O.Henry Ending

Joyful Expectations

Art, like life, is in the eye of the beholder

By Lindsay Moore

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. — A.A. Milne

Whether negative or positive, expectations are part of what makes us human.

In the United States, most people have positive expectations from mid-November to New Year’s Eve. Filled with excitement and anticipation, they fuel their minds and spirits with hope amid the sorrows and challenges of life.

My Aunt Sallie, a native of Mayodan, lived every day with expectancy. In 1979, she moved to Greensboro. By age 36, she had opened an art gallery and had become a founding member of the Greensboro branch of the English-Speaking Union, serving in 1986 as a delegate to the World Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

These events were significant because when my aunt was 16, she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. At the time, the medical world estimated her life expectancy would be about 40. However, the medical world had grossly underestimated her expectations.

While over time her disease diminished her quality of life — she slowly lost her sight and had kidney and pancreas transplants — it never lessened her expectant spirit. In her 62 years, my aunt served as president of the Greensboro Opera. She also worked for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, where she implemented the annual orchestral program in Rockingham County’s public schools — the very school system that had educated us. Encouraging my own expectations was also a large part of her mission.

One of my favorite memories was our trip in 2004 to the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. My aunt had been invited by the director to a private viewing of the Picasso-Matisse exhibit. She asked me to join her so I could visually describe the paintings to her. While I offered my observations, my aunt’s spirit grew with excitement. As she shared her own thoughts, she inspired in me an ability to see the familiar paintings in a way that I had never expected. Despite being blind, she saw the paintings, not with her sight, but by using sensory memory.

She made the works of art come alive in a way that neither my textbooks nor my professors had anticipated.

My aunt could see more because she employed her senses of taste, sound and smell to deepen her experience with the paintings. She remembered food she had tasted, music she had heard and texture she had felt during her travels and life experiences. She related these to each painting’s cultural heritage, enabling me to see it in a new light. Her senses enhanced the beauty she saw in the world through her soul and mind rather than her eyes.

For many, the time following the holidays is difficult because the days are cold and often do not offer joyful expectations. However, when I reflect on my aunt’s expectant spirit, I am inspired to expect joy during seasons that might otherwise seem unbearably dark. Like her, some people live with dark, seemingly hopeless circumstances. However, when we live like my Aunt Sallie and share our lives and talents with joyful expectancy, we inspire others to experience and share the same joy.

Expectations color our experience. They fill us with dread or excitement. They affect how we experience events. We often hear the phrase “choose joy,” but perhaps you might prefer to follow my Aunt Sallie’s life and expect joy.  OH

Though living alongside the Mayo River in Rockingham County, Lindsay Moore is connected to Greensboro through the spirit of Howard Coble and her love of the local arts scene. 

January Almanac 2022

January is a waltz between a warm den and the bleak and frigid landscape.

Inside, movement is unhurried, ritualistic. The fire crackles. The gentle cadence of the cat lapping water is a dreamy incantation. You drift into the kitchen. Creaky floorboards spill their secrets in your wake.

From the deep silence of this winter morning, each sound is its own poem. Even the coffee has a pulse, cascading from dripper to mug like a dark and fragrant river. The rhythmic clanking of sugar spoon against ceramic mimics rustic wind chimes. A plume of steam dances like a risen cobra.

Outside, dawn slowly breaks. A lonely titmouse greets the day. No need to rush. Trust. You’ll know when it’s time to leave the den.

Whether you’re walking to the car or the woodshed or a mile down the road, you are ready for a sacred pilgrimage. Days like today, when the air stings like nettle, invisible treasure is afoot: silence for deep listening; stillness for the same; nothingness to spark discovery.

As your feet drum against the frozen earth, consider the world that sleeps below: the dormant roots and seeds, the creatures cozy in their burrows. And when the soft light kisses your windburned face, consider the sun, ceaselessly rising, ceaselessly giving of its warmth. Consider how you are both — the dreamer and the rising sun.

January gives you what you need. The wind sweeps through what’s still here and the titmouse sings out. You hum a few shaky notes, unearth buried treasure on the long waltz home.

All That Simmers

The new year calls for a fresh start. Or at least a fragrant simmer pot. Creating a stovetop potpourri can be a fun and soothing ritual. Start with a pot of water. Consider what you’d like to invoke: brightness (lemon slices), warmth (cinnamon sticks) or clarity (rosemary sprigs)?

There are very few rules.

Bring the water to a boil. Add your ingredients. Reduce the potion to a simmer. Enjoy.

Allow this aromatic blend to work its healing magic on your space for up to several hours — but be sure to add more water as needed.


Winter should not be considered as only negation and destruction. It is a secret and inward working of powers, which in spring will burst into visible activity.

—Henry James Slack, The Ministry of the Beautiful


New Year’s Dip

In the Netherlands, thousands plunge into the icy waters of the North Sea each year on New Year’s Day.

Doesn’t a warm bath sound better?

And on January 4 — in the dark, earliest hours — a celestial shower.

This year, thanks to a sylph of a crescent moon, conditions look good for the annual Quadrantids, a spectacle known to light up the night sky with up to 40 brilliant meteors per hour.

Bundle up. Bring hot tea. Make a wish.

The New Bohemians

Revitalizing a Tudor home with light and love

By Cynthia Adam     Photographs by Amy Freeman

A new chapter in an historic Sunset Hills home is being written by renovation warriors Adrienne Johnston and Zach Haines, who are bringing light and youth to a venerable, old home. Seth, their beloved pet, may just be their design avatar, as he has already benefitted from their redesigns.

For instance, Seth ambles past Johnston, silently crossing the sun-soaked kitchen to a new French door. Pausing nonchalantly to push it open, he heads outdoors.

The owners considered all angles in making their redesign functional, and the new door, which opens to a side garden, was installed with him in mind. “And for the light and access,” Johnston says.

As the French door silently opened then closed behind him, I squeaked, “How’d he do that?”

“I installed a spring hinge on the door so Seth can let himself in,” she grinned. “I get that reaction a lot.”

Seth may have been the inspiration for certain design decisions, but seems not to appreciate the smart herringbone pattern of the new kitchen floor. Nor did he notice the sparkling white quartz countertops that arrived to Johnston’s delight just that week — about snout high by his reckoning. He was immune to all the subtle details, from ceiling to floors, that his owners spent months poring over and selecting.

The neutral and large kitchen — the beating “heart of the house” — became the initial focus of the couple’s efforts. The kitchen, in fact, is where Johnston — a marketing director working in sales and product development for Culp Inc. in High Point — often works remotely, as pandemic norms called for new ways of using available space. “I also move to the sun porch. I don’t like working from only one space.”

Then Johnston anticipates the next question as Seth remerges in the kitchen: “What is he?” she quips about their 70-pound dog. “Much larger than I expected.”

As it happens, “DNA revealed that Seth’s a Bernese Mountain Dog mixed with Brussels Griffon and a little bit of poodle. I owned him a year before I met Zach.”

And consider this: The couple married just last summer, midst a flurry of renovations and a stubbornly unending pandemic.

Haines is the head soccer coach at High Point University. He walks into the kitchen, refilling a coffee mug, before heading out on a recruiting trip to South Carolina. “I really enjoy recruiting,” he says, encouraged by having completed a strong season.

