Tag Archives: tourism

A Great Smoky Mountains Vintage Hankie

Quite a few years ago I ran across a 1940s playsuit in a novelty print that showed all the tourist spots in Western North Carolina.   At the time I was not really collecting; I was more of a vintage wearer.  So I passed on the piece, thinking I could not justify the $25 price tag.  Of course, it started to haunt me, and so I went back to the antique mall where I had spotted it.  And of course it had been sold.

Then about six or seven years ago I ran across another playsuit of the very same pattern in an Asheville store.  It is possible that it was the very same piece, but this time the price was $125.  My thrifty soul was challenged.  On one hand, I really,  really, wanted that playsuit, but on the other hand $125 was so much more than it had been before.   My cheap side won out and I left without it.  Unfortunately, the old haunting began again, and as before, when I returned the playsuit had been sold.

I’ve spent the years since searching for it online, but so far I’ve had no luck.  Still, I keep searching.

I did spot this hankie on ebay last week, and wasted no time in buying it.  And though it shows a wider region, it is still a nice vintage piece of the place that I call home. (Though my little town is not actually on the map…)

The maker was “Louise” of whom I have zero information.

My little town is located between Lake Junaluska and Asheville.

After I received this in the mail I set about trying to pinpoint a date.  The first thing that seemed to be a clue was the little skier.   He is located close to what is today the Cataloochee Ski Area, which was opened in 1961.  It is probable that people were actually skiing in the Great Smoky Mountains Park before that time, however.

Other clues were the lakes and dams shown.   All were built either by the TVA or by power companies in the 1920s and 1930s, the latest one shown being Norris Dam in 1936.  I’m not so sure that Louise was terribly familiar with this region, as there is only one Waterville Lake, not two as she pictured.

But the most puzzling clue was the Max Patch Landing Field.  Max Patch is a mountain of around 4600 feet.  It was cleared by farmers for pasture land in the early 19th century, and today it is considered to be quite isolated, even through the Appalachian Trail passes over it.  It is not exactly the place I’d ever want to land an airplane, but it seems as if starting in 1926, that is exactly what was happening.  I found a fantastic photo taken from the air of a biplane on top of the mountain.   Be sure to play around a bit with the photo, as it can be moved and enlarged, and make sure you note the cows.

According to a long time resident of the area, World War II ended the days of the Max Patch Landing Field.  Modern planes needed more surface in which to take off and land.

My best guess is very late 1930s, or possibly in the 1940s.

A word about stereotypes:

Another hint this is probably from the 40s is the gratuitous drawing of the black baby eating watermelon.  This was a pretty standard racist  motif that was used when depicting the South, and it makes no sense whatever for it to have been used considering that watermelons  need a longer growing season that we have here.  Note also the potato man, the Cherokee in Plains feather headdress and the lazy hillbilly playing the banjo.


Filed under Collecting, North Carolina

Mount Pisgah Mystery

Most people who visit western North Carolina plan on seeing the Biltmore House , the mansion that George Vanderbilt had built here in the mountains. Actually, there was another, lesser known Vanderbilt house here. There is a huge difference between the two, but both houses reflected the lifestyle of this very rich man.

This is Buck Springs Lodge, the Vanderbilt’s hunting camp house:

It was built in 1895, a few years after Biltmore House was completed.  By that time Vanderbilt had acquired all the land between the house and Mount Pisgah, which was about 17 miles away!  There was no road between Biltmore House and the mountain, only a rough hourse trail (which is now the Shut-in Trail, and is popular with hikers).  So the Vanderbilts build a road in order to get supplies up to the building site.

This was no rustic camp house.  In contrast to the homes of the people living in the area, the lodge had hot and cold running water, and electricity provided by a generator.  There was a large staff of servants and cooks, and while guests were taken hunting and hiking, they also dressed for dinner and enjoyed the lifestyle to which they were accustomed.

George Vanderbilt died in 1914 and 2 years later much of the land was sold by his widow to the Federal government for the creation of Pisgah National Forest.  She did keep Buck Springs Lodge and about 450 acres around it, and as she aged she spent more and more time there.  When she died in the late 50s, the house and land were sold to the government, and the lodge was torn down by the Park Service.

