Festival D’Avion

Wing it all weekend at the Festival D’Avion at the Moore County Airport, 7425 Aviation Blvd., Carthage. The aircraft fly in all day on Friday, April 12, and depart between 4 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. There will be a concert Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. by On The Border: The Ultimate Eagles Tribute Band. For tickets and information go to

Home and Garden Tour

The historic Fownes Cottage is one of six homes highlighting the 71st Annual Southern Pines Garden Club Tour of Homes on Saturday, April 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to the homes and gardens, there will be orchid and plant sales, art exhibits and more. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at the Campbell House, The Country Bookshop, the Women’s Exchange or online at

Dig It

The Weymouth Center for Arts & Humanities will be offering some friendly prices on plants from the Weymouth estate and gardens on Saturday, April 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring your own wagon, if you can, to haul away your treasures. Coffee and baked goods will be for sale. White elephant items and tools available, as well, at 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. For information call (910) 692-6261 or go to

Meet the Author

Scott Huler, the author of A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas Along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition will be at The Country Bookshop, 140 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, on April 10 at 5 p.m. For information go to

A Postcard from the Past

The Moore County Historical Association will exhibit “Turn of the Century Photography” featuring the men and women who saved early Moore County, reflected in fragile and rare post cards. The display will be at the Shaw House, 110 W. Morganton Road, Southern Pines from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. For information call (910) 692-2051 or visit

Classic Concert Series

Listen to violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Andrew Tyson perform chamber music selections at the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, from 8 to 10 p.m. on Monday, April 8. Tickets are $30 for Arts Council members, $35 for non-members. For information call (910) 692-2787 or visit

14th Annual Clenny Creek Day

Enjoy live music, food, raffles, vendors and two historic homes at Clenny Creek Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at Bryant House and McLendon Cabin, 3361 Mount Carmel Road, Carthage. There will be American Revolutionary War and Civil War re-enactors, an Easter egg hunt, face painting and more. For information call (910) 692-2051 or go to

Tracking the Tortoise

Join biology professor Dr. John Roe from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke to learn about box turtles and the radio transmitter methods used to track them. The program is free and open to the public at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, 1024 Fort Bragg Road, Southern Pines. For information call (910) 692-2167 or go to

One More Time, With Feeling

National Theatre Live offers this encore performance of Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! filmed live at London’s Bridge Theatre during its limited run. The story is set at The Beth, an old-fashioned cradle-to-grave hospital threatened with closure as part of an efficiency drive. A documentary crew, eager to capture its fight for survival, follows the daily struggle on the Dusty Springfield Geriatric Ward and the triumphs of the old people’s choir. Showing is at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 25, at the Sunrise Theater, 244 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. For informational call (910) 692-3611 or go to

Spring for Angela

Cousin Amy and Whiskey Pines will perform a charity fundraising concert for Angela Gaskell — warm, curious, and passionate about animals and the environment — who’s also in need of a new kidney. The concert will be at the Shaw House on Sunday, April 28, from 2 to 5 p.m.


Simple Life

Life and Limb

My cabins in the sky

By Jim Dodson

One of my secret pleasures is a mind-candy house program on Animal Planet called Treehouse Masters, in which an infectiously enthusiastic house designer and self-described “tree whisperer” named Pete Nelson and his merry band of workers create mind-boggling treehouse retreats for clients. His stated mission is to help customers get back to nature and in touch with their inner kid.

It’s a pure fantasy show that combines three of my favorite things — houses, trees and memories of climbing them during my childhood. It was probably inevitable for a kid who grew up on a diet of adventure books, and camping and hiking forests all over the western portions of this state and neighboring Virginia, that I would eventually get around to building a treehouse, especially after I saw Disney’s 1960 version of Swiss Family Robinson. The shipwrecked but enterprising Robinson clan lashed together a furnished treehouse palace that featured running water from a turning wheel, thatch-roofed bedrooms, a full-service kitchen and salvaged ship’s wheel that raised the ladder each evening to protect against wild animals or unwelcome visitors. They lived with a pair of large friendly dogs and a parrot, and even had a piano that somehow survived the shipwreck.

In my opinion, those lucky Robinsons had the perfect life.

Of course, I was only 7, a kid who’d had a happy but fairly solitary life building forts in the woods and reading adventure books, the son of a Southern newspaperman who hauled his young family across the Deep South to his various posts before coming permanently home to Greensboro in 1959 — shortly before the shipwrecked Robinsons showed up in Cinemascope on the big screen.

My first treehouse was a distinctly modest platform affair — more lookout stand that actual shelter. Perched in a patch of hardwoods in a public park across the street from the apartment we rented while our first house was being built in a rural subdivision, it was probably illegal. But so were the Robinsons. You reached the platform by inching up a thick-knotted rope. The platform was probably only 10 feet off the ground but it felt amazingly close to heaven in the trees, the ideal place for me to sit and read and keep an eye out for wild animals or unwanted visitors.

At the rear of our new property, my father knocked together an impressive one-room treehouse he furnished with a second-hand dining room table, four mismatched chairs and an old rickety bookcase. I spent a year furnishing that rustic pied-à-terre in the sky with my favorite childhood books and “interesting” stuff I found all over creation until one regrettable summer afternoon I found three girls from the neighborhood having an unauthorized tea party with their dolls in my cherished aerie. Without thinking of the consequences, I fetched a garden hose to cool off the party and quickly felt the wrath of several outraged mothers, hastening the demise of my beloved place on high.

That’s why, when I stumbled across Treehouse Masters, my inner child was set loose from detention.

The New Age treehouses Pete Nelson and his crew create are elaborate affairs that make the industrious Robinsons look like rank beginners. They typically include all the creature comforts of the modern Earth-bound home and then some: fancy woodstoves and electric lights; flush toilets and outdoor showers; kitted-out gourmet kitchens and decks with breathtaking views from high in the trees, rivaling anything you would find in a swanky vacation home.

My favorite segment of the show, however, is when the host calls on fellow treehouse nuts who have created their own unique handcrafted cabins in the sky, retreats that display incredible craftsmanship, artistry and ecological harmony.

One I particularly enjoyed involved a bearded chap who built himself a gorgeous treehouse that was more like a storybook chapel over a stony brook in the Connecticut woods. It was essentially a meditation and reading room with large windows, a simple desk, woodstove, small functioning kitchen and a room where he could sit for hours watching nature through the seasons, forgetting the rest of the world.

His was a slightly more elaborate version of the treehouse I fully intended to someday create above a vernal pool in the forest behind the post-and-beam house I helped build with my own hands on a forested hill in Maine.

The spot — on a beautiful hillside deep among hemlock and birch and proximate to geologic kettles left by the receding ice age — overlooked a seasonal stream and vernal pool dominated by a large lichen-covered stone that I named my “Thinking Rock.” This is where the transcendental kid in me often escaped with my dogs to read, think, smoke a pipe and get right with God and nature.

