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City Lights Bookstore posted events
yesterday
Valerie Nieman posted a blog post

Mountain Words, Mountain Music

Appalachian poet, musician, and raconteur Kirk Judd has a new book and CD package out, "My People Was Music." I thought I'd share part of a Goodreads review I did of the book - I think members of The Read would enjoy this.There is no gussying-up here. This is the plain hard rock undergirding Appalachia. This is the sound of water rushing, the clawhammer banjo sound, the crack of a wedge as it splits that cross-grained stump of oak. Kirk Judd has been making poems for a long time, but like a…See More
Friday
Valerie Nieman posted an event
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Valerie Nieman at City Lights at City Lights Books

July 16, 2015 from 10:30am to 12pm
Coffee With the Poet - Valerie Nieman will read from and discuss her new poetry collection, "Hotel Worthy," poems of love, loss, and survival. See More
Friday
Gary Carter posted a blog post

New Story Published by Deep South Magazine: "Nothing But A House"

It's always an honor to have a new story selected and published, this time by Deep South Magazine -- which I recommend for its coverage of all things Southern and, in particular, its attention to Southern literary voices.Read the story here: "Nothing But A House" by Gary CarterComments are always welcome. Deep South Magazine actually has a unique comment section following each story.See More
Thursday
MARYROSE McWHIRTER updated their profile
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Tuesday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 21
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 18
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason

Asheville thriller writer Mason broods with the bestby Rob Neufeld             “Everything you need for measuring a person,” Dee Vess, the heroine and narrator of Jamie Mason’s novel, “Monday’s Lie,” reflects, “can be found in the nature of what he chooses to hide from everyone else.”            It’s a sign of how…See More
Mar 18
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading Series March Reading at West End Bakery

March 14, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
We are back for a new Spring session of our Poetry and Prose Reading Series! We hope you are able to join us again Saturday, March 14th, 7pm at the West End Bakery for a wonderful Free family-friendly evening of prose, poetry and storytelling from a group of fabulous local writers.This month we will be featuring: Tommy HaysCaroline Wilson Dalton Dayand Leah ShapiroHosted by Lockie Hunter and our friends at the West End Bakery Cathy Cleary and Krista Stearns.See More
Mar 11
Lockie Hunter posted photos
Mar 11
Sue Diehl posted an event
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William Forstchen discussing his Pillar to the Sky at Bell Library at Montreat College

March 24, 2015 from 3pm to 6pm
Dr. William Forstchen will be the guest author at the Montreat Community Book Club on March 24, 2015 at Bell Library, Montreat College at 3:00.  He will be discussing his novel Pillar to Sky Public is invited.See More
Mar 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Poetry Review 20th Anniversary Anthology--and event

Asheville Poetry Review produces 20-year anthologyby Rob Neufeld             The two most remarkable things about the Asheville Poetry Review have been its diversity and quality.  Yes, Asheville, you’ve got a poetry journal of special note here.            Now, 20 years after its locally born…See More
Mar 8
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Carolina McMullen Reading & Signing at City Lights Bookstore

March 14, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Carolina McMullen will read from her new novel Vicenta de Paul on Saturday, March 14th at 3:00 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. As the first novel of her Not Here to Stay series, Vicenta de Paul tells of a baby who is abandoned by her young mother at an orphanage in Rota, Spain in 1914.  She is later adopted by a wealthy couple and raised in the peaceful coastal area of Rota, away from the busy city. Everything seems fine until her mother begins to suffer from depression.  Vicenta pulls through…See More
Mar 7
Patti Jensen posted an event

Murders, Moonshine & Mountaineers Book Discussion & Signing at The Market on Oak

March 21, 2015 from 11am to 12pm
The Market on Oak in Spruce Pine will host Allen Cook, author of Murders, Moonshine & Mountaineers: The Wildest County in America on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 11A.M.Moonshine, Murder & Mountaineers recounts a time around the turn of the 19th century when moonshiners and desperadoes faced off against the law in epic battles that made national headlines. The book focuses on events from an area in western North Carolina that held the reputation as the wildest county in America (book has…See More
Mar 5

Turn of the century Arden featured high class country festiveness

CHRISTMAS IN OLD ARDEN

by Rob Neufeld

 

            On Christmas Eve in 1928, Maria Taylor Beale, mistress of Arden House, instructed her family to bring her downstairs in her bathrobe for she would not miss the last Christmas party of her life.  For 56 years, she and her husband, the author Charles Willing Beale, had been throwing Christmas parties for the South Buncombe community, and had gained fame for them.  As the holiday approached in 1928, Mrs. Beale, afflicted with pneumonia, made it known that the tradition should not stop even if she were laid in her coffin Christmas Eve Day; and it should not stop in the years following her death.

