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Bill Ramsey posted an event

7th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest at Blue Ridge Community College

April 24, 2015 at 1pm to April 25, 2015 at 3pm
Authors interested in being considered for the April 24, 25 2015 event at BRCC should visit www.blueridgebookfest.org soon. Click on the author tab on the home page. Complete the application and submit it by e-mail shown there. While there please sign up for our emailed newsletter.This year we will offer free workshops on Friday afternoon for authors and writer panels ( first time) on Saturday. See More
1 hour ago
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends 5th Anniversary Reading! at Downtown Books & News

November 7, 2014 from 7pm to 10pm
Come join us on Friday, November 7th at 7PM at Downtown Books and News for our FIFTH Anniversary Reading! The Juniper Bends Reading Series you know and love has been going strong by glittering, flowing, transforming, manifesting and supporting the Asheville writing community and the community of beloved listeners and readers for half a decade and we want you to come celebrate with us.Twelve local writers will be reading, covering a variety of genres and styles. All those who attend will be…See More
15 hours ago
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 23
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Model A's ( Poem )

Model A’s ( Poem ) Vintage cars that are so old Classic beauties with stories told Some with Rumble seats in tow Owners of these want to show Antiques from l...
Oct 23
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Seven new books, Oct. 2014, leading with McCrumb's latest

Sharyn McCrumb’s new book tour; and other productionsby Rob Neufeld Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb (Abingdon Press hardcover, Oct. 7, 2014, 160 pages, $18.99)            I didn’t receive a review copy, but I can say McCrumb is always a delight and a deliverance.  McCrumb’s new holiday…See More
Oct 21
Spellbound posted events
Oct 15
Jerald Pope posted an event

Black Mountain Authors Get Hungry at Monte Visa Hotel

October 16, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Third Thursday reading this month will feature stories and poems about food. As you might imagine, a whole hungry cadre of writers stepped up to the plate to read. The feast will take place at the Monte Vista Hotel this Thursday, which also just happens to be Fried Chicken day at the Hotel. Yum! Here’s what’s on the menu: Jeff Hutchins moved to Black Mountain in 2008. In his prior life, Jeff helped develop the technology of closed captioning, which is used to make television programming…See More
Oct 15
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee pottery survey Oct 17

Cherokee Museum Presents Cherokee Pottery on International Archaeology Dayfrom press release            The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will present “Cherokee Pottery: Three Thousand Years of Cherokee Science and Art” on Friday October 17 at 2 pm.  This talk is part of International Archaeology Day, sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.  It is open to the public free of charge, and is suitable for all ages.             “We are glad to be participating in International…See More
Oct 14
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Conversation with George Ella Lyon

Getting deep with east Kentucky author George Ella Lyonby Rob Neufeld             George Ella Lyon is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and plays for all ages; and has emerged from her east Kentucky upbringing with many things to tell the world about Appalachian virtues, including neighborliness, woodland spirit,…See More
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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A Look at Climate Change and Mass Extinction at City Lights Bookstore

October 17, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Charles Dayton and Sara Evans will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, October 17th at 6:30 p.m. for a discussion on climate change and mass extinction. Evans will review The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book about the increase in mass extinctions and the impending ecological collapse caused by man’s disharmony with the natural world. Dayton will speak and present slides about the impact of climate change on the ocean’s ecology, which is also discussed in The Sixth…See More
Oct 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Book discussions in WNC, October 2014

WNC BOOK DISCUSSION CALENDAR, OCTOBER 2014Wednesday, October 1AUTISM BOOK CLUB: The Autism Book Club discusses “Mozart and the Whale” by Jerry and Mary Newport at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 1 p.m. Call 254-6734.MALAPROP’S BOOKCLUB: The Malaprop’s Bookclub, hosted by Jay Jacoby, discusses “Winesburg,…See More
Oct 8
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 6
James D. Loy posted a blog post

"Loy's Loonies," a new series of zany books

Hi folks:     I am pleased to announce the publication of the second book in my series "Loy's Loonies."  This one is entitled Uncle Moe and the Martha's Vineyard Frackers and here's the cover blurb.     Moe Thibault is a lovable octogenarian who sometimes thinks he’s Jacques Clouseau and who’s convinced he once had an identical twin. While living out his widower’s retirement in upstate New York, Moe is sent an obituary from Martha’s Vineyard with a photo of his apparent Doppelganger, a man…See More
Oct 2
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends and Topside Press present: Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads at The Crow & Quill

October 8, 2014 from 8pm to 10pm
This fall the best new transgender fiction is going on a road trip! Topside Press authors Casey Plett (author of A Safe Girl To Love) and Sybil Lamb (author of I’ve Got A Time Bomb) will be crisscrossing Canada and the United-States. Asheville is hosting these Topside authors with the help of Juniper Bends Reading Series, and The Crow & Quill. Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 8 pm to hear the work of these two …See More
Sep 29

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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