Following a five-year program at North Carolina State in design and textiles, Johnston went to work with Culp, a leading provider of upholstery and mattress fabrics. She also works on occasional fabric projects with designer friend Linda Lane.

“I met Zach about a month after he moved here to become head soccer coach at HPU,” she says. Haines had just relocated to the Triad from Denver, and, while he grew up in Jamestown, most of his friends now live elsewhere. 

At that time, he was living in Winston-Salem and Johnston was living in Greensboro, yet both worked in High Point. They met April 7, 2019, for coffee at Krankies in Winston-Salem — and ended up staying for hours, but not for the java.

The two shared mutual good friends, and their connection, Haines says, was instantaneous. Even soccer played a role in their relationship.

“He had gone to Carolina and played soccer there. I grew up playing soccer,” she adds. “So, we both love the [soccer] series Ted Lasso.”

Johnston then lived in a bungalow on Wright Avenue nearby, one that was in the process of being remodeled. Haines moved in and liked the house despite its small size.

Now the couple, with Seth firmly by their side, are joyfully restoring their first truly major reno, one spring hinge, refinished floor, relocated wall and aesthetic update, at a time. 

Room by lovely room.

They have wasted no time in pulling the 1926 Tudor into the 2020s.

The first floor is largely completed apart from one room off the kitchen.  The second floor is still under renovation. The rustic third floor, Haines’ lair, is both home office and a sportsman’s retreat, just as he likes it.

No matter the many hours logged as DIYers, the couple is as in love with the house as they were when they found it. Dauntless and dogged remodelers, they have earned their chops. 

“It made sense. I liked the financial aspect of buying this house,” Haines says. “Adrienne liked the design aspect.”

She was no stranger to fixer-uppers, taking mental notes as her parents renovated at least five houses during her youth in Raleigh.

“My parents would fix up the house while we lived in it and flip it,” Johnston says. “I grew up interested in the redoing craze … obsessed with (the television show) Trading Spaces when a kid.”

Proof of her obsession?

“I had a ‘Trading Spaces’ themed 10? 12? birthday party where my friend had to come help me paint my bedroom, sew curtains, paint furniture, etc.” At the time, she had a bedroom downstairs with an adjacent bathroom: “My parents let me paint the bathroom bright fuchsia, along with the ceiling in my bedroom. They were always very encouraging and supportive of all of my art endeavors,” she says.

Handily, Johnston’s folks live in Sunset Hills on Madison Avenue, becoming avid pet sitters when renovation calls.

“My love for houses came from my mom — one thing we’ve always bonded over, spending free time rearranging furniture (all the time), styling shelves, drawing a million dream floor plans of our houses just for fun.”

Now in her early 30s, Johnston’s youthful obsession was about to be put to test.

“Zach and I had started thinking seriously for first time about buying a fixer upper. We put an offer in on a house that didn’t work out. We looked at others.” Yet Johnston was conflicted. 

“I didn’t think I could love a house as much as my first house.”

The pair resolved to stay put and renovate the bungalow’s small kitchen and back porch. Assisted by Lane, the kitchen redesign opened up and improved on an already charming home. Then they walked straight into their destiny.

“We were two weeks into that kitchen renovation when we were out on our daily walk and came across the for-sale sign in the front yard of a Greenway Drive house,” Johnston says.

An imposing, large Tudor was situated on a heavily shaded corner near a park. “It was big,” Johnston thought uncertainly.

“But Zach was smitten.” 

They made an immediate appointment to see the house.

“Zach was already 100 percent convinced before we showed up [to meet the Realtor]. I was hesitant because I’ve never really liked Tudors … and this house was very big. And we had just started a renovation!”

Perhaps too big.

The Tudor was triple the square footage of their bungalow, she says. Then, she smiles. “I have to say I was pretty sold the minute we walked in.”

Again, blame the pandemic. Blame Johnston’s need for a project. But neither Johnston nor Haines wanted to rethink it. The Tudor had to be theirs, and the couple made an offer on the spot. They later rented the bungalow to a close friend.

Johnston, formerly a sworn “maximalist,” found the “new” house comfortable and cozy, if a bit closed off and dark. It needed a bit of minimalizing.

The couple celebrated with champagne in the empty house after the owner kindly offered a key. “We had the most fun afternoon, brought a cooler over and popped champagne in the house that hopefully was going to be ours,” she recalls.

“We got to know the owner, Jenny [Forbis], during the buying process,” she says. They found her absolutely charming. What’s more, “she loved this house so incredibly much. She had raised her kids and grandkids here and wanted to sell it to someone who would love it as much as she loved it.”

More excitement was afoot.

“Zach and I got engaged three days before we closed on the house,” she adds. “I was completely shocked because I didn’t think he had a ring yet.”

The couple took possession July 8, 2020, working on the house a month before moving in. They took down wallpaper, ripped up carpet, refinished floors and painted every surface.

“The flow of the downstairs was strange and kind of tricky to figure out,” she says. They knew they wanted to do a big renovation but couldn’t resist living in the space before they started. “Zach put together the budget.”

“Very practical,” she adds. “In typical Adrienne and Zach fashion we started renovating the (Tudor) kitchen two months before our wedding.”

They got married in Manteo on July 24, 2021. There was a perfect full moon, they recall, and they pared the guest list down to 100 given COVID. After a trip to Ocracoke, the newlyweds returned to a massive project.

“Linda had taught me quite a bit during the renovation at the bungalow, so she was an incredible resource,” Johnston says. “Also, we got lucky with great subcontractors. One is just incredible.” She coyly jokes about withholding his name given artisans are in high demand. “And having people you trust on the job is key,” she adds. Meanwhile both mothers, who are design and artistically savvy, were helping.”

“I tell him he married his mother,” Johnston jokes, exploding with laughter. He is surrounded by designing women, she says.

Her mother studied art history at UNC. Haines’ mother is an interior designer. The couple faced a sprawling project that would benefit by the input of both mothers and designer friend Lane.

But Johnston, who “always underestimates herself,” according to Haines, had spent years of college inside design labs. She wanted the redesigned kitchen to be calm, sophisticated and a little bit dramatic — new classics with a light touch.

She prepared an immediate punch list:

1. Move the back door to central location to help with flow.

2. Create sight lines between kitchen and den. (House always felt very disconnected between staircase.)

3. Add more windows to kitchen for more natural light. (very dark, and I can’t handle a dark kitchen.)

4. Add side yard access for our dog.

5. Have a kitchen area where people can hang out since they entertain a lot and both of them love to cook.

Inspired “by an Amber Interiors kitchen I had seen on Instagram, I used that to help guide my decisions,” Johnston says. “I started taking [online] SketchUp courses for interiors because I don’t have a computer-aided design system,” she says. She also happened upon floorplanner.com, which, she says, is “not super advanced but got the job done. It also helped me be able to pitch different layouts to Zach because they have a 3D mode to visualize things beyond just a flat floor plan.”

Using Photoshop to figure out proportions and fixtures, Johnston determined how tall the backsplash would be, the scale and placement of light fixtures, countertops, and even the configuration of cabinetry and hardware.

The couple knocked out a wall, filling six garbage cans with rubble.

“There were no sight lines, so we opened it up,” Johnston says. 

The previous owner’s design relied on a rainbow of colors, wallpapers, stained glass and faux painted surfaces. “The interior was wild,” Johnston says.

