Category Archives: john c. campbell
In 2008, my pal invited me to go to a square dance that was happening at an art gallery in Los Angeles. Michael Ismerio called the dance and Triple Chicken Foot played. I hadn’t square danced since childhood and didn’t know what Old Time music was, but by the evening’s end, I was hooked! Michael’s charisma and teaching style, along with the rip roaring tunes of the band won me over. I saw how the dancing and music could bring all types of people together in a personal way. Because of that night, I became a square dance die-hard, eventually learning to call. I met Bob Dalsemer at Dare to Be Square West in Seattle and that’s how I found out about the Folk School. And now everything has come full circle because just last week Michael came to the Folk School to teach fiddle, call a dance and play the concert.
Michael taught old time fiddle at the Folk School and capped off the week with treating us to a Friday Night Concert on March 8th 2013. What a wonderful night filled with old time tunes, ballads, and fiddlin’! Here is a sample snippet from a wonderful evening. The tune is “Chased Old Satan (Starry Crown)” with Michael on fiddle, Géraud on bass, Annie Fain on banjo, and Sandy on guitar.
I signed up for two community class at Tri-County today! The first is a 6 week class on Shoemaking taught by Peggy Patrick. Peggy also teaches shoemaking at the Folk School. Her classes are wildly popular and she is one of my favorite teachers. Peggy is also a wonderful old time musician, so I always hope that if I am in her vicinity maybe some musicality will magically rub off on me.
The second is called Chickens 101 – an intro to to Americas favorite bird with an emphasis on starting your own coop.
There is also a class on Bee Keeping that looks pretty tempting, but I thought 2 choices would be a good start! Stay tuned for class updates starting in February!
(This story was originally published on the Folk School Blog on January 10, 2013)
Clay’s Corner is an essential stop for many a Brasstown visitor. Sitting at the gateway to the Folk School, Clay’s is a country store that sells gas, ice cream, treats, toiletries, possum merchandise, and more. Every nook and cranny is filled with interesting curios and artifacts. Gas customers pump the gas first and then pay, setting the tone for the attitude that prevails at Clay’s: country hospitality, good faith, and community. Clay’s provides an authentic slice of down-home country living. As much of a community hub as a store, it is home to many a porch-sit, get together, music jam, and of course, the famous Brasstown Possum Drop.
Clay’s Corner has been in existence 23 years. Back in the 40s, the Caldwell family had a produce stand on the corner. In the 50s, they turned it into a service and convenience store. In the 1970s, the Caldwells sold it to Boyd Scroggs. Over the years, it passed through several hands until Clay saw that it was available. He went for it and struck a deal: Clay’s Corner was born!
The Possum Drop has inducted Clay’s Corner and Brasstown into the pantheon of incredible and offbeat community celebrations. The Possum Drop started in 1990 with just Clay, his family and some friends. Every year the numbers grew and soon it became a beloved community event promoting “good clean family fun.” Clay explains that there’s not much you can take you kids to on NYE because of the alcohol. The Possum Drop is a family affair – no alcohol allowed.
NY Times Reporter, Jeffrey Gettleman met Clay in 2003 and discovered the Possum Drop. On Dec. 31 2003, he wrote an article for the NY Times, “Keep Your Ball. We’ve Got the Possum.” After such widespread coverage, how could anyone resist the temptation of the Possum Drop? Thousands started to flock to Brasstown every year for NYE. National attention brought popularity, but it also brought the attention of animal activist group PETA.
With ongoing legal battles, Clay Logan kept folks wondering whether or not a live possum would be dropped this year. I visited Clay’s Corner the week before the 2013 Possum Drop and and the question on everyone’s mind was “What’s going on with the Possum Drop? Are you going to drop a possum this year?” I heard at least 3 customers ask this during the hour I hung out at Clay’s corner on a Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t even have to ask Clay directly, I just overheard his response, that he’s “not quite sure.”
