Letting Go of Appalachian Stereotypes

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In my desire to place my fiction in Appalachia, I’m reading about both the stereotypes and the real people and culture about which most of the world hasn’t learned. Below is a quote that nicely depicts the latter.

Even in the 1870′s, the Greenbriar White Sulphur Springs was the grandest of all the Virginia Springs hotels. The central hotel was “a remarkable structure, resembling the Krushal at the German baths rather than the vast palaces…of Saratoga.” It was “amply provided with verandas, with a huge ballroom and a colossal reception parlor.” Between the two was a “dining room three hundred feet long, in which twelve hundred guests may at once be seated.” The cottages were arranged along paths marked “Alabama, Louisiana, Paradise, Baltimore, Virginia, Georgia, Wolf, and Bachelor.” During “the early morning the parlor was filled with ladies who make their engagements for the day, and with the customary rows of invalids who chat cheerily.” But not one-tenth of those at such spas were there for the health-giving baths. Creative use of leisure time was spent making contracts and matches, which was the business of most. After the dinner hour, “the crowd separates into small parties, who linger on the verandas, or under the oaks, or along the shaded paths…where hundreds of hearts have been broken.”

~ Richard B. Drake, in his book A History of Appalachia, quoting the 1870s journalist Edward King.

The Romantic in me gobbles this up like a hound dog, but have you ever seen a hound dog eat? Not romantic.

photo thanks to katherine hanlon at unsplash.com
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