Stained glass throughout the house was not original but part of a prior reno. One window “seemed ecclesiastical,” Lane notes. And light blocking.

Tudors famously lack natural light.

“And light,” Lane adds “is the key to these houses.” 

Fortuitously, a friend of the couple worked with Visual Comfort lighting and stayed with them during the High Point markets. She suggested classic pendant and other kitchen lights and made lighting suggestions elsewhere. One was brought straight from the showroom.

The emerging décor is an evolution of the couple’s style. Johnston mixed family pieces from both sides. An inherited vintage sofa in a luminous fabric from an aunt in Palm Beach is a focal point in the breakfast area. A vintage chair and console from Haines’ family are in the living room.

Johnston layered organic finishes, neutral colors and a mix of vintage and new rugs. She spent time, mastering hand weaving, dyeing fabric and screen printing. 

A vivid weaving of her own hangs in the breakfast area, inspired by one from Ghana over the living room sofa.

Influences from time spent in Ghana and Prague bring eclectic color to a neutral ground. The home’s new interiors are chic, lighter, more luminous.

“I always thought I’d be a maximalist, but I’m surprised I wanted it calm and quiet,” she says. “I chose classic colors and finishes.” Viewing this as a long-term home made her avoid trends. It has, in her words, “influenced decisions.”

In the living room, an art book about new bohemians is in a stack of art books, opposite a velvet mossy brown sofa upholstered with nail heads, snagged at a West Elm sale.

Mid-century slipper chairs were found at High Point Antique’s Center. These are Johnston’s prized possession. By sheer luck, Johnston discovered the coffee table originally belonging with the chairs at Lindley Park Vintage.

The third floor, Johnston says, is her husband’s domain, leading to a large, masculine space with a dart board and TV screens.

“Zach has free rein in the attic room; he comes up here every single night,” she says. “As a college soccer coach, he watches a lot of film and can work here.”

They have lots of plans to entertain, especially wanting to invite family members of the original builder over.

Generations of families over a century have loved the home.  “Jenny loved this house,” Johnston says. “We love this house.”

Luckily, Johnston and Haines, who both love renovating, have found just the place to keep that love alive for years to come.

As for now, Johnston cannot imagine trading spaces with anyone.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Droll, Deft and Delightful

Marie Stone-van Vuuren colors her art with realism and wit

By Maria Johnson

How would a crow hold a cup of tea?

Set aside, for a moment, the larger question of why a crow would hold a cup of tea.

Right now, it’s enough to know that Greensboro artist Marie Stone-van Vuuren was determined to figure out how.

She studied pictures of crows’ feet.

Real crows’ feet, not the kind women are supposed to care about.

Tiger Beetle, 15 x 12 inches, watercolor
Tiger Beetle, 15 x 12 inches, watercolor


She took modeling clay, rolled out four knobby bird toes — three in front, one aft — and wrapped them around the handle of an earthenware mug until she knew exactly how a crow would latch on.

Which brings us back to the question of why a crow would do such a thing.

Answer: Because Stone-van Vuuren wanted it to.

Because she lives in a neighborhood full of crows, and they’re always in her visual field, pecking and cawing at her imagination.

Because the idea struck her as funny and absurd — a lowly crow taking a spot of tea, just as a distinguished Brit might.

Cicada, 8 x 10 inches, watercolor and ink
Cicada, 8 x 10 inches, watercolor and ink


Australian Velvet Worm, 13 x 11 inches, watercolor and ink
Australian Velvet Worm, 13 x 11 inches, watercolor and ink


When you look at it that way — and understand that one of Stone-van Vuuren’s favorite books is Young Years: Best Loved Stories and Poems for Little Children, an illustrated volume from 1960 — it seems inevitable that she would take up watercolor and ink to create three crows standing shoulder to shoulder, thinking crow-ish thoughts, while one pauses for refreshment.

Crow Takes Tea is one of her most popular pieces, in terms of affection and sales.

Which is nice, but not necessary.

What’s necessary is for Stone-van Vuuren to be delighted by her work.

“I’m not the kind of artist who likes edgy, dark, crude subjects,” she says, brushing off the notion that heavyweight art rests on heavy subjects.

A is for Ant, 24 x 16 inches, watercolor and ink


“Maybe it’s academia that puts that idea out there. I don’t know. But it doesn’t leave room for the silly, the delightful, the fanciful,” she says. “I just want to be a lighter person.”

Growing up in Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s, Stone-van Vuuren endured enough trauma to last a lifetime.

Her home was burglarized. Two friends were shot. She lived with domestic violence and alcoholism. Her congenital hip dysplasia required five surgeries.

“I was bullied and teased because I walked funny,” she says.

Art was a refuge. In high school, she drew portraits of musician Frank Zappa and taped them inside her locker. She decorated the chalkware lamps and statuary that her parents fabricated in their shop in Hamtramck, a blue-collar appendage of the Motor City. Her father showed her how to create faux surfaces, a skill that shows up in her work today.

Crow Takes Tea, 37 x 20 inches, watercolor and ink
Crow Takes Tea, 37 x 20 inches, watercolor and ink


“He taught me how to marble and do some weird effects,” she says.

When Stone-van Vuuren was 19, her parents moved to High Point to be near the furniture industry. She followed later, typing and organizing her way through administrative jobs at United Guaranty, the Greensboro Jaycees and the Center for Creative Leadership.

She crossed departmental lines at CCL.

“I went from administrative work to IT because I was really good with computers. I was on the help desk for a while, then I got into project management, and they were like, ‘Ooo, you can do graphic design,’ so I did more and more of that,” she says.

When a career counselor suggested that she get a bachelor’s degree, Stone-van Vuuren became a contractor to CCL and enrolled at Guilford College, at age 35, to study music.

The Bat, 3 x 5 inches, watercolor and ink
The Bat, 3 x 5 inches, watercolor and ink


But even with a degree — she taught classical guitar for a few years after graduating — music never came as easily as graphic design.

“I realized I was good at it, and I loved it,” she says with a smile. “It was all CCL’s fault.”

Visual art became her mainstay. She set two tracks for herself: a practical path for money and a whimsical path for joy.

As a freelance designer and project manager, she took — and continues to take — jobs from a variety of clients. She draws business logos, devises fundraising campaigns, illustrates books, paints pet portraits and renders site plans and buildings for developers.

“I married my love of art with my business savvy,” she says. “I found a way to join those two things. It’s like a Reese’s Cup, you know?”

For pleasure, she picks up a brush and turns her imagination loose — a practice she considers vital to her growth.

“When you get into the people-pleasing stuff, your art is on a slippery slope,” she says.

Stone-van Vuuren spends many happy hours in her home studio, spilling watercolors, ink and mica onto paper to create dreamy backgrounds. She might add reactive agents, such as salt or alcohol. Sometimes, she prints her abstract broths with leaves, grasses or other textured material.

To reveal pockets of chromatic energy, she snips the dried paper into card-size pieces. If a foreground figure suggests itself, she coaxes it out with ink or watercolor.

Other times, starting with a subject in mind, she sketches an image on paper, paints the shape with a rubberized masking fluid then drizzles color over the resist. When the background dries, she peels off the coating and fills in the blanks with her characters.

She favors outcasts — bugs, crows, squirrels, cats and the like.

