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Interview with Arval Woody, November 5, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Arval Woody, November 5, 2003
November 5, 2003
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Woody, Arval Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  11/5/2003 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


Hayes: Today is November 5, 2003. We’re in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. We’re interviewing Arval Woody and the interviewers are Paul Zarbock and Sherman Hayes from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Randall Library.

Hayes: We thought we’d like to start with when you were born, how’s that for a good beginning. And when were you born?

Woody: I was born September 12, 1920.

Hayes: 1920, was your family always from this territory?

Woody: Yes, I was born and raised right here and my family has lived here for many, many years.

Hayes: What did they do? Your mom and dad, how did they make a living all those years?

Woody: Well my dad was in the lumber business and my mother was a housekeeper.

Hayes: Brothers and sisters? I know you have a brother that worked uh...

Woody: I have five brothers and two sisters, all the brothers are gone and the two sisters are still left.

Hayes: Where were you in that pecking order? That’s always important. Were you the oldest, youngest?

Woody: I was the youngest one of the boys, five boys, I was the youngest one, two sisters was younger than I.

Hayes: Were you actually right in Spruce Pine or up in the country?

Woody: I lived right here a quarter of a mile from where we are right now.

Hayes: I bet you this road wasn’t quite the same (laughter).

Woody: Oh no and it won’t be the same next year.

Hayes: Oh, is that right? Are they going to be working on it?

Woody: Yes, they’re working on it now.

Hayes: Are you going to still have a good outlet to come in to your shop?

Woody: Oh yes.

Hayes: So tell us a little bit about early life here in rural North Carolina in the mountains. What was it like being a kid in the 20’s and 30’s?

Woody: Well people really had to work to make a living. As I said my dad was in the lumber business. I was fortunate enough to be a caddy on a nine hole golf course which is 500 feet of here.

Hayes: They had that golf course back then?

Woody: It was the golf course in the 20’s, late 20’s. I caddied for 27 rounds. I saved enough money to buy my first Ford Roadster. Then the Blue Ridge Parkway was built.

Zarbock: How old were you when you got your first automobile?

Woody: About 17.

Zarbock: Who taught you how to drive?

Woody: I learned the hard way (laughter).

Zarbock: Did your folks have an automobile?

Woody: Yeah, my dad had the first model T Ford in this part of the country.

Hayes: And when did he get that? Early 20’s?

Woody: It was a 1921 model.

Hayes: Did he use it in the business?

Woody: No.

Hayes: It was a Sunday car, huh?

Woody: It was a Sunday car, yeah.

Hayes: The roads must have been…

Woody: Oh, they were terrible.

Hayes: Now you said that the Parkway was built. When was the Parkway built?

Woody: It was started in the 30’s and I worked on the Parkway. I made 30 cents an hour, went to work at 6:00 in the morning and worked until noontime. That check was $12 a week and social security came out of that so I was making $11.88. That was my paycheck.

Zarbock: Was that a WPA project?

Woody: No, it wasn’t, WPA was in progress at that time. This was the federal government.

Zarbock: They wanted that rode, and it was designed to be a scenic road easily traveled to view nature and the beauty of the mountains.

Woody: That’s right.

Hayes: So what do you mean you worked on it? What exactly did you have to do?

Woody: I was actually a water boy, bringing water to the men. If they were using a two man crosscut saw, before the day of the chainsaw, there were no chainsaws at that time in this part of the country. As I told you earlier, I worked as a caddy and saved money to buy the car and I’d haul riders and they paid me $1.00 a week to ride with me. I’d get a ticket at the end of the week and had to take it to the office to get my money which was the $11.88 after social security was out. All the fellows rode with me.

They’d sell me their ticket at the end of the week for a $10 bill and I’d buy that and hold it for a week and take it to the office and get my money so I’d make a $1.88 off of each one of the fellows that rode with me plus $1.00 they paid me.

Hayes: So you were a banker then (laughter).

Woody: People tell me I’ve been in a businessman all my life (laughter).

Zarbock: How many people would ride with you?

Woody: I’d haul about six people.

Hayes: That was a pretty full car though.

Woody: Not only that but my dad ran a country store and being in the lumber business, my mom took care of the store. Of course they had candy there and I sold candy bars. Since I was the water boy, I’d sell candy bars, a nickel a bar and I was still making money. So between the candy bars and hauling the riders and buying the tickets, I was making some money.

