The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Mail Box - September, 1984

Issue: September, 1984

Dear Readers,

Eighteen Months ago we printed our very first Mountain Laurel. We began with no prior publishing, printing or writing experience. Our assets were our love and appreciation of the Blue Ridge Mountains and mountain people.

Over the last year and a half, we've made a lot of mistakes while learning this new (to us) line of work. You, our readers, have been understanding and supportive beyond belief. The letters we have received from you over the last 18 months have meant more to us than our words could ever convey. Your words of encouragement often relieved fatigue and always renewed our hope and dedication to preserving the everyday memories of people who witnessed the dramatic transition from ox yokes to space shuttles.

As we sat around the kitchen table that morning in March of 1983 and opened our day's mail, we found the following first letter:

Mountain Memories,

Fifty-three years ago in the winter of 1930, my brother Lather and I were put on the "Dick 'n Willie" (railroad) at Danville, Virginia. Our mother had just died and we were sent to live with our kinfolks in Floyd County where we were born.

Our immediate destination was Stuart. It was cold and snow covered the ground when we disembarked from the "Dick n Willie" at Stuart. It had been an adventurous journey, indeed, riding on the tooneyville trolley of a train which swayed with every dip of the tracks. It's whistle would blow at every pig trail. For two boys (12 and 14) from the farm it was a thrill of a lifetime.

Your mention of the "Dick 'n Willie" brought back this fond recollection.

Thank you for the memory.

H.A. Hatcher
Hillsboro Beach, Fla.

It was read aloud and at its end, we all had tears in our eyes. One of our goals had been reached: A memory had been recalled as well as cherished and shared.

Since that first letter, there have been many more and each has meant so much. This month, we have expanded our Mailbox section in order to share as many of the letters we've received over the last 18 months as the space will allow.

We thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts for your support and encouragement and the memories that you have shared. We promise to do our best to live up to your expectations. Please keep writing in, we love to hear from you.

Susan Thigpen, Editor

Dear Mountain Laurel,

Our copy of, The Mountain Laurel for Oct. came in the mail and I just stopped everything and began to read it. To our surprise, the article on Miss Flora DeHart mentioned Thomasville, N.C. We really enjoyed reading about her.

We're campers and we belong to the Chair City Camping Club. To make a long story short, one of our club members is Libbie Blair. She is from up there, between Daddy Rabbit's Campground and Floyd, Va. The picture of all those brothers and one sister in the Sept. issue is some of her kin folks. What joy to listen to her tell about the church she went to and the wonderful meal that they have at the church, about her home and the neighbors she grew up with. She is the reason we were camping in that part of Va. We normally camp at Fox Trail Inn at Fancy Gap in the fall months. By the way, we stopped at Mayberry Trading Post and talked to that sweet lady there. I shared a recipe with her that's called "Country Butter". It's a very simple recipe. You might like to try it.

1 pound margarine
1 cup Mazola oil
1 cup buttermilk

Now picture an old churn and remember how it would splatter all over the place. Well, if you put all these ingredients in your electric mixing bowl, it will do the same thing. So what you do is put the margarine and oil in first and beat it a little. Then add your buttermilk and beat it until it's smooth. Put it into your butter mold or if you're not fortunate enough to have one, use an empty plastic container. Put it in the refrigerator and it will keep indefinitely. Boy is it good on homemade biscuits with honey and that good ole "apple butter".

Again I'd like to Thank you for such wonderful newspapers - looking forward to next issues. Thanks for the memories that we can all relate to.

"God bless you"

Mr. & Mrs. W. Beck
Thomasville, N.C.

Ms. Charlotte Heafner,

I was visiting in your area a few days ago. After buying a copy of The Mountain Laurel in Hillsville and reading it on the plane as we came back home, I would very much like to receive it each month.

Thank you,

M. Dalton
Orting, Washington

Dear Susan,

Love your paper very much. For recipes, how about green tomato pie? Start with 5 or 6 large green tomatoes, 2 cups of sugar, a tablespoon full of butter and teaspoon of vanilla flavoring. I loved this as a child, still love it at 53 and my 5 kids love it too.