“I like to shine a light on things people don’t like. I will make you like them. They might not be pretty, but if you look deeply, the beauty is there. Maybe if I draw it big enough, I can help you see it,” she says.

She can go textbook on her subjects, zooming in to reveal subtle patterns, hues and symmetry. Goliath beetles never looked so charming.

She can go storybook, too, bestowing her critters with human behaviors and accessories.

A wolf wears a red scarf.

A goat mouths a pair of eyeglasses by one temple.

A praying mantis answers a knock at its door.

Three cats, dressed as the Magi, proceed bearing gifts.

Mr. Scuttle Finds His Inner Child, 6 x 9 inches, watercolor and ink


A cockroach known as Mr. Scuttles lies on his back, spiny arms linked behind his head as he meditates.

Mr. Scuttles is a stock character in Stone-van Vuuren’s menagerie. She first drew him in the fall of 2019 as a part of Inktober, an online challenge that feeds artists daily prompts.

For the prompt “ring,” she drew Mr. Scuttles tapping a desk bell for service.

For “wild,” she put him astride a chopper-style motorcycle.

For “ancient,” she wrapped him like a mummy in toilet paper.

“Everybody loved Mr. Scuttles,” she says. “He’s funny. He’s a cockroach. It’s ironic.”

She points to a February 2020 group exhibit at The Artery Gallery in Greensboro, her last show before COVID hit. The works depicting Mr. Scuttles scurried out of the shop quickly. The gallery asked her to bring whatever cockroach art she had left.

“I think we sold almost all of it,” says Esia Ackley, co-owner of the gallery. “In fact, I purchased one. It’s Mr. Scuttles drinking tea. He’s in my kitchen. Other people might be like, ‘Why would you put that in your kitchen?’ but I like it. It looks like Mr. Scuttles could have a wonderful conversation with you. There’s a whole story you can imagine about it.”

Clark Whittington is another fan of Stone-van Vuuren’s work. He owns Art-o-mat, a Winston-Salem–based company that converts old cigarette vending machines into art dispensers and leases them to high-traffic businesses. AOM stocks the machines with $5 works from an international pool of creators, most of whom view the pocket-size art as a calling card that could lead to bigger projects.

“Marie always over-delivers,” Whittington says. “She doesn’t compromise her work just because of what’re selling.”

Her works for AOM — she confirms they’ve sparked lots of commissions — include 50-piece runs of bugs, robots, big-screen monsters and famous film directors.

Her love of cinema, especially costume and set design, extends to collaborations with her husband, filmmaker Stephen van Vuuren, whose best-known work is In Saturn’s Rings, a 2018 theater-released documentary narrated by LeVar Burton. (Read more in the June 2015 issue of O.Henry: https://issuu.com/ohenrymag/docs/june_2015_oh_ad_list/42)

Stephen van Vuuren also shoots and does postproduction work on commercials, music videos and indie films.

The couple’s company, SV2 Studios, embraces the creative output of both.

“We’re not following a conventional approach to life,” Marie Stone-van Vuuren says. “But any other way, and we would kind of be dead inside.”

She has stayed busy since the pandemic began. She continues to sell through fineartamerica.com and pixels.com, which reproduce her images on prints, pillows, tote bags, cards, yoga mats, and face masks among other items.

At 62, Stone-van Vuuren will resume gallery shows when she feels safe asking people to assemble indoors. She’s tinkering with the idea of virtual shows. She’s also reflecting on the nature of her work

“I kind of wanted to pause anyway, to take a step back and think about what I want to do in this next chapter. Moving forward, what does my art look like? I like to explore and do different things. We’re multifaceted people, and I think art should reflect that. I just want to see what else is in there and what will emerge if I give it room.”

Recently, she finished an Art-o-mat series featuring a notch-eared, crooked-tailed cat penned with a playful, mid-century flair.

“Is it high art? Nah,” she says. “But is it fun? Yeah.”

If the kitty tickles other people, that’s a bonus.

“It’s good to know my art is making people laugh in a good way,” she says. “Finding delight is a righteous goal.”  OH

See more of Stone-van Vuuren’s work at mariestoneart.com.

Head in The Clouds

A short oral history of Piedmont Airlines

By Billy Ingram


Let’s face it. Commercial flying has devolved into traveling in a cloud-bound cattle car. Not only is there no decent cud to chew on, but the onboard entertainment too often consists of free-for-alls up and down the fuselage, flight attendants overwhelmed by Karens and Kevins prone to engage in unrestrained, unctuous behavior. Blanket or last-minute cancellations, overbooked flights, intrusive security measures, soaring ticket prices, interminable terminal wait times, claustrophobic accommodations — all adding up to an overall unpleasant experience.

That wasn’t always the case. There was once a homegrown airline with a can-do spirit, piloting truly friendly skies. A bygone era when flying was a genuine pleasure, when stepping through the airplane door made you feel as if you’d already arrived home. Piedmont Airlines was the vision of Winston-Salem entrepreneur Thomas Henry Davis (1918-1999), who transformed a ragtag collection of nearly obsolete aircraft into a world-class operation — and perhaps the most beloved air passenger carrier of all time. But don’t take my word for it.

Chris Runge, curator for Piedmont Aviation Historical Society: Piedmont Airlines started out as Camel City Flying Service in Winston-Salem. Piedmont CEO Tom Davis was asked to purchase [the company] in 1939. He changed it to Piedmont Aviation in 1940, they trained pilots for World War II — both in Winston and in Greensboro. When the war was over, he had all these employees, so he started an airline because he didn’t want to lay off all these people. They started out with three DC-3s. The first flight was February 20th of 1948. They were known as the puddle-jumping airline.

Capt. John Williams, Piedmont Airlines pilot from 19791989: Any time you’re a small-scale operation like that, they refer to [you] as a puddle jumper. In the beginning, Piedmont didn’t go too far away from North Carolina. The farthest they went on their first flights was Cincinnati.

Richard Eller, author of Piedmont Airlines A Complete History, 1948-1989: In the ’60s, Winston-Salem expanded rapidly due to several large industries that were really much bigger than the city itself. But they made Winston-Salem so much more important. Think about R.J. Reynolds [Tobacco Co.], which had been there for a very long time; Krispy Kreme was there; TW Garner [the makers of Texas Pete]; Hanes. And Piedmont was one of those really big companies.

Chris Runge: Piedmont made Winston-Salem the busiest airport in the state in 1963, based on departures. It had a huge impact on the city. There was the headquarters, a reservation center . . . They had a fabric center, a woodworking center, Piedmont Aerospace Institute. It was a really big deal.

John Williams: First off, it was not a job. Practically everybody knew everybody. Practically everybody knew everybody’s family. Who was sick, who’s going on vacation. It wasn’t a busybody, put-your-nose-in-somebody-else’s-business thing. It’s just like you were working with your family. That term, family — that needs to be stressed because after having worked for USAir, US Airways . . . American and Delta, none of them even vaguely resembled Piedmont Airlines. They were overly businesslike, very cool and efficient. At Piedmont, you were pretty much on a first-name basis with everybody.

Holley Greene Rogers, Piedmont Airlines flight attendant from 1983-1989: In the early ’80s, the job market was not that great. Every 23 year old in North Carolina was trying to get a job as a flight attendant with Piedmont. I thought I’d just do it for a few years and ended up staying for 22 years (with Piedmont and then US Airways). It’s not really a career choice; it’s a lifestyle.

