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By KATHERINE LONG
Between the high-rise hotel, the tall
new bank and office buildings and the
maze of concrete streets and sidewalks,
there is a rambling white Victorian
boarding house in the center of Ashe
ville. The tall buildings cast threatening
shadows over the white house and the
neat green lawn during the day. But the
house is protected from developers and
bank presidents by the wooden sign of
the State of North Carolina in front. The
State owns this house.
Seventy years ago, Julia Wolfe-lived
in the house with her son Thomas and a
number of boarders. Thomas became a
great writer, and his most famous book,
Look Homeward, Angel, is in part the
story of his life in the white Victorian
house in the center of town. After his
death, the book was made into a play;
and several other books he wrote men
tion his youth as well.
Wolfe hated the house. "This is the
house in which I have, been in exile," he
writes. "There is a stranger in the house,
and there's a stranger in me."
Admirers of Wolfe make Jong pilgrim
ages to this house, to wander through
the rooms that are still furnished with
the Wolfe family possessions. .
On Oct 3, Thomas Wolfe's birthday,
the regular admission charge of $1 was
dropped and about 300 Wolfe fans
came to visit or re-visit the house.
Among Wolfe's admirers in the house
that day were three of Wolfe's relatives.
Lounging against the white railing on
the wide front porchstood George Gam
brell, Wolfe's nephew. ,
Gambrell, son of Wolfe's oldest sister
Effie (known as Daisy in the book), was
tall and slim, with thinning white hair,
bony hands, and blue eyes set close to
each other. He was friendly and talk
ative. He was also an awkward man,
given to expansive and jerky gestures,
and bore a slight resemblance to Eu
gene Gant, Wolfe's acknowledged self
portrait in Look Homeward, Angel.
Gambrell stood on the front porch
and reminisced. When asked for stories,
he laughed loudly and said, "If I tell
you anything it will be a story."
Gambrell said he met his famous
uncle only about six times, since
Gambrell grew up in faraway Anderson,
S.C. "He was just my Youngest uncle,"
Gambrell laughed. He called him Tom.
"He was just a loveable, big fellow.
He had a deep soft voice, and he didn't
talk much. My mother and he were the
least eccentric" of the family, he said,
and laughed again.
Gambrell walked through the house,
ove creaking floorboards, pointing out
DANCE from page 7
Costumes, printing and advertising, lights and the techni- '
cians to operate them are all expenses borne by the com
pany members. Fortunately, a major expense was averted
when Durham Academy offered the use of its theater. Some
of the Carolina Dancers will teach classes at the school in
exchange for use of the space,
While the Carolina Dancers test new waters as a profes
sional company, The Chapel Hill Ballet Company remains
basically a pre-professional forum for promising classical
"We're not supposed to be a professional group," Lester
the home that the author could
a picture of his mother to a couple who
said they had seen the play Look Home-,
ward, Angel seven times:
Gambrell can remember twisting his
ankle on the front porch one day, and
when he came to visit he stayed in the
front bedroom, where the gift shop is
located now. But there are other people .
who know the house as if they had lived
there, tour guides said.
"There was a lady who was so over
whelmed when she walked through the
door that she started crying," guide
Margaret Eller said
The Wolfe-hounds who come through
the house quote passages by memory
from Look Homeward, Angel, even
citing page numbers, Eller said.
But everyone has a mental picture of
the house after reading Wolfe's books.
"They picture things in their mind, and
the house doesn't match up," she said.
"The biggest misconception was,
Liza (Wolfe's mother's name in his
books was a shrew' Eller said, becom
ing angry. "That was Thomas Wolfe's
version of the truth.
"There was a reasot for everything
she did. I admire her; she was a shrewd,
good businessman." Eller has become a
bit of a Wolfe-hound too. She has read
a lot about him. especially the publish
ed letters to his mother which she
called "very revealing."
The house is filled with the little
things that his family used every day,
and which Wolfe mentioned in his
book. The record "Gimme a Little Kiss"
' sits on the old phonograph in the
sunroom. There is worn sheet music on
.the piano ledge, and piles of Saturday
.Evening Posts that julia read in her tiny
One room holds the transplanted fur
nishings of Thomas Wolfe's New York
apartment There is the vintage Reming
ton typewriterthe well-traveled leather
suitcase. The suitcase still bulges with
unpacked clothes; they are the clothes
Wolfe was wearing in the West when he
contracted fatal pneumonia, and they
still sit unpacked in the suitcase.
And then there is Wolfe's bedroom. It
is the barest bedroom in the house.
"He did not turn on the light" Wolfe
wrote of Eugene entering his room,
"because he disliked seeing the raw
blistered varnish of the dresser and the
bent white iron of the bed. It sagged
and the light was dim."
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial is open
Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m.
to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5
said. "We try to give kids the experience of a professional
company before entering pre-professional training. Ifs a
springboard for young dancers." . .
But with the likes of Lester, a dancer for 22 years, and
M'liss Dorrance, one of the most eminent classical dancers
in the area, the company's artistic standards are in good
Barbara Bounds Milone, the company artistic advisor, js
another caretaker of those standards. "She's quite outstand
ing," Lester said. "She approves the artistic quality of every
thing we do." .
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' Thomas VoIfe Memorial
. .Asheville home retains atmosphere described in book.
p.m. To get there, take Rt. 54 West out
of Chapel Hill. Near Burlington, take
1-85 South to Greensboro; then take 1-40
West to Asheville. Exit on Rt 25 North.
The Memorial is located in the center
not go back to
of Asheville in the Thomas Wolfe Plaza,
to the right on Rt 25.
. Katherine Long is a staff writer for The
Daily Tar Heel.
The Chapel Hill Ballet Company will perform "The Little
Match Girl" on Dec. 6 in Memorial Hall.
The Carolina Dancers perform at the Durham Academy
Upper School Auditorium on Nov. 1 at 8 p.m., and on Nov.
15 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Additional information may be ob
tained by phoning 966-1 268. (J)
Todd Wells is a contributor to Spotlight.