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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come 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
Feb 7
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Jan 31
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
Jan 17
Susan True updated their profile
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
Jan 9
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Jan 8
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1

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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