The bittersweet irony is that the forested retreat I long had in mind never got off the ground, so to speak, because, in the blink of an eye, my own kids were grown and heading off to college, and I was feeling an unexpected gravitational pull of my old Carolina home.

Impossible as it once seemed, I said goodbye to the rugged timbered house and English garden-in-the-woods that I spent nearly two decades building and cultivating, a place where I fully expected to end my days and eventually become part of the landscape when who I am moved on, leaving only a trail of ashes behind.

But life, to paraphrase Emerson, is full of compensations. A few years back, my wife and I purchased a lovely old bungalow that once upon a time was my favorite house in the heavily forested neighborhood where I grew up — two doors away, in fact, from the house where my family lived for almost 40 years.

I joke that I’ve all but completed the Sacred Redneck Circle of Life.

A large part of the place’s allure, I must admit, was the two-car and workshop garage in back that featured a funky little second-floor apartment you reach by climbing a set of rickety wooden steps that take you to rooftop height amidst century-old white oak trees.

Because the house sits on perhaps the highest point in the entire neighborhood, the first time I climbed those steps and turned around to check out the view, my heart leapt like a kid up a tree.

From just under the white oak canopy that reminded me of the arched ceiling of a Medieval cathedral — providing wonderful cooling shade all summer — I could see the world with a bird’s-eye-view: vaulting trees and rooftops across the neighborhood, not to mention birds and squirrels galore, passing clouds, a huge patch of sky by day, a glorious quilt of stars by night.

Suddenly I had the treehouse I’d always dreamed of owning, this one equipped with electric power and heat, small kitchenette and bathroom with fully functioning toilet and shower. The cheap dark-wood paneling gives it a perfect rustic air and a couple of overhead fans keeps the place cool in summer. If it isn’t quite worthy of Treehouse Masters, it fits me like lichens on a thinking rock.

Just outside the door, I hung a large set of Canterbury chimes from a stout limb of the massive white oak at the foot of the steps. When the wind blows a certain way, I swear I hear the first five notes of “Amazing Grace.”

These days, if you visit my “treehouse,” you will find a pair of comfortable reading chairs (one of which my dog Mulligan occupies when she’s officially on duty), several bookcases filled with favorite books, a French baker’s table where I write, a wicker daybed where I sometimes seek horizontal inspiration on late afternoons, various vintage posters and prints I’ve collected from four decades of journalism and travel, a cabinet case filled with some of my own books and a few awards, a second cabinet that holds “Uncle Jimmy’s Genuine Real Stuff Museum,” framed photos of my children and a pair of large rare portraits of Walter Hagen and young Fidel Castro, themed lamps (a blue coat soldier, a Bengali elephant, a monkey climbing a palm tree), several busts (Ben Franklin, Alexander the Great, a Templar knight), three sets of old golf clubs, a full golf library, several checkered golf flags, and a large replica of the first American flag with thirteen stars in a circle of blue.

Nobody in their right mind would want all this stuff in their real house. But like the Swiss Family Robinson, this oddball collection from a long journey home has finally found the perfect place in my cabin in the sky. PS

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at

In the Spirit

Mean Muggin’

Crafting the perfect party vessel

By Tony Cross

A few months back, I was asked by an online publication that caters to bar managers and owners to write a column discussing Tiki cocktails. There’s no Tiki scene here in the Sandhills, so I had to reach out to a few people who know a lot more than I do on the matter. I was able to chat with the bar manager from one of my favorite bars in Asheville, MG Road, about their Tiki drinks and cocktail classes. Of course, having a great cocktail is key to running a successful program, whatever style you want to promote. But with Tiki drinks, you definitely need the proper aesthetic to create beautiful visuals for your guests before they take their first sip. One of the angles I wanted to attack was Tiki mugs and glassware. I follow a lot of bartenders on Instagram and knew immediately who I wanted to message in hopes of getting an interview.

Before you make your first Tiki drink, you’ll need to choose a glass, Tiki mug, or as Danny Gallardo refers to it, “a vessel.” Danny is the owner of Tiki Diablo, in Los Angeles. I became familiar with Danny’s work after following his Instagram page (tikidiablo) a few years ago. If you’re looking for the guy to create and craft a special vessel for you, look no further. We chatted on the phone for a while, and he quickly informed me that all things Tiki had been revived much longer ago than I thought. “It was very rare to see any place as cocktail-centric,” he said of L.A. in the late ’90s. “There’s a local bar in L.A. — and this is when Jeff Berry* was still living here — where he and a group of us would get together on Wednesday nights. They had been going there for five or six years and trying to reverse-engineer these drinks. I came from the art side of it. I was carving wood Tikis, big 8-foot, 9-foot statues, and was just starting to make mugs. I thought it was very interesting that they were taking notes and drinking these drinks while discussing this stuff. And I’m like, ‘What the hell are they doing? This is crazy, I’ve never seen this before.’ So, there were cocktail nerds way back when. The Tiki movement had already had its first exposure in ’02 and ‘03.”

Danny’s mugs took off locally and statewide, and he was able to create and ship wholesale to a chain of Home Depot stores. “I took advantage of the momentum I had where we released a lineup of Tiki goods through Home Depot. That kind of helped me out with name recognition outside of the Tiki-world bubble. We were all the way to Louisiana, and over 600 stores. I used that as a launching point for pushing my method.”

Today Tiki Diablo’s mugs are international. “We’re doing a lot of work with distilleries that are not U.S.-based; ones that are appreciating what we’re doing,” he says. “Those making finely handcrafted rums are saying to us, ‘Hey, you’re a good fit. You’re making handmade, small-batch mugs, that are brand specific.’ We design and make unique mugs for every single client. No client gets the same design; everything is from scratch.”

Danny is the sole designer and sculptor in his company. He does, however, have a crew that has been making ceramics since 1980. “I’m a firm believer in surrounding myself with people that are better than I am,” he says. He makes the mugs for Berry’s world-renowned Latitude 21 bar. “A lot of stuff that I make is brand-centric. What people decide to do with the mugs is up to them, which makes a lot of my stuff hard to get. This year we’re going to put an emphasis on buying mugs directly from our website (” Contact them, and they will customize a mug specifically for your bar or restaurant. “Three Dots and a Dash just sold a whole array (of mugs) that I made for them. Don’t quote me on the price, but they were at least $125 a piece, and sold in a matter of days.”

What Danny does see as trending in the Tiki world is collecting these one-of-a-kind mugs. “I have noticed a trend in themed bars, not necessarily a Tiki bar, but you have to have mugs as a part of your business plan now. Nowhere else are you going to clear up to $80-$100 on one item on your menu. Pure profit. Undertow, in Phoenix, those guys know what they’re doing. They order back-to-back, they sell everything out, and as they’re making their final payment, they ask me, ‘OK, what’s next?’ It’s a huge component in sales and income for bars now, getting the mugs going, and moving on to the next ones.” Danny says most businesses do this by having mug release parties. “People are lining up in the morning to make sure that they get a mug,” he says.