M. Harvell
Franklinville, N.C.

Dear Editor:

Mrs. Ruth Phillips Heafner, a native of Floyd, received a copy of the Mountain Laurel and after reading it , passed it on to me, and I in turn shared the delightful reading with my mother. We are natives of Pulaski County. Although Mother and Ruth never met until both settled in Norwood, N.C., Ruth was from Indian Valley and her father was Will Phillips, once the sheriff in Floyd and her mother formerly a Quesenberry. Mother was born nearby on the banks of Little River at the powerhouse Grandfather ran. Just below the powerhouse, Little River emptied into the New River. Grandfather would shoot fish and take them by boat to Radford to sell. My mother was Ella Mae Halsey, her parents were A.C. "Doc" Halsey (from Wythe County) and Clara Mae Smith. Grandmother's father was Captain John Henry Chatman Smith, a captain in the Civil War and is buried at Mt. View Methodist Church where I attended as a child. Many cousins of the Smiths, Coveys and Farmers still populate the area.

With the construction of Claytor Dam many crews came in to help with the building. My uncle, Wilmer J. "Buster" Halsey, was unfortunately killed during the construction. He had only been married 9 months to Carrie Sue Brown who now lives in Radford. Mother came home to stay with her parents during this sad time, leaving her job at the Maple Shade Inn in Pulaski. She helped Grandfather run a store on the hill just above the dam site, and it was there in the spring of 1938 that Claude Maner, a tall dashing bachelor of 27 saw fair maiden Ella, 21, for the first time. On August 15 they married. In November, 1941, I was born.

My first memories are of Grandmother's house, the smell of boxwoods in her yard, the apple trees blossoming into apples, the fragrance of lilac outside the bedroom, a wooden barrel at the corner of the house for catching rain water and all that delicious food cooked on a wood cook stove. Grandmother always had at least one kind of apples on the table at meal time...applesauce, applebutter, stewed apples, apple jelly, or apple pie.

Sunday's meant going to Grandfather's place, "Halsey's Boat Works" just around the nook from Claytor Dam, for picnics. On the hill above the docks and boat house was a street car converted into a concession stand where drinks, ice cream and short orders might be bought. Grandfather had two rooms added to one end for living quarters and how I loved to spend the night with him. There was a record player with a microphone attached to a loud speaker, atop the street car. I must have driven people crazy singing my childish songs over that speaker. Grandfather's arrowhead collection is on display at Claytor Dam.

By the time I was old enough to start to school, my parents moved to his native Stanley County, North Carolina, where I have grown up, married, had my son, worked and worshipped. I'm proud to have roots in the best two states in the U.S.

If you ever extend your territory, please include Pulaski County. There is so much history there, as are in surrounding counties. Mother and I have been doing research for three years now into our families. We have discovered some wonderful things and connections. One highlight for me was to finally see "The Long Way Home", the outdoor drama about Mary Draper Ingles.

Enclosed find two checks for 2 subscriptions for mother and Ruth. We will enjoy reading the forthcoming issues.


Joy L. Maner
Norwood, N.C.

Dear Editors:

I picked up your fine paper in Wytheville at the Howard Johnson's this past June. I really enjoy reading it all.

My family has roots in Wytheville, Pulaski, and Hillsville areas; so we are familiar with the area and have traveled around some of the Backroads. It would have been nice to have had your paper on our initial trips! I look forward to more pleasurable hours with your paper.


P. Sheets
Newark, Ohio

Dear Editor,

Received my copy of The Mountain Laurel. I really enjoyed it. Sorry I didn't subscribe sooner. It sure recalls the hard but good old days. Those August meetings, how I walked up and down the dusty road. That home made lemonade, how good it was - 2 glasses for 5 cents out of a washing tub, with all that dust in it from the road...Going to Mt. Airy, N.C. with my father in a covered wagon; go one day and come back the next. Thought I had almost gone out of the world! And watching dear Mother carrying boiling water to drip down her lye to make soap...So many memories I could almost write a book on it. Keep up the good work.


A.W. Martin
Roanoke, Va.

(Family from Groundhog Mountain, Carroll County)

Dear Mountain Laurel,

We sure do want to renew our subscription and enclose $10.00 for a two year subscription.

We have had such good times traveling the Backroads and look forward to where each month will take us. We made the trip to Newbern, Va. a couple of weeks ago and had our supper at the Inn and also visited the museum and the store, "PJ's".

We wish you continued success and hope you will be publishing The Mountain Laurel for many years to come.


D. & F. Kirschhoch
Cana, Va.