After Mount Pisgah became National Forest, the area became popular with campers and even day-trippers from Asheville.  In this early 1920s postcard, you see a scene titled “Camping near the foot of Mt. Pisgah, in “The Land of the Sky”.

I think it is interesting that one woman is wearing a white lingerie dress, while the others are more practically attired in knickers and sweaters.  I wonder how she kept that thing clean in the woods, cooking over a fire?  And note the little boy in his sailor suit!

People who wanted to camp and hike in the national forest west of Asheville often took the train to the city, and then hired a taxi to take them up the rough and winding roads to find a camping spot! At the base of the mountain they encountered the souvenir stand of Paul and Leota Pless, a local family who sold crafts made in the mountains to the tourists. According to an article in the Smoky Mountain News, written by Becky Johnson,  they offered items carved from Rhododendren wood that were then inscribed with “Mount Pisgah.”

Like this:

The above photos were sent to me by Mervin Meyers, who has been trying to find out more about his pipe.  I think it is safe to assume that the pipe was a product of the Pless’s store, but I’m not sure if that can be definitely proved.  But at any rate it is a fascinating part of western North Carolina history, and I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has information about this artifact.

And just one more postcard:

This postcard is not dated, but it’s sometime in the early 1920s.  Note that the women in front are wearing knickers, but that at least one woman is wearing a skirt.  That had to be an improvement on the way this would have looked just 15 years prior, with the women wearing corsets and skirts to the ankles!  I promise to rescan this one a litle larger and clearer.

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, North Carolina

Battleground Overlook, Circa 1922

Today has been such a perfect summer day that it reminded me of this photo I’ve been meaning to post.  Time: 1920s.  Place: Lookout Mountain: Tennessee or Georgia.  I can never remember where that battle took place.  Anyway, it overlooks the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and judging by the number of vintage photos one finds taken around this particular cannon, it must have been a popular spot.

I imagine this family was on a summer Sunday afternoon outing.  I love outing photos, and search them out.  It always amazes me to see how dressed they all are.  Today, they would probably be the object of many stares and not a few giggles.  But how special they look, and it must have punctuated the specialness of the trip.  In today’s go as you please atmosphere, it’s refreshing to see people who took pains to look their best when going out in public, even it that meant the side of a mountain.


Posted by Shay:

Georgia (it’s confusing because it is right on the border, looking down at Chattanooga, Tennessee), sight of “the battle above the clouds” during the Chattanooga campaign of 1863.

Monday, July 6th 2009 @ 6:18 PM

Posted by Shay:

“SITE” not sight. (sigh)

Monday, July 6th 2009 @ 6:18 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Thanks, Shay. I remember passing the state line sign, but wasn’t sure where the battleground fit into the picture. I didn’t realize that there is an actual town up there!

Tuesday, July 7th 2009 @ 6:56 PM


Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs

Looking for Vintage Cherokee

Yesterday my husband and I went to a local tourist spot, Cherokee, NC.  I had some vintage photos I wanted to compare to the way the town looks today so we took the whole afternoon to just ramble around the town and to look for the Cherokee of our childhoods.  The town has grown a lot, spread out, actually, due to a huge casino that was built outside of town about fifteen years ago.  But the little downtown, shown above still has the mom and pop appearance that it sported in the late 1950s postcard at the top.  Many of the buildings are still there, but the business have changed.  The Sequoia Restaurant with its fantastic neon sign is long gone, and the building now houses a leather shop.  And we could not tell if any of the buildings on the right were the same, as it looks like the widening of the road may have forced those to either be moved or rebuilt.

This one was a little harder to pinpoint.  I thought I knew exactly where it was taken, but I was wrong.  And the only way we finally spotted this was because of the stairs on the outside of the right side building in the vintage photo.  Look carefully at the modern photo to see a diagonal structure behind the Black Bear sign.  When we went over to look more closely, sure enough, there was an old outside staircase.  This was the old building with a new facade!

