Great piece by Max Cooper in the Nov. 9 Xpress [“Asheville Argus: Eyes on the Street”]. His pictorial and verbal observations of today's Asheville amplify my misconceptions of the Asheville I experienced 70 years ago as a young GI in an infantry basic training camp in South Carolina.
It was hotter than hell in that camp many years ago during July, August and September — the hottest days of the year. Recruits were dropping like flies. Several even died. But we were at war, for our very existence. A new buddy I met at camp was a native of Asheville. A guy by the name of Lee. (A good Southern name.) I believe his daddy was mayor of the town at the time. Lee took me on a weekend pass to the cool, lush, mountain evenings of his home. It was like I'd died and gone to heaven. A paradise. That weekend of long ago has stayed with me through all my years, permanently etched in my mind.
So when the time came for my family to pull stakes from Chicago and look for greener pastures elsewhere, I retraced my early journey to Asheville. Unfortunately, after nearly 10 years in Asheville, and the death of my wife, I have managed to isolate myself on four wooded acres in town, only to discover, to my dismay, that life in Asheville merely offers a microcosm of the lifestyle I endured in Chicago for 45 years. It has become much worse thanks to the overwhelming greed that has gradually permeated our society over the years, as well as the present financial chaos that could well spell the end of our society as we know it.
At nearly 87 years old, I thought I had lived through and survived just about every disaster, even the Great Depression of the early ‘30s in which my father lost his home and his savings in a bank that closed during the bank holiday and never reopened.
So, if you believe several of the individuals Cooper portrayed in his piece appeared strange, better get ready for more. They appear to be the new standard for our nation. Homeless. Penniless. Family-less. Lost to all but God.
— Harry Jell Jr.