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Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8
Carol Anders posted an event

FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain at All Souls Cathedral Parrish Hall / Biltmore Village

October 4, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
It is a "sharp, lively discourse, and audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased, St. Germain's script is astute, and the humor is plentiful."-NY Times. Sigmund Freud invites C. S. Lewis to his home in London  ...they clash about sex, love, the existence of God and the meaning of life - just weeks before Freud took his own life. This play reveals the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men.  Afterwards a time to "talk back" with The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli and Dr. Mary…See More
Sep 8

Biltmore Village boys achieve success with Depression strengths

Depression era ethic bred Biltmore brio

by Rob Neufeld

Part 3 of 3-part series

See Part 1.  See Part 2.


            “Fortune is a lazy goddess, she will never come to you,” Biltmore-born entrepreneur Winston Pulliam says, quoting a hymn he’d learned in grammar school in the 1930s.

            It was written by Ellen M.H. Gates, author, minister’s wife, and sister of one of the men who built the railroad to the Pacific.

            “If you have not gold and silver,” the hymn advises, “you can visit the afflicted…If you cannot, in the harvest, gather up the richest sheaves…Go and glean among the briars growing rank against the wall.”

            The ethics of this hymn—the charity as well as the industriousness—permeated the souls of children who grew up during the Depression and World War II era in Biltmore Village.

            “I look back at people like Slick Warren, who couldn’t have come from any worse living conditions,” reflected Tommy Koontz who, with Pulliam, his friend since childhood, talked with me about their Biltmore upbringing recently.

            “Did you ever go in his house?” Pulliam interjected.

            “Dirt floors.”

            “That’s right, dirt floors.”

            “He rose to become a big executive with CP&L in Fayetteville,” Koontz continued.  “I remember when he played football, he wore combat boots because he didn’t have the money to buy football shoes.”

            “He went to Asheville-Biltmore College.  He washed buses for Trailways in order to go to school.”

            “Then he worked his way through N.C. State.”

            “And became Dean of Men,” Pulliam added.

            “There was something in people back then.”

            “I can tell you what it is,” Pulliam said.  “It’s called fire in the belly.  You had it for education.  I had it because I wanted to do good in life.  When I went into the service station (Tri-Co), I wanted to work as hard as I could and make money as quick as I could, and I did.  But I didn’t want that money strictly for me.  I wouldn’t trade my and Tommy’s friendship for all the rice in China, and they tell me they’ve got a lot of it.”


Biltmore businesses


            Plaza Café, run by Tommy Arakas; Dixie Pit Barbecue; Oakley Shoe Shop; Biltmore Shoe Shop; Biltmore Plaza Recreation Center; Biltmore Hardware; Biltmore Beauty Shop; Slayden Fakes, grocers; Hot Shot Café; Quality Bakery; and Evans Esso Service Station were just some of the businesses that made the village a lively, familiar commercial center in the 1940s.

            “I remember the frame going up on the Recreation Center (in the early 1940s), and the sparks flying off of the steel when they were welding it,” Koontz said.  “I was playing around Doc Jarrett’s Biltmore Drugstore.”

            “Reading funny books,” Pulliam noted.

            The Recreation Center would sport a bowling alley and the Biltmore Tavern.  Across the street, passenger trains took people from the depot to New York City in sleeping cars.

            “And do you remember Penguin’s Frozen Custard, right across the corner?” Pulliam asked.

            “That was the first frozen custard I ever heard of,” answered Koontz.

            “The bowling alley had duckpins,” Pulliam related.  “I’d set many of them.  I made three cents a game for duckpins, five cents for kingpins.  You had to dodge.”

            “That shelf that you sat on back there,” Koontz said, having also been an employee, “you’d throw your legs up when the ball would come through”

            “Them pins would go all over you,” said Pulliam.  “You got hit.  It hurt.  A lot of times, they’d have soldiers from Moore General come in there and bowl, and they could hit them pins hard.”

            At Sam Robbins’ grocery store at Brook and Reed Streets, boys exchanged Coca-Cola bottles for pennies.  Robbins, a Jewish merchant who was known to help out many people with credit during the tough economic years, would wink at the boys bringing the same bottles twice.

            “He had two of the most beautiful daughters,” Pulliam recollected. 

            Robbins would tell Pulliam, who worked for him on Saturdays, “Winton[qv], you go see Wootie, and she’ll fix you lunch.”  One time, on a dare, Pulliam kissed Ruthie, and after that first time, he didn’t have to resort to tricks, the story goes.

            Biltmore Village—and America—in the time of the phoenix rising, was sexy.


The fifties and beyond


            Pulliam served as a crew chief flight engineer in the Air Force in the 1950s.  The day he’d come home, he got a call, he told Mike Blanton on the radio show, “Financially Speaking,” that “the man I used to work for, Mr. Evans, wanted to sell his service station.”  He and Evans’ son, John, borrowed $8,000 to buy Mr. Evans’ stock, and, Pulliam said, “I had on overalls at 9 o’clock the first morning I was home.”

            Pulliam slowly grew his business with John Evans from 1954 to 1958, and then started Tri-Co Service Station at 10 Brook Street.  For 32 years, he served the community, famously as the presider over a village gathering place. 

            “Pully and my dad, Bud Holt, were friends and we traded exclusively with Tri-Co,” writes Kim Dawson.  

            “I was supposed to sign any tickets that I had, when driving my car, with my name. That way Daddy could keep up with how much gas I was using. Pully would help me out and let me put some in my Dad's pile so I would not go over my monthly allotment of gas daddy allowed. After that it came out of my pocket. Pully would say ‘go have some fun on this tank.’”

            In the 1960s, Pulliam started buying land on Hendersonville Road, knowing the Interstate was coming.  His real estate business multiplied, and is now, under the name Pulliam Properties, owned by his son, Rusty Pulliam.

            “We’ve had God in our lives,” Pulliam said, “and I want to spend the rest of my life doing things for other people.”  His charities are numerous, and he’s personally involved in them.


21st century flowering


            Back in Biltmore Village, much has changed since the 1960s.  The old way of village life is past, and a new era of commercial vitality reigns.

            On March 22, 1990, Tri-Co Service Station closed down.  It has since been demolished, its site now occupied by J. Crew in a three-story mixed use development that includes Talbots, Coldwater Creek, and Williams-Sonoma.

            In 1991, Bell-Harrison, a specialty clothing store started in Biltmore by Bill Bell in the 1960s, closed after trying to compete by building a national chain.  “There was an avalanche,” co-owner David Harrison said, referring to new market trends, “and we were trying to climb the mountain during the avalanche.”  Bell’s son, John Bell, head of Biltmore Property Group, is now a leader in village development and preservation.

            In April of 2000, Biltmore Hardware closed after 72 years of business.  Charles Lingerfelt Jr., son of its founder, said it could not survive Home Depot.

            The 1940s Recreation Center building stands, occupied by Neo Cantina restaurant.  New businesses occupy the many remaining Vanderbilt-era pebbledash structures, as the village negotiates its 21st century status.


Read about Tommy Arakas in Mark-Ellis Bennett’s article in the “Biltmore Beacon,” available in Biltmore Village establishments.

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