They still allowed smoking when I got hired in ’83. I had to keep my uniform in a separate closet — it stunk so bad from the smoke. Flight attendants work hard today, but they don’t serve meals like we used to. We used to sling out a hot meal between Greensboro and New York, give everybody a hot towel, give them two drinks, clean up that cart and land. We really worked but it was still so much fun.

Sharon Carroll Williams, Piedmont Airlines flight attendant from 1984-1989: It was all about attractiveness when I started. Flight attendants had to be at least 5′ 3″ and you couldn’t wear glasses. They weighed us. You had to be a certain weight to get the job, and we never knew when we opened the door of an aircraft whether our supervisor would be standing there, which meant it was time to get weighed again. In the 1990s, airlines stopped doing weight checks because it was considered discrimination. The airlines found a way around this. During our yearly FAA [evacuation simulations], they made us exit through the smallest window, so that became the way they evaluated your weight.

Before I started, you could not be married and be a flight attendant. That was a strict rule. If you got married as a flight attendant in the ’60s and ’70s, you had to quit your job.

Holley Greene Rogers: The longer you stayed, the more seniority you accrued. You’re given a pay number the day you’re hired and that’s your number forever. That dictates whether you get on a flight or whether someone senior gets on ahead of you. The pilots never wanted to leave an employee at the gate. Something Piedmont would do, they’d say, “C’mon, you can ride jumpseat in the cockpit.” You would never see that with an airline today.

Chris Runge: The 727 has what you call your rear air stairs — the stairs that come out of the back of the plane. If a passenger missed a flight and the plane was halfway down the tarmac, the agent would call out to the plane, they’d stop, the pilot would drop the air stairs. The passenger would run out on the tarmac, jump up the back of the plane and they’d lift it up and go. Their motto was “Don’t leave anybody behind. Ever.” And they didn’t.

Richard Eller: The pilots were seemingly having the time of their lives. Because they flew to the same places a lot, that created a kind of family between the pilots and flight attendants and the people there. They stayed in the same places, they partied in the same hotels. There was a camaraderie.

Holley Greene Rogers: Every pilot I ever flew with was a gentleman. I never had any Piedmont pilots harass me in any way whatsoever. But they would tell some off-color jokes.

John Williams: Yes, we would share an off-color joke every once in a while — if you knew that nobody was going to get offended. But for the most part, we were encouraged to be southern gentlemen. We had a good time. There’s no question about it . . . but it was very businesslike in the cockpits and on the aircraft.

Capt. Lori Cline, Piedmont Airlines pilot from 1984-1989: I was not just the youngest female captain ever. I was the youngest captain, period. You cannot command an aircraft as a captain until you’re 23. I was able to get my certification on my birthday and I flew that day with my fourth stripe. So, conceivably, there can be no one younger. That was when I was with Atlantis Airlines [Eastern Express].

I was about the 14th . . .16th woman pilot hired at Piedmont. So, there had been many trailblazers before me. Of course, there were always pilots that had never flown with a woman before. It’d be like, “Oh, another woman in my cockpit.” That was a difficult time. They wanted to not like women pilots, but then, when they saw that you were professional and you were a nice person it’s like, well OK, maybe this isn’t so bad.

Holley Greene Rogers: Tom Davis understood that your employees are the greatest asset you have, and he treated us like gold. His son was a pilot and his daughter was a flight attendant for Piedmont.

John Williams: I flew Tom Davis a lot. He had a home in Wilmington, and we would fly from Winston or Greensboro, fly him down there as a passenger all the time. The thing that amazed me about him was — and I’m sure he probably had help — but he would come through the cockpit and greet everybody by their first name. That impressed me, that he went to that detail. He was quite the gentleman and scholar, just a great guy.

Chris Runge: Tom Davis made a point of knowing everybody’s name and that’s the one thing everyone will always tell you: that “he always called me by my name.” What they didn’t know was that, before he would enter a station on the system, whether it be Greensboro or Fayetteville or Richmond, he had a little black notebook and he would check it. Because the last time he was there, he would write down “tall red hair, David. Short black hair, Joe.” He would go over that list, refresh himself with their names.

Lori Cline: Piedmont was very progressive, even for the ’80s. There’s a famous picture of myself in the right seat of a 727 with Bill Wilkerson, who is a captain of color, and a young flight engineer who couldn’t have been 21. We took [the photo below] in 1986. That was very progressive for an airline to have an African-American as a captain and a female co-pilot on a 727. We didn’t take the photograph because it was anything we were trying to document. Captain Wilkerson had just gotten a new camera for his birthday and he said, “Let’s take a picture.” We re-created it for the 70th anniversary celebration of Piedmont Airlines in 2018 and presented it to the N.C. Transportation Museum.

You look back at it now as airlines struggle for diversity today and, gosh, Piedmont was doing it back in the ’80s. I think that says a lot about Tom Davis’ vision for the future of what the airline flight deck components should look like.

Chris Runge: One of the things that employees thought was most special at Christmas was that everyone got a crisp, brand-new $100 bill from Mr. Davis. He would deliver it to them personally. Eventually the airline grew into a major carrier with 24,000 employees, so he couldn’t hand deliver each one, but you do the math — 24,000 employees times a hundred bucks.

Lori Cline: One year we got $100 for Christmas and a check to pay for the taxes. Turkeys at Thanksgiving. They took good care of their people.

Holley Greene Rogers: I’m a baby at Christmas. I like to be home with my family. I only had to work my first two Christmases because they hired so many people after me. I usually had to work New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t care about that. It would be a little hard to be in a hotel with your crew, but the crew would always do something, somebody would bring some good food and cookies and we’d just make the best of it, you know? Sometimes you might be in New York or some lovely town with beautiful lights and you could walk around and see the sights. It was over before you knew it.

Lori Cline: I loved to fly Christmas. I didn’t have children at the time, so I would purposely fly Christmas because I always thought people with kids should be able to get to stay at home. You brought gifts for your crew, you brought a little Christmas tree, decked out the galley and decorated as best you could. And everybody would be in such great spirits and have a great layover. If you couldn’t be with your at-home family, you were with your airline family on a really special day.

John Williams: I only had one Christmas that I worked. That was just by pure happenstance. Lots and lots of New Year’s, but I volunteered to do those. A lot of people like to party on New Year’s. I never did, so I flew a lot of those flights. Got a good night’s sleep in a hotel room.

Chris Runge: Piedmont was named “Airline of the Year” in 1984. They started service to Los Angeles on April 1st of that year. You would fly from Greensboro to Charlotte and have a brief layover. That’s when they would board all the passengers who purchased the nonstop flight to L.A. They needed what was called extended range aircraft, the 727-200.

But they weren’t ready. They used the regular 727, which didn’t have the capacity to go all the way across the country without refueling. So they’d have to stop at places like Tulsa and, because they didn’t give the passengers nonstop service, at the end of the flight the pilot would come around and pass out $100 bills to first-class, $50 bills to coach. People would get off the plane and say, “You know, if you do this all the time, we don’t care about Tulsa. We’ll fly with you every time we come out here.” They were just so big on customer service. I mean, that was number one.

