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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

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Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
Jun 10
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Apr 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8
George Ellison left a comment for Renea Winchester
"luv ya Renea ... Kephart bio finally done after 40 years ... free at last ... free at last... great god almighty ... free a last!"
Apr 5
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Connie Regan-Blake Storytelling at Hendersonville Public Library at Henderson County Public Library - Main Branch

June 13, 2019 from 6pm to 7pm
Join Connie Regan-Blake for a family oriented evening of stories at the Hendersonville Library.See More
Apr 1
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Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Apr 1
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Please join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” Here are the tellers for our April 6th “Slice of Life” performance.  Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Kyra Freeman, Steve Tate, Alberta Hipps and more! The event is hosted by the …See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive,…See More
Apr 1
Rap Monster posted a blog post

Stealth Hazy - 'Gun Clap'

Stealth Hazy - Gun ClapI got 80 rounds with a beam on it riding dirty I'm smoking chronic top off hear that system pound 808 thats subsonicI double down quadruple upstraight droppin with no cutwilt chamberlain on the reboundand you a fan just starstruckI…See More
Mar 26
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

TWO NEW APPALACHIAN NOVELS

I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Main Show

The Main Show: a story-poem stage presentation(part of  Living Poem)See video of Act 1, Scene 1: The SettingProgram Notes (A program note reader comes out to read from the program notes.) Reader: Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a…See More
Jan 26
Don Talley posted a discussion

Hollywood Pictures Inc in Fairview

In the 1920's it seemed the whole country was caught up in excitement about films and Hollywood.    Asheville and Western North Carolina were well aware of the hoopla of Hollywood.   In fact, Hollywood (or at least filmmaking) was already beginning to come to Western NC.I recently stumble across an article from the Jun 6 1926 issue of The Asheville Citizen Times which mentions that Hollywood Pictures Inc, was planning to film just south of Asheville, near Fairview.  But....was this really…See More
Jan 23

History of the working class develops with Whisnant talk March 26

A history of this area’s working people develops

by Rob Neufeld

 

PHOTO CAPTION: Asbury Whisnant and Henry Thompson stand in front of Car 18 at Asheville Depot.  From the collection of Richard and Elaine Whisnant.

            “The full and complicated history of Asheville must be (and is slowly being) written,” David Whisnant, former history professor and noted author of “All That Is Native and Fine,” writes in his new blog, “Asheville Junction.”

            He’s focusing, he writes, on “those who had neither money nor position nor power,” and revising “the oft-told, romantic, elite-class-bounded story of Asheville by laying upon it an alternative narrative about my (mostly) working-class grandparents and parents.”

            Whisnant speaks in the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies at Mars Hill University, Thursday at 7 p.m. 

 

Working class heroes

 

            The following stories from “Visiting Our Past” columns acknowledge and build upon the subject that Whisnant is devoting himself to developing: the history of the working class.

            Whisnant’s father, John K. Whisnant, worked at the Enka rayon plant for 27 years as an engineer.  The Dutch company had been a lifesaver during the Depression, creating about 3,000 jobs, both for workers who lived in the village it built and for others who lived outside it.

            One of the commuters was

            Fletchman Smith, father of Jessie Nell Coleman, the “Asheville Living Treasure” who grew to play key roles with the local Head Start program and Mountain Housing Opportunities.

            “My father,” Coleman said in a 2011 UNC Asheville interview, “worked at Enka (as) a janitor.  He wore a suit to work.  He changed and put his uniform on, and then he changed again and wore a suit home.”

            That picture of dignity evokes Whisnant’s of his grandfather, Asbury Whisnant, who, with his wife, Ella Austin, left their Cane Creek farm in McDowell County to move to Morganton, where he got a job at the State Hospital; and then moved to Asheville, where he began a long career as a streetcar driver.

            “One image of my grandfather Asbury—from early in my life and late in his–has never dimmed in my memory,” Whisnant writes in his blog, “Asheville Junction.” 

            “After his long work days, he could have changed into casual clothes, but he didn’t.  In the late afternoon, he sat on the couch (‘set-tee,’ he called it) in the living room of his modest home at 60 Brownwood Avenue in West Asheville, dressed in a dark blue three-piece suit, (with a) gold watch chain that ran across his vest to a big gold Elgin watch in its watch pocket.”

            His “grey moustache (was) neatly trimmed, (and his) black high-topped shoes polished, clean white cotton socks rising above them.”

            Whisnant recalls how his grandfather arose at 3:30 a.m., stropped his straight razor, and shaved while Ella made biscuits, eggs and coffee. 

