The feature stories listed below are stories that have been produced either for school projects at WCU or for an organization that I would eventually publish. These stories have went on to be featured in “The Franklin Press”, WCU’s “The Reporter” and “The Factory Newsletter”.

Poem by English professor is featured in Winston-Salem project

North Carolina now features poets across the state, including those at Western Carolina University.

Catherine Carter, associate professor of English, has been featured in a program called Poetry in Plain Sight that highlights poets throughout the state.

Squash Vine, the poem by Carter, was inspired by a real squash vine that grew from a compost pile.

“The vine was a great, horsy, hairy vine,” said Carter.

The poem was written the summer of 2013 and was submitted to the NC Writers Network that features four poets a month.  Carter’s poem has been featured since February 1, and will remain featured until the end of the month.

Carter says that Netwest, the North Carolina Writers’ Network branch in western North Carolina, is a smaller network, but it is Carter’s hope that WNC can feature a similar program; she hopes to try something similar, perhaps starting next summer.

Carter, a member of WCU’s faculty since 1999, has released two poetry collections; The Memory of Gills in 2006 and The Swamp Monster at Home in 2012.

“I am incredibly grateful to those who helped me get them published,” said Carter.

Carter is currently working on a scholarly book about forgotten 20th century author Kathleen Thompson Norris.  She hopes to have it drafted by the end of the semester.

Winston-Salem Writers is a nonprofit group of writers who write fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry, and who care about the art and craft of writing.  They offer workshops, critique groups, and web-based writing.  Their mission is to help writers interact with other writers, improve their writing and realize their goals.

For more information, contact Catherine Carter, associate professor of English at ccarter@email.wcu.edu.

This feature story was published through The Reporter at WCU. 

Memories Are Made and Relived at 1024 Georgia Rd

Tyler Cook

When a little girl steps onto the parking lot of 1024 Georgia Road, she is instantly mesmerized by the fun that she always has when coming here.  As they walk through the glass foyer, they are walking through 60 years worth of history; they just don’t know it.  They are walking into what is now called The Fun Factory, a family entertainment center filled with games and lasting memories located in Franklin, North Carolina.  But what they don’t know is that it was a real factory, employing many members of the community in its half century of existence.

According to public land records at the Macon County Courthouse, the building was built in 1955.  It is speculated that it took up to a year and a half to build.  H.C. Bueck, long time employee in this building, says its first occupant was Burlington, a hosiery plant.  Burlington was the largest textile operation in the world at the time and was known for treating its workers well. The company tried to be as fair and honest as possible, and made the employee safety a main concern.  The Franklin plant was known for having the prettiest yard of any Burlington plant.

Bueck and Susie Stanley, both former employees at Burlington, sat together recently and reminisced about their time there.  More than 50 years after their employment there, they could remember it as if they were still working there.  Both were able to recall vivid memories of their supervisor, whom they both held in high regard, never having his hand without a cup of coffee.

Bueck’s journey began when he had just graduated from college and was conducting a safety inspection of the building, which was rare for someone outside the business to do during company policies during that time.  This started him on the path to becoming an employee there, where he would stay for 10 years.  He discussed how their experience at Burlington in Franklin was probably different from any other plant. “The building was air conditioned and humidity controlled; it was usually hot and sticky in other plants.”  He went on to discuss parts of the building, remembering a local man painting the boiler.  He said that it was painted like a devil and was the building’s “showpiece.”

Stanley, who worked there many years, recalls that she went five years in a row without missing a day.  She remembered the codes of the business saying, “You couldn’t wear jewelry, couldn’t have fingernails long, couldn’t wear pants and you had to be fashionable.”  She said she took pride in her work, which included tough jobs.  She said she had the hardest job there, describing her task of looping stockings.

Once Burlington left the building, it was occupied by several other textile plants before it was acquired by Drake Enterprises, who serves customers with tax software, and provides retail and other businesses.  After the purchase of the building, it sat vacant for a full year.  During this time, the space was considered for Drake Support for the tax service.  Employees who were included in the search for something to fill the space traveled the country for ideas.  Once it was agreed that it would be used as family entertainment center including restaurants and attractions, Drake secured Laticia Raymond to design the future layout of the building.

DeWayne Phillips was selected as the project manager of the transformation and remodeling of the building in 2002.  The project to transform it to its finished state began in March 2002 and the opening of the Fun Factory was July 4, 2002.  He says that those four months were four months of hard work.  “It took an army to complete it,” Phillips said, “All the stars were aligned.  It could not be done in four months again.”  Phillips said including the acquisition of the building and remodeling the project cost $8 million.  When remembering the opening day on July 4, Phillips said that it was a relief, and that he thought the turnout was very good.

