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City Lights Bookstore posted events
7 hours ago
Gary Carden posted a video

2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
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Gary Carden updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Stories of Asheville's homeless

History of Asheville’s homeless: humanity on trialby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Jim Parton and Kirk Faulkner, two homeless men at A-Hope, where Jim is getting help finding housing and Kirk is making job connections.  Photo, 2017, by Rob Neufeld.“I admire my daddy more than any other human on…See More
Tuesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Writers at Home at Malaprops at Malaprops

March 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
A.K. Benninghofen, Lockie Hunter and Beth Keefauver will offer a free reading at the next installment of the Writers at Home series, presented by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP), at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street in Asheville. This monthly series of free readings is hosted by GSWP director and novelist Tommy Hays.See More
Sunday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Bianca Spriggs at Three Top Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

March 30, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by poet, multi-genre artist, and core member of the Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State. Spriggs will also present a craft talk from 12:30-1:45 in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union. Free admission.For more info, see the press release http://www.news.appstate.edu/2017/03/06/bianca-spriggs/Parking info is at parking.appstate.edu.…See More
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 14
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Hester

HESTER      Growing up in Asheville,  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 about as straight an arrow as anyone could find. He seemed to a preadolescent, somewhat indolent son, frankly boring. Looking back from a perspective of 70 years, I…See More
Mar 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American musicians in Asheville

African-American musicians flourished in Asheville neighborhoodsby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike…See More
Mar 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Blind Man's Bluff

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the game Blind Man's Bluff is as old as the 16th Century. It was a game I never liked playing as a kid. I was always afraid someone would get hurt-namely me! Its one of those games that makes grown-ups yell things like "Somebodys going to…See More
Mar 9
Mary-Chris Griffin shared Rob Neufeld's discussion on Facebook
Mar 6
Bob Plott replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Hunters and Plott hounds
"Thanks for sharing this Rob--and the book plug too. I have never seen this photo before. I have several others from the 1942 article, but this was a new one. The man on the truck looking down is WWII hero Little George Plott--who I profiled in my…"
Mar 6
Tipper posted a video

I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

old VHS film from 2002, a little distorted by the video conversion process... This song features a high lead by Pap and a harmony underneath. In the key of D...
Mar 5
Tipper posted blog posts
Mar 5
Jan Schochet shared Frank Thompson's event on Facebook
Mar 4

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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