Following my retirement from GE and after working on a local library project where a committee jointly produced a book of local history, I felt many of the human interest stories, not included within the book we produced, should also be recorded. I then set out to chronicle my own memories of the mill village where I grew up. Writing about the mill and the village people, I share some family history, and stories and tales which have a local slant but could easily have happened anywhere. The book after several revisions is My Tuxedo No Longer Fits-Memories of a Mill Village Brat. The people are real and the stories are at times humorous while others are more nostalgic and inspirational.
Textile mill villages once dotted the landscape of the South. Many have all but disappeared due to changing economic climates and foreign competition. Tuxedo, North Carolina was not only hit by these changes but the relocation of a major thouroughfare which split the village in half. This once thriving community is now only a skeleton of its best days when the mill was the focal point and backbone of its economy. Community businesses where village folk spent their hard earned income do not exist and have given way to interstate fueling and convenience type stores.(presently there is only one gas station)
As a youngster in the mill village , we had a community center, a commuity barn, a baseball field and the elementary school was close enough most of us mill village kids walked to school. Our interactions were no different from those of others in similar communities, we played and pulled tricks on one another, went to high school, graduated and many went on to furthur their education to institutions of higher learning;somehow, we all grew up and became productive citizens with the normal gamut of doctors, lawyers, business and professional men and women.
It is about these who were my community that I lovingly write. My mom once told me "city folks look upon mill village people as cotton mill trash", my obsrvation was the mill folk were a close knit caring community who were not at all pretentious or subordinate to any other social class of people. Precious memories, how they linger! Good. Bad. Inspirational. Funny. Sad. The range of emotions run throughout my l book.
There are no subtle or hidden meanings designed to motivate deep thought in my simple writings nor do I have an agenda or issue to address. Mine are just simple heartflet musings and it has been my desire all along that these might effectively and lovingly express my love for my family and my community.
My readers, those who still live here and some who have moved to other parts of the USA have given me good reviews. They thank me and brag to me making my head swell but I guess the greatest complement is to have someone read your material, enjoy the content, and feel good about their hometown and the people with whom they shared their lives. For this to happen is success that cannot be measured by numbers or dollars.
My book may never make a best sellers list or any notable list of creative works, but writing the book has given me a sense of accomplishment. The people and place of Tuxedo, North Carolina are part of my history and I am proud to have been a "mill village brat."
After completing My Tuxedo No Longer Fits, I wrote another book and I entitled it Green River I Have Returned-Is This Not the Land of Beulah. In this book, I share more memories and some other local traditions and heritage of Green River Township. Green River Township is the collective name given to the area(Tuxedo, Bobs Creek, Mountain Valley, Raven Rock,,Frog Level, Lake Summitt, and Zirconia)I include two favorite boyhood fishing stories, a special hike with my dad, a first love, farming and the local markets, some inspirational stories and other personal interest stories.
I also share a story about my son,Gary, who was born with a degenerative retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Gary has not allowed his affiction to curtail his life and has found an outlet in music. I also include a chapter about my own experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
It is my hope readers will enjoy the stories and be able to relate to their own life events.
Robert also is a musician and he and his family often sing at local churches and have sung for many funerals over the years. He plays guitar, banjo, and fiddle. Robert's son, Gary, is also a musician playing mandolin and guitar. The Ballard Family has a CD available which was made at a local church during one of their evening song and praise services. It is available on Lulu.com, just look at Robert Ballards Storefront.
Robert and Gary also have a standing jam which is held every Tuesday morning at Wayne Helm's Barber Shop beginning at 9 AM. The jam lasts until noon and local musicians come by for a morning of picking and grinning. There is usually coffee and doughnuts.