“Blowing Rock was a summer resort, and a rather posh one. Lured by the area’s beauty and cool summer air, wealthy families from throughout the Southeast maintained summer residences there. The Cannon textile barons had a huge estate, as did the R. J. Reynolds tobacco clan, and the Coca-Cola Snyders* from down in muggy Atlanta. Beginning in early June, our sidewalks sported pedestrians in tennis whites and gold jewelry, our streets opened their asphalt arms to European sports cars and luxury sedans. There were boutiques with flagship stores in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, a produce stand that displayed fruits (avocados, papayas, yellow plums) that no hillbilly could identify let along afford; and then there as the movie theater that showed first-run films as soon as they opened in Los Angeles and New York — until Labor Day Tuesday, that is, when it went as dark as the Tomb of the Unknown Gaffer.
“It was an annual occurrence. Come June, the merry masquerade began; come September, Appalachian reality settled upon the community with a mournful sigh. The shops were shuttered, golf courses deserted, the last fancy auto went Cadillacking down the mountain and out of town. Even the Lois XVI colors of the autumn leaves failed to paint over the detail that many residents would have to survive for nine months on what they’d earned in three. There would now be fatback suppers, rotgut hangovers, malnourished kids, flour-sack fashions, occasional stabbings; and always outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, scabies and head lice. And then… and then June would jack out of its box and life would get healthy and merry again.”
— From “Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life” by Tom Robbins (2014)
Robbins, who was born in Blowing Rock in 1932, is best known for novels such as “Another Roadside Attraction” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”
* J. Luther Snyder, who moved from Atlanta to Charlotte to open the Carolinas’ first Coca-Cola bottling plant, developed the Chetola Estate in Blowing Rock.