Clay made a well-played move by dropping a box concealed by paintings of possums. It was impossible to tell what was in the box. Was there a possum in there? Who knows? Clay recited the famous line from Hamlet’s soliloquy “To Be or Not To Be?” We will never know what was in that box, but I think the point he made is that it doesn’t matter what’s in the box. What matters is that the community gets together and celebrates New Year’s. Even if a real possum didn’t drop, what you have left is a big family-friendly community party with great music and entertainment. The possum was the symbol that brought everyone together – a weird tradition – a reason, but the real gold of the Possum Drop is the gathering and the community.
I spotted Clay’s black Chevy in the place where the possum drops and pulled over to ask Clay a few questions. We had a nice sit-down and he cooked up lunch for me and a few other folks. Here’s what I found out…
Cory Marie: What happens on Friday Nights? There’s a jam, right?
Clay Logan: Folks get together. They bring instruments, we’ve been doing it for years.
CM: Are spectators welcome?
CL: Sure! We start around 7:30 or 8pm. We got chairs too.
CM: Do you play any instruments?
CL: My most musical part is my nose! I can pick it or blow it!
CM: What’s your favorite tune?
CL: “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home” and “Sail Away Ladies”
CM: Have you ever taken a class at the Folk School?
CL: I’ve been involved in the Folk School my whole life. I milked cows at the Folk School and attended Little/Middle when I was young. When I was a teenager we would always go to the Friday night dances. I haven’t taken a class as an adult.
CM: What would you take?
I’d take blacksmithing or wood turning – you know, the “manly” classes. Photography sounds good too.
CM: How did you learn to dance?
CL: I’d dance every Friday at the Folk School from the time I was 16-18 before I went into the service. We’d show up with our shirttails out and Marguerite Bidstrup demands shirttails tucked in! Boy did she crack the whip. She called me out a lot of times, but she liked me.
CM: What are you thoughts on swinging your partner?
CL: When I dance, honey, I dance hard. You gotta learn to swing and get up on the balls of your feet. This is basic stuff!
CM: What is your most popular possum merchandise item?
CL: The Glow-in-the-Dark Possum Shirt.
Be sure to stop by Clay’s Corner next time you come to the Folk School where you too can pick up a cold refreshing Cheerwine, a scoop of delicious ice cream, your very own Glow-In-the-Dark-Possum Shirt, and most importantly a dose of Southern hospitality. Visit the Clay’s Corner website for interesting Possum trivia, photos, and information.
Disclaimer: No live possums were hurt or traumatized in the acquisition of this article.
Today is my two year anniversary at the Folk School! I came here as a Work/Study student in January 2011. I now work part time in the Marketing Department doing art and graphics. My main responsibilities are the eNewsletters, writing blogs, and keeping up with the social media like Pinterest, Flickr, and Facebook. I’ve been working on the Folk School Pinterest Boards today! It’s looking good; I made a big update to the Clay Board today. If you are interested in reading my newsletters, you can sign up for the list on the Folk School site (Just look for the box in the left side bar).
Recently I was able to cross something off my personal lifetime to do list! Even before I came to the Folk School I knew that I wanted to design a poster for the school. This year I was asked to come up with a design for the biggest event of the whole year, the Folk School Annual Fall Festival. I was so honored and excited.
This is the finalized design:
I got a job! And then I got another job! And then I got ANOTHER job!
Yep! I am am busy girl these days. I am still working with Rob the Potter. I threw my first two pound pitcher and a oil burning lantern. I took a bunch of pottery with me to Los Angeles and sold almost every piece! I have also started an Etsy store for Rob and have been working on my own Etsy store as well. My site is still in progress, but please check out Smoke in the Mountains Pottery. I shot all the photography and wrote all the descriptions and am quite proud of it. It’s been one month since our launch and we have already sold 8 pieces, which I consider to be a great success.