Hayes: And you must have been one of the first people to be on social security when they started taking that because social security just started.

Woody: About ’35 I think.

Zarbock: Let me ask you to go back. When you say your father was in the lumber business, there’s a lot of components. There’s cutting, there’s hauling, milling, etc., what did your father do or see that was done?

Woody: He bought ____ of timber. He sawed and sold his lumber and cross-tied. In World War I he was selling crossties for 90 cents a piece and was making big money I understand.

Hayes: So he did it all himself pretty much.

Woody: He and his brother were partners.

Hayes: What was his brother’s name?

Woody: Ed Woody.

Hayes: And what was your dad’s name?

Woody: James Woody.

Hayes: That’s just for the record. As you went through the Depression here, what was it like? Did people notice the difference? Was it harder times or was it about the same?

Woody: Oh gosh, it was hard times. I mean they were lucky if they had 50 cents or a dollar to go to the grocery store. For electricity, everybody used kerosene lamps and they bought the kerosene oil for 5 cents a gallon. They were lucky if they had enough money to buy the oil and a few things that they didn't produce on the farm.

Hayes: Without that parkway, what work was there? A little lumbering…

Woody: Well this area has always been a mining area, ______ that type of thing and a good deal of that went on even back before my time.

Hayes: So people had some opportunity but it was tough.

Woody: That’s right.

Hayes: In the literature, it talks about the making of chairs and woodworking goes back many generations in your family. Were you the first to do the formal chairs or were there people before you making the chairs and so forth?

Woody: Before me my grandfather was Arthur Woody who’s picture hangs on the wall over there, made the chair I showed you earlier, he was a chair maker and his dad was Henry Woody and Henry was a chair maker. Henry’s dad was White Woody and he was a chair maker. We know it dates back that far. What I’m about to tell you is not a documented fact, but they tell me that the name was Anderson and it was changed to Woody because members of the family did woodwork.

Hayes: Wow, well that’s quite a compliment I guess. Did you have a sense that they were making for themselves and sold on the side, that kind of business or was there an actual shop that you’ve been able to track back?

Woody: Well the picture there is a picture of the shop where my granddaddy worked out of. My granddad and my uncle worked at that shop and that shop stood about 500 feet from here. That water _____ was your source of power. Power from that water _______ is what made that chair there they sold three for a dollar.

Hayes: Now what year was that?

Woody: About the turn of the century.

Hayes: And you mentioned to us how much an acre of land went for, was a dollar an acre.

Woody: Fifty cents an acre.

Hayes: So you had a choice, a chair or an acre (laughter). Did your father buy land then? Did he need land to be a woods person?

Woody: He bought bands of timber. He’d buy the timber on a piece of land from the owner.

Hayes: And they would keep the land.

Woody: Right.

Hayes: It wasn’t clear cutting then? Was it just picking out the best pieces and so forth?

Woody: That’s right.

Hayes: I think with that clear cutting, you wouldn’t have anything left.

Woody: No, they just picked and got the best timber.

Hayes: And then how long would he own that lease, just for one cut or would he go back year after year?

Woody: Well they employed a number of people. My dad and his brother, they employed a number of people. When they’d buy a band of timber, it didn't last long.

Hayes: Then they had to move to another area to find more timber. How far do you think they roamed?

Woody: Oh within a 50 mile radius.

Zarbock: And they’d get the logs out, what with a mule?

Woody: Yeah and had a two man crosscut saw before the days of the chainsaws.

Hayes: And then the product that they were selling was that semi-finished log?

Woody: They took it to the sawmill.

Hayes: By the time you were growing up, you didn't work in that particular…

Woody: No I never did work in the sawmill.

Hayes: But it was still going?

Woody: Yeah.

Hayes: It was more lucrative to work with those golfers.

Woody: That’s right (laughter).

Hayes: I’m just surprised that there was a golf course. I mean this is not a metropolitan area so I’m surprised that there was a golf course.

Woody: It was built in the late 20’s, early 30’s.

Hayes: And who were the clients that you were working for? Just people from the area?

Woody: Well they were doctors and lawyers, professional people in town.