And what does Mr. Tiki Diablo drink in his vessels? “I’m a classic Mai-Tai guy, I love a daiquiri too. Those are my go-tos. I don’t bartend at home because all of my friends are excellent bartenders. I don’t mess with what I don’t know. Let the experts do their thing. Let me stay out of the way.”

Even if you have exquisite glassware and mugs from Danny (he was gracious enough to send the mug pictured on the previous page), you’re still going to have to make sure that what’s inside counts. Remember: Don’t skimp on the essentials. Fresh juices, homemade syrups, and quality spirits. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be considered quality. Once you have your recipe down pat, you’ll have your friends and guests loving what they’re tasting with their eyes and palates.

(* “In the Spirit” featured Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in the October 2017 issue of PineStraw.)  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

Mom, Inc.

Aunt Jean

Letters, laps and Chinese food

By Renee Phile

I am . I live in a small, A-frame, wood-paneled house in the mountains of West Virginia. I skip outside the sliding glass door and run down the long, winding driveway to our mailbox. The faded white paint on the side of the box reads “19 Poplar Grove Estates.” The red flag is down, a good sign. I open up the mailbox and peer in. A car advertisement. Several envelopes addressed to my parents, probably bills. And then my hand touches it. It’s nestled under the rest of the mail: a pale green envelope addressed to me. The neat penmanship fills the envelope, and the return name reads “Aunt Jean.” I smile, rip open the envelope, not able to wait another second to read my letter from my pen pal.

She writes about her day and the books she is reading (two by Mary Higgins Clark). She writes about the weather (rainy). She writes how she enjoyed our visit last month, and would we be visiting anytime soon? She signs her letter like she always signs it:

Your Kindred Spirit,

Aunt Jean


I am 14. Dad and I drive up north to see Aunt Jean at her home in Martinsburg, West Virginia. We call ourselves the “Aunt Jean Club,” but yesterday we caught wind that there were some other family members, who will remain unnamed, who feel excluded from the club (even though the club is “open”), so we are keeping our club on the DL.

The three of us are sitting on her old beige couch, reading books. I look over at Aunt Jean, and watch her read. She smiles at one page, frowns at the next. Her eyes start to water as she reads, and I look away and focus on my own book.

“Aunt Jean?” I ask after several minutes. “Have you read that latest book by Mary Higgins Clark? The one about nighttime?”

“Hmmmm . . . ” she says, “I do believe I have.” Her eyes close as she thinks, “But let me check in my notebook . . . yes . . . (as she ruffles through the pages). Yes, I read it two weeks ago. I have it written down right here, and I wrote ‘good’ beside it, so I suppose it was good,” she chuckles.

“I want to read it,” I say.

“You love reading just like I do. You and I are certainly kindred spirits,” she says.

After several hours of reading and lounging on the couch, we heat up a frozen lasagna and play Scrabble. Aunt Jean tells us story after story — about growing up during the Depression, about her two brothers and one sister, about how she worked as a librarian, about her husband who passed away around the time I was born. Dad and I listen, then, out of nowhere — bam! — a 60-point play. Dad and I look at each other, amazed. She was undefeated at Scrabble. She still is.


I am 22. Yesterday, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, and I have no clue what to do with my life. Most of my college friends are heading to the beach to celebrate, but I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be than at Aunt Jean’s house. I drove up here yesterday, right after graduation.

It’s just her and me, and earlier today we went to the Martinsburg Mall to walk laps and eat Chinese food. Aunt Jean said two laps around the mall are 3/4 of a mile, and she would know because that’s where she walks four mornings a week. We have spent the day reading, talking, sipping weak coffee, and of course, playing Scrabble. Lots and lots of Scrabble.

I tell her how I don’t know what to do with my life. All I know is that I love English and writing. “Go with what you love, and the rest will take care of itself,” she says. I do just that.


I am already 36 years old. (How did that happen?) It’s April, and I’m thinking about Aunt Jean, because her birthday is in April. She passed away in January 2013, and I miss her, but I don’t feel she’s far away.

I still read all the time. I still write all the time. I practice my Scrabble strategies daily. Now it’s through an app called Words with Friends, but it’s still basically Scrabble. I went with my love for English and writing, and the rest has taken care of itself, just as she said.

I’m organizing my closet, and I find an old shoebox. I open it, and see her neat penmanship stretch across the envelopes. The box is full. I take an envelope out, open it. I read the first few lines, then skip to the last part, my favorite part. There it is: Her cursive letters swirl and swoop to form the words:

Your Kindred Spirit,

Aunt Jean  PS

Renee Phile loves being a teacher, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

Upstairs, Downstairs

The annual migration of the back of the house

By Bill Case     Photographs from the Tufts Archives

After learning in 1895 that James Walker Tufts had concocted a grandiose scheme to build a model New England-style village and health resort in the denuded Sandhills of southern Moore County, most of the area’s denizens derided the wealthy Massachusetts native as an idealistic and foolhardy dreamer. Tufts was far from crazy.

If Pinehurst was to host guests from the North, suitable accommodations — and staffing for them — had to be made available, and fast. The Holly Inn opened on December 31, 1895, just five months after the start of its construction. Twenty guests bunked in that New Year’s Eve night. The Holly represented the initial jewel in Pinehurst’s array of lodgings, accommodating up to 200 guests with all the modern conveniences, including orchestra and billiard rooms. Not long after, Tufts opened an array of smaller hotels, all of which thrived: the Magnolia Inn; The Berkshire (long demolished but once located on Magnolia Road just south of the Magnolia Inn), housing 100 guests; and The Harvard (in the structure that currently houses the Old Sport Gallery), holding 75 guests.

Many New England hotel managers were eager to avail themselves of gainful employment during the months from November until May, when their inns were shuttered. Tufts sifted through this talent pool to hire his innkeepers. J. H. Atwood, proprietor of a hotel in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, became the Holly Inn’s first manager. He was succeeded two years later by Allen Treadway, mastermind of the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. F. M. Kimball, proprietor of the Eagle Inn in Orwell, Vermont, happily assumed the reins at The Berkshire. Kimball’s clerk, R.H. Butterworth, worked summers at the Hobbs Inn in Wolfboro, New Hampshire. J.L. Pottle headed the Magnolia, traveling south each winter from Jefferson, New Hampshire, where he operated the Highland House.

These managers encouraged their staffs to join them during the winter, and many did. After Tufts negotiated discounted fares from the railroads and steamship companies, droves of Northeastern bellmen, maids and cooks began descending on Pinehurst in late autumn like falling leaves. Since Tufts’ clientele likewise hailed from New England, Pinehurst advertising stressed the employees’ Northern connections. One newspaper ad touted the Holly’s “Unsurpassed Cuisine, with Table Service by carefully selected New England girls.” The Magnolia advertised that its “cooking will be done by one of the best of Northern cooks.”

An 1899 Pinehurst Outlook article described the home away from home atmosphere Tufts established this way: “The guests, being made up so largely of New England people, are sociable to a degree that makes one feel quite at home after a day or two here, and although there are some 200 over in the Holly Inn, they seem to be almost of one family.” This idyllic atmosphere bonded these early guests with Pinehurst, and many would establish a family tradition of annual pilgrimages.

