When the Parkway Came

A book about the Blue Ridge Parkway for young readers

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Great day in Floyd, Virginia, 5/29

(Original post date: May 30, 2010)

We had a wonderful time yesterday sitting in the sunshine under a dogwood tree at the Floyd County Historical Society Museum’s grand opening, in the old Ridgemont Hospital building in Floyd (1913-23). We’d been invited up to have a display and sales table for When the Parkway Came, since Floyd is very near the Parkway and there’s a lot of interest there in its history. We also took along copies of Anne’s Super-Scenic Motorway, as well as David’s All That Is Native and Fine, since Floyd is also an area where people are very interested in the history of Appalachian music.

The efforts to create the Floyd County museum, described in some detail at the event, stemmed from at least 1976, when local citizens inspired by the American Bicentennial celebrations organized the Historical Society and began local building and archival preservation efforts. The community’s perseverance and devotion to these efforts over the years is an inspiring demonstration of how much local history means to people — how it helps them to place themselves in the world and root themselves in a place.

We found everyone we talked with deeply interested in the history of the Parkway and region as well — which meant we sold lots of books! But just as interesting to us was the resonance of When the Parkway Came‘s themes with what we heard from people we spoke with in Floyd. Almost to a person, people wanted to share with us either that (a) one of their ancestors had worked on the Parkway — in the CCC, in surveying, in construction, or other related work; or (b) that someone in their family had had land taken for the Parkway.

People buying Scenic often asked if there was anything in the book about the landowners (there’s lots). And of course, the Miller family in When the Parkway Came finds itself touched both by land acquisition and work opportunities related to the Parkway’s advent. Being in Floyd reminded us, again, how it seems that people who live in the Parkway region and love the park still need to find their voices and their painful histories acknowledged in re-tellings of the Parkway’s story. Community engagement with the Parkway in the future will, it seems to us, be enhanced by more honest acknowledgment of the pain leftover from some elements of the Parkway’s past.

Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Symposium

(Original post date: April 26, 2010)

We had a great time in Boone last weekend for Part I of the two-part Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary symposium, “Imagining the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 21st Century: History, Scenery, Conservation and Community”.  Although it was a small gathering, it was really valuable to me to be in a group of people who been intimately involved in working on, for, or with the Parkway. This group included presentations by a number of scholars who have done intensive and serious research about everything from toxic residues in soils at the Moses Cone Estate to regional tourism development to mapping of scenic views and areas of potential landslides using very sophisticated GIS and aerial photography techniques. I was pleased to see a rough cut of an in-progress documentary that is probably the most complicated and complex presentation I’ve ever seen in film form of the Parkway’s history.  I was especially proud to have my UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries colleagues Natasha Smith and Elise Warshavsky there to help me discuss our “Driving Through Time” digital Parkway project, now gently launched in a beta version. Although it will be many months before the full archives begin to come online, we were able to give the audience a taste of the project by demonstrating a bit of the effect of the georeferenced historical maps that will enable visitors to envision how the Parkway changed the lands through which it came. Finally, it was inspiring to see on display at the symposium much of the excellent Parkway work being carried on by many departments at Appalachian State University, our host for the weekend. Brought together in recent years under the able leadership of Parkway-University liaison, Prof. Neva Specht, ASU students and faculty are doing impressive work across the disciplines in what seems to us a way that exemplifies the best of what a publicly engaged university ought to be doing.

Book approved for sale in Parkway shops

(Original post date: February 19, 2010)

We’ve just learned from our colleagues at the Blue Ridge Parkway and at Eastern National, the nonprofit organization providing educational materials for sale in many National Parks, that When the Parkway Came has been approved for sale this season in the Parkway shops! We’re of course delighted about this and thank everyone involved for making it happen.

Great time at Flyleaf

(Original post date January 24, 2010)

Thanks to all our friends who came out to Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Friday night for our inaugural public discussion of When the Parkway Came! We really enjoyed getting to read from the book and talk about how it came to be, especially with some of the folks who have helped us along the way.

We especially appreciated the presence of children’s author and illustrator Clay Carmichael, whose 2009 novel Wild Things has received much well-deserved acclaim recently, and her husband, Carrboro sculptor Mike Roig. In various informal chats as we were working out together at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA, Clay has been a fount of valuable information about the weird and foreign world of children’s book publishing, about which both David and I were almost completely ignorant upon starting this project.

And it was so gratifying also to have Chapel Hill Public Library children’s librarian Susan Smialowicz there, too. She remembered that almost two years ago we had both talked to her about our idea for the book, and she had pointed us in the direction of some other similar books from which we might get ideas (e.g. Jane Yolen’s Letting Swift River Go, about Massachusetts’ Quabbin Reservoir).

Thanks again to Sarah Carr and her colleagues at Flyleaf for reaching out and getting us off to such a fantastic start!’

Flyleaf books in Chapel Hill hosts our inaugural event, Jan 22

(Original post date: January 11, 2010)

We were excited this past Saturday night to attend the grand opening of Chapel Hill’s new independent bookstore, Flyleaf Books, and we’re even more excited that Flyleaf will host our opening event to discuss When the Parkway Came on Friday, January 22nd at 7:00 p.m. We hope you will all join us, along with your children! We’ll read from the book and talk a bit about how it came to be.

Located at the bottom of the hill near Foster’s on Martin Luther King/Airport Rd., Flyleaf has a capacious, attractive space with an especially good special-events room (formerly the yoga space when this was a fitness center). There was a huge crowd there Saturday, evidence of Chapel Hill’s pent-up desire for an independent bookstore with parking! (The Bull’s Head on the UNC campus is great and has a much larger inventory at present, but it’s almost impossible to get to if you’re not already on campus.)

One fun tidbit that we learned while there is that one of the store’s owners, Sarah Carr, has her M.A. from North Carolina State University’s Public History program, one of the oldest and best public history programs in the state. I took an “Introduction to Public History” graduate course there in 2002 with longtime program director John David Smith (now at UNC-Charlotte). That course was tremendously helpful in my development as a public historian. Archives and other historical sites all over North Carolina are ably staffed by graduates of this program, and I’m delighted to find that a public historian is also behind Flyleaf Books.

Please join us there on January 22nd at 7.

Parkway 75th anniversary year is here!

(Original post date: January 5, 2010)

Well, at long last, it’s here — 2010, year of the official celebration of the Parkway’s 75th anniversary! As a member of the Blue Ridge Parkway 75 board of directors, I look forward to being involved in the celebrations and conversations about the Parkway all year. For now, you can check out plans for 75th anniversary events at the official Blue Ridge Parkway 75 website [now defunct].

Snowed out of Fancy Gap

(Original post date: December 5, 2009)

Well, I had planned to be in Fancy Gap, VA today with the children’s book, but the first major winter storm of the season has put an end to that plan.  A call this morning to my friends at the Inn at Orchard Gap revealed that a wet snow was already falling and that icy roads were a risk.  We’ve elected to stay put in Chapel Hill.  I hope to plan another trip to Fancy Gap sometime in the near future!

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