Jonathan Drake, long-time employee and current general manager at the Factory, also remembers what it was like on that opening day. He says that it “was nothing short of a mad house.  Actually, this large number of customers returned for the entire remainder of that summer.  All-in-all, there was a sense of relief from the anticipation of opening day and excitement, for everyone, of a new destination in our small mountain town.”

In the 10 years since opening day, the Fun Factory has employed many people from all ages among the community.  It offers hundreds of arcade games, and many other attractions including Laser Tag, Bowling, Go Carts, Bumper Cars and Mini Golf and restaurants like the Boiler Room Steakhouse and the Pizza Factory. The Fun Factory has been awarded Western North Carolina’s award-winning destination for family friendly activity.

Drake, now the longest-serving employee at the Factory, discussed his time at the Factory, and how he went from preparing for the grand opening to serving as attendant, shift leader and now general manger.  He says that since his first day, he has been able to direct and train new employees with the guidelines and policies of the business.  “I showed dedication to my work, maintained a positive attitude, and strived to provide above-par customer service to every guest.”  And as a general manager, he strives to keep this same way of working for his employees.

Bueck feels that what Drake Enterprises did to name the arcade center and the restaurants after the building’s original purpose is “respectful and appropriate.”  He believes that what they valued in the building many decades ago is still highlighted in the building today.  He says instead of manufacturing textile products, they are “manufacturing fun.”  And when asked how long it is expected for the building to last, he said, “It was built to last.  With regular maintenance, the building could last forever.”

So as the little girl leaves the building, satisfied with her fun and entertainment, she is still unaware of the history of the building, and the people that have worked there over the years.  All she knows is that she is already excited about her next trip, and she knows that The Fun Factory will still be there when she returns.

Tyler Cook is a current employee at the Factory where he has worked for 3 years and has taken the roles of attendant and shift leader. 

A Local Writer’s New Story Depicting Mysteries in the Mountains

Tyler Cook

Eva McCall, a local writer from Franklin, has enriched and gifted thousands of her readers with stories from the North Carolina Mountains, allowing a glimpse of her family’s history as well as combining fact with fiction.  Now 16 years after the release of her first novel, Edge of Heaven, McCall has returned with a new fictional book, filled with murder, mystery, and moonshining.

McCall’s new novel, Murder on Haint Branch, is set in Western North Carolina during the early 1940s, a story based on a true life event from her past.  “The Idea for the writing of the book was born out of conversation with author Shelia Kay Adams,” McCall said.  “I was telling her about the death of my uncle in 1942. I said, ‘They said he shot himself but you don’t shoot yourself with a shot gun and lay it back down on the bed by your side.’ Adams said, ‘That’s your opening line.’”  McCall said after that conversation, the story took a life of its own and her characters “told her” the story.

She is no stranger to writing, releasing Edge of Heaven in 1997, which featured her grandmother, Lucy Davenport Carpenter.  In 2002, McCall finished Children of the Mountain, a sequel to Edge of Heaven, depicting Lucy in her later years, McCall’s father, as well as McCall’s first years.  Lucy’s Recipe for Mountain Living, her latest published book, was a team effort with her sister and included daily devotional types of stories featuring Lucy’s style of cooking for the large family she had.  McCall says that writing these books gave her the opportunity to relive the stories that were told by her grandmother, as well as educating her younger family members about their history.  “This is an important part of their heritage that they would have never really looked at if it had just been in family research,” she says, “But with the books, they will read and feel a part of it.”

McCall is a native of Franklin, spending her early years on “Carpenter Mountain,” as she refers to it in her books.  After graduating from Franklin High School, she attended Pfeiffer College near Charlotte.  After her marriage to George McCall, they moved to Flint, Mich., where he worked at General Motors and she became a beautician.  During her time in Michigan, she began to attend writing workshops which propelled her to start writing her earlier novels.  Now both retired, Eva and George returned to Franklin where they enjoy volunteering, attending community events and where Eva has written her recent works.

Barbara McRae, columnist at The Franklin Press and editor of Murder on Haint Branch, believes that McCall’s experience in the mountains allows her to portray accurate details, and combine it with her imagination.  “Eva McCall grew up in the Southern mountains in tough times, during the years after World War II. She brought her insights as a writer to bear on that period.  Her characters ring true, and they embody aspects of many of the mountain people.”

After years of appealing her new book to publishers, and waiting on their long reviewing processes, McCall said, “I decided I’d be too old to reap any of the benefits. After all, birthdays don’t stop just because you’re waiting for something special to happen.”  So she made the decision to self publish.  She gave the manuscript to her promotional manager to review, who felt that the issues presented in the book were not only relevant in the forties, but also in the present.  She hired members of the community to review, edit, and design a cover.  She also created the publishing name “Moonshine Press.”  After half a year of hard work, McCall feels that the latest book is ready for release.