The success of the hotels motivated Tufts in 1898 to build a far grander one — the Carolina Hotel. Completed in 1900, the magnificent four-story structure emerged as the largest frame hotel in North Carolina. Painted yellow with white trim, the hotel featured 250 guest rooms accommodating 400 guests. According to early advertising, the hotel boasted “every modern comfort and convenience, including elevator, telephone in every room, sun room, steam heat night and day, electric lights, and water from the celebrated Pinehurst Spring, and a perfect sanitary system of sewage and plumbing.”

Tufts chose Harry Priest, proprietor from June to October of the Hotel Preston in Beach Bluff, Massachusetts, to run The Carolina and also serve as the general hotel manager for all of the various Pinehurst lodgings. Throughout 1900, Priest labored on the massive task of recruiting seasonal staff from his own Hotel Preston and other New England lodgings. He enticed them with the prospect of free lodging and board in the hotel’s three story dormitory wing, which Tufts had attached to the rear of the hotel. Fully staffed, Priest welcomed The Carolina’s first guests on January 1, 1901.

By 1910, H.W. Priest had switched his summer employment to the Hotel Wentworth (now Wentworth by the Sea) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Several of the Wentworth’s key staff followed Priest to Pinehurst for winter jobs at The Carolina, including head bellman Jack Mulcahy, and headwaiter Jimmy Mahar. They in turn encouraged co-workers to shuttle between the two hotels, people like Hungarian immigrant Sam Lacks, who at the age of 32 first appeared on The Carolina’s payroll as a pastry assistant in 1908.

While engaged in his summer employment at The Wentworth, Lacks became smitten with co-worker Emma Lyons, a chambermaid and waitress who was born in New Brunswick. The couple married in 1911. Their union would produce two sons — Sam Jr., in 1913, and Stanley, in 1916. Sam Lacks Sr. would work at The Carolina for four decades, rising to a prestigious and lucrative position as the hotel’s doorman before retiring in 1947. In 2002, Sam’s younger son, Stanley (who himself worked several years at The Carolina prior to a distinguished banking career), authored papers, now housed in Pinehurst’s Tufts Archives, concerning his family and Carolina hotel operations during the first half of the 20th century. Stanley’s writings give a vivid picture of the nomadic lives and challenges of hotel workers of that long-ago time.

In the early days, “most migrating workers had several things in common: they were white, Christian, unmarried, and of Irish or English descent. They were capable of reading, writing, and doing arithmetic, but few had completed high school . . . The women had long hair and the men were clean-shaven,” writes Stanley Lacks. At the time most younger female employees “considered hotel work as a transition period prior to marriage and children.” Emma Lacks left her employment at The Carolina prior to the birth of her first child. She would return as the “newsstand lady” after her two boys graduated from high school. Stanley indicated that the majority of workers were Irish Catholics, including the aforementioned supervisors Mulcahy and Mahar. Church services for employees were held in their common area — “Help’s Hall” — until the Sacred Heart Catholic Church was erected in 1921, a chip shot distance from the hotel.

Before departing south for Pinehurst, workers stopped by the headquarters of the Boston Uniform Company to be fitted for their job attire. Waitresses were issued yellow garb to wear while serving breakfast and lunch, and crisp white uniforms for dinner. Bellmen were provided single-breasted navy blue uniforms of the same serge material that adorned U.S. naval officers. The head bellman and doorman (Sam Lacks) “wore double-breasted models with two gold stripes on the sleeves.” The uniforms and personal dress items were shoehorned into the workers’ suitcases and leather valises in preparation for the journey.

Until highway driving became less harrowing than a moon shot, there were only two feasible means for Hotel Wentworth employees to make their way to Pinehurst for the winter season. The excursion could be taken exclusively by rail, but the most popular method (and the one preferred by the Lacks family) involved boarding a Merchants & Minors steamship that would depart South Boston’s harbor about two hours before sunset. Upward of 100 hotel workers, most known to one another, would be aboard. Stanley Lacks recalls that “if the ship left Boston on Monday evening, it arrived in Portsmouth, Va., on Wednesday morning.” The disembarking passengers then boarded a Seaboard Line train that chugged them into Southern Pines in the evening.

The Lacks family did not attempt to travel the distance by automobile until 1927. Even then, road conditions outside cities and towns were generally deplorable. Stanley Lacks recalls it took seven days for the family to drive to Pinehurst. “Not a day passed we did not have to stop and patch an inner tube or find a small stream to get water for the radiator,” he would ruefully reflect. “We had to take a ferry across two or three rivers and forded several small streams with water up to the hubcaps . . . We had to avoid running out of gas because filling stations were few and far between.”

The employee dormitory (the “Help’s Quarters”) housed married couples, pairs of single men and pairs of single women on three floors. Men’s and women’s toilets and bathing facilities were located on each floor. All rooms were windowed, equipped with sinks, and large enough to accommodate two people, though department heads and a few others were afforded private rooms.

Some hotel jobs mandated continuous coverage from early in the morning until late at night, thus requiring two shifts of workers. Stanley wrote that in this situation, “one shift worked a long day (7 a.m. to noon and 6 p.m. to closing) while the other shift worked a short day (noon to 6 p.m.), with alternating long and short days. By assigning two staff members working opposite shifts to a room, each could get some private time.”

Following the death of his father, Leonard Tufts would construct other houses for employee lodging. The Lacks family resided several seasons at Thistle Cottage, a four-apartment dwelling on Community Road. “Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley, who taught riflery at the Gun Club, occupied an adjoining unit.

With seven-day workweeks, there would seem to have been little time for workers to form, let alone act upon, attractions with one another while employed at the hotels. Indeed, Stanley wrote that romantic courting was mostly “an off-season practice” occurring during the vacation periods between the workers’ Northern and Southern hotel assignments. Perhaps that was so, but one suspects people in love generally find ways of spending time with one another.

The employees used three separate dining areas at the hotel. The jobs performed by the workers determined their dining locations. The manager and his wife, the hosts and hostesses sat at a large table in the corner of the cavernous main dining room, provided they were properly attired (coat and tie, etc.). Other higher-up staff, like the “department heads, doormen, desk clerks, switchboard operators, newsstand manager, musicians, waitress captains, porter” ate with full waitress service at the Side Hall, located between the main dining room and the kitchen. Help’s Hall (referred to as “The Zoo”) served as the eating area for the remaining employees. The Zoo also provided a central place for employee meetings and get-togethers. An adjacent small store sold Old Gold cigarettes, candy and miscellaneous items. According to Stanley Lacks, some workers never left the grounds of the hotel until heading north in the spring.

The workforce generally reached Pinehurst at least a week before the hotel opened. The early arrival provided “time to get the house ready. The women cleaned and polished while the men painted. Every fall they painted everything in sight: floors, walls, ceilings, porches, and some of the furniture,” wrote Lacks. The hotel booked conventions at the beginning of each season. Management viewed the convention traffic as a “dress rehearsal” opportunity in which employees could “demonstrate competence in his or her type of work,” prior to “encountering the more critical guests.”