Lori Cline: Without a doubt, my favorite airplane of all time was the Boeing 727 for Piedmont Airlines, which was a workhorse for the industry during the ’70s and ’80s before it was retired for being considered inefficient, fuel-wise, due to its third engine. And to this day, before I retire, if I could get to fly one airplane again, it would be that classic Cadillac one last time.

John Williams: The 727 series was just a horse. It was a great flying airplane. I also liked the 767, both of them are Boeings. You can pretty much say any of the Boeings were tip-top, number one, but my absolute favorite was the 727.

I’m lucky. I’ve never had an engine shut down on its own. Never had a fire while airborne. Our training, by the way — I need to say this out loud — our training department fully equipped each and every pilot with all the tools necessary to react to anything that happened. They taught you every nut and bolt on the airplane. Our 727 training was, if anything, overkill. Components you couldn’t touch, that you couldn’t access, but you knew what it was, where it was and how to treat it in case something went wrong. The training these days? The emphasis on detail has been detuned.

Lori Cline: Piedmont’s flight training was known to be one of the more difficult schools. I remember watching an entire slide presentation on the windshield wiper assembly and the nuts and bolts that held the windshield wipers onto the windscreen and thought, “Oh, my God. It was like a 20-minute presentation on the windshield wipers. We haven’t even gotten to the engine yet!”

Sharon Carroll Williams: I tell this story in my book [Life at 36,000 Feet: Where Faith and Fear Connect]. One close call happened in Roanoke where the Captain couldn’t determine whether the landing gear was fully locked into position before landing. When landing gear fails to hold and an aircraft needed to “belly in” for a landing, it meant an increased risk of fire. As the captain explained the situation over the intercom, the passengers got really quiet. So we had to ready the cabin for an emergency landing, which included instructing everyone in the brace position, then we went about securing everything. When I looked out the windows, I could see all the firetrucks ready with the foam. When the landing gear held tight, the passengers erupted into cheers and applause.


Holley Greene Rogers: Piedmont was bought by USAir in ’89, but mostly everybody I flew with was hired by Piedmont. It was a completely different attitude. It wasn’t the same at all. We always hoped it would be Piedmont buying USAir, but stockholders wanted to cash in, so that’s how it turned out.

Richard Eller: They always called it a merger, but it really wasn’t. The old adage that some people quoted to me was that, “We’re going to blend cool Northern efficiency with warm Southern hospitality,” and that didn’t work. In those last couple of years, after USAir bought Piedmont, they tried to run it as two separate airlines. That didn’t work. People used to refer to them as Useless Air.

Chris Runge: August 4th of 1989 was the last flight. That’s when the real dismantling of Piedmont began. USAir started to institute their policies and their way of doing things. They ended service to the smaller cities. And gosh, they just . . . I mean . . . morale sunk, passenger complaints soared. They went from first to worst in so many categories like on-time performance, lost baggage . . .

Richard Eller: Every person I interviewed for the book and the documentary [Speedbird: The History of Piedmont Airlines] truly regarded Piedmont as a family. One of the pilots said that he was asked one time, “What are you going to do for Christmas? You going home to your wife and kids? Or are you going to hang out with your family?” Meaning the airline.

A couple of pilots said they told Mr. Davis that, if he wanted to start another airline someplace else, they would quit their jobs and follow him. It’s a testament to the kind of company that Tom Davis built with Piedmont, how loyal these folks were.

Rick Amme, news anchor WXII, Aug. 4, 1989: I said it all week and I’ll say it again: The Piedmont will not be the same without Piedmont Airlines.  OH

Billy Ingram’s book Hamburger2, (mostly) about Greensboro, is available as a free PDF for your Kindle or other devices at tvparty.com/1-hamburger.html


Photographs Courtesy of the Piedmont Aviation Historical Society

Poem January 2022

Against Desirelessness


The heart needs more than quiet,

more than a home without desire.

Sorry old masters, before I can let go,

won’t I need to be holding on,

refusing to let something loose?

In my fist, I hold the aroma

of spring, of roses, of mown grass.

In my ear, I can still hear the creek

and the wren’s song turned to scold,

as the snake comes down the tree

from her emptied nest. The touch

of the breeze as I open my palm.

— Paul Jones, author of Something Wonderful

Wandering Billy

A Star Is Born

The rise and fall of State Street’s most beloved — and naughty — movie theater


By Billy Eye

“I don’t take movies seriously and anyone who does is in for a headache.” — Bette Davis

It’s a shame the Star Theatre is remembered, if it’s remembered at all, as what it became and not what it meant in the 1950s and ’60s when it was the center of the entertainment universe for kids residing in the Bears Den, Hamtown, Koontz Town, O.Henry Oaks, Pomona, Proximity, Rankin, Revolution, Tenn Acres and White Oak neighborhoods, known collectively today as McAdoo Heights.

Beginning in the 1920s, State Street emerged slowly as a shopping mecca for those aforementioned unincorporated enclaves. By the late 1940s, the avenue was anchored by North Side Grocery, Kindley’s Place Beer Hall, Marshburn’s Cafe, Moore’s 5 to $1.00 Store and Lois Beauty Salon. These mom-and-pop ventures were replacing the rapidly closing mill villages’ company stores.

After construction was completed in 1949, the Star Theatre became State Street’s main attraction — a second-run movie house projecting well-worn, repaired-with-a-tomahawk prints handed down after their run at more prestigious venues, saddled with multiple sprockets popping, truncated scenes.

Vivian Saunders Kivett was born the same year the Star opened. “My mom took us there when we were real little. When I was 12 years old, my parents would let us go there by ourselves,” she says. “It was our thing; we’d get out of school on Friday and go over there Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday.”

With a capacity of 300 fannies, the Star was owned and operated by the Lashleys, by all accounts a warm and loving middle-aged couple. Kivett describes Mr. [Carl] Lashley as, “tall, kind of stout, both he and his wife dressed like they were going to church. He always wore a sweater and a bow tie. Mrs. [Virgie] Lashley had the prettiest white silver hair, always perfect, a beautiful woman in word and action. Funny, we never knew the Lashleys’ first names or thought to ask if they had children of their own.”

In 1963, 14-year-old Kivett was hired as an usher for the Star. “Mr. Lashley knew me well, knew my mom and dad so I did that for three or four years,” she says. If the crew was thirsty, Mrs. Lashley would pour them a concoction she dreamed up. “She would put a little bit of orange soda in the cup, mix in some Coke, a little bit of cherry smash and she called it ‘bourbon.’ We thought we were really drinking something special,” Kivett recalls with a chuckle. 

“You didn’t have a lot of places to go back then,” says Billy Williamson, a frequent attendee in the early 1960s when the Star was date night central for mill village teens. However, under Mr. Lashley’s watchful eye, there was no hanky-panky going on in his joint. “You’d be over in a corner with a girl and the next thing you know there’d be a flashlight shining on you,” Williamson recalls from first-hand experience. “Mr. Lashley or someone else would break you up,” he says. Because the theater owner knew the kids individually, as well as most of their families, Williamson would occasionally be pressed into service as an usher. “Sounded like a good time to me. I’ll shine a flashlight on someone.”

