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A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Metro Wines

June 18, 2016 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Connie Regan-Blake is a nationally celebrated storyteller and workshop leader. Join us in this intimate setting (with plenty of parking) for an evening of stories as her storytelling and coaching students "Take the Stage!" You'll enjoy a variety of stories and storytelling styles with tellers Vixi Jil Glen, Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Martha Reed Johnson, Dottie Jean Kirk, Mikalena Zuckett, Lee Lyons and Hettie Barnes. Ticket price includes a glass of wine so 'come on down'! Tickets can be…See More
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Buncombe Chautauqua History Alive - Mark Twain, Amelia Earhart, Matthew Henson, Wernher von Braun at A-B Technical Community College, Ferguson Auditorium, 340 Victoria Rd, Asheville

June 20, 2016 at 7pm to June 23, 2016 at 7pm
Nationally acclaimed historical interpreters perform as four of American's Greatest Adventures.Laugh out loud with MARK TWAIN, the iconic world traveler and wily intellectual whose books inspired America’s spirit of adventure.Take to the skies with AMELIA EARHART, whose courage and plucky personality showed how women could soar beyond society's expectations.Race to the North Pole with MATTHEW HENSON, the intrepid African American explorer who co–discovered the North Pole.Blast into space with…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Isaac Coleman, 2011

A 2011 interview with the late activist, Isaac Coleman by Rob NeufeldCivil rights activist and local civic leader Isaac Coleman, born Nov. 6, 1943 in Lexington, Ky., lived his last 44 years in Asheville, and died on May 10, 2016,.We talked in 2011 about his career, starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. Q:  Was the SNCC your first involvement in civil rights? A:   I was a student at Knoxville College, an African-American College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and…See More
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Stories by the River Benefit for Girls Rock Asheville at Ole Shakeys 790 Riverside Drive in AVL

May 21, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Sip a drink by the river and enjoy stories and songs on a warm spring day!All donations benefit Girls Rock Asheville!Stories read by:Lori Horvitz  Melanie McGee Bianchi  Kim Winter Mako  Ky Delaney  and Lockie Huntermusical guests Leo+VirgoSee More
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 4, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm
Author Susan S. Kelly will the speaker at Montreat College Friends of the Library annual luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 4, 2016.  She is the author of five novels and a major contributing author to Our State Magazine.Call 828-669-8012 Ext. 3502 for Reservations.  $16.00See More
May 17
Sheilah Jastrzebski replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion The history of Oakley
"This is an interesting article.  It gives a few clues to the neighborhood I imagine from the old days. The woman from who my husband and I bought our Oakley home, Melody,  always talks about "Mr. Wilson" who entrusted her with…"
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The history of Oakley

Oakley is a place with an unforgettable historyby Rob NeufeldAn earlier time PHOTO CAPTION: The Taylor family of Oakley: Jean, Virgil, Sadie Louise, and Dan, c. 1936.  Photo courtesy Dan Taylor.            “We had hobos come to our house, and my mother would never turn them away,” Dan Taylor says of his experience…See More
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Juniper Bends quarterly poetry and prose reading at Downtown Books and News

May 6, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Join your fellow literature-craving citizens at the next upcoming Juniper Bends reading on Friday May 6th at 7PM. We will be luxuriating in sound, soaking up nutritious poetry & prose after the dark winter. Our series aims to bring together both established and emerging writers, and we are honored to bring together Gary Hawkins, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie Johnson and Michael Pittard's collective word-magic for this lovely spring evening. As usual, our generous host site is Downtown Books…See More
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Work hard, play hard, was the way of Biltmore boys

by Rob Neufeld

Read Part 1, about Biltmore boys in 1930s

Read Part 3.

 

            Motorists on the Biltmore Estate approach road in the early 1940s “would stop in amazement,” when the Austin boys took their dogs to the swamp to chase rabbits, Mark-Ellis Bennett wrote in the “Biltmore Beacon.”

            Harold and Ruel, sons of the estate’s Chief Ranger, Claude C. Austin, had a menagerie in tow, Ruel recalled in an interview with Bennett.  Their pets included “a fox, an opossum, a tomcat, a pair of shoats, and raccoons,” and their favorite companion, Jim the deer, whom they’d bottle-fed from fawnhood.

            “At home,” at the “kennel site” (named for the lodgings in which Edith Vanderbilt kept her purebred Saluki dogs), Ruel noticed how, on his porch, when it started to rain, Jim would chase his Great Dane away “to keep himself dry by the front door.”