            In due time, Asbury picked up his leather grip, containing his money changer, punch for transfers, pearl-handled .38 Smith & Wesson, and brass knuckles, and “walked down the long hill, across the French Broad River bridge, and into the ‘car barn’ to start his run.”

 

Family to support

 

            Less romantic than stories about worker pride are ones about missed opportunities and life regrets, even when dignity and steady job benefits have co-existed.

            When Debbie Williams applied for a job at Enka, she’d already graduated Candler High School and gotten a teacher’s certificate at Teacher’s College in Cullowhee.

            “The office was full, but only two of us were hired,” Debbie Williams Hall recalled about her application experience when I spoke with her in 2001.  “A man interviewed me for about thirty minutes.  He asked about my education.  I think he had all the names of my family.” 

            Williams was the oldest of seven children in her family.  Her mother had died of typhoid fever when Debbie had been nine.  Her father left his farm so that his children could walk to and attend Candler Academy and then newly built Candler High School.

            At the high school, Debbie had been a member of its championship, barrier-breaking women’s basketball team, while she filled the position of mother at home.

            She especially remembered caring for her tiny baby sister, Thelma, nicknamed “Cricket.”  “I gave her a bath and took care of her,” Hall said.  “I cut her hair ‘til she was in high school.” 

            One of the things I remember about my time with Debbie Williams Hall 14 years ago was her description of the routine factory work, her non-complaining realism, and the shadow of sadness on her face when she spoke of her teaching dreams.

 

Bleachery village

 

            Enka was a model of a paternalistic company, which took care of its workers, was involved in the community, and stayed for a long time, unlike extractive industries, which customarily stay as long as needed natural resources hold out.

            Sayles Bleachery, which operated from 1927 to 1991 on the site of the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Bleachery Blvd. in Asheville, like Enka, built a village for its employees.

            In 2002, Helen Jones Rice, her brothers, Mac and Don Jones, and her sister, Jeanette—children of Hubert “Pappy” Jones, a Sayles plant foreman—recalled childhood memories in Sayles Village.

Arthur Van Horn, the company’s financial manager, they related, projected movies onto an outdoor screen in a field that now accommodates businesses on Wood Avenue. 

            On Fridays, Horn would drive a clutch of boys, including Mac and Don, to downtown Asheville in a Pontiac outfitted with a special accelerator to compensate for his injured right leg.  They’d lunch at the S&W and bowl in the basement of what is now the Downtown Development office.

            “Mrs. Van Horn used to sing a song all the time,” Don remembered, “even washing dishes.”

            The children recalled how hoboes chalked the curb in front of their house because the Jones’ mother, Bonnie, was known to give them good food without fail.  “Pappy” often sat with them while they ate.

            “Parents sat on their porches and watched the children,” Jeannette Jones Thomas recalled.  “You had eighty-one mothers in the village,” Mac said. 

            Sayles Village was full of lovable characters: the “stick man,” so named because he went around mysteriously poking things, looking for termites; the man who got dressed up in a suit to watch TV; the guard who let himself be tied up on Halloween so that kids could roll garbage cans.

            Mrs. Babe Parsons, a relocated Chicago English teacher.  had no children and “really liked us,” Helen related. 

            “Mrs. Parsons made us a huge pan of fudge.  We eagerly bit into it. ‘Oh my goodness! Fish oil!’ we said.  She had put fish oil in it because it was good for you.  She asked mother ‘How did they like the fudge?’  ‘They loved it,’ mother said.  From then on, we got fudge with fish oil regularly.”

            In 2006, Helen Jones Rice published a book about Sayles and her family, titling it “Greige Bales and Village Tales.”

            “Greige” is the word for unbleached cloth.

 

The whole story

 

            Generally, it’s the happy memories of being part of a community and family that arise from workers’ stories.  Industrial aspects emerge less frequently; and even rarer are accounts of economic struggles and health hazards.

            Yet, they’re there—in the history of the Asheville Cotton Mill, for instance, where child labor was practiced, and people contracted lung diseases; and in the lumber and railroad industries, two of the most dangerous occupations in existence in the 20th century.

            The history of working people reveals the ways in which community and individual welfare intersect with the need to keep an area vital through profit-making enterprises.

 

HISTORY TALK

David Whisnant, Ph.D. presents the talk, “Blogging at Asheville Junction: Family History, Class, and Community in the Land of Sky,” 7 p.m., Thurs., in the Ramsey Center, Renfro Library, Mars Hill University.  For more information, visit Whisnant’s blog at  http://ashevillejunction.com/ or call Hannah Furgiuele, Ramsey Center Program Coordinator at 689-1571.

 

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