Zarbock: Were there tourists in those days?

Woody: Yeah, there were tourists and we had some of them playing. Judge Clarkston from Charlotte was here all the time, he played.

Zarbock: And where would the tourists stay?

Woody: Most of them stayed at the _____ Inn.

Hayes: That’s still here. Interesting.

Zarbock: When you were a little one in school, did you show any remarkable ability or ability to sketch and draw, do something like that, work with your hands?

Woody: Not really.

Zarbock: Because we talked with a man yesterday that said when he was six years of age they thought, the teachers thought he was doing prize winning sketches and he said I just came this way, I didn't learn it. It was there before I knew how to talk. So I’m wondering when did you realize you had such a gift to work with wood in a really creative and wonderful way?

Woody: Well when I wasn’t caddying anymore I worked with some local carpenters and I learned to do carpentry work. I learned to put on roofing and that type of thing.

Zarbock: But that’s construction work.

Woody: Then I went to Spartanburg and helped build Camp Cross. I’d only been there a matter of days until the foreman brought me a pink slip, they didn't need me. So I made all my preparations to come home the next day and I was boarding with a Mrs. Ross over on Arch Street in Spartanburg and running around with her granddaughter at night. Her dad knew that I was leaving and he said he wanted to talk to me before I left .

So I went down to his house the night I got the pink slip. He asked if I’d like to stay and I said I sure would. He said not because you’re boarding with my mother and running around with my daughter, but he said he was the labor relation man for the union and he said they were hiring men every day and if your work was satisfactory, they had no business to fire me.

So he came by for me the next morning and I went on the job with him and I pointed out to him the man who gave me the pink slip. He went down and talked to him for 15 minutes or so and he came back to the car and he said, “Woody, we’re going to keep you. We’re not going to put you back on the same job, but we’re going to put on ______”. And that’s what they did. The first morning out, the foreman on that job said they were going to start putting a roofing, combination shingle and roofing on these permanent buildings and he asked all the older fellows if they could put on combination shingles. There wasn’t any of them that could do it.

So he come to me and said that I was the newest and youngest and so he said he knew I couldn’t do it and I said yes I can. He said ok if I tell you to roof that building what was the first thing I would do. I said I’d want to know how much overhang he wanted, draw a chalk line, stretch it to make sure I had it straight. I said then I would go and do a starting strip and he said if I didn't have a starting strip what would you do.

I learned this right here in Spruce Pine. I said I’d turn the first course of shingles, are you familiar with that term, so I’d have a straight line. I said I’d proceed from there. He said I had said enough. He said you’re the foreman of this job. That’s what I did until the quartermaster took over at Camp Cross. It was about a year.

Zarbock: What year was that?

Woody: That was in ’42. I was drafted in ’43.

Hayes: Now when you’re talking about that roofing, that’s where the shingle overlays in a line? That was fairly new at that time? Those older guys just didn't know…

Woody: Well they hired any and everybody on the building at the camp. I don’t know if they had ever had any experience or not, but there weren’t any that knew how to put on roofing.

Hayes: Well that was a good start for you.

Zarbock: What were you being paid, do you remember as a foreman?

Woody: Yeah, I know I told you earlier I had worked here for 30 cents an hour on the Parkway. I went down there and my starting pay was $1.26 an hour and time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sunday.

Hayes: And they were in a hurry to get this camp up.

Woody: So the first check I got I thought I was a rich man.

Hayes: The war was going at this point pretty heavy?

Woody: Yes, well let’s see. Pearl Harbor was December ’41.

Hayes: Now where were you when that happened? I mean do you remember that happening?

Woody: Yeah, I was here. Two of my brothers went in the service, but I wasn’t old enough.

Hayes: Even before Pearl Harbor, they were in?

Woody: Yeah.

Hayes: Did they survive the war?

Woody: Oh yeah. That’s good.

Hayes: Do you remember listening to that broadcast? I mean everybody of that generation talks about I remember where I was. This was probably a very patriotic area of the country, wasn’t it? I mean people decided to go into the service.

Woody: Well it’s true. There was a lot of volunteering, but the majority of them were draftees.

Hayes: But then the government wanted to keep those mines going, right and they needed the lumber so didn’t they want to keep some people working here too?

