The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Home Is Where The Heart Is...

By Bob Heafner © 1988

Issue: April, 1988

In March of 1983, three of us (Susan Thigpen, Charlotte Heafner and Bob Heafner) published the first issue of The Mountain Laurel. It did not contain "hard news." It did not offer potential subscribers future issues filled with sensationalism or political expose'. As a matter of policy political ads were not accepted for publication. In short it strayed from the traditional journalistic approach to publishing a periodical in newspaper format.

The pledge made to readers in the first issue was to provide an in-depth look into the everyday lives and traditions of the Blue Ridge and a view of the past from the heart of a region where old time values and traditional lifestyles still flourish. We envisioned a publication where everyday people, not necessarily journalists, could share the oral histories and stories of these beautiful mountains.

Over the course of the last 5 years the stories and articles have poured out of the hollows and ridges of the Blue Ridge and onto the pages of The Mountain Laurel. Some "manuscripts" were received on notebook paper or yellow legal pads and many came from elderly people who have since passed away. Young people reading The Mountain Laurel have been compelled or inspired to submit their recollections of elderly relatives or friends for publication and thus have helped to preserve the memories of some very special people.

For the three of us who started The Mountain Laurel it has without doubt been the most rewarding and successful years of our lives. The rewards and successes have not been in tangible items nor do they qualify for the modern definition of success, which so often is only measured in dollars, but our rewards have come from knowing that in a small way we have helped focus attention on a generation of elderly people that might well be the last generation that represents the self-sufficient lifestyle and values that made America great. If we as a nation are to ever rise above the attitudes and philosophies of the "me generation" then it will be from listening to the generation that is our link to the greatness of our past.

The Mountain Laurel has contained stories of a simpler time when neighbors were really neighbors and traditional values were a way of life. Perhaps at some time another generation will find the strength to sustain itself through times of hardship and struggle by the inspiration and hope to be garnered from the wisdom of the old people that this publication is all about.

This point was brought home to us several years ago after a story had been published recalling the early married years of an elderly mountain lady. She recalled "setting-up house keeping" with only a wood cook stove and a bed on a dirt floor and the hardships that she faced without any modern amenities. After that story ran a young woman from Franklin County, Virginia wrote us a letter telling about the struggle she and her husband were facing in trying to build a home. They had run out of money and were forced to move in before construction was completed. They were living with unfinished floors and mud for a yard. She said she had been on the brink of giving up but after reading the story of the elderly lady in The Mountain Laurel she found new hope and renewed resolve and determination.

In 1985, on the advice of an accountant, stock was sold in Laurel Publications, Inc. Some of the stockholders are people like us who believe that preserving the memories and stories of a vanishing generation are more important than "bottom-line." However, shortly before the March issue was to go to press a decision was made to cease publication of The Mountain Laurel. Laurel Publications, Inc. will continue to manage it's other publishing interests. We asked and were given permission to arrange for the continued printing of The Mountain Laurel as a nonprofit publication and this issue is the result of our effort.

Over the course of the last 3 years as we struggled to "generate more ad sales" we have drawn our own strength from the examples set by the people whose stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel. Without their example of determination or the loyalty of subscribers and advertising supporters, some of whom have been with us since the very beginning, this paper would not be in your hand at this moment. Often during this period we've looked at a hammer from an anvil's point of view but the constant blows only resulted in the tempering of our mettle and a resolve that nothing we could do with our lives would be more important than assuring the continuation of The Mountain Laurel.

For us The Mountain Laurel is more than just a vehicle to sell more ads. The office has always been in our home. We have not only worked to bring you The Mountain Laurel each month, we have lived with it as a constant part of our lives. It is a labor of love. We have met and corresponded with readers and contributing writers, to the point we feel there is an extension of our family stretching across America into every home The Mountain Laurel reaches. Every year Christmas cards from this "family" virtually line our living room. For us The Mountain Laurel is a part of our lives that has reaffirmed faith and generated love. It has contributed friendships and a quality to our lives that money will never be able to buy.

In short, at the end of 5 years the 3 of us, The Mountain Laurel and you, our family of readers, are starting over. We apologize for the absence of a March 1988 issue but there was not enough time after we learned that it would not be printed by Laurel Publications, Inc. Once we knew that decision was final, we began frantically working to get this issue out as fast as possible.

All subscribers whose subscription expires on or after February 1, 1988 will receive 3 extra months added to your subscriptions as our way of saying we're sorry for the absence of a March issue and to express our appreciation to the nicest group of people we've ever known. Few publications ever receive the feeling of "family" and friendship that you have bestowed upon The Mountain Laurel. A reader once wrote that The Mountain Laurel is, "Like a letter from home." There are subscribers scattered across every state in America and some abroad. Of course the Blue Ridge was not home to all of you, but home can be a state of mind - a feeling in your heart. We will try our best to assure that this "home light" burns forever. Thank you for the love and acceptance you've shown for sincere effort and a little mountain paper.