Affiliated Networks



Latest Activity

Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Land Still Speaks film and Culture Vulture fest, Oct 30

Culture festival features film about mountain eldertsfrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation presents a film festival that highlights mountain heritage, Jewish heritage and African-American heritage on October 30th at the Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College.   The festival will feature three films, including the world premiere of a new film, The Land Still Speaks to Us which includes the voices of mountain elders throughout WNC.  There will also be music by local…See More
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
Oct 3
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
Oct 3
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
Oct 1
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

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.



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.

Views: 298

Reply to This

© 2015   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service