The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Laurel Foundation - March, 1987

By Bob Heafner © 1987

Issue: March, 1987

In some respects it hardly seems possible that we've been printing The Mountain Laurel for four years. In others it seems as if it has been a part of our lives forever. One thing certain, however, the four years since the first issue rolled off the presses have been years of learning for us.

In the beginning Charlotte kept tract of subscribers names and addresses on index cards and each month retyped a mailing label for each subscriber. As the number of subscribers increased it consumed more and more of her time until finally it was a headlong race to get all the names and addresses typed in time for the next issue.

As the first year ended it was becoming more and more apparent that some other method would have to be found. We couldn't afford a computer and were at a loss as to how we could continue to operate with our antiquated index card system. Then Freeman Cockram, owner of Floyd Farm Service, told me one day that he'd won a Commodore [64] computer for selling a large number of Stihl chain saws. He offered to trade us the Commodore for advertising space and we jumped at the opportunity.

Thus began our trek into the computer age. It was frustrating to say the least because we had to teach ourselves to use it and, without any prior experience, you can imagine what that was like. We made it however and today we have several much larger computer systems that not only maintain our subscriber files but virtually every facet of our operation is controlled by these "electronic miracles." We've learned a lot about computers since we've done most all of our own programming because we couldn't afford to hire outside help. In the course of this self training we've also gotten a glimpse what the future might be like and personally, I don't like it.

With all this new technology people no longer have to go to the store they can shop from their living room via a computer modem and telephone lines and through the use of electronic bulletin boards they can work at home without any interaction with others. To me this represents the coming of the end of an era when friends gathered in country stores or restaurants and socialized. It is true that today you can develop friends thousands of miles away via computer but the conversation is abbreviated and faces are never seen. If this is the wave of the future our society will be the loser in the long run. I'm old fashioned enough to long for the days of conversation around a pot-bellied stove and laughter that comes from the eyes as well as the vocal chords. Here in the mountains that type of atmosphere still exists but for how much longer no one can say.

Every time an old person like Mr. Matt Burnett passes away a part of our heritage passes with them. A link with our past is lost. And the way of life that we all cherish is moved a little closer to the technological oblivion that our future seems to hold. However, the same technology that is so rapidly replacing the old ways, might offer a means of preserving those traditional elements of our society that are simply too precious to lose.

We view our effort to establish The Laurel Foundation as one means of preserving our heritage for those future generations who might look back and long for today as we long for the simpler times of the first half of this century. To be sure the majority of today's children are going to be carried into the future on the momentum of the technological wave but at some point they or their children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will yearn for the simpler times of days gone by.

Through the use of modern video equipment we can preserve for them the laughter and the tears of a generation that we cherish today. The old folks that were born around the turn of this century can be an example and a link to a time when life wasn't electronic and pleasure was found in an old country store surrounded by friends and neighbors.

Imagine for a moment that you had never known folks like Mr. Matt Burnett or Mr. Coy O. Yeatts or the countless others of their generation who represent a way of life that will sadly never be again. I personally feel there would be a void in my life that would never have been filled, without the strength of their characters and the overriding faith of their personalities, regarding the goodness of people. Not one moment of the time I've ever spent with their generation has ever been wasted because through them, I saw a way of life that will never be again.

Perhaps if we are successful in gaining the funding necessary to establish The Laurel Foundation the films that result will not be fully appreciated for many years to come. But somewhere down the road, there will be a time when the generation that's rapidly vanishing today will be needed to bring a little sanity into a world where roots are lost and traditions have a meaning we today can't conceive.

Our goal with The Laurel Foundation is to generate enough cash to purchase broadcast quality video equipment in order that Jim Waters can travel throughout these mountains capturing on film the memories of these people before it is too late. We must raise slightly over $30,000.00 in order for this to be possible and we need your support. Since we first told of our goal in last September's issue, folks from across the nation have responded and today The Laurel Foundation has received pledges and donations of slightly over $3000.00. As you can see we've got a long way to go.

Jim Waters is a nationally known photojournalist whose work has appeared on national network television. He has agreed to accept a pay cut of over 50% in order to assist this effort. Quite frankly he has stated that since he is not married and has few obligations that he will work for The Laurel Foundation for bare sustenance wages. We feel it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something really positive that will have lasting effects for generations to come and every time the clock ticks or another memory dies the frustration over lack of funds mounts.

All of the funds donated so far have been placed in an interest bearing account with Workmen's Federal Savings & Loan Association in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Not one cent has been spent because if for any reason we fail to raise the necessary funds everyone's contribution will be refunded. There is no personal profit motive behind this effort. It is simply an attempt to preserve a portion of our heritage before it is too late.

Over these last few months we've received contributions ranging from $1.00 to $500.00 and every cent is appreciated. The folks who have opened their hearts to this effort are without doubt aware of the value of this rapidly vanishing generations memories. This entire article is being written to gain your support for the efforts of The Laurel Foundation and I sincerely hope it succeeds. There is so much to be lost if it does not. Please help.

A Special Letter

Dear Friends and Fellow Readers,

My name has been mentioned as donating more than once to The Laurel Foundation. I'm glad amounts are not mentioned as I may be embarrassed. While I am not in a position to give large amounts, I believe so strongly in the proposed project of the Foundation, that I am trying to give a small amount on a monthly basis until the goal is met. I would like to encourage others to do the same.

A lot of small amounts can add up quickly, and I am quite eager to see the end result of The Laurel Foundation.

Paula A. Kerns
Westerville, Ohio

Dear Readers,
We would like to thank all the special people like Paula Kerns who have made donations to The Laurel Foundation. Your help is greatly appreciated.