Now that Sociation is receiving attention through the WWW by students of social customs from many different parts of the world, we felt it might be a good idea to offer some background information on the book reviewed in our January 2000 issue by Doris Smith Bliss.
Boone, North Carolina is named after the famous explorer Daniel Boone, who actually did have a meat camp nearby known today as, yes, Meat Camp. Near Boone is Grandfather Mountain, which is privately owned and extends over 1 mile in height. It was being logged when Doris Bliss's father was young. The logs were hauled to market on a narrow gauge railway known as the Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina but called locally Tweetsie because of the steam whistles on the Baldwin steam locomotives.
Boone was isolated from North Carolina. Communications by rail were with Tennessee. When the Tweetsie finally got to Boone, the mayor stated, "I can remember when to get to Boone you had to be born here." The areas near Boone have been called "the lost provinces" as far as the rest of the state was concerned.
Today the Tweetsie Railroad no longer exists except as tourist attraction. Its connection with Boone was broken in 1940 in the great flood, mentioned by Bliss in her book. By that time highways had started to connect the lost provinces with North Carolina and today Appalachian State University in Boone is one of the most popular places for the young in the state to attend college.
Matney is where Doris Smith grew up. It is on SR (State Road) 194, which exists today much as it always has. It can be driven at only about 20 mph due to sharp curves and steep grades. In the valley lies Valle Crucis, and this is where the Mast General Store was and remains to this day. At one time it was a functioning general store, selling everything from gas (petrol) to caskets. Today the store is a tourist destination, with the tourists arriving using a relatively new road (SR 105) which follows the old bed of the Tweetsie and part of SR 194....the flat part.
Together Grandfather Mountain, a 1-mile circle of rail now called the Tweetsie, and Mast General Store all make up popular tourist destinations for people who vacation in the mountains to escape the heat in the summer. But as Bliss reminds us, these were once vital local economic structures on their own, and not for their tourist interest. Grandfather Mountain is actively marketed as a tourist destination, even though nearby Mount Mitchell is actually the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains.
SR 194 climbs from Mast to Matney, and then resumes its climb to over 4,000 feet in Banner Elk, a small mountain town which had a hospital. It is to this hospital that Smiths went. The town is also the home of a small mountain school known as Lees-McRae College. Banner Elk today is the home of ski resorts, a private jet airport and exclusive places for the rich to hide summer and winter. It is in Banner Elk that Doris Bliss today maintains her gem and mineral shop and designs jewelry.
The isolation of the original settlers near Matney was extreme. Families had to rely on their own skills. This included raising most of your own food, canning the crops for the winter, and even building your own houses, often from wet (green) lumber. Old pioneer ways stayed here longer than most places and form the basis of the stories Doris Smith Bliss tells us in her book. She writes at times like people spoke, not using proper grammar. She also includes many terms which are not in general use outside the state or region.
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