And staff members were made to understand that when the blue-blooded social season guests arrived for their month’s stay, they expected service of the highest standard. The employees of Sam Lacks’ era labored in a hotel environment far more formal than that of The Carolina today. The male guests dressed for dinner in dark suits with ties, and their ladies were invariably clothed in colorful evening dresses. The upper crust, Stanley Lacks recalls, would “congregate in the lobby in overstuffed upholstered chairs. Demitasse was poured from a large silver urn by the hotel’s hostess and served in fine china,” while the hotel’s paid orchestra provided soothing musical accompaniment.

This formality led to certain employee positions having greater prestige than would be the case today. One was the “coat room lady,” the post held by Freda Marks. Lacks recollects that Marks “was an important person toward making hotel guests feel at home. She sat on a chair outside the entrance to the dining room and everyone had to pass her going in and out.” Freda took charge of the mink, ermine and sable coats of Cottage Colony females who came for dinner, and shared town gossip with them, practices conducive to substantial gratuities.

Stanley Lacks worked at The Carolina for several years in the 1940s assisting his father as a doorman. He remembers receiving a salary of $8 a week. “But I did not receive that money weekly; it was a book-entry in the Pinehurst, Inc. records,” he recalled. “The company gave me a check at the end of the season for the total amount due. If I had worked a total of 32 weeks, I received a check for $256.” Since he received free room and board and gratuities, Stanley saw the job as more profitable than his succeeding employment with the Federal Reserve Bank in which he received $2,500 annually. Hotel workers not receiving gratuities were paid higher salaries.

It’s doubtful anyone working at the hotel, including the manager, received more in compensation than Sam Lacks collected in tips. When Sam was first promoted to the job of doorman in 1910, his duties mostly involved greeting guests and helping them out of their carriages. But with the advent of motion pictures, Lacks’ standing in the galaxy of employees skyrocketed because it was he who controlled the guests’ access to movie tickets at the popular Pinehurst Theatre. Demand for tickets often exceeded supply, and those that Sam favored with the treasured ducats expressed their gratitude by showering him with silver and paper currency. Stanley Lacks wrote that the “tips came so fast he did not have a chance to see what he received before it went into his pocket.” Sam told his children to never divulge any information about this blizzard of cash. “It was a family secret,” says Stanley. Rather than deposit the accumulated gratuities in a Pinehurst institution, Lacks banked in Southern Pines, where he was relatively unknown. Perhaps out of jealousy that the doorman seemed to be taking home more than they were, the hotel’s managers over the years considered restricting Lacks’ compensation to a fixed amount, but it never came to pass. Stanley Lacks wrote, “Selling the theatre tickets helped my family get through the years of economic depression. It also put my brother and me through Duke University.”

Sam Lacks’ success in receiving this largess was enhanced by his colorful and winning personality. According to The Pilot, he befriended everyone he met, including “members of the European nobility, a former president, several senators, and businessmen and sportsmen of national prominence.” He was also thought to “exercise a mysterious control over the weather,” an ability which he never bothered to deny.

It may have concerned the Tufts family that Pinehurst, Inc., did not own or control the Northern hotels where The Carolina’s manager and employees worked during the summer. There was always a possibility that a manager could resign from The Carolina, go to work for another Southern establishment, and take his employees with him. To guard against this and also provide year-around employment for his workforce, Leonard’s son Richard Tufts entered into a contract in 1931 for Pinehurst, Inc., to manage the Berkshire Hunt & Country Club in Lenox, Massachusetts. Richard shipped The Carolina’s then manager Ed Fitzgerald and his workforce (including Sam Lacks) to Lenox for the summer. In subsequent years, Pinehurst, Inc., owned the Marshall House in York Harbor, Maine, which served as another summer base for The Carolina’s migrating employees.

Pinehurst’s status as a premier winter resort took a hit after World War II when Florida became a more attractive destination due to increasing ease of air travel and newly air-conditioned hotel rooms. Moreover, the old-line guests who customarily stayed in Pinehurst for a month were steadily fading away from the scene. A new generation of Pinehurst, Inc. managers, led by Jim Harrington and William Sledge, maintained that the resulting decline in revenue necessitated a revised business model featuring an increased emphasis on attracting conventions and catering to groups of visiting golfers. Harrington, now 91, also remembers telling Richard Tufts that Pinehurst could no longer afford to have its assets lie dormant five months of the year, and that the company needed to move toward year-round operation.

Finally, in 1961, Harrington persuaded the shareholders to approve the building of a swimming pool and installation of air-conditioning at the Holly Inn. For the first time, a Pinehurst resort property was available for lodging throughout the year. In the mid-1960s, further improvements were underway at The Carolina to enhance convention traffic. Sledge headed the construction project to build the Carolina Ballroom. Air conditioning of The Carolina’s rooms was completed in 1969, but Richard, and those in agreement with him, could never bring themselves to pull the trigger authorizing year-round operation. Ongoing disagreements between shareholders regarding a host of issues led to the sale of Pinehurst, Inc., in 1970 to industrialist Malcolm McLean. Under the “Diamondhead” umbrella, McLean opened The Carolina to full time operation in 1971. With employees now expected to live near the hotel all year, Diamondhead saw no need to keep the Help’s Quarters. The old dormitory wing was razed and the Marshall House was sold.

Ceiling fans and steamer trunks were a thing of the past. It was the end of an era.  PS

Pinehurst resident Bill Case is PineStraw’s history man. He can be reached at

Drinking with Writers

With the Author Himself

An internal dialog

By Wiley Cash   •   Photograph by Mallory Cash

Wiley Cash and I have known one another for almost 42 years, but I do not see him very often. Work as writer-in-residence at the state university in Asheville has him driving back and forth across the state quite a bit, and if you are to believe his social media accounts, he is usually sprinting through one airport or another, behind on a writing deadline and struggling to find Wi-Fi to return students’ emails. That’s what he gets for giving up his smartphone.

Life has been pretty busy since Wiley’s first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, was released in the spring of 2012. Since then he has published two more novels, taken a few teaching positions, and moved a couple times. He and his wife, Mallory, who is a photographer, are also the parents of two young daughters.

A few weeks ago I sent him a text. (He can still text with a flip phone. It just takes him longer.)

Me: let’s get a beer

Wiley: high cholesterol. Been jogging. Coffee?

Me: does beer give you high cholesterol?

Wiley: beer makes it harder to jog

Me: where should we meet for coffee? Prefer a place that also serves beer.

Wiley: our house Thursday morning

Mallory meets me at the door when I arrive at their home near Carolina Beach.

“His majesty is still in his robe,” she says.

“Late night?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “He just works from home. His robe is like his employee uniform.”

“You work from home too,” I say. “You’re not wearing your pajamas.”

“Maybe the robe life is the exclusive lifestyle of authors.”

