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susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
21 hours ago
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
22 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 3 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
22 hours ago
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Monday
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Monday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in 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…See More
Apr 19
Frank Thompson posted an event
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Courtney Lix Presents Her History of Women in the Smokies at City Lights Bookstore

May 6, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Courtney Lix will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. She will present her book Women of the Smokies which chronicles the women who contributed to making the Smokies what we know today. She will share some of the stories of these women and sign books. To reserve copies please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499.See More
Apr 9

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 MORE

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

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