Woody: I guess they did, but I guess they had enough (laughter).

Zarbock: Well we’re back on camera, you have been honorably discharged from the United States Army, you’re back from overseas, you come back to Spruce Pine about Christmas. That would be Christmas of 1945. You don’t have a job, but you’ve got what was then called the 52/20 Club. For 52 weeks you would get $20 a week while you were looking for a job. So there you start. You’re back in civilian dubs and you’re looking for a job. What happened?

Woody: Well I went to the employment office to sign up the first time for my $20 and the employment agency said Woody, there’s was a job opening. I asked what it was, what kind of a job. They said teaching. I said I wasn’t qualified because I hadn’t gone to college. The next week I went back to sign up and he said the job is still open. I’d been doing some investigating and found out what it was was teaching shop in high school. I said I was interested.

He said what I needed to do was to go to the county superintendent’s office and talk to Mr. Deaton. I knew him, his son and I had gone to high school together and I knew him quite well. I always considered him a good friend. I told him what I was there for and he talked to me and talked about high school and so forth, mentioned his son. He said it broke his heart to tell me that he couldn’t sign my application because I hadn’t gone to college.

I said well I understood. So when I got up and started to leave his office, he said, “Arval, do you have your service record with you?” I said I had, would he like to see it. He said he would. So he looked at it and he saw where I was in Cambridge, that they had sent me to the University of Cambridge to learn to measure lumber the English way.

Zarbock: The method system, right?

Woody: Right. He looked at that and talked a little bit about my stay at Cambridge and he said he was going to approve my application because he said he thought I was just as qualified as some of the college fellows would be. So he did and he said we would have to call _____ State College to come up and install you. They came up and I thought I was going into the shop, but instead of that, they put me in the classroom. I was teaching veterans as well as the youngsters.

I taught for seven years. I really had to work for it because as I said, I hadn’t gone to college so I really had to work for it. While I was doing that, there was no money with my brothers or family to speak of at that time. My brother built the building here and I put up the money to buy the material. He built the building and started operating the shop in the back and I had the grocery store in the front and my sister ran the store for me while I was teaching.

Zarbock: And you made a living out of it. Well you had your salary coming in. Did the store prosper?

Woody: We were doing real good. Now here’s what I didn't tell you. When we got started in the chair business, we were turning out chairs. There were four brothers at the time, two of the brothers weren’t connected with the shop. ____ and I, the one that died last year, he and I were the owners and they were working for us. We had turned out 3000 chairs a year.

What we were doing was we were making unfinished chairs and unseated and we got hooked up with a home demonstration agent in Haywood County and she put us in touch with home agents all over the state. They were required to buy 50 chairs and we’d go and give them a free day of instruction on seating and finishing. Now we didn't go all over the state. We only worked in 19 counties in the western part of the state, but we really turned out the chairs.

The chairs that we sold, the youngsters that are being born today, grandchildren of the parents that bought them then, they’re buying chairs today still adding to their grandparent’s list. So we have turned out a lot of chairs over the years.

Zarbock: The hours must have been very long if you’re turning out that many chairs.

Woody: Well we were turning out unfinished and unseated chairs. Now my lathe man just came in. I want you to see him do some turning and you’ll see how fast he turns them. It’s a hand operation and we turn them out. Now we’re turning out a finished product so it takes a lot more time to finish them. That little rocker over there, we used to sell that chair for $6.00. We get $225 for it today. The big chair like that you’re about to buy there we weren’t even making then. All we were making was the small ones.

I’m not saying we did that all the time, but we have turned out as many 3000 chairs a years.

Zarbock: Where do you get your stock? You have cherry, what are you working with?

Woody: Cherry, walnut, maple, oak and ash. We have our own sawmill. Our mill is powered by an old _____ eight engine. We saw our own lumber. We buy the logs and a lot of times they bring them to us and give them to us. There’ll be a tree that will blow down during a storm, they’ll call say, “If you want it, come and get it and I’ll give it to you.” You would not believe the number of trees that have been given to me.

Zarbock: So none of these have come in from China, Japan or Ethiopia or anything like that?

Woody: No sir. Local lumber, that’s right.

Zarbock: One of the things I’ve been told is that sawmills, the sawyers are always afraid that someone has driven an axe into the tree or railroad spike or something and tear up the saw.

