Tuesday History: Extra, extra, read all about it!

PATTON AND HAYWOOD: Long before the drum circle found its beat, the Post Office stood on the site of today's Pritchard Park. The building was razed in 1932. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

We continue with Edwin Bedford Jeffress’ 1950 Asheville Citizen article, “Jeffress, Former Newspaperman Here, Describes Asheville of 1908-1911.” Last week, Jeffress reminisced on his time teaching at The Bingham School. This week’s section looks at his life as a reporter, writing for The Asheville Gazette-News.

Thanks as always to the Pack Memorial Library’s Special Collections, North Carolina Room for its assistance. Thanks to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial for additional information, as well. For our previous excerpt from Jeffress, click here.

On March 26, 1950, Jeffress wrote:

At the time I started to work, The Asheville Gazette-News office was on Court or Pack Square next door to that haven of the poorly paid reporter. The U-need-a-dairy-lunch was a place where a quick meal could be obtained by perching on the stools. The lunch was a highly patronized place because of its economical meals. It was operated by a Mr. Jackson. The rear of the office opened on East College Street, close by that “Skeleton” which so long was a subject of comment on the streets, and a pain to progressive citizens who felt this was a blot on the Asheville scenery, which the town was trying so hard to sell along with the climate to visitors from hot country. It seems that the Miller estate owned a large body of the land on the corner of College and North Main Street and undertook to build a hotel at the corner. Court action, however, stopped construction after a concrete frame-up. Litigation covering several years involved the project. When at last at the sale by the court, a combination made up of John A. Lange, who operated Glen Rock Hotel opposite the Southern station, and Gay Green, a local man who had achieved property, bid in the skeleton and agreed to finish it[.] Asheville took them to their hearts as great public benefactors. When finished, the name Lan-Gren was given in honor of the two public benefactors.

THE SQUARE: A view of Pack Square from its southeast corner, where the Jackson Building stands today. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina
THE SQUARE: A view of Pack Square from its southeast corner, where the Jackson Building stands today. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

At the time I entered newspaper work, the street cars still congregated at the Square every 15 minutes. There were many people there and it was an opportunity for a reporter to spend a few minutes profitably. We had to do a lot of leg work. The field was highly competitive and each paper had a big “hole” available for news. Across the Square, still stood “Look Homeward, Angel” [Thomas Wolfe’s father’s tombstone shop] at the corner where the Jackson Building now stands. “Queen Elizabeth” [the name of the madame in “Look Homeward, Angel,” based off of real-life resident and madame, Elizabeth Stroud] and her entourage had to round that corner up on her trips up town.

The Police Court, held daily in the city court room and presided over by Judge Phil Cocke, was always big news, as the lively docket with a multiple assortment of cases nearly always provided one thriller.

The chief and newest office building in Asheville at that time was the Oates Building at the corner of Market and Square. It was the custom for nearly everyone to go down Patton Avenue to the Post Office, which was in a brown-faced building on the corner of Haywood Street and Patton Avenue [modern day Pritchard Park]. Hence, in a few moments in the lobby of the Post Office could be found many news sources while the people were waiting for the balance of the mail to be put up. In those days mails were few and the papers did not reach Asheville until No. 36 arrived in the night from Salisbury, which brought the New York papers. The North Carolina papers did not arrive until mid-afternoon. The News and Observer [Raleigh-based] had just announced in a red ink streamer that it had a ten thousand circulation, which was greater than any in North Carolina. At the time, after a popularity contest had closed, it was disclosed that the use of many prizes had given them a boost.

Next week Jeffress talks politics and about the first car to come to Asheville.


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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