter.

            The lighting was very poor, supplied by two home-made lamps powered by the plant’s steam engine.  Particulates gummed up the drain in the tank, causing explosions.  Two more workers died, blown through the roof after climbing the tanks.

            The turnover in the extract company was high, as men from South Carolina had enough after about three paydays, Luker said.  Pay was in scrip, which could be exchanged for 75% of its value in cash.

            Luker, who worked 12 hours a day when he was young, stuck with the company for 25 years, taking a break for the Navy, and stopping when the operation ended for lack of chestnut wood.

            He then worked many more years at a tire company in Pickens, until he was 65, at which point he said he “wasn’t going to do a thang in the world but hunt and fish.”

            The flip side of Luker’s work life had been his leisure time in the woods with his buddies.

            “A man can go right here to the river and catch fish any time,” he said about the old days.  “But when they’d wash out all those tubs up at the acid plant, the river would be just as red as it could be where they’d washed that, and (it all) settled in the bottom there.”

            “Everything went in the river,” Luker noted—dead animals; trash; outhouse waste.

            In 1905, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting tanneries or tannic acid plants from discharging waste into Richland Creek in Haywood County.  But it took a long time for protections to become real in any place; and residents often felt unaffected, calling themselves “stout” and going on with their activities, relatively free to roam.

            “Ever since I was big enough to carry a gun, I’ve hunted and fished,” Luker said.  He and his friends got a quarter for every possum skin, which they invested back in shells.  He hunted coons with his dad, following their dogs.

            Sometimes, they got wind of society passing them by.

           “It’s about like the joke they told on a feller up there on East Fork about the motorcycle,” Luker related.  The man “was out on the porch and heard the motorcycle coming up the road there. Said he ran into the house and got his gun, came back out...Said he hauled off and shot at it. They asked, ‘Did you kill it?’ ‘No, but I made it turn that man loose.’”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler

 

PHOTO CAPTION

 

Toxaway Tanning Company employees, 1920s. 1. Calvin Galloway.  2. E.D. Randolph.  3. Will Jackson.  4. Unknown.  5. Archie Rogers.  6. Roy Watkins.  7. Garfield Duncan.  8. Robert Holden.  9. Unknown.  10. Wilborn Galloway.  11. Paul Rogers.  12. Elmer White.  13. Oscar Barrette.  14. Calop Murphy.  15. Will Mosley.  16. Daddy Harry Scott.  17. Unknown.  18. Lueller Powell.  19. Unknown.  20. Bill Jackson.  21. Burnice Owens.  22. Weldon Morgan.  23. Fred Stroupe.  24. Jorden Whitmire.  25. Anderson Revis.  26. C.L. Cantt.  27. Dee Morgan.  28. Carl Hednrix.  29. George Hendrix.  30. Coy Whitmire.  31. Lee Morgan.  32. Dar. Crowe.  33. Elmer McClain.  (Photo courtesy of the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library)

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