Woody: We’ve had that happen many times, many, many times. But in the Black Forest in Germany, it was even worse because we set up sawmills there to operate when I was in the service to produce lumber for bridge building or whatever. So instead of spending a lot of money in sawmills, we set them up for preparation to saw in the Black Forest. The trees were full of sap and had to throw that out of your way.

Zarbock: I never thought of that.

Woody: Yeah, the trees were full of sap. The Black Forest, the Germans used it for hiding their ammunition, but we found out about it.

Zarbock: Is it better to leave the tree alone than to ruin a saw blade?

Woody: Yeah, today that’s true. I’ve got some lumber outside right now that I bought a big walnut tree and it had several nails in it. He said you could see the nails in the lumber that would ruin the saw. Of course you can replace the teeth, put new teeth in and then you’re alright. A lot of the big mills that are in operation today, they have band sawmills, the saw is about so wide and when they hit a nail, man it really grinds that saw. Now my sawmill has got teeth and I have to replace the teeth when it hits the metal.

Zarbock: Who sharpens the teeth by the way?

Woody: I do it.

Zarbock: If it’s to get done around here, you’re the one that does it, is that right?

Woody: That’s right.

Zarbock: Did you learn this or did you come this way in addition to being lucky?

Woody: Well I’ve learned it.

Zarbock: But somebody has to teach it to you.

Woody: Well I learned it the hard way.

Zarbock: Is that sawmill on this property?

Woody: I sold that sawmill just a few weeks ago because I’m using the woodmiser now. You know what that is? Portable sawmill.

Zarbock: Oh, is that it?

Woody: Yeah, they advertise, don’t bring a large ______ so I can hire them to saw it cheaper than I can saw it because I had to take my men away from the shop. When we would run into nails and be shut down for half a day, I was still paying them.

Zarbock: So the sawyer comes here and does the sawing?

Woody: Yes sir. He comes in his pickup truck. I saw a demonstration of it and my wife said what did you think of the sawmill. I said it was an expensive toy, it costs about $25,000. I learned it wasn’t an expensive toy. It’s expensive, but it’s one of the finest things I’ve ever seen. They use the band saw and the boards are exactly the same thickness at both ends and in the middle. They only cut a heavy 16th of an inch where my saw takes 5/16. So every fifth board is a free board with the miser.

Zarbock: How do you cure this lumber?

Woody: With sticks between them.

Zarbock: Air cool.

Woody: Yeah.

Zarbock: I mean air dry.

Woody: Right.

Zarbock: But you got to have a roof over that, don’t you?

Woody: Well I usually cover the top layer.

Zarbock: I interviewed a guy outside of Wilmington and they sell kilns and it’s all computerized. You put in X feet of lumber and you want it done by Y time and you don’t want it to cost more than Z, and you punch this thing in and hit a button and come back when the cake is baked. Well back to you. So you financed this building. Did your brother work exclusively with chairs in the back?

Woody: Yes.

Zarbock: Your brother went into… or did he do other furniture?

Woody: No, just chairs. He retired several years ago. He came down with diabetes and he retired. That’s when I started making all this little stuff. Now I’m making right now little stuff out of wood waste. Now I don’t know if you want to know what I’m about to tell you or not, but I have started making bookmarks. There’s no lumber to speak of involved. I had people say I need to put them on the internet.

They said one thing you have to do if you put it on the internet is you have to have two men working, one to take your product to the post office to mail it and another to take your money to the bank. But a log 10 inches in diameter and that long will make 1000 bookmarks. I’ve got some over there, I’ll show you. I am seriously thinking about putting them on the internet.

Zarbock: You don’t do any book covers, do you of wood?

Woody: No.

Zarbock: That’s specialty bookbinders. Accidents, have you had any accidents?

Woody: Never, I’ve been really fortunate.

Zarbock: Because that’s a lot of powerful and certainly sharp equipment.

Woody: I’ve been lucky, I still have all my fingers.

Zarbock: Now the thing that I know nothing about and I’m bewildered by, but respectful of, you use no glue in your chairs.

Woody: No glue. This upright has got enough moisture, the chair dried down to about 18% moisture. The rounds are thoroughly dried. The puts strength on the rounds is what holds it.