            Maria Taylor was 14 when her family had fled Richmond as Federal troops were burning it down.  She carried painful memories of creaking wagon carts, loaded with limbs, leaving the hospital into which her family’s home had been transformed.  Her widowed mother, Mary, had married Major William Brown, having met him at the hospital, and moved to the Brown estate (where Rosscraggon was later established) along the Buncombe Turnpike.

            Soon, Maria was combining woodland objects, food treats, and small packages to fashion Christmas parties for neighbors, servants, and family members.  Although, as time proved, she approached this activity with unmatched dedication, parties and country crafts were typical activities for girls in the mountains.  Jenny Fleetwood Westfeldt, granddaughter of Swedish vice-consul and coffee importer, Gustav Adolphus Georg de Westfeldt, grew up at Rugby Grange near Fletcher and played hostess in the woods with her sister, setting up a small walnut tea table “to decorate it with every sort of pretty thing, mosses, feathers, leaves, flowers, and pebbles,” she recalled.

            Charles Willing Beale came to Western North Carolina to raise sheep.  Inquiring about land, he met Maria Taylor outside the Brown house.  In 1872, the two married.  They moved to a house that Maria, a Shakespeare lover, named Arden and they built Arden Park Hotel, the best and largest accommodations in the Limestone area.  Woodrow Wilson stayed in one of the hotel’s cottages (later named the Wilson Cottage) on both his honeymoons.  Teddy Roosevelt sojourned at Arden Park; Sidney Lanier visited.

            Beale was an intense character.  When he was four, he was sent to live with a rich aunt and uncle in Philadelphia while his siblings stayed behind in Alexandria.  Consequently, his granddaughter, Margaret Ella Youngblood, admits, he was spoiled.  When his aunt and uncle bequeathed most of their money to an animal hospital, Beale, searching for a livelihood, discovered that, despite his engineering degree, he did not excel at much of anything except running.

            The stories about Beale’s running feats spread throughout the mountains.  When Youngblood’s parents went on their honeymoon in the Pisgah Forest, they encountered a mountain man at a backwoods cabin who, when he learned of the connection to Beale, exclaimed, “Isn’t he the one that did that running?” 

            Once, when Beale had been criticized for racing his horse from his home to Asheville, he defended himself by saying he wouldn’t have the horse do what he couldn’t do.  To prove it, Beale and his horse were placed on a starting line back in Arden and, in the reenactment of the route, legend tells, Beale won.

            Charles Willing Beale was also the author of several books, including the very popular, “The Ghost of Guir House,” in which an innocent man accepts an invitation to an old house where a centuries-old mystic tries to get him to marry his half-ghost daughter. 

Beale loved to tell stories—including scary Wild West tales from his post-university experience as a surveyor; and fantasies using puppets he’d collected.  So did other members of his family.

            The Beales’ daughter, Margaret “Daisy” Beale Fletcher, told her children about the headless horseman who rode up and down the main wagon road.  It’s a famous story—a Union soldier died before overcoming the prohibitions of his sweetheart’s Confederate father.  It sounded like something real that Daisy had experienced. Once, her daughter, Margaret Ella, spotted a horseman as the family Model T passed what is now Oak Park.  “That’s him,” mother said.

            Aunt Bootie (Daisy’s sister, Bertha Beale) was a spiritualist.  She communed with the spirits and spoke in foreign voices.  She dressed all in white and, foreseeing World War I and its rationing, stocked up on white, rubber-soled tennis shoes, the only kind of footwear she’d use.

            Christmastime in the Beale household was a special affair.  Arden House—which burned down in 1921 and was replicated when rebuilt—had a large ballroom that was designed in one corner to accommodate the twenty-foot tall holly tree that Aunt Bootie would haul from the woods.  Decorating didn’t start until the day before Christmas.  Holly, mistletoe, and galax covered rooms that already bore the stamp of an artistic family.  The Beales clipped real candles to the tree; and had a ladder, water buckets, and firewatchers on hand to prevent a disaster.