The teepee building not in this area, but the Tomahawk is still there, though now it is Fort Tomahawk and is greatly remodeled, or perhap even a new building.

I also wanted to photograph all the vintage neon signs that are remaining.  Several of the very best ones are gone, but we did locate some gems!

Love that by-line!

I can rembember the Pink Motel from my childhood.  We were on our way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when we passed by it, and my little sister, who was probably about 6 at the time, had a fit to stop there for the night!  The motel is still open, still a mom and pop, and seems to be doing well.  We went in (we spotted Pink  Motel tees in the window) and the woman in charge told us all about the place.  And she also said they are getting ready to repaint the sign.  The sign is pretty spectacular at night – all pink except the  wings and her swimsuit which are blue, and the star on the wand, which is yellow.

Yes, it really is pink, and pretty darn fantastic.  The rooms open up onto the river which runs along the back of the motel.

We also went by Mac’s Indian Village Cabins.  I would think that these date to the 1940s, but we could not find anyone who could tell us about them.  There are about 20 cabins, but several of them have been enlarged and updated.  The others, like the one I’m standing in front of, are tiny, with just enough room for a bed, a TV stand, and a sink.  There is a tiny bath on the rear of each.

One of the things that has always made Cherokee so much fun is the mixture of kitsch, bad history and just pure tackiness!  A group called Cherokee Travel and Tourism seems to be trying to battle this image with a series of slick ads stressing the culture of the Cherokee and the historical attractions.  They have put together one of the best free travel guides I’ve seen lately, and their website is beautifully done.   These are long on culture and history, short on tacky.  They seem to sincerely want visitors to get an authentic view of the Cherokee.

So I’m wondering why the Eastern Band still allows the presence of bear zoos inside the Qualla Boundary.  For a culture whose very survival depended upon respect for animals, why is this disrespect being allowed to continue?  Roadside bears in cages and pits were a common sight in the 50s and 60s, but public outcry has eliminated this practice.  But they are still allowed in several bear “zoos.”  I love finding the few remaining vestages of the Cherokee I remember, but there are some practices better left to the past.


Posted by Tracy M. Hall:

I am in love with your blog…found your pink motel photo on Flickr. thanks for sharing. I am so inspired by your images and stories..ready to get started on my own. Happy summer!

Monday, June 29th 2009 @ 10:41 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Tracy, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m happy to be an inspiration, so let me know what you set up for yourself!

Wednesday, July 1st 2009 @ 10:52 AM

Posted by Tara:

What an amazing little town!! It reminds me very much of Tulsa — I live along the longest strip of Route 66 in the U.S. and there are so many quirky, vintage places to discover.

Wednesday, July 1st 2009 @ 11:12 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Yes, it’s still got a very retro vibe about it, though the chains have really made their presence known in recent years. I didn’t bother to photograph the McDonald’s and Comfort Inn!Tulsa sounds like my sort of place!

Wednesday, July 1st 2009 @ 12:19 PM

Posted by Mod Betty:

Love this post, it is right up my alley! I’ve got the Pink Motel on my NC list if we ever get to the area, glad to see from your report that it’s neat and tidy! Will be linking this to my retroroadmap.com site!:)

Thursday, July 2nd 2009 @ 3:08 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Thanks Betty. I love your site as well! Glad to see you here.

Saturday, July 4th 2009 @ 5:29 AM

Posted by Terri:

Your pictures and blog are great. 🙂
Cherokee is my home town.

Tuesday, September 1st 2009 @ 4:40 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Terri, it was great hearing from a hometown gal! Thanks for stopping in.

Tuesday, September 1st 2009 @ 5:40 PM


Filed under North Carolina, Road Trip, Viewpoint

Beating the Heat Wave

It seems like half of the country is in the grips of a heat wave, and the other half has cool and rainy weather.  Here in the mountains, it has been quite nice after record-breaking heat over the weekend.

People flock to the mountains in the summer thinking it is very cool here, and it is cooler than other places in the South.  The coolest of all mountain places are the streams and rivers.  I spent many summer days in my childhood and youth, cooling off in the swimming holes of the Pigeon River.  Back in those days – before people felt that air conditioning was a necessity – people would commonly load the neighborhood kids in a truck, back it right up to the river bank, and use the tailgate as a makeshift diving board.