I look up and see Wiley coming down the stairs in a bright red robe and gray bedroom slippers. We shake hands.

“It’s been a while,” Wiley says. “When did you get glasses?”

“Last year,” I say.

He strokes his white beard and tucks his (graying?!) hair behind his ear.

“We’re getting old,” he says. He smiles. “At least you are.”

“I guess that means we’re having coffee instead of beer.”

He smiles and leads me down the hallway, past the kitchen, and into a sitting room that has recently been converted into his daughters’ playroom. He offers me a seat in one of two tattered yellow armchairs.

“When we bought this house we thought it would be a great place to host parties,” he says. He smiles and looks around the room. “Turns out it’s been a great place to host children’s books and games and toys.”

While Wiley makes coffee in a French press, we discuss what has kept him busy since his most recent novel, The Last Ballad, was published in the fall of 2017. He tells me about the Open Canon Book Club, an online book club he founded to introduce readers to diverse books by diverse authors, and the Land More Kind Appalachian Artists’ Residency, a retreat he and Mallory and two friends founded in West Virginia. He is also teaching, a lot: Aside from his work as writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, he also teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA Program. In his spare time he is trying to work on a new novel, one that is already behind deadline.

“How are you finding the time and space to write?” I ask.

He pours me a cup of black coffee, pours one for himself, and then sits back in his chair.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I’m really busy, but everything I do is about writing in one way or another. When I teach, I teach writing. When I give a talk at a library or university, I’m talking about writing. When I’m reading books for the book club or reading through applications for the artists’ residency, I’m thinking about the written word and how it works to achieve an author’s intentions. Literally everything I do pertains to writing. My life is one huge literary conversation that never stops.”

“It all sounds like a lot of work,” I say. “Are there many rewards?”

“Aside from my mom constantly asking if my editor’s mad at me because my novel is late? Sure. There are a lot of rewards,” he says. “I’m so lucky that my one-time hobby has become my full-time occupation, or occupations.” He looks over his shoulder at a wall of glassed-in bookshelves in the living room. “Speaking of rewards,” he says, “you want to see a really cool one?”

He gets up and walks into the other room. When he returns he is carrying a small statue on a pedestal. “Meet Sir Walter Raleigh,” he says. He slides one of his girl’s chairs away from a children’s table and sets the statue on the chair. He makes a show of polishing it. “I received this a few weeks ago from the North Carolina Historical Book Club. I love it.”

“You seem like a proud father,” I say. “Speaking of fatherhood, how has it changed your writing?”

“Being a parent has deepened the experience of storytelling in ways that have really surprised me,” he says. “Our oldest, who’s 4, is obsessed with narrative. I probably tell six or seven stories a day about saber tooth tigers and early people and ghosts and pirates. A few nights ago I heard her telling Mallory about how telling stories can cause them to feel true. That left a huge impression on me because that’s what I want to do as a writer. I want to tell my readers fictional stories that they believe nonetheless.

“And our 3-year-old is really interested in telling stories. A few days ago, she told Mallory a story that began It was the first day of school. His mother came to get him. He was not sad, but quiet. Are you kidding me? I don’t write opening lines that beautiful.”

“If your girls told a story about you, what would it be?” I ask. Wiley takes a sip of his coffee and looks toward the window.

“It was the first day of writing a new novel,” he says. “His mother had already called to check on his progress. He was not sad, but tired.”

“Pretty good lines,” I say.

“Thanks,” he says. “They’re yours if you write my biography.” PS

Wiley Cash lives in Wilmington with his wife and their two daughters. His latest novel, The Last Ballad, is available wherever books are sold.

April Bookshelf

April Books


At Briarwood School for Girls, by Michael Knight

Lenore is a young student in the 1990s who finds herself pregnant as she navigates her junior year on the basketball team, in the school play, and talking through her problems with a ghost from decades past. But the very history that is revered in the region — the buildings, the grounds, the surrounding Virginia countryside — is threatened by the commercialized invasion of an imminent Disney theme park, much to the dismay of locals and students alike. Knight proves himself once again to be a spinner of a great story.

The Gulf, by Belle Boggs

The author of The Art of Waiting and Mattaponi Queen delivers a novel filled with satire, irony, warmth and wit. Two liberal atheists in need of work, along with a venture capitalist, decide to open a writing school for Christians in a decrepit motel on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Marianne is a floundering poet who finds herself in the position of administrator, getting the actual site ready and culling through the applicants, while waiting for her ex-fiancé, Eric, to return from Dubai and assist her. The result is a motley assortment of teachers and students. After a comical and rocky first few days, they manage to find common ground. It could have worked until a politician with an agenda becomes involved.

The Editor, by Steven Rowley

What if you are called by a major publishing company to meet with an editor to discuss your first novel? What if the editor who walks into the room is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? That’s the situation writer James Smale finds himself in. Jackie and James develop a strong working relationship as she expertly guides him through his novel while encouraging him to confront the truth about his own family. The Editor is satisfying, charming, witty, and an intuitive look at family, relationships and life — a stylish and unforgettable tribute to a stylish and unforgettable woman.

Stay Up with Hugo Best, by Erin Somers

Suave, debonair, womanizing late-night talk show host Hugo Best is ending his decades-long career with a fizzle. To 29-year-old June Bloom, writing assistant to the show, he is still an iconic figure. He unexpectedly invites her for a long weekend at his mansion — no strings attached — and she accepts. What follows are overwhelming, underwhelming, awkward comical scenarios between the characters that can make you laugh and cringe simultaneously.

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves

The author of On the Island writes about Jonathan and Annika, who meet in the chess club at the University of Illinois and bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone. A decade later, fate reunites them in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start.

The Peacock Emporium, by Jojo Moyes

In the ’60s, Athene Forster was the most glamorous girl of her generation. Nicknamed the “Last Deb,” she was beautiful, spoiled and out of control. After she agrees to marry the gorgeous young heir Douglas Fairley-Hulme, rumors began to circulate about Athene’s affair with a young salesman. Thirty-five years later, Suzanna Peacock is struggling with her notorious mother’s legacy. The only place Suzanna finds comfort is in The Peacock Emporium, the beautiful coffee bar and shop she opens that soon enchants her little town. There she makes, perhaps, the first real friends of her life, including Alejandro, a male midwife, escaping his own ghosts.


Save Me the Plums, by Ruth Reichl

The editor-in-chief of Gourmet and a New York Times best-selling author writes a memoir about her groundbreaking tenure at the top food magazine in the world, helping to create a culture of chef superstars. The story of a former Berkeley hippie who enters the corporate world, Reichl shares the insider look at running the storied magazine (and closing it).

The Second Mountain: A Quest for a Moral Life, by David Brooks

Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family; to a vocation; to a philosophy or faith; and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. The New York Times columnist looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence. He gathers their wisdom on how to choose a partner, how to pick a vocation, how to live out a philosophy, and how we can begin to integrate our commitments into one overriding purpose.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb

With startling wisdom and humor, therapist Lori Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human.