Throughout McCall’s years of writing, and during the production of her latest novel, she has received praise from individuals across the region, including country icon Dolly Parton.  After receiving permission from Parton to include her comments on the new cover, McCall couldn’t believe it.  “The truth is, it feels like it is happening to someone else, and I’m watching it from the outside, something like watching a movie,” she said.  “I think this is good because it helps keep me focused on what my goal for the book is.”

Both McCall and McRae believe that fictional novels such as Murder on Haint Branch are paving the direction to how the historical Appalachian region is being presented in modern times.   “I feel like this book gives a true picture of the way life was for the Appalachian people,” McCall said, “And it will help the reader to understand more of why life is the way it is now, especially college students and for people not from this region.”  McRae agrees, saying that Appalachia in the forties has not been fully explored.  She also says that books like McCall’s are pointing the way.

McCall is very optimistic about the direction of her new novel.  She has hopes for it to sell well, and dreams of it becoming a best seller or a film adaptation.  But her simple goal, she says, is to have the story touch someone’s life and making their day better.  Regardless of how things turn out, McCall says that her journey isn’t over.  She says that she has another novel also ready for release, a Civil War novel that she wrote many years ago.  And as for new ideas, she says that she is “getting itchy fingers to write something else.”

Murder on Haint Branch is now available in all stores.

Tyler Cook is the nephew of Eva McCall, and has been involved in the production of Eva McCall’s Murder on Haint Branch

Scholars Complete another Year of Recycling at MMS

Tyler Cook

The New Century Scholars program has been known for taking on many tasks to receive community service hours and to show their commitment to their community.  But something that citizens might not know is that Macon Middle School Scholars are proving that they are the leaders of the 21st century.  The Scholars are leading the effort to recycle at MMS, and giving all profits back to the school.

Merrilee Bordeaux, volunteer at MMS and avid supporter of New Century Scholars, says that this year the Scholars collected close to 11,000 pounds of recyclable materials.  “They did much more than they did last year,” she said.

Bordeaux said that Solid Waste Recycling contacted about New Century Scholars heading the project at MMS.  A trailer was provided and cardboard and paper was stored in there until Solid Waste picked it up.  They also provided containers for teachers to put their recyclables in it.

The Scholars are paid for what they collect, but the Scholars turn around and donate the money back to the schools.  “Last year they deposited over $200 from recycling into the MMS general fund,” Bordeaux said.  While they are unsure how much will be deposited from 2013’s collection, Bordeaux expects it to be more than last year’s deposit.  The Scholars receive 10 hours of community service every 9 weeks for recycling each week.

Bordeaux said that scholars have come to her saying that their lifestyles and daily routines concerning trash and recyclables have changed because of what they have learned through recycling at MMS.

Asher Anglin and Logan Collier, rising freshmen, said that they recognize that it is important to recycle and to live a sustainable lifestyle and agreed that their knowledge of recycling has increased since participating in the program.  They also expressed their enjoyment of their recycling project.  “Recycling at MMS is something that I looked forward to every Tuesday,” Collier said.  He later said that it made him think more of the importance of recycling.  Bordeaux said that Collier was the leader of the project during the 4th 9 weeks, who received extra hours because of his leadership.

Anglin said that he has taken the knowledge that he has learned while recycling at MMS and has applied it to other aspects of his daily routine.   He was “surprised” to find out that 7th grade recycling team voted unanimously to invite him to come back and continue the program for the final 9 weeks.

Bordeaux expressed pride in Anglin and Collier as well as the MMS scholars.  “Logan and Asher are two very important members of this recycling program,” she said, “I couldn’t have done recycling without the eighth graders this year.”

Anglin and Collier both said that the New Century Scholars program gives them more opportunities than if they weren’t in the program, and the recycling program was just one of the many opportunities offered to them.

Bordeaux concluded that this opportunity was a “recognized source of community service” and looked forward to next year’s results.

The New Century Scholars Program, which began in 1995, is a collaborative educational effort among the public schools in Macon, Jackson and Swain counties and Southwestern Community College.  The New Century Scholars program targets “high potential” students at the end of the sixth grade and provides extra support to those students through their middle school and high school years.  Students are nominated based on their potential for academic success, yearly promotion and leadership ability. Upon completion of high school, each student is awarded a tuition scholarship for each of his/her two years at Southwestern Community College.

For more info, contact Pam Collins at pam.collins@macon.k12.nc.us.

Tyler Cook is the summer intern at the Macon County School Administrative Offices.  He is a New Century Scholar alumni, completing the program in 2010. 

This article was published in The Franklin Press