Zarbock: Who taught you that?

Woody: Well my grandparents, we’re the 5th generation that we know of.

Zarbock: And they didn't use glue either.

Woody: No, that’s when they sold three for a dollar.

Zarbock: That’s one of the three for a dollar chairs?

Woody: Yep.

Zarbock: Buy three chairs, buy three acres of land. No glue whatsoever. Who does your seats?

Woody: Well we have some women who work in their homes. I have one man upstairs permanently. He works here all the time.

Zarbock: What kind of material is that seat?

Woody: It’s a paper product, Craftcore made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Zarbock: Good product?

Woody: It’s a good product. We order a ton every few months.

Zarbock: A ton?

Woody: A ton, yes.

Zarbock: That’s an awful lot of paper.

Woody: We use a lot of it and we’re a drop in the bucket compared to the big operations.

Zarbock: Take a look into the future for me. We had talked about a little bit. What’s the future look like for you and this shop and the art that you produce?

Woody: Well right now the way it looks when I’m no longer here, the business will not be.

Zarbock: You’re the end of a long line.

Woody: I think that’s probably right. I’ve got nephews that I’ve encouraged to take over, but they won’t. One of them is a doctor and they’re professional people.

Zarbock: Why aren’t there people standing in line?

Woody: There’s a lot of work involved. The young people today, they want to stay clear of work. Don’t you agree?

Zarbock: I’ve had some experience in seeing what you just said.

Woody: The one nephew that was really interested, he lives in Charleston, South Carolina and he said the first thing I’d do was to build an office and get me a good chair in there and spend a lot of time in the office. We don’t know what that is. My wife, her office is one room in the house. As we see, we don’t have an office here. We work. We work 10 hours a day a lot of days.

Zarbock: How many days a week?

Woody: Five days a week.

Zarbock: You close on the weekend?

Woody: We keep ____ on Saturday and close on Sunday.

Zarbock: When is your busy season?

Woody: We’ve not been caught up in orders for 35 years.

Zarbock: That means you’re behind right now?

Woody: Right.

Zarbock: Any idea how far you are behind?

Woody: Well we’re less far behind now that we’ve been in previous years because the economy has not been too good. But now we sell very little stuff locally. We ship it all over. It’s not unusual to get an order from the west coast, up north, down south.

Zarbock: From a gallery?

Woody: No, individually. We don’t sell wholesale at all. We sell directly to the customer.

Zarbock: Foreign countries.

Woody: We ship to England, France, Belgium, Germany. When Dean Rusk was Secretary of State, he used one of our chairs to open a craft store in Helsinki, Finland and our chair was a representative piece of craftwork representing the United States.

Zarbock: Aren’t you proud?

Woody: I am really because it’s come the hard way. Now another thing I was going to tell you about, when I was working with the home demonstration agents, we met in fire departments and church basements and what have you in these 19 counties. My brother and I talked about wouldn’t it be nice if we had a fire department here. So we talked and started meeting right here. We paid dues, $3 a month in order to get the fire department going.

Now according to the fellows that helped us organize, some out of Wilmington, some out of Raleigh, all over, they come by occasionally and say we have one of the best departments in the state of North Carolina. It’s about a quarter of a mile down on the right.

Zarbock: Yes, we drove by it last night.

Woody: We’ve got everything in the fire department paid for. I don’t even know how many trucks we have now. I have not been real active. I’m still a member, but I haven’t been real active in recent years. We have anything the fire department wants. I’ve served on the Board of Directors for 35 years. We organized in ’63 and I’ve been on Board of Directors for 35 years.

Zarbock: Am I correct, there are some things on the wall that you’d like to show me. We’re here by the wall. What am I looking at here? We’re back over here on the wall. What am I looking at?

Woody: That was my grandfather’s shop. It stood about 500 feet from here back on the creek with the water wheel on the left which was his source of power.

Zarbock: And this was your grandfather?

Woody: He was Arthur Woody, everybody called him Uncle Arter.

Zarbock: And he died when?

Woody: In 1952. On the top is Trey Sanford, Governor of North Carolina, and I and my brother. That’s the chair I made for Trey Sanford that his hand is on and these others are ones I made for Caroline and John Jr.

Zarbock: And this says, “The best of the best”.