The Animal’s Companion, by Jacky Colliss Harvey

In The Animal’s Companion, the acclaimed author of Red: A History of the Redhead turns her keen eye for cultural investigation and her remarkable storytelling skills to a pet project: the history of animals as our companions in everyday life. It’s a history that dates as far back as 26,000 years ago to a cave in France where anthropologists discovered evidence of a boy and his dog taking a walk together. From that point forward, Colliss Harvey takes us on a sweeping journey through centuries and across continents to examine how our relationships with our pets have developed, yet stayed very much the same. Along the way she shares delightful stories of the most famous, endearing and sometimes eccentric pet owners throughout history.


Babymoon, by Hayley Barrett

The perfect gift for newly expectant parents. Unlike any other “new baby” book, this special little title focuses on those few, precious days parents have with their newborn as together they become a new family. (Age birth-1.)

The Little Guys, by Vera Brosgol

These little guys are just about the cutest things in all the forest, and when they band together, they can do just about anything, can take just about anything . . . can get all they need. But just how much is too much? And just where do the needs of the whole forest come in? These little guys will warm your heart as they open their hearts to the needs of others both big and little. (Ages 3-6.)

Where the Heart Is, by Jo Knowles

It’s the first day of summer and Rachel’s 13th birthday. With a summer job caring for the neighbor’s farm animals, her best friend, Micah, nearby and weeks of warm weather to look forward to, Rachel is living the dream. But when bad news threatens all she loves, Rachel must make some difficult decisions about who and what are important in her life. At once sweet, silly, sad and ultimately satisfying, Where the Heart Is is the perfect summer read. (Age 12-14.)

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

In the end, and in the beginning, all we really have are our stories. In Ghost Boys, Jerome’s story, Sarah’s story, Grandma’s and Kim’s and Emmett’s stories are all one: that only the living can make the world better. This story — their story — will haunt the reader long, long past the final page. Sure to be a winner this award season, Ghost Boys is an absolute must-read. (Ages 12-16.)

Lovely War, by Julie Berry

Clever, snarky, beautiful and completely impossible to put down, this sweeping epic love story absolutely has it all. Aphrodite, as narrator, shares a tale of absolute love and passion — a tale of four mortals from divergent backgrounds whose lives are forever connected through interactions during World War I. It’s a story that even has the gods of fire and war wiping an occasional tear from their eyes and softens the heart of the god of the underworld. (Ages 14 to adult.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally

Papadaddy’s Mindfield


Or, how to start your own Vacation Club

By Clyde Edgerton

When my wife, Kristina, was told we could get four days and three nights in a Marriott hotel luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, three or four TVs in Myrtle Beach for $9 (OK: $134) if we’d sit together for a one-and-a-half-hour lecture about time-shares, I said: Goodness. Why not?

Excuse me — not time-share, but some other name, like: Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway. “Time-share” is out of fashion in some quarters . . . the name, not the concept. There’s a guy who comes on cable radio and says, “I’m a lawyer, not very smart, but mean, and I’ll get you out of your time-share contract by suing the hell out of the time-share company, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll burn down your time-share and we will split the insurance.”

But with the Marriott Vacation Worldwide Club Getaway, rather than buying a two-weeks-a-year stay at one hotel suite, apartment, small closet or room (after which other people use it for the rest of the year, and get it dirty), you — in this new kind of setup — buy the possibility of staying in a luxury hotel about anywhere in the world when you go on vacation, and you use up a certain number of points each time that happens, depending on how big your abode is. You buy so many points a year for the rest of your life. If you don’t like the deal, that’s OK because you will die and leave it to your heirs, and they can do the same, like a home. Resale value? I don’t know.

Let’s jump ahead about one hour and 15 minutes into our lecture. I asked: “What’s your return rate?”

“Excuse me?”

“How many couples out of 10 buy in?”


“Wow, I’m surprised it’s that high. That’s pretty good.”

Now mind you, Kristina and I had decided that there was no way we could buy in. I mean there was the very slightest chance, but we vowed we would not be swayed. 

The luxury hotel was, well, luxurious. The January weather was nice, there were several football-field-size heated pools, a Jacuzzi. Our suite was two big bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, living room, all that. We just kind of relaxed. Our kids did what they do at home: They sat on a bed and looked into a cellphone. Well, that’s not fair — they do other things. Perceptions are sometimes a product of fear.

We got there on a Friday, and on Saturday morning, while the kids sit on their beds looking into their cellphones, Kristina and I head for the lecture. On the way, we walk around, out onto the beach and back. I mean, who needs the beach when you are at a luxury hotel? There is this bevy of nice grills near the beach area (inside the gate to the beach), these big cabinets of dark wooden cubbyholes for your beach paraphernalia (inside the gate to the beach). There are beach chairs, ping-pong tables, a gym (inside the gate to the beach). Suddenly, I realized the thing you go to the beach for, the beach, was not central to a Marriott Worldwide Vacation Club Getaway. Why? A guess: Nobody makes money when you go for a walk on the beach. And the gate keeps out the undesirables who might be walking by on the beach.

Just before the lecture, we enter a large room with bar, snacks, drinks, many couches, big green plants and lamps. I’d thought other folks would be coming in. Nope. It ended up, at first, being just three of us.

A nice young man, very relaxed, open collar, sports jacket, sits down with us and says, “This is definitely going to be low key. No high-pressure stuff.” We talk about where he’s from, his brothers and sisters, where he went to school. I like him. Surely he thinks we’re not interested, I think.

It is very low pressure . . . for about 40 minutes. After about 45 minutes we have taken a little stroll past beautiful, large 3-D photos of resort areas around the world, and we are now in a very small room. A guy who looks like Pancho Villa comes in. He wears two belts of ammo, crossed on his chest. He starts putting numbers on a white board with a blue felt-tipped pen — what our payments will be for a certain number of points a year. He’s good. I will later admit to Kristina that I was almost swayed. Then I think to ask, “Is there a maintenance fee?” Well, there is. Two grand a year for the moderate package we’re examining, and I think to myself: If we get away for only four nights in a certain year, that’s $500 a night out the gate.

We say to Pancho: “We are not doing this, sir. The end.” He changes tactics, halves all the numbers on the board, unclicks the safety-guard strap on his pistol.

We persist. Pancho gives up, and they run a woman in on us. No ammo belts. She says if we call her by 1 p.m. that day, we can get three nights and four days at any Marriott luxury hotel for $199 if we promise to come together for a 1-hour, 30-minute lecture. This is true. I realize that it’s the three out of 10 that’s driving the bus. I say, no thanks. She says $149. I say no. She gives us a business card and says, “Call me if you change your mind.”

We return to our suite, relax, enjoy our stay for another day, talk about how lucky we are to be one of the seven in 10. We gather our kids and their cellphones off their beds, return to Wilmington a day early, and have a family meeting. We’re going to start spending time at the beach, and in the yard, and walking, and going to state parks. We’re going to start our own Vacation Nature Getaway Club.

Features? Yard, beach, state parks.

Cost: Nada.  PS

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Keenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW. 

