MAYBERRY/MARTEL VILLAGE Andy Hollifield 2-2-17
I have gotten caught up in the Facebook page, Woodfin Central University. Having grown up in Woodfin, my blood will always run blue and I will always be a Wolverine at heart. Some of my fondest memories in life are centered right in the heart of Martel Village which was originally owned by Martel Mills which Burlington Industries later acquired. It is hard to even find any info about Martel Mills anymore. With that being the case, I will rely on what little I know. Apparently, Martel Mills was based out of New York or Philadelphia and filed for business license in December 1933. I have been unable to find what year the plant opened in Asheville or when it was acquired by Burlington Industries but I did find that it had opened by 1940 and probably earlier. All of that is totally irrelevant to my article other than trying to establish the basis for the name. You don’t have to have a lot of imagination to look and see by the design of the houses that it was obviously a cotton mill village. It looks just like every other cotton mill village you have ever seen anywhere.
We moved to Martel Village when I was eight years old in May of 1973. One of my earliest memories took place right after we moved in. There was a torrential rain and our driveway was flooding. The small culvert under our sidewalk couldn’t carry that much water so it was running over the sidewalk and we had a pool about eight feet wide fifteen feet long and growing and ten to twelve inches deep. To keep our whole driveway from washing into the ditch, I went out in the rain with a shovel and started trying to dig a small ditch on the lower side to drain the water. While I was working, a man from across the street in the first house on Chinch Row came over and helped. His name was Bo Owenby. He worked at the mill and must have been working second or third shift to have been home in the afternoon. I thought it was awfully nice of him to help but what I didn’t know at that time was that I had just learned my first lesson about living in a neighborhood. You try to be a neighbor that your neighbors can count on and they will do the same for you. My early years had been spent in the head of Herron Cove in Weaverville where my moms family had grown up. We knew everyone on the dirt road back then and they knew us. This was kind of new to me for a stranger just to help cause it was needed because I hadn’t encountered that many strangers on Herron Cove.
Just to keep this from becoming a novel I will try to move on. My memories of the village are good ones. It didn’t take long to meet the neighborhood kids and a lot of them were around my age. Some of them have never left the village. Ray Stafford still lives in the house he grew up in and my mom still lives in our house. Ray’s mom Norma was always the first to come over if she seen the hood up on your car. She proved to be a pretty fair mechanic and a good neighbor. Ray had the coolest bike in the village, a yellow Schwinn Stingray. Then there was Little Andy Robinson. I was Big Andy only because I was older. Billy and Joyce Hampton and then later in their house came Bobby, Tammy, and Tonya Massey. Bobby was a little scrawny kid but turned into a real basketball player and one of my best friends. His dad Willie still let us play even after I put a wild hook shot through one of their storm windows. There was also Brian Sprinkle and Wesley Wilson and Kent Baxter. They were all cousins. Mikey and Sharon Hipps and Ricky Hensley, Lawrence Hillis, and Regina Weaver and Ray’s sister Diane Ballew. The neighborhood heart-throb had to be Stephanie Player. She also had a little sister named Jennifer. Then there was the Church Rd crowd Craig and Anita Carter, Rodney Cole, and my adopted kid sister Becky Debruhl. Janice and Teresa Willis, Debbie Ray, George and Michael Willis and I am sure a lot more that I am forgetting. Michael was in a wheelchair but had the biggest arms of any human I had ever seen. He rolled that chair everywhere and was lights out shooting basketball. There was also Roger and Ronnie Young and Randy and Jimmy Fox, William, JB, and Tina Gosnell, and Vince Watkins and his sisters and Charles and Charlene Bassett. Going down from the square toward the river was Mark Davis, Gary Owens, Mike and Gary Swann and their little brother, Alan Rogers and Derrick Desha. That was just the ones within three or four years of my age on either side. I have a brother and two sisters so with all us kids outside playing, summers could get loud.
That was before computers, cell phones, cable and satellite, and even before microwaves. Most people didn’t have air conditioning back then and a lot of times while we played, some of our moms would actually sit on the porch and talk. It wasn’t ever a problem to get up a ball game or maybe cops and robbers or cowboys and indians and if someone had gotten a new machine gun or army helmet at Roses, we played war. Sometimes in mid summer after the green apples started falling we had apple fights. When it was real intense, we would break a limb of the tree and spear the apple and fling it with deadly accuracy. I can still feel the marks they would leave. We played daylight to dark except for when we were doing chores. For any young readers, that was the house or yard work we were responsible for doing before we could go out and play. In the winter we still rode anything with wheels or anything slick. When it got to cold, us boys would take our hotwheels and go play with our cars in each others basement. It may not have seemed like much at the time but we were learning valuable social skills that a lot of kids and adults lack today. We learned how to interact and disagree. We even learned to fight for and against each other. But tomorrow, we would be back outside playing again.
We didn’t play all the time. I spent a lot of time each summer cutting the kudzu on the bank behind the house. We didn’t need a gym because we had a swingblade and a rake and a good supply of elbow grease. We also had to mow our own grass and if you wanted any money, you tried to work for all the neighbors you could. I had such good neighbors that when I was 14, I decided I was going to ride back to Utica, New York with my uncle when he came down for vacation in the summer. Of course I did have to wait for mom and dad to decide if I could. Once I got their approval, I found out how much a bus ticket was going to cost me to get home and started working. I had neighbors that I hadn’t ever worked for that got wind that I was working to pay my way, and they kept me busy all the time that spring and early summer. One hundred seventy-five or two hundred dollars was a lot of money in 1979. I rode that Greyhound all the way home by myself about 24 hours altogether. I saw my first peddler trying to sell hash on the street in Cleveland and also the first fancy hooker I had seen working the bus station. Back then a kid could make a trip like that but I wouldn’t even think of letting a kid do that now.
We traded hot wheels, toy guns, bicycles and parts, and even helped each other build bicycles. We built ramps and tree houses and kept the grass wore off of Margaret Jones yard playing ball and she didn’t seem to mind a bit. We grew up in a village that if you done anything you wasn’t supposed to, someone would call your parents before you got home. I suppose there would have been occasions where a neighbor would have “wore you out” and then called your mom and you would have got it again when you got home. We didn’t disrespect our elders or any adult because word would have got back to dad eventually and there would have been a price to pay. Our big thrill in the summer was when the Biltmore Dairy ice cream truck would come by. Before it closed, we would walk up to Shooks grocery and sell our coke bottles and give him his dime right back buying ice cream. We always waved at Arval Metcalf that drove the city bus when he went by. We knew him from riding the bus to town with our aunt on Saturday mornings. We knew around 3:00 to stay away from the road because that is when the first shift let out at the mill. We had a crowd that hung out on the square and us younger kids tried to steer clear of it. They might have been drinking which wasn’t uncommon at all. There was always a lot of smoking going on. It would be nice if that was the biggest problem we had now wouldn’t it?
Well I guess I have rambled long enough. I just wanted to take a little trip down memory lane and thought some company might be nice. You may get out of the village but the village never gets out of you. Some of you reading this shared those days with me. If you did, thanks for making my time in Mayberry, oops I mean “the village”, better than a kid could hope for. If you weren’t there, I hate it for you. You missed a great time. Thanks for indulging me and allowing me to get on the lighter side a little today. If you want some scripture to go along with my story it would be this: Philippians 4:11 ” Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8 “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!