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Tipper posted a blog post

When You Get in the Habit of Saying the Same Thing

Have you ever been around someone who used the same word or words in every sentence? Years ago, I was introduced to a man who at the end of every sentence said and what not. I remember being obsessed with listening to him. I wanted to see if just once he wouldn't say and what not. It never happened. He said the phrase at the end of every sentence just like clock work.A few other habitual sayings I've…See More
Thursday
Bil Stahl updated their profile
Feb 17
Ann Miller Woodford posted an event
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Ann Miller Woodford at Gospel Singing program: Liberty Baptist Church, Sylva, NC & Exhibit; WCU Mountain Heritage Center

February 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
WCU's Mountain Heritage Center and curator, Ann Miller Woodford, will present an exhibit on African-American far western NC community, music, and history, based on Ann’s book, When All God's Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina.The exhibit is based upon Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of the African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools.The exhibit examines…See More
Feb 16
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Rytson

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darknessby Rob NeufeldEVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.             The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett…See More
Feb 13
Tipper posted a video

Kudzu Kickers - Waltz Clog

In case you didn't know-we dance too! Our clogging team is called the Kudzu Kickers. In this video we were practicing for an upcoming festival. The Pressley ...
Feb 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Memories and Food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.A few years ago I…See More
Feb 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 8
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Jewish Studies special events March 23-26

Center for Jewish Studies 35th Anniversary Events from press releaseUNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a series of special events on and off campus March 23-26. Rick Chess talk and readingUNC Asheville Professor of English Richard Chess has been director of the CJS for the past 25 years and will deliver the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture on the celebration’s opening night. A poet and essayist, Chess will offer a vision of Jewish…See More
Feb 7
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Feb 7
David E. Whisnant updated their profile
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Second Novel at Jackson County Public Library

March 3, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm
The Jackson County Public Library and City Lights Bookstore are co-hosting an event with David Joy on Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. He will present his second novel, The Weight of This World, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library. Set in the Little Canada community of Jackson County, The Weight of This World is a story of three people haunted by their past. A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he…See More
Feb 4
Tipper posted a blog post

Hiccup Cures

Do you ever get the hiccups? Every once in a while I do. If I have them once during a day-I always have them again before the day is over. My record is 5 different times in one day.We've all heard drinking water or holding your breath is the remedy to stop hiccups. According to John Parris saying this tongue twister will cure them:Hickup, snicup, rise up, right up! Three drops in the cup are good for…See More
Feb 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The German experience settling WNC

The German migration to Western North Carolinaby Rob Neufeld PICTURE CAPTION: An immigrant family comes down the Philadelphia Wagon Road in the mid-18th century, as had the George Schuck family done, and as this Scots-Irish family is doing in an 1872 “Harper’s Weekly” illustration, titled, “The…See More
Feb 3

Memories of The Green Fly, a tanners’ cafe

by Rob Neufeld 

 

PHOTO CAPTION: Workers at the Rosman Tannery hold some of their tools, including an applicator.  Can you help identify the tools and their uses?  Photo courtesy of the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.

            My recent story about the Rosman Tannin Extract Company elicited a reply from my friend, the great storyteller, Gary Carden who once worked in the Transylvania Tanning Company plant in Brevard.

            I can’t improve upon his delicious and at times pointed narrative style, so, with his permission, I print his story about the Green Fly Café.

            Carden’s blog, “Holler Notes” (hollernotes.blogspot.com) contains his latest thoughts; and his Facebook page provides a contact.  His books and recordings are available at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva (828-586-9499).  Carden performs “Traditional Stories of the Mountains / Cowee Tunnel Disaster” at WCU at Biltmore Park, Nov. 11 (828-654-6498).

 

Carden on The Green Fly

 

            During my first year at Western Carolina Teachers College (now Western Carolina University) in 1953, I managed to offend my grandfather so severely, he banished me.  

            “Out of my sight!” he said, and sent me off to Brevard to spend the summer with Uncle Albert.  At the time Albert was the bookkeeper for the Silversteen tannery and got me a job there.  “Good,” said my grandfather. “Maybe he will develop a sense of what it means to earn a livelihood.”

            I worked in the “buffing room” which was next to the “green hide room,” a place where decaying (green) flesh was stripped from hides; the hides were then hung up to “season.”