Golftown Journal

Eye of the Needles

The USGA returns to a polished gem

By Lee Pace

The continued evolution of Donald Ross’ vintage Sandhills golf courses back to a more unkempt and rugged look over the last decade will be on display in May when the United States Golf Association stages its U.S. Women’s Senior Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines. The 1928 course that has hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens has come under the nipping and tucking auspices of architect Kyle Franz over the last two years and will offer a visual presentation more in keeping with what Ross cobbled from the sandy ground nearly a century ago, and certainly integrate some shot values more consistent with the Scottish designer’s original intent.

Franz ran a bulldozer and other shaping and construction implements on Pinehurst No. 2 in 2010-11 under the employ of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as the course was transformed from its sleek green appearance to a sandier landscape chock full of wire grass and jagged edges. He then took his skills and initiative and pitched Kelly Miller, president of the company that owns Pine Needles and is a partner in Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, on the idea of restoring Mid Pines, a 1921 Ross design, in a similar fashion. That job was completed in 2013 to rave reviews, including designation by Golf magazine as the Best Course Restoration of the year.

“Except for lacking the Pacific Ocean, it almost has the visual appeal of Cypress Point,” magazine course rating panelist John Dempsey said. “It almost looks like the old pictures you see of Mid Pines of people wearing coats and ties and watching a match finish on 18. I can’t say enough about it. Going out and playing nine holes in the last of the winter sunlight in late afternoon, the visuals are fabulous.”

The next step was to apply many of the same ideas to Pine Needles, across Midland Road. The hook of converting Pine Needles’ greens from bent to MiniVerde Bermuda — as they had been at Mid Pines — was a convenient base from which to operate. Pine Needles closed during the summer of 2016 for the greens conversion, and Franz used that period, as well as the following two winters, to rebuild every bunker on the course, rearrange the fairway dimensions and add some new tees.

“The old stigma on Bermuda greens is that they were grainy and slow, but that’s not true anymore with the new ultra-dwarfs,” Miller says. “We had nearly 50 days with temperatures in the 90s during the summer of 2015, and it was a struggle to keep the bent healthy. Meanwhile, the greens really thrived at Mid Pines. After watching them closely for two years, we thought it was time to pull the trigger at Pine Needles.”

Franz grew up playing golf in Oregon, and when it came time to pick a college, he knew what he wanted: Oregon State’s turf management program. One summer he landed an internship working for architect Tom Doak on Pacific Dunes, the second of five courses created at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and later he met Coore and Crenshaw, who were designing another course there named Bandon Trails.

“Being an Oregonian, it was a really special experience,” Franz says. “Just being able to work on a piece of land like that was really cool. It got me interested in links-style architecture, and I had always been a fan of classic courses.”

Now 37, Franz has worked in Scotland, Australia and California, and more recently was on Gil Hanse’s staff in the design and construction of the course in Rio de Janeiro used for the 2016 Olympics. He’s also just finished a multi-year project at the Country Club of Charleston, which will be the venue for the U.S. Women’s Open one week after the Pine Needles Senior Open.

Among the tweaks Franz made that golfers who played Pine Needles in 2007 and are returning for the first time a dozen years later will notice are these:

* Expanded fairways to original margins to 38 to 60 yards;

* Restored and/or reconfigured all 70 bunkers to Ross’ rolled-over style of the mid-to-late 1940s and added eight new bunkers to challenge modern length;

* Re-established what Franz calls “horse-and-blade caliber micro-contours” in the greens to add interest and challenge to the putting element;

* Removed 11 acres of Bermuda rough and replaced them with native hardpan, wire grass and pine straw;

*Replaced the uniform-looking expanses of love grass in front of many tees with a more rugged “Pine Valley” look of sand and native growth.

“Overall, it’s a little more clean and manicured look and different from Mid Pines,” Franz says. “There we went guns blazing with the native stuff around the edges. At Pine Needles now we have a cool and rugged look, but it’s a little more manicured than No. 2 and Mid Pines.”

The championship will be played May 16-19 and is the second Women’s Senior Open, christened last year at Chicago Golf Club. Laura Davies, who finished in the top five at Pine Needles in 1996 and 2007 but missed the cut in 2001, won the championship by 10 shots over Juli Inkster. The field included noted LPGA players Danielle Ammaccapane, Helen Alfredsson, Liselotte Neumann, Rosie Jones, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Betsy King, Pat Bradley and Jane Geddes. The course will play just under 6,100 yards.

“The Women’s Senior is similar to the U.S. Amateur or Walker Cup in size and scope,” Miller says. “There are basically no grandstands, though we might put one on the 18th green. There are no skyboxes. It’s a very fan-friendly event. We rope off the tees and greens, but otherwise spectators walk with the players.”

The Women’s Senior is something of a prelude to the 2022 Women’s Open at Pine Needles, and having tees that can stretch the entire course to 7,000 yards will give USGA officials adequate flexibility when they host the longer LPGA players vs. the over-50 crowd.

“I think the Bermuda greens and wider fairways will work well for both events,” Miller says. “In Ross’ era, golf was played more along the ground. Now it’s more in the air. But the Bermuda greens are firmer and offer a more challenging surface. It’s more important now to be on the proper side of the fairway to have the shot you need to knock it close.

“For ’22, they can lengthen some holes, but I don’t think you’ll see a lot more rough. I think Donald Ross would have loved testing the players with longer shots and the strategy of proper placement of the tee shot versus having penalizing rough.”

One change that embodies the new-look Needles as much as any is the bunker complex down the left side of the par-4 18th hole. The finishing hole was actually the first hole of the course as it was designed, when the St. Joseph of the Pines assisted-living facility was the original Pine Needles hotel. When Peggy Kirk Bell and husband Warren acquired the golf course in the 1950s, they reconfigured the start and finish to be more convenient to the new lodging facilities they built on the southwest side of the course. Thus the second hole became the first and the first became the 18th.

Eighteen plays downhill and before there was no trouble down the left side. Now there is a natural sandscape with miscellaneous vegetation and whatever nature might deposit there, from pine needles to cones to wire grass.

“You could hit a speed slot on that side and the ball would roll forever,” Franz says. “What was conceived as a relatively easy starting hole didn’t stand up as a finishing hole.”

Miller remembers playing the 18th when he first visited Pine Needles in 1980 with a driver and 7-iron. “And that was with a persimmon wood and balata ball,” he says. “If you looked back up the fairway from the green, it looked like a bowling alley. Ross always had great motion to his fairways. Now it’s a cool look. You don’t just see all grass and two straight lines. This will make for a memorable finish.

“The best look at the flag is from the left side of the fairway. You’ll have to pause and think how far you can go over there.”

You blink around the Sandhills and realize it’s been five years since that back-to-back Open double-header on No. 2 in 2014. The chapters keep unfolding, as they have for more than a century.  PS

Lee Pace has written about the Pinehurst-area golf scene for more than 30 years, including authoring Sandhills Classics — The Stories of Mid Pines & Pine Needles. Write him at