A few good books about old times

In 1960, when I was in elementary school, the pop group Dante & the Evergreens rocked my young ears with two hit songs on the radio: “Alley Oop” and a little later, “Time Machine.” (Both songs are available on YouTube. Have some fun and give them a listen.) In “Time Machine,” a young man sees a picture of Cleopatra in a book, falls in love with her, and vows to build a time traveling “thingamajig.” Here is the song’s refrain:”

New book details the history of the John C. Campbell Folk School

In Craft & Community, regional author Anna Fariello presents the early history of Western North Carolina’s John C. Campbell Folk School. 

Founded in 1925, the school was a dream of John and Olive Dame Campbell, a working couple who toured the Southern Appalachians in an effort to chronicle its people and their culture. 

Book examines stark example of racism

On February 12, 1946, just hours after his discharge from the Army, Sergeant Isaac Woodard got into an argument with the driver of the Greyhound bus he was taking to his home in Georgia. In the small town of Batesburg, South Carolina, the driver parked the bus, found Lynwood Shull, the local police chief, and asked Woodard to step from the to speak to Shull. Within minutes, following an altercation with Shull, Woodward lay in the Batesburg jail, permanently blinded by the beating he took from Schull’s black jack.

Books helps us understand our own history

“We need to know what kind of firm ground other men, belonging to generations before us, have found to stand on. In spite of changing conditions of life they were not very different from ourselves, their thoughts were the grandfathers of our thoughts, they managed to meet situations as difficult as those we have to face, to meet them sometimes lightheartedly, and in some measure to make their hopes prevail. We need to know how they did it.”

— John Dos Passos, cited in the epigraph for Wilfred M. McClay’s Land Of Hope

WNC was once home to marble mines

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in June 2004)

The destiny of a given region is largely determined by its geology, topography, flora, and climate. That’s certainly been the instance here in the southern mountains, where logging and mining have been supplanted as the major industries by recreation and ecotourism. A prime example of this transition exists in the southwestern tip of North Carolina.

The story behind the man: First-ever Horace Kephart biography explores a complex man and momentous life

Horace Kephart has been dead for 88 years, but his name and his story still pull an undercurrent through Western North Carolina. 

Kephart is acclaimed as the father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an outdoorsman gifted with an adventurous soul, and the author of such staples of regional literature as Our Southern Highlanders and Camping and Woodcraft. He’s derided, too, as a man with a severe drinking problem, a shirker of family responsibility and an outsider who profited off of sometimes less-than-flattering depictions of the locals. 

Pain was the norm with old-time dentistry

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News on May 14, 2003.

Old-time dentistry as practiced here in the Smokies region wasn’t pretty. All of the descriptions I have found make it seem just about barbaric, but, then again, when you’ve got tooth problems you’ll resort to just about any remedy. John Parris, in a chapter titled “Tooth-jumpin’ With A Hammer” in his book These Storied Mountains (1972), provides these insights in regard to a great-uncle who practiced homespun dentistry.

Deserving books that may pique your interest

On the red wooden chair near my desk, 14 inches high, is a mound of books waiting for review. Three or four of them have taken up residence on that red chair for months, clamoring for attention. Others are more newly arrived. 

Reflections on Haywood NAACP pilgrimage

By Katherine Bartel • Secretary, Haywood County NAACP

“My little brother Isaiah is, as you would call it, ‘a boy of color,’” said 11-year-old Alicia Matthews. “He is probably one of the smartest 6 year olds you’ll ever meet. One time we were playing in his room and all of a sudden he asks me a question just randomly out of the blue, ‘Alicia? Why do I have brown skin?’ At first, I didn’t know what to say to him because he is so young and he barely knew who he was. I said, ‘Because that’s who you are. So don’t try to be anyone else.’ He responded to me with a simple ‘OK’ because he is still very young and that’s just how he responds to those kinds of statements.” 

The tears of these poor men: Victims of Cowee Tunnel disaster deserve recognition

In a region as rich in local lore as this, it may seem like every story’s been told to death, including that of the infamous Cowee Tunnel disaster. 

North Carolina, though, is also home to the old-world tradition of telling stories through song and has an ample supply of musicians like Balsam Range frontman Buddy Melton and his buddies, Haywood native Milan Miller and Piedmont bassist Mark W. Winchester, who on their 2010 album Songs From Jackson County relate the incident about as well as anyone else ever could.

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