Foxfire and BPR team up for COVID-19 oral history project

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Foxfire has been collecting stories, memories, photographs and artifacts related to the experiences of people in Appalachia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Blue Ridge Public Radio is partnering with the project to help expand its reach and focus on collecting stories from Western North Carolina.

Trailblazers & Traditionalists pulses with life

Years ago, in the parking lot of the Haywood County Public Library, I met a man in his late 20s who worked at the Champion Paper Mill. As we talked about what we did for a living — I was in debt to my eyeballs running a bed-and-breakfast and a bookstore — the man told me that when he was 18 his uncle had helped him buy a house in South Carolina and that he now owned 10 other houses, which he rented out. Fascinated by the history of the West, he made an annual trek every summer to places like Texas and the Dakotas to study first hand what he had read about in books. On his latest expedition he had traveled to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana.

Folkmoot ‘Mountain Memories’ series

Folkmoot is proud to partner with the Mountain Memories organization and Waynesville’s own Bob Plott to launch the Mountain Memories performance series at historic Queen Auditorium on the Folkmoot campus.

The series opens with “Mountain Memories No. 1: A Hazelwood Gathering” at Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville. Doors open at 6 p.m. with food and beverages available in the cafeteria. The “Mountain Memories” show starts at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. 

A good story is food for the soul

I’ve always been fascinated by storytellers and the stories they tell. As a small child, I loved hearing my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or any other willing grown-up tell stories of their childhoods, the experiences they had, the people they knew, and the people they once were. I could listen to these stories for hours, as long as they were willing to tell them.

Voicing the truths of Southern Appalachia

In the digital age that is the 21st century, and in many aspects of this modern era, the culture and history of Western North Carolina and greater Southern Appalachia is disappearing. 

Whether it be an old-timer passing down their wisdom or listening to a well-aged recording of someone long gone from this earth, or vast shelves of often forgotten books gathering dust at your local library or historical society, how one tracks down the essence of who came before us, and who will surely come after, resides in the annals of storytelling. 

History through story: Cherokee storyteller seeks to preserve historical memory with filming project

Kathi Littlejohn can get lost in stories. Especially Cherokee stories. Their origins are often moored in worlds long past, but these stories have a tendency to twist through the years to end up knocking on the door of modernity. 

“One of my first jobs as a teenager was working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, which I absolutely loved. I was a tour guide,” recalled Littlejohn, who is now 63. “And on bad weather days when it was real slow, it was so much fun for me to sit with the people that were doing the crafts or some of the older guides and listen to stories.”

Carden in the rye: WNC storyteller bridges past, present

There is no middle ground.

With Jackson County storyteller/playwright Gary Carden, you either love the guy or you tolerate him, a curmudgeon some might say. Luckily, most folks in Western North Carolina appreciate and revel in the singular, beloved personality that is Carden — an increasingly rare voice that serves as a vital window into the past.

Get busy living, or get busy dying

During the 1970s, my dad spent some time in prison. For over three years, he taught GED prep classes at the old Craggy Prison that still stands barricaded on Riverside Drive in Asheville. I’ve always known he taught inmates, but only recently have I become intrigued about this time in his life.

Something about losing my mom at a relatively young age has made me latch onto everything my dad says. Both my mom and dad lived tragically enchanting lives worthy of movie plots. I know bits and pieces of their many stories, but not enough.

Formed by the mountains: Cherokee elder reflects on 93 years of service to tribe and country

The Cherokee of Jerry Wolfe’s early memory is a different place than the Qualla Boundary of today.

Wolfe, 93, remembers hills covered in farmland rather than forest, cleared by hand to keep the trees from encroaching on slopes families coaxed to yield the corn, beans and potatoes that fueled them. The weedy edges of fields yielded blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. The woods yielded fuel for winter heat in the log cabins and, when the family ran out of kerosene, knots of pine sap that could ignite to keep the lights on.

Tell it from the mountain

art frThere’s only one thing Tim Hall isn’t sure of.

“Well, I don’t really know my age, but if I had to guess, I’d say I’m somewhere around 70 years old,” he chuckled.

Sitting in The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians in downtown Bryson City, Hall reminisces about his childhood in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania. He grew up in a poor family, like many others in that time and place, but that never deterred them from enjoying life, from sharing in its grace and beauty — sharing in storytelling and oral traditions.

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