If filmgoers got too rowdy, they were directed back into the lobby to sit on “The Bench.” “Mr. Lashley would watch over them, even correct them,” Kivett says. “After he thought they had sat there long enough, he’d let them back into the theater. If they were too unruly, he’d call their parents and tell them to come pick them up.” While the theater closed at 11 p.m., “Mr. Lashley would not lock the doors until all the kids were picked up and gone,” Williamson says. “When I think about it, they were mostly babysitters.”

In 1968, my boujee Latham Park mother somehow discovered — just a few blocks away on the wrong side of Elm — what amounted to a 50-cent-an-hour, four-hour-long babysitting service going on at the Star. From that weekend on, I, my brother and sister, along with the King girls who lived next door, ranging in age from 11 (that would be me) down to 6, were dropped off promptly at 11 a.m., with my mom returning at 3 to scoop us up. Movies I remember munching buttered popcorn over were, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Love Bug, Tarzan and the Jungle Boy, Don Knotts and Phyllis Diller comedies, as well as schlockfests like The Green Slime and Island of Terror. Seven-year-old Toot King found the latter so ghastly, she hasn’t watched a horror movie since.

In 1969, the Lashleys decided to retire. “After he sold the theater, Mr. Lashley called us all personally,” Kivett recalls. “He said, ‘If I had known they were going to turn it into a porn theater, I never would have sold it to those people. We had no clue.’ He didn’t like it one bit but there was nothing he could do about it.” Literally overnight, the Star went from playing surrealistic Kurt Russell comedies and Beach Blanket Bingo fluff to running X-rated flicks with deceptively benign titles like Blast-Off Girls and Tropic of Sweden.

That’s how five innocent children were left standing on the sidewalk at 11 Saturday morning in front of the latest sin-ema experience as the city’s most pernicious perverts paraded by. Heck, how would 12-year-old me know if Tropic of Sweden wasn’t where Godzilla bubbled up from a radioactive primordial ooze? The ticket lady was kind enough to call our house. Problem was, dad was on the golf course and mom was at Belk’s. No one home to answer the phone. We were never seen or heard from again.

Page High School Junior Civitan Club students in 1971 posing in front of the Star


State Street began declining rapidly at that point. Sadly, the only photo I could find of the Star Theatre was from the 1971 Page High yearbook — natty-looking teenagers brazenly posing in front of a location of ill repute. Asked if they ventured inside after that pic was snapped, one participant answered, “Yeah, probably.”

In 1984, State Street underwent a major transformation to become the quaint fashion and food destination frequented by the Irving Park crowd today.

Whatever happened to the theater itself? A third of the building houses Dan Boswell Spectrum Salon, the other two thirds is Cafe Pasta, serving exquisite Italian meals for almost four decades. This was a major undertaking. Theater floors slant downward toward the screen, so concrete was poured to elevate the floor. The ceiling was lowered 9 feet, and the projection room was remodeled for upstairs dining. Once again, this spot serves as an enticing, family-owned and oriented setting; although I’m fairly certain no one will shine a flashlight your way should you be canoodling over Ray Essa’s chicken picatta.

In the 1980s, Vivian Kivett pulled her car over after spotting Mrs. Lashley walking her poodle outside a townhouse behind the Golden Gate Shopping Center. “She told me that Mr. Lashley had passed away and we got to talking about old times. Then she told me, ‘Ya’ll were our children. I’ve known you since you were a little bitty girl.’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am we were your children. And we always will be, Mrs. Lashley.’”  OH

Billy Eye is O.G. — Original Greensboro.


Winter Waterbirds

Coming in out of the cold


By Susan Campbell

The arrival of cold weather in the Sandhills and Piedmont also means the arrival of waterfowl. Our local ponds and lakes are the winter home to more than two dozen different species of ducks, geese and swans. Over the years, as water features both large and small have been added throughout the area, the diversity of waterfowl has increased significantly. Although we are all familiar with our local mallards and Canada geese, a variety of aquatic birds frequent our area from November through March.

Certainly, the most abundant and widespread species is the ring-necked duck, flocks of which can be seen diving for aquatic invertebrate prey in shallow ponds and coves. The males have iridescent blue heads, black sides and gray backs. They get their name from the indistinct rusty ring at the base of their necks. The females, as with all true duck species, are quite nondescript. They are light brown all over and, like the males, have a grayish-blue bill with a white band around it.

However, the most noticeable of our wintering waterfowl would be the buffleheads. They form small groups that dive in deeper water, feeding on vegetation and invertebrates. The mature males have a bright white hood and body with iridescent dark green back, face and neck. Also, they sport bright orange legs and feet, which they will flash during confrontations. But the females (as well as the immature individuals of both sexes) of this species are drab, too — mainly brown with the only contrast being a small white cheek patch. Interestingly, bufflehead is the one species of migratory duck that actually mates for life. This is generally a trait found only in the largest of waterfowl: swans and geese.

There are several types of aquatic birds similar to ducks that can be identified if one can get a good look, which usually requires binoculars. In small numbers, common loons can be seen diving for fish on larger lakes in winter, and even more so during spring and fall migration. Their size and shape are quite distinctive (as is their yodeling song which, sadly, they do not tend to sing while they are here).

We have another visitor that can be confused with loons: the double-crested cormorant. Along with its cousin the anhinga, it’s more closely related to seabirds, i.e., boobies and gannets. It is a very proficient diver with a sharply serrated bill adapted for catching fish. It is not uncommon to see cormorants in their “drying” pose. Their feathers are not as waterproof as those of diving ducks, so they only enter water to feed and bathe. Most of their time is spent sitting on a dock or some sort of perch to dry out.

Two other species of waterbird can be found regularly at this time of year: pied-billed grebes and American coots. Pied-billed grebes are the smallest of the swimmers we see in winter with light brown plumage, short thick bills and bright white bottoms. Surprisingly, they are very active swimmers. They can chase down small fish in just about any depth of water.

American coots — black, stocky birds with white bills — are scavengers, feeding mainly in aquatic vegetation. They can make short dives but are too buoyant to remain submerged for more than a few seconds. Given their long legs and well-developed toes, they are also adept at foraging on foot. You may see them feeding on grasses along the edge of larger bodies of water — or even on the edge of golf course water hazards.  OH

Susan Campbell would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted at susan@ncaves.com.

Weekend Away

Falling for Folly

The Madcap Cottage gents decamp for a winter escape


By Jason Oliver Nixon

There is something about a beach town after the season winds down, and the endless streams of SUV-driving visitors pack up and head back to lands farther afield (aka, New Jersey). The air chills. Restaurants resume a sense of normalcy without those tiresome, we-aren’t-on-Open Table waits. The music tones down a notch, and the locals actually say hello.

For a decade I lived year-round in the Hamptons, and every Labor Day, the vibe would shift seismically. For the better. Granted, our coffers were full from the go-go summer season just behind us, so everyone was happy, flush, and ready to hibernate. And there would be no more of those all-too-frequent Range Rover road rage incidents in front of the must-have doughnuts joint until next Memorial Day.

Folly Beach in South Carolina boasts that certain off-season magic, too. My partner, John Loecke, and I had visited this vest pocket-sized beach town briefly in the summer, and it bristles with energy. Think fun, funky and just a dash honkytonk. Rooftop terraces pack in the crowds. The groovy al fresco Mexican eatery Chico Feo hosts hipsters 6-deep at the bar ordering dinner (try the mahi-mahi tacos and pozole if you brave the July hordes), and “Park Here!” placards are as ubiquitous as teens in bikinis with ice cream cones.

