The hometown feeling and friendly folks of McDowell County are not artifacts of the past. Here are places to visit, people to meet, and things to do in McDowell that prove that “the good old days” are still with us if you know where to look:
OLD FORT MOUNTAIN MUSIC
When the Oral History crew was taping this piece about Old Fort Mountain Music, we set up for awhile on the street outside to get some shots of folks arriving and visiting with one another. While we were out on the sidewalk, an elderly couple drove up and the gentleman helped the lady out of the car and into the building. After he parked the car, he pulled an odd-looking cane out of the back seat and used it to make his way over to us. His eyes danced as he showed us that the cane was also a slender mandolin! Proudly explaining that he had made it himself, he turned it over and played ”Little Liza Jane”. He then gave us a hug as if he’d known us all his life, put the instrument back to use as a walking stick and went inside to await the start of the evening’s program.
That episode sums up the feeling of Old Fort Mountain Music…there are no strangers in Old Fort on Friday night. People of all ages and walks of life, many from just around the corner and some from across the globe, are united by their love of traditional music and old-fashioned fun.
MC and sound man Wayne Roland met us in the old Rockett building to talk about the history of Old Fort Mountain Music and about everything that goes into making it such a special event.
We’ve all had the experience of driving to a megastore in search of a particular piece of merchandise, and after trekking across acres of retail space in the vain search for an employee that can help us, leaving empty handed and frustrated. John’s Market, located at 77 South Catwaba Avenue in Old Fort, provides the perfect antidote to that all-too-common modern shopping experience.
We stopped by to talk with Bill one Sunday morning when the store was closed, and amidst the whirr of the freezers, coolers, and fans it takes to keep a grocery store running, he told us about rickety bridges that made home deliveries a little risky in the old days, how his father felt about him joining the family business, and about the philosophy of customer service that has been handed down through the generations.
Listen to the interview with Bill Nichols here:
(Bill is quite a student of McDowell history, and the walls of his store are covered with archival photos of the county. He’s also a walking storehouse of historical information once you get him started…)
It was a spectacular day in June when the McDowell Oral History crew made the pilgrimage to the Orchard at Altapass, just this side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. A visit to the Orchard can be an education on several subjects; about the Over Mountain Men and the Revolutionary War, the super-human effort required to bring the railroad across the rugged Appalachian slopes and about the delightful characters that were the first to settle the area.
Most folks come to the Orchard to have FUN and what could be more fun than some good ole mountain music? In this clip, Judy Carson of the Orchard introduces Terry McKinney for a taste of the good times to be had on a weekend visit to the high country of McDowell County. Terry is a direct descendant of one of the most colorful residents to settle the area and he shares his wealth of knowledge about some of the important musicians to come from McDowell.
THE SWITZERLAND INN
MCDOWELL TRAILS ASSOCIATION
Much of McDowell County’s history can be experienced by walking its trails. You can visit Point Lookout, a tourist mecca in the days before the interstate; Catawba Falls, where the mighty Catawba River is born; Round Hill, where McDowell’s founding fathers are buried; and the old Peavine Railroad bed.
The McDowell Trails Association is working to make all these destinations easily accessible by foot and bike. Here, Bill Hendley talks about the Trails Association and its plans for the future.
“HOW WE BOUGHT THE FARM”
Former rocket scientist and “type-A weaver” Bill Carson relates the string of coincidences that led him and his family to buy- and preserve- the Orchard at Altapass.