Even on the hottest days, the water was freezing!  In the photos above, which were taken from a 1940s tourist advertisement book called Gateways to the Smokies, the bathers on the dock were probably just glad to be there, and not actually in the water.  The streams in the high Smokies are even colder than the valley river I was most familiar with.

Side note:  I don’t think swimming au naturale had the same meaning in 1940 as it does today, or perhaps the brochure writers had a flair for the double entendre!

The photo below comes from a 1945 brochure advertising the Mountain View Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  This was back when people went to Gatlinburg to enjoy the mountains.  Now they visit Gatlingburg  to… well, for what I really can’t say.  To me it seems like the town is a huge money-sucking distraction to what should be the main attraction, the Smoky Mountains.

But back in the 40s, Gatlingburg was a place to stay, a home base, for exploring the mountains.  The hotel even planned day trips for their guests, complete with a box lunch.  They did horseback riding and fishing excursions.  The hotel was rustic, but it offered a level of service that is extremely rare today.


Posted by Gail:

In 1983, my family (husband, 2 children and me) passed through Gatlinburg on our way from Chicago to Orlando Florida. We thought it was the tackiest place we had ever seen. We continued into the Great Smokies and camped for 2 or 3 nights. We had a wonderful time. It was so cool and peaceful. I don’t think we swam in any of the streams, but I have pictures of my children wading.

Monday, June 29th 2009 @ 8:05 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Gail, you are so right, and unfortunately it is even worse now because there is so much more of it. The Smokies, on the other hand, remain as beautiful as ever!

Wednesday, July 1st 2009 @ 10:54 AM

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Filed under North Carolina, Summer Sports

Travel Diary, 1927

I love old journals and diaries, and I look for them at shows and on eBay when I’m motivated.  Usually they are priced out of my range, but I did get this one several years ago.  It was cheap, probably because the covers are in terrible shape, but take a look at the wonderful graphics within!

The book itself was published in 1914 (NOT a good time to be selling diaries for a trip to Europe, which is probably why there was still a supply of them in 1927!) by Kiggins & Tooker.  The diary was kept by Louise Mary Browne, who appears to be about 12 or 13.  She, along with her mother, father, and two brothers sailed on June 25, 1927 on the Carmania.  They arrived in La Harve on July 3, and began a trip across Europe that lasted at least until August 19th.

I say “at least” because that is where the diary abruptly stops, in mid sentence while describing the Tate Gallery.  I can imagine that she was exhausted, having been all over France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and England!  And her mother certainly was, trying to keep up with three kids and do all the sightseeing.  It seems like one or another of the brothers was always sick.  It’s truly an amazing read, just to see how much ground they covered, and to learn what was most important to this young girl.  Lunch seems to have played a major role in each day!


Filed under Travel, Vintage Travel

Envy Inducing Website

How I’d love to say that the graphics in this post are mine!  But, no, they belong to collector David Levine, who has posted much of his collection of travel brochures and ads on his website, Graphic Design from the 1920s and 1930s in Travel Ephemera.  It is truly an amazing collection of mainly European brochures, like the one above, a brochure from the Swedish American Line bar on the “Kungsholm,” 1933.

I really liked and appreciated his willingness to let people use his images freely as long as they credit him and link back to the site.  It would have been very easy, and certainly understandable, for him to watermark the images.  Instead, we get an unobstructed view of his graphics.

So if you are prepared to spend a little time exploring a wonderful site with some of the very best travel graphics, then visit David’s site.  Hint, if time is limited, at least check out his nautical section!

Advertisement “8 Crociere d’Estate in Mediterraneo – Atlantico – Mar Nero,” circa 1936.

Travel brochure for Aeroput Yugoslavia, circa 1935.

Travel brochure for Adelboden, Alpines Schwimm- und Sonnenbad, 1932.

All images in this post copyright David Levine.

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Filed under Collecting, Travel