“On Nov. 10, 1918, a headline in The Asheville Citizen‘s editorial section declared: ‘An epidemic conquered.’ Evidence, the paper wrote, suggested overall cases of influenza were declining in the city. Within another week, the paper supposed, local health authorities would begin ‘the lifting of the various safeguards which have caused much inconvenience, it is true, but which, nevertheless, saved the community from the ravages of the scourge that has swept the world’….
“With restrictions loosened, influenza spread. On Dec. 1, 1918, The Sunday Citizen revealed that 32 new cases were reported within the previous 24 hours. The article continued:
“The health department states that the increase is undoubtedly due to the numerous gatherings and meetings of various kinds held this last week. When it was announced that churches, schools and theatres would reopen, the board states, the majority took it for granted that all epidemic danger had passed and governed themselves accordingly. Health officials said little last night but they looked grave.”
— From “How wishful thinking helped spread the 1918 influenza” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (April 21, 2020)
“In spring 1942 — shortly after the United States entered World War II — the State Department leased the Grove Park Inn as an internment camp for Axis diplomats, family members and servants.
“ ‘All of this is strictly in accordance with international law,’ the [Asheville Citizen reported]. ‘While the Italians, Bulgarians and Rumanians are here they will be isolated from the community and protected from the curious.’
“Subsequent information arrived only after the 221 prisoners (the first official number provided to residents) departed [on May 6] for their homelands in exchange for U.S. diplomats held abroad.
“According to the Citizen, the foreign diplomats had paid for their stay at the Grove Park Inn. ‘Shuffleboard, lawn bowling, badminton, and bridge were reported to have been the chief amusement’ during their confinement.”
— From “Foreign diplomats held hostage at the Grove Park Inn, 1942″ by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Sept. 6)
“The social impact of the [1918 flu] epidemic extended well beyond medical masks.
“According to the [Asheville Citizen], the health scare led to the reemergence of flasks, despite the state’s 1908 referendum on Prohibition. Rather than nipping on whiskey, owners now carried mouthwash in the containers. ‘[I]t’s easier to practice oral hygiene when the disinfectant comes from the receptacle which formerly held … Scotch,’ the paper observed.”
— From “The 1918 influenza changes social norms” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Oct. 31)
“There’s a cultural amnesia about what it means to be Native American, says Cherokee woodcarver Christy Long. ‘When you look at what people understand about a native, you get people who only understand natives from [a] romantic point of view.’
“Such misconceptions mean tourists to Cherokee seek headdresses and dreamcatchers — neither of which are native to the tribe. That doesn’t mean, however, that headdresses and dreamcatchers aren’t sold. ‘When you’re trying to make a living, you still have to look at those things that people will purchase, so that you can make money to feed your family,’ says Long. ‘It’s [an] existential struggle for a native person.’ ”
— From “Cherokee artists consider life beyond the mountains” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Dec. 22)
From the Miscellany vault: Examples of Cherokee image vs. reality in postcards and pinback buttons.
“Asheville was slow to take up the great game of golf. The Asheville Country Club at the foot of Sunset Mountain [had] a nine-hole golf course, but the standard course had become 18 holes. The Southern Railway, in bringing people to Asheville, found resistance on account of the lack of a good golf course….
“S.H. Hardwick of the Southern Railway came to Asheville under auspices of the Chamber of Commerce and in an open meeting put the matter up to the citizens. As a result, a complete change occurred. Instead of one being regarded as a freak if he played golf, or wore knickers or subscribed to stock in the Asheville Country Club, he became a patriot. It was a popular thing to do. If that was what Asheville needed to keep its spring business, it helped greatly until the summer crowds started toward the mountains. The Asheville club expanded to the full 18 holes.
“One afternoon I accompanied E.W. Grove, to the top of Sunset Mountain to a point on the eastern end of the ridge. Mr. Grove designated this spot for his new hotel [the Grove Park Inn, which would open July 1, 1913]…. Later I learned his St. Louis bankers vetoed the site because they feared that the hotel would not succeed unless it was at the foot of the mountain facing the new golf course and had a patronage spread uniformly over the year….”
— From “Jeffress, Former Newspaperman Here, Describes Asheville of 1908-1911” by Edwin Bedford Jeffress in the Asheville Citizen (March 26, 1950) [excerpted in “Golf takes full swing in Asheville” by Thomas Calder in the Mountain Xpress (Nov. 8)]
“[I am] pained at the implication in your letter that I was ashamed of North Carolina — only what is N.C. willing to do for me? I don’t think there is a place there now for anyone who cares for anything besides Rotary and Lions and Boosters Clubs, real-estate speculation, ‘heap much’ money, social fawning, good roads, new mills — what, in a word, they choose to call ‘Progress, Progress, Progress.’.…
“N.C. needs honest criticism — rather than the false, shallow ‘we-are-the-finest-state-and-greatest-people-in-the-country’ kind of thing. An artist who refuses to accept fair criticism of his work will never go far. What of a state?.…”
— From Thomas Wolfe’s letter to his mother, Julia, on April 21, 1924. Excerpted in “Thomas Wolfe v. the state of North Carolina, 1924” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (July 19, 2016).
Wolfe, 23, had just begun teaching at New York University. It would be another five years before publication of “Look Homeward, Angel.”
“….We as a culture are more accepting of people of all races and backgrounds, and yet we’re not connected. You see a group of four or five people together and they’re all looking at their own individual cellphones….
“[By contrast, the convicts in the late 1800s who built the Swannanoa Gap tunnel showed] respect for each other at a time when you had to cooperate. Even when they were being transported from Central Prison to Henry Station [near Old Fort], they were connected, handcuffed on each side in groups of five and leg-shackled. They’re on a boxcar, and in one corner there’s a hole in the floor for ‘necessary purposes.’ It’s night and people are trying to sleep, and then you’ve got a guy who has to go to the bathroom. He’s attached to four other guys — they all got to go to the hole, whether they need to use it or not….
“This was horrible, just absolutely horrible. Yet they persevered.”
— From “How convicts conquered the Swannanoa grade; a chat with railroad historian Steven Little” by Max Hunt at Mountain Xpress (Sept. 23)
Little, author of “Tunnels, Nitro, and Convicts: Building the Railroad that Couldn’t be Built,” performs the one-man show “Railroad Convict.”