            The resulting stink hung like an evil fog over the whole place, including the Green Fly Cafe (also owned by the Silversteen Tannery), where we all ate each day.  Every worker had a tab which was deducted from his pay check at the end of the week.

            Eventually, I became inured to the smell that permeated everything in or near the tannery; I even reached the point where I could eat the Green Fly’s daily diet of collard greens, pintos and cornbread with a reasonable amount of gusto.

 

Gunk

 

            The buffing room was in the loft of a large, barn-like structure and its purpose was to convert inferior hides into acceptable shoe leather. This was done by placing hides (which were spotted with holes and possessed areas that were so thin they were semi-transparent) on a great table and coating them with a nauseous, yellow gunk.

            Four workers stood at each table with huge brushes strapped to their forearms and alternately dipped the brushes in the yellow gunk and then spread it, like lemon cake icing over the hide.  This process was repeated several times so that the gunk built up a thick layer.  

            After the hides had dried out, they were placed on the “buffing machine” where huge metal rollers beat the gunk into the hide until it was absorbed.  This was repeated several times until the hides acquired an acceptable thickness.

            A bucket of water set by each table, and when the brushes became clogged, we would clean them in the bucket.  The water level in the bucket was always a little over half-full because the buffing machines caused the floor to shift beneath our feet, like the deck of a ship.  The water sloshed back and forth in the bucket in rhythm with the buffing machines.

            The deafening noise created by the buffers rendered all conversation impossible, and we all learned to communicate with a kind of “buffing room mime.” Basically, it was mind-numbing work and we quickly fell into a repetitive routine that lasted for two hours.

            We received a 15-minute break—one in the morning and one in the afternoon—between each shift (which was deducted from our pay). During the break, the workers would go to the toilet, go out on the loading dock to smoke, or sit on the floor next to their work station.   

            I remember one colorful fellow who climbed on the idle buffing machine and preached to his fellow workers during the break, exhorting them to “find Jesus.”

            In addition to me, my work station included Lil, a gigantic blond woman who resembled Boris Karloff; a small man named Westley who hummed country-and-western songs; and a fellow named Manard who talked constantly about hunting, fights and epic drunks.

            During the breaks, Lil lay on the floor and slept while Westley, Manard and I fled to the loading dock. While Westley yodeled and did a passing imitation of Eddie Arnold’s standards (“Cattle Call,” and “A Big Bouquet of Roses”), Manard talked about his Saturday nights, which he spent driving around Brevard with a bottle of John Paul Jones whiskey and a paper sack full of cherry bombs.

            His greatest joy in life consisted of lighting cherry bombs and pitching them out the window when he passed a crowd in front of a church or theater. He especially liked to frighten the residents of Carver Street, which ran through a black community.

            Sometimes when the buffing room was going full blast, the owner paid us a visit. He wore riding pants, carried one of those little jockey whips and was usually accompanied by two white poodles. Sometimes, he would stop and watch us spread gunk. He would say something like “Faster, faster,” and the dogs would bark at us.  Then he would pop his whip against his pants’ leg and walk away.

            I lasted two months at the Silversteen Tannery. When I received word that my grandfather would let me return home (with conditions), I collected my last check ($12.00) and boarded a Trailways bus to Sylva.  

            During my last week, Manard broke the buffing room monotony by taking two days of “sick leave” and then showing up with the lower part of his face encased in adhesive tape. He had a little slit cut over his mouth so he could insert a Lucky Strike.

            For the first time, I was curious about Manard. When we got our break, I followed him to the loading dock and watched while he carefully poked a cigarette in the slit and lit up.

            “So what happened to you?” I said.  It was a little hard to understand Manard because he had lost most of his teeth, but this is the gist of what he said:

            “Well, last Saturday after drawin’ my pay, I drove down to the South Caroliny line whar I bought a fifth of JPJ and a sack of cherry bums.  I come on back to Brevard, cause I knowed that there was a big church revival down on Carver Street.

            “I set outside that church til almost midnight, sipping JPJ and listenin’ to WNOX in Knoxville. Drunk that whole fifth and it was close to midnight afore them folks come pouring out of that church. Then, I rolled a winder down, and using my cigarette, I lit one of them cherry bums, and I throwed my cigarette out the winder and put that cherry bum in my mouth.”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler

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