But come fall, as we discovered, the pace slows, and by winter the place has largely cleared out. In November, John and I craved some time away — a long weekend to read books, sit by a fire, walk on the beach and cook — and, on a whim, we decided to try a wintertime Folly. We rented a 1920s-era cottage, Camp Huron, that we had spotted on Instagram, and the house lived up to its billing.

Perfectly situated mere blocks from the action but plunked smack upon a postcard-perfect marsh and the Folly River, Camp Huron proved to be the ideal home base. Think an atmospheric white clapboard, one-story cottage with creaky painted-wood floors, two charming bedrooms, a perfect kitchen, clawfoot tubs, a record player, a firepit and barbecue grill, and a front porch kitted out with party lights. And Hollywood-worthy sunsets.

Says John, “Imagine stepping into the past but with all of the mod-cons, heaps of thoughtful touches, and lightning-fast Wi-Fi. Fluffy towels. Stacks of wood for the marsh-facing firepit. Elvis on the record player. And wonderful rocking chairs on the front porch. Truly, a small slice of heaven.”

The barrier island’s two-blocks-long main drag, Center Street, showcases relaxed, colorful eateries (take note of Taco Boy and Jack of Cups Saloon, in particular) and the usual assortment of beach gear shops and bars. It’s an ideal walking town. In the mornings, we grabbed a coffee at nearby, always-open Bert’s Market with its endless assortment of fresh sandwiches, barbecue and sushi (and oh! the corn dogs).

One evening, we stopped at a terrific seafood food truck near the bridge, Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp Co., and picked up fresh, fresh fish and sat on Camp Huron’s back deck bundled up with heaps of candles. Kicking up the camp experience, we paired our meal with a big bottle of Prosecco and Swiss chocolate s’mores. There was a full constellation of stars overhead, and the occasional trawler passed by in the distance with lights flickering.

John and I walked the dark-sand beach.

We read Nancy Mitford and Caleb Carr — and considered Death in Venice.

With to-go sandwiches in tow from Bert’s, we plunked down on the long strands in scarves and sweaters for a lengthy picnic lunch.

And we spent a stellar day in nearby, more buttoned-up Charleston and environs.

We had biscuits at Callie’s.

We shopped for vintage finds at the always-inspirational Antiques of South Windermere.

Exploration of idyllic Mt. Pleasant was followed by cocktails at the wonderful Post House Inn.

At sunset, we headed back to our restorative beachside retreat for another dinner under the stars paired with a superlative Sicilian white. Cold. Crisp.

Herons bobbed about in the marsh.

And we turned off — ready for a final, blissful morning of doing absolutely nothing.  OH

The Madcap gents, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, embrace the new reality of COVID-friendly travel — heaps of road trips.

Home by Design

Sugar Babies and Fireballs

A serendipitous discovery, misinterpreted as theft


By Cynthia Adams

I dove for the Atomic Fireball where I spied it, lying on the grocery store floor beneath a Lance crackers’ display. My father was talking farm subsidies with Mr. Little, proprietor of the Red & White grocery store.

It was easy to shimmy beneath the wire display and snag reach the prize.

The display didn’t topple. A minor miracle. Proof, too, that the fireball was meant for me.

I might have escaped with my treasure, which was stuffed inside my jaw, had Mr. Little not offered me the usual free, quarter-sized sucker. I rolled the gob of burning hot candy aside with my tongue and muttered, “Thank you,” clutching the grape sucker with a clock face in bas relief.  Not such a big prize in my opinion — suckers were what doctor’s offices dispensed.

They occupied the bottom rung of candies in my mind.

Briefly, I considered the fact that I had scored both a fireball and a sucker, which seemed a bit of a coup. My father seldom left the Red & White without a paper “sack” of Mary Janes or Tootsie Rolls, which he also loved. He somehow had grown distracted by the endless dissection of soybean crops and forgot about the penny candies.

Had I done something worth rewarding — say, not sassing back or doing my chores without complaint — I got a box of Sugar Babies. Not quite as wonderful as a candy bar but still a high value candy that lasted. Sugar Daddies, the king of all suckers, had a thrillingly destructive reputation. My best friend Judy cracked a front tooth from eating one, henceforth sporting an enviable gold rimmed tooth.

Outside, Daddy wheeled on me.

“Where did you get that, Cynthia Anne?” he growled, pointing to my bulging jaw. I said what every 5-year-old would have said.

“I dunno.”

My father placed the groceries inside his never-washed blue Chevy, with the kind of rusted patina that antique pickers now adore, and he gave me the hardest look I had ever gotten — at least since I had rifled through his pants one morning, taking change to play the jukebox at the cafe beside our house.

“Chantilly Lace,” with a hit of Butterfingers or Sugar Babies was my heroin, and I would, as proven, even steal for them. I played the “Big Bopper” Richardson hit repeatedly that afternoon, spinning like a whirling dervish, and word got back to my dad.

“Don’t you ever steal again,” he ordered. “Or I will tan your hide.”

But now my eyes burned, not from the heat of the fireball. I was stung by the injustice.

“I didn’t steal it, Daddy,” I whined. “It was on the floor.”

“Deny it again and you will get a whipping.”

“I didn’t steal it,” I muttered.

He furiously hoisted me onto the truck seat “To think you stole from Mr. Little, who always gives you a free sucker!”

At this, I sobbed out, as the burning fireball swiftly became its own punishment. Nobody sucked on a virgin fireball without precautions. Usually, I would have spat the fireball out and run cold water over it until the scalding red coating wore off to get to the safer white sweetness beneath.

But I could no more spit out the fireball than I could explain to my father how the ancient law of finders keepers/losers weepers applied to this very situation.

Surely, he knew.

“You will have to pay Mr. Little. And — ” he paused, swallowing back his anger — “apologize to that fine man. For being a thief.”

I sobbed louder, strangling on the fireball, which was burning its way through my inner jaw.

My father slammed the old truck into reverse, and we drove the short distance home.

“You have really disappointed me,” Daddy muttered as we chugged into the driveway.

He was not one to let a thing go.

I went to my room, reeling. Now, fireballs represented nothing but trouble — like peppermints did after my sister slapped me on the back, lodging one in my throat. As much as I had hated peppermints, I now hated fireballs.

I eavesdropped as my father told my mother about the thief in their midst.

“She is spoiled, Warren. You did this, always giving her candy,” she replied.

I felt the hot tears roll. Both of them!

Something desperate and dark took root in my belly. The fireball still burned but lacked the shocking earlier heat. I sucked it until it was a tiny and innocuous orb, usually the best part, the part you suffered for.

No finders, keepers, I thought bitterly. Loser/weeper.

I later recounted to my sister why I never wanted to return to the Red & White.

“I wish I’d never go-ed,” I blurted, swearing off Mr. Little’s free suckers for life.

Go, go-ed, my sister would hurl at me long afterward whenever anything went sideways.

I winced and resented each time she taunted me, but I nursed a deeper resentment for that roving fireball, which had marked me a bad citizen in the eyes of those who counted most in my world.  OH

Word to the wise: Don’t leave sweet morsels under displays on the floor when Cynthia Adams, a contributing editor to O.Henry, comes to visit.