About three months ago, I was hired by Blue Moon Elise (BMe), a wonderful store right in the heart of downtown Murphy. BMe is a a soap/bodycare store, yoga studio, soap factory, and massage studio all in one. The company was started over a decade ago by Rachel Sylvester, a passionate and fiercely motivated gal with a dream and vision; she is such an inspiration to me as a yoga teacher and a business owner. I am learning a ton about essential oils and natural bodycare. I go home reeking like lavender and patchouli everyday. It’s the kind of place that sells Dr. Bronners and ear candles, but it’s still boutiquey and lux and on the main street. In addition to all the BMe products, the shop sells other natural body care lines and lots of cool jewelry, crafts, food, clothes, cleaning supplies, and yoga gear. I have really amped up my yoga practice too; I am taking 4 classes a week. Another perk – I can ride my bike there!
About two weeks ago, a started working part time in the Folk School Marketing Dept. The job is just temporary for now, but I love it so far. I am doing graphic design, web updates, and blogging on the Folk School site. The marketing department is in Tower House down by the blacksmith shop. Tower house was built in 1933.
It is surrounded by rolling fields and the occasional cow strolls on by. It is rural, majestic and pastoral – the complete opposite of the grey congested smoggy concrete land of Commerce where I used to work. Sometimes when I walk around the Folk School grounds it is so beautiful I just want to cry. Coming to North Carolina was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
So the question on everyone’s mind is… are you staying out there? Well, my answer is that yes, I am staying here for now. I will be here through the summer and then I am going to reassess where I am at. I am horrible at permanence. I have a hard time committing out loud. I feel pretty committed to being here right now, and that’s all I have to say about that.
I do feel like the world has lots of adventures out there in store for me. One of the nice things about living out here and working various part time jobs is the flexibility of time to travel. Speaking of that, I booked a trip to Ireland in July! I am going for two weeks to meet up with my parents and Aunt Ann to go to the McAuliffe Clan Rally in New Market. My father’s mother’s maiden name is McAuliffe and that’s how I am connected to the McAuliffe linage. I am so excited to return to Ireland after 13 years.
Yep, life is pretty good right now!
I am now going to tell you about one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received.
I didn’t know what marquetry was until I came to the folk school, so I will let wikipedia enlighten you as to what it is in case you are in the same state I was.
Marquetry, according to wikipedia, is “the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to free-standing pictorial panels appreciated in their own right.” It is basically taking pieces of different color wood, cutting them into shapes, and inlaying them into a larger piece.
Leah took a marquetry class right after we took Bob Dalsemer’s dance calling class together. She decided her project would be not one, but two, identical boxes to hold calling cards: one for me and one for her. The image she chose was a photo of the two of us swinging at a dance in the community room:
I helped her to draw us as shapes in Adobe Illustrator and she took the printout to the woodworking studio and made wood magic. She made the most incredible boxes for us to hold our blossoming dance card collections. It was one of the most touching gifts anyone has ever given me… she freaking inlayed us in wood! How cool is that?
Thank you Leah! I will cherish my box forever.
Of course I had to get creative and put on my thinking cap to do something uber special for Leah. For her going away gift I made dividers and an assortment of custom made dance card for her. Here is an example of one of the cards:
I spent a little time fiddling around here at the Folk School…
I anticipated Cathy Grant‘s Beginning Fiddle class to be a little painful, spending a whole week in the music studio with discordant fiddles all day long. Every fiddler around had warned me that you need to spend at least 2-5 years playing before it even sounds like music. Although my first love is the banjo, Cathy got me off to a great start and it was a totally enjoyable week. Peggy Patrick assisted in the class. (Ted Cooley called her the mountain angel; she is tied for first place with Martha Owen as my favorite local claw hammer inspirational muse. I like to linger in their presences in the hope that show of their sweet old time goodness will rub off on me).
Learning how to play the fiddle helped me better understand how to play banjo with fiddles. Cathy also spent time talking about tuning and basic music theory which was so helpful. You like how my bow looks totally different in the photo above than everyone else’s bow? oops. Well, I was probably just playing chords since I didn’t grasp all the tunes. I anticipate that I will keep fiddling around until I achieve “acceptable at campfire” level.