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City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Jenny Bennett Returns with a New Novel at City Lights Bookstore

September 5, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Sylva author, Jenny Bennett, returns to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. with her second book, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. The main character of the book lives in Sylva and there are scenes set in downtown, the library and even City Lights Bookstore. Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a…See More
Wednesday
Renea Winchester posted an event
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Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches at Available at all bookstores

September 1, 2014 all day
Mercer University is pleased to announce the release of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, by North Carolina's own Renea Winchester. This is the second in the Farmer Billy series and Winchester's third book. See More
Wednesday
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Kids Love For Animals

Kids Love For Animals ( Poem )Children’s favorite shows are of animals I have hours in a playlist that are laughable Like a camera pecking rooster and fun monkeysTo a mom and a baby miniature donkeysVideos of wild turkeys and charming geese Ducks in water and chicks learning to speak Dazzling ostrich and many free birdsSome you would not want to move towardsA large unique animal is the alligator The total opposite of the caterpillar Camels and alpacas are tall and exquisiteBut they spit at you…See More
Tuesday
Regina Illig commented on Regina Illig's event Not for Children Only:Children's Classics for Adults
"contact email is: library@buncombecounty.org"
Monday
Regina Illig posted an event
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Not for Children Only:Children's Classics for Adults at Pack Memorial Library

September 11, 2014 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
SIGN UP NOW FOR "LET'S TALK ABOUT IT" BOOK DISCUSSION AT PACK MEMORIAL LIBRARYIf you'd like to learn more about great children's literature, Pack Library is offering a free "Let's Talk About It" book discussion program, Not for Children Only: Children’s Classics for Adults. This six-part series runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. every other Thursday beginning September 11. Participants will have the opportunity to read and discuss eight children's books, from traditional fairy tales to modern…See More
Monday
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Creating A Christmas Tree ( Poem )

Creating A Christmas Tree ( Poem )Create designer Christmas tree From squash, to bread, and fun cookiesInstructions made so easily One from red hat societyHome from the heart season theme Star wars made a holiday sceneWonderland can be of little lambs Making ornaments with your handsWhatever your style or budget Your personal touch can be tropicFocal point of your home can be Inspired by glamorous jewelryWe can help you get great ideas With animals and birds all right hereMy playlist has…See More
Monday
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Tractor Pulls

Tractor Pulls ( Poem )America’s passion tractor haul Ford and Farmall want to take it all Showcasing your tractor is never dullCase give a strong performance callSee a smokey John Deere tractor Unleash yourself in an Oliver Massey Ferguson speeds uncoveredAs International pulls with no effortWhite’s power with high tractive force As McCormick is running the course Agricultural machinery CompetitionFun family oriented tractor pullin’Opportunities may come and go You all know it’s a successful…See More
Aug 23
Mac Grady posted a photo
Aug 22
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dan Rice, Black Mountain College artist--show and talks

Dan Rice at Black Mountain College: Painter Among The Poets An exhibition, Dan Rice at Black Mountain College: Painter Among the Poets, goes up at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Sept. 5, 2014, and stays up through Jan.10, 2015.  There's a free opening reception on Friday, September 5 from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.; and it features a gallery talk by curator Brian E. Butler at 7:00 p.m. A full-color catalogue will be…See More
Aug 22
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

In 1937, ex-slaves in Asheville bore witness

Interviews with former slaves in Asheville strike the heartby Rob Neufeld             Every day we see and feel the beauty of the world and of humanity.  But history sometimes shows us how wrong things can go, and we wonder why we are vulnerable to such aberrations.            One of the most powerfully distressing examples of human cruelty and suffering comes from the testimony of M.L. Bost, an African American former slave who moved to Asheville from Newton, and spoke with Marjorie Jones of…See More
Aug 21
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Woodsmen Day

Woodsmen Day ( Poem)Sport using handsaws With a toothed edge blade One or two handed sawingOn a woodsmen fair dayTraditional log rolling Is a lumberjacks technique Style used in river drivingThe illustration is uniqueSpringboard tree is branchless With live action you can’t beat Platform board is dangerousA risk if you competeBlock ax chopping Is a loggers sport indeed Hard on your back swingingBe careful of your feetWoodsmen day activities Is part of the fair you see I bring it all to my…See More
Aug 21
Rob Neufeld commented on Deborah Worley-Holman's photo
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Peter McClay "M.C." Worley

"Great photo, Deborah!  Have you got some stories and details?"
Aug 18
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 17
Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Discussing JHATOR at UCC in Norwell, MA

JHATOR was chosen as the summer read for the book club at the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA.  Today, the Rev. Deborah Spratley hosted an author's brunch and discussion of the book with me and members of both the book club and writer's group at the church.One of the first things I learned from the group members, who are approaching the book from a Christian POV, is that starting the book with Anat, the vulture, was unsettling for most of them.  Of course, that is the point of Chapter…See More
Aug 17
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 16
Jerald Pope posted an event
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The Backyard as Metaphor: Poems on Cattle, Gardening & Goats: a Poetry Reading and Discussion with Tina Barr at Monte Vista Hotel

August 21, 2014 from 5:45pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Author’s Guild will present nationally known poet, Tina Barr, this Third Thursday at 6pm at the Monte Vista Hotel. Ms. Barr will read a twenty minute series of poems set in Black Mountain, and will follow the reading with a discussion of her process for generating ideas in poems, with lots of audience interaction.  She will bring in a series of drafts demonstrating her revision process, from rough draft to published poem, and talk about fictionalizing elements so they move…See More
Aug 12

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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