            In 1905, Edith and George Washington Vanderbilt, whose estate was nearby, began the practice of attaching real candles to their tree.  They also attached 1,500 presents to give to the children of their employees.  Maria Beale herself gave out hundreds of presents, as children of the black community, then the white, and then her family’s special friends came to her party. 

            Mrs. Beale and Vanderbilt shopped in downtown Asheville, going into stores and buying dozens of certain items at a time.  Margaret Ella Youngblood recalled that her mother had gotten a speeding ticket going 26 miles per hour along the newly paved country road once, and that she (Margaret) had thus been deprived of new shoes until Cornelia Vanderbilt heard the story and helped out.

            The Beales were a little bit more country than the Vanderbilts.  Maria Beale had a habit of raising motherless piglets and nursing them with a bottle, Margaret recalled.  Once, Edith Vanderbilt, paying Maria a visit, was confused by a grunting sound in the house, until a movement of her skirt betrayed the wandering animal’s snuffling snout.

            Six-thirty in the evening, Christmas Eve at the Arden House: the presents were stored upstairs; the sliding doors of the ballroom were pulled to.  Dozens of guests entered in fancy dress.  Members of the African American community arrived singing Christmas carols.  The doors slid open to reveal a crackling fire and a table spread with oranges and candy for the community children.

            Santa Claus came up the hill in a buggy bedecked with bells.  Daisy Beale Fletcher’s daughter, Bertha Holland, recalls that Santa smoked the same pipe tobacco that Grandfather Beale smoked.  Children open presents.  Margaret Ella Youngblood relates that she opened her big presents on Christmas Day, but she had smaller ones to open with the other children.  Her most memorable present was a modest one: a black-skinned doll from her father’s brother’s wife.  “I just loved it,” Youngblood reminisces.

            Bill Nye, the most popular humorist of the day, and a Skyland resident, once gave his son, Frank, a pair of gold cuff links that he had wrapped in a nest of several boxes that took much effort and faith to remove.  Fathers liked playing games with their children.  Charles Willing Beale paid his grandchildren, Margaret and Beale Fletcher, a penny for each match they picked up from the ground after he had discarded them in repeated efforts to light his pipe on the porch.  Grandpa Beale was also a little fearsome, examining his watch a half hour before Christmas and Sunday dinners, impatient of lateness; and engaging in arguments with people who supported Prohibition.

            After presents, a 15-piece brass band got folks dancing.  Daisy Beale Fletcher was an expert tango dancer, and her husband, Robert Walter Fletcher was a buck-and-wing dancer.  In 1927, he called the square dances at Asheville’s first Rhododendron Parade.  Their son, Beale Fletcher, loved to perform for the family’s guests, and also danced to the rhythms the African American dairy men played while squirting milk into pails.  Later in life, Beale Fletcher established the famous Fletcher School of Dance.  His daughter, Maria Beale Fletcher, was crowned Miss America in 1962, after having done a tap dance for the talent portion of the competition.

            Christmas dinner proceeded from 9 to 11:30 p.m., after which folks went to Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher.  At Arden House, dinner was served buffet style, and people sat wherever they could, including up the winding stairs.  The Christmas menus of the Vanderbilts have been preserved and readers can vicariously experience oysters on the half shell, clear soup, custard and spinach blocks, deviled spaghetti, roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing, and five other courses.

            Departing was no easy affair at these Christmas gatherings.  Bertha Holland recalls that it was rare that someone didn’t get stuck in the mud driving out.  Frank Nye recalled in “Bill Nye: His Own Life Story”: “In 1892 this turnpike was paved with good intentions and bright red clay, which in the rainy season had the consistency of underdone molasses candy.”

            The old wagon road has become Hendersonville Road, more or less.  Arden Park and many other properties were sold to developers and industries.  Cars no longer get stuck in the mud.  The Headless Horseman hasn’t been sighted in years.  The great Christmas parties linger as sweet memories.

PHOTO CAPTION

Welcome home, Maria Beale Fletcher, Miss America 1962, in parade; from Jim Coman collection

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