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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
10 hours ago
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
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
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

Memories of old Biltmore Village

Part 1 of 3

by Rob Neufeld

See Part 2, about boys in 1940s


            “I’ve generally spent most of my life between the railroad tracks in Biltmore and the Royal Steakhouse in Fletcher,” real estate developer and former Tri-Co Service Station owner Winston Pulliam remarked to Mike Blanton on Blanton’s radio show (“Financially Speaking”).  “And I want to emphasize how blessed I have been.”

            During the Great Depression, when he was a boy, Pulliam lived on his grandparents’ 20-acre farm on Fairview Road, working the land.

            “I peeled many a peach and pitted many cherries” he told me in a recent interview.

            “We had caves on the back of our property,” he recalled. “and hoboes would stay in those caves, coming off the railroad.  They had lard buckets to make coffee in, and I’d take them food over there when I was eight or nine years old.
            His father advised him to take “a bag of something” to neighbors and say, “The lady next door just gave me this (for the hoboes).  What can you give me?”

            After Saturday chores, Pulliam, nicknamed “Pullie,” often went to hang out with his friends—Charles Thomas “Tommy” Koontz, Tommy Arakas, and others in the village, even though Oakley boys were discouraged from crossing into that territory.

            But boys’ friendships, during the Depression and World War II, crossed boundaries.  Tommy’s family was “as poor as Job’s church mouse,” Tommy said in the recollection session with Pulliam. 

            His father, Ralph Koontz, “was a sick man when he was young, He had TB and spent time at the sanitarium in Swannanoa.” He did various jobs. 

            “According to my mother,” Tommy said, “we moved every time the rent came due.”

            Koontz’s first memory of Biltmore Village was when “Mama” Gray, the landlord of the 7 All Souls Crescent upstairs apartment in which the Koontzes resided, came around yelling out, “Yoo-hoo, do you have anything for me today?”

            Another early memory was of the goat man coming into the village with his goat and wagon for family photo ops.  Tommy’s mother, Elizabeth Vance Koontz, found the money for one such occasion in 1938.

            The boys were friends with Harold and Ruel Austin, sons of Biltmore Estate’s chief ranger; and had free access to the estate.  “I slept probably 50 times in the Biltmore House,” Pulliam recalled.

            Harold and Ruel “had a pet deer they got as a baby, and bottle fed him,” Pulliam recalled.  “His name was Jim…I’m the only person that tried to ride Jim (unsuccessfully).

            “Two weeks ago, I called Ruel and asked him, ‘How did Jim die?”  He said, ‘They gave him to Laurence Brown, the sheriff, to put up on his farm.  And Jim wandered into some fellow’s back yard, and this man thought he was a wild deer, and shot him.”

            “It was the worst of times and the best of times,” Koontz recited, reflecting on the era that featured poverty and community, an empty belly and a fire in the belly, lightness of heart and darkness of circumstance.

            “We had God in our lives,” Pulliam said.

            Darkness was what Tommy had experienced off and on for a year when he was six, staying in his bedroom with the windows curtained.

            “I failed my first year of school at the Newton Academy up on Biltmore Ave.,” he said, “because I was absent about every other week because  I had every other childhood disease that came along—measles, the mumps, chicken pox, everything but scarlet fever.  I remember that public nurse coming and tacking that yellow sign up on the door: Quarantine.  People couldn’t come to see you.  You couldn’t go out.  You were isolated.”

            This was especially hard in a neighborhood in which there was so much social activity—people out on porches, children crossing yards under the care of dozens of surrogate parents, people doing business.

            “I knew the names of everybody who lived from West Chapel Road to Biltmore,” Koontz said.

            Missing school was tough, too.  It was not only an extension of the social scene, it was a field of dreams.  Koontz would later serve in his life as the long-time principal of T.C. Roberson High School.  This past January, the new Intermediate School on Overlook Rd. was named after him.

            “I was in the sixth grade with Dewey Callaway,” Pulliam related, “and the teacher asked us, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up.  Dewey put down, ‘I want to own the Biltmore Shoe Shop’ (owned by L.A. Spake, who’d employ Dewey).  He stayed 28 years in the Army, came back home, and bought that shoe shop.”

            Many kids went to work at an early age, often in jobs that served the community.

            “I was hopping curb at the Hot Shot (Café) when I was 12,” Pulliam recalled.  “They had the hot dogs, hamburgers, roast beef, roast pork, cheeseburgers, barbecue, combination, ham, spam, ram, lamb, bull, beef, and bear,” he chanted.

            Pullie’s dream as a kid was to own a service station; and he accomplished that, first an Esso on Coxe Ave., then the Tri-Co on Brook St. in Biltmore Village.

            Tri-Co became the gathering place in the post-World War II years, as Pulliam worked from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and entertained as well as served customers.  “We had printed on our charge tickets,” he told Blanton, “We fix everything but broken hearts, and we work on them.”



Richard Koontz, age 4, and Tommy Koontz, age 6, pose in the goat man’s wagon in Biltmore Village, 1938.  Photo courtesy Tommy Koontz.

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