Radio Show “Stories of Mountain Folk” Records the Vanishing Heritage of Western NC

Posted by | August 6, 2012

Stories of Mountain Folk is an ongoing all-sound oral history program produced by Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA), a western North Carolina not-for-profit, for local radio and online distribution; then archived through the Hunter Library Digital Collections at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

“Storytelling has always been important to me,” says Amy Ammons Garza, co-founder of CSA, originator of the program. “Growing up in Tuckasegee, I learned first hand about the wisdom and pioneering strength of the mountain people through the stories Grandpa told me–stories passed down and reinforced by other members of our family and the community. Now, as I interview each community member for the radio show, I once more hear the stories I love…first hand stories of the lives of mountain people…told with such wisdom and insight into our past!

Amy Ammons Garza interviews 103- year-old Jean Christy from Andrews NC -- May 23, 2009

Amy Ammons Garza interviews 103- year-old Jean Christy from Andrews NC -- May 23, 2009

“Western North Carolina is fortunate, for we have a culture here that goes back thousands of years–the culture of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Storytelling has always been important to the Cherokee! For centuries, tales of Cherokee history and folklore have been passed from generation to generation in spoken form, most likely at day’s end by the light of a campfire. CSA wishes to capture that heritage.”

“I believe Stories of Mountain Folk is one of the most ‘telling’ programs in the region,” says Robert Jumper, Travel and Tourism Manager of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “Like a good home-cooked meal, you get to experience the flavor of Western North Carolina in a one-hour audio format instead of on a plate. Stories of Mountain Folk touches a chord with anyone who listens, whether it is a outlander passing through, catching the program for the first time, or actual mountain folk listening in fond remembrance of bygone days. The producers’ devotion to accurately capturing the memories of both the Cherokee and Appalachian peoples are why we are proud sponsors of Stories of Mountain Folk.”

The culture of the African-Appalachian in western North Carolina goes back to the early 1800‘s. The story of a culture that went from “slavery to Congress” is now coming forth with the efforts of a few local black storytellers, one of whom is Victoria A. Casey McDonald, one of CSA’s interviewers. “I became interested in our heritage in the late 1900’s when our family began to do reunions,” she says. “I would ask questions, and was unable to get many answers. This only encouraged me to dig more into our history here in the mountains, and what I found was mind blowing! Stories of Mountain Folk helps me save our oral heritage.”

Stories of Mountain Folk epitomizes the mission of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia…to preserve the disappearing heritages of our area and honor our creativity. Each hour-long program contains four interviews with interesting people from all cultures whose heritage grew out of western North Carolina, woven together with original songs and the musical talents of local songwriters and entertainers. The program is announced and produced by WRGC radio personality Neal Hearn from Franklin, and the interviews are conducted by six interviewers who walk into a home or a business with a recorder in her hand…each with a different topic, but with the same focus: Doreyl Ammons Cain (Creative Corner), Amy Ammons Garza (Stories of Mountain Folk), Judy Rhodes (Down Another Road), Victoria A. Casey McDonald (Black Roots of Appalachia), Krista Robb and Nicole Jarosinski (Apple Butter–today’s young Appalachians)–all members of the board of directors for CSA.

With it’s fourth year of production on the horizon, Stories of Mountain Folk is first heard each week at 9am on WRGC Radio, then online,  and finally, all programs are available through Hunter Library’s Digital Programs, which creates online access to regional material. Over 200 radio programs capture “local memory” detailing traditions, events, and life stories of mountain people.

The hour-long radio show is aired every Saturday morning at 9am on it’s home station, WRGC Jackson County Radio, 540 AM on the dial, broadcasting out of Sylva, North Carolina. The show is sponsored by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Mountain View Manor & Rehab, and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Sponsors of the program online are the Jackson County Arts Council, Champion Credit Union in Canton, and Mountain View Manor & Rehab in Bryson City.

3 Responses

  • Cassie Clark says:

    I think this is an awesome program and a wonderful way to share/preserve a dying Appalachian art. Thank you so much for sharing it. I posted it on Facebook… I’m hoping some of my Haywood County family will think about participating. :)

  • [...] Dave Tabler at Appalachian History wrote this gem on a program that is currently ongoing in Western North Carolina to preserve the dying oral history tradition:  Radio Show “Stories of Mountain Folk” Records the Vanishing Heritage of Western NC [...]

  • BobMarshall says:

    I am glad to see this happening since have twenty years of research on the McCalls and Owens of both northeastern Georgia, Walhalla, S.C. and the towns of Highlands, Franklin and Cashiers, N.C. My grandmother, born near Rabun Bald in Georgia in 1898 and her dad being the Sheriff of Rabun Country at the time is the reason i am visiting the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City today. Soon, there won’t be many old timers left to tell their stories of life in the Appalachians. Glad to see your are keeping these stories alive.

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