            At age 13, after Ruel’s family had moved into the Biltmore House, Ruel went to work.  First, he did farm chores for $1.25 a day.  Then, he mowed lawns as a member of the “Grasshopper Gang”; and when a flu epidemic sapped the estate staff, he stood in for them, punching a time clock hourly as a night watchman.

            In Biltmore, during the lean years before the post-war boom, kids lived the country life, though also preoccupied, at an early age, by adventures in town and the lure of job opportunities.

            One adventure involved Tommy Koontz, a village resident, at Reed and Abee concrete plant on Warren Ave. (the company was acquired in 1958 by Asheville Concrete Materials; and in 1983, renamed Southern Concrete Materials).

            “They would dump their sand and rock into chutes, and the chutes went down into big hoppers that mixed concrete,” Koontz told me in a recent interview with him and his childhood friend, Winston Pulliam.  “The concrete trucks would back in under those things, and they’d open the holes in the mixers, and the rock and sand would go down in there. 

“One day, my brother and I and Billy McCoy (later killed in World War II) were playing on that chute, and they opened that lever down there, and that stuff started going down through there, and we started going with it.  There was a trough, and the only thing that saved us was a bar that went across that thing to level the sand and rock out.  We caught that bar, or we’d have gone down into that mixer.”           

Though not working on a farm, like Ruel, Tommy kept farmer’s hours.

            “When we ate dinner,” he recalled about his family, “within about an hour, we went to bed.  There were no cokes, no ice cream, no chocolate cake; you didn’t sit down around the TV.  When we finished eating and got cleaned up, and brought the wood and kindling in for the stove the next morning, we went to bed”—around 8 o’clock.  “Everybody was in the same situation.”

            “There was one thing we knew as kids,” Koontz continued, reflecting on hard times and built-in aspiration, “when you went south on Hendersonville Road, people on the right side (in Biltmore Forest) were different.  You knew that those people over there had things you didn’t have.  Because when I worked on the laundry truck, when I would take laundry to the door or pick up laundry, I never saw the owner of the house.  It was a maid.”

            “And if the maid wasn’t there,” added Pulliam, who lived in Oakley and played and worked in Biltmore, “you’d go in the house, and leave the laundry or milk.”  Delivering milk for Biltmore Dairy was another job boys had.

            “We had a funny saying,” Koontz recounted.  “They’d say, ‘Son, where do you live?’ and we’d say, ‘East Biltmore Forest.’”

            At age 11, Tommy went to work for Arthur Scott, a delivery man for Asheville Cleaners and Dyers.  Pulliam did likewise, making 25 cents a day.  At the interview, the two made a discovery about a fate they had shared.

            “I fell out of his laundry truck one day,” Pulliam said.

            “So did I!” Koontz exclaimed.

            “I fell out in Kenilworth.”

            “That’s where I fell out,” Koontz said.  “We were coming off of Tunnel Road, coming in through Kenilworth on the steep curve.  I was cold, and they had a heater under the dashboard, and I was sitting there leaned up against the door.  We went around that corner, the door went open, and I went!”

            Pulliam remarked on how much Scott, a relief man, who took jobs when regular drivers were off, had watched his pennies.

            “The first day I helped him,” Pulliam related, “we went to West Asheville.  There used to be a Saucy Sandwich Shop.  He ordered beef stew, I ordered beef stew.  I ordered everything he ordered (and Scott paid).  The next day, he made himself a cheese sandwich.”

            “I can’t believe you fell out of that truck,” Pulliam repeated.  “I did, too.  I wound up in a ditch.”

            Tommy had had his hand in his pockets because of the cold when he’d been thrown.  “I got one hand out,” he said, “and this scar that’s on my hand right here, that’s where I hit.  I was out there in the ditch, scared him to death.”

            “He left the laundry one time and went to work for Biltmore Dairy Farm,” Pulliam noted.  “I helped him on the milk truck, too.  I could drink all the lacto buttermilk I wanted.”

            Stories of the struggles and pleasures of hard times and community in Biltmore Village go to illustrate the ethics and energy with which its graduates sallied forth into the age of opportunity.  “There was something in people then,” Pulliam remarked.

            Next week, this column chronicles that rise to success.

 

PHOTO CAPTION

Claude C. Austin, Biltmore Estate chief ranger in the 1930s and 40s, plays with Jim the deer.  Photo courtesy Mark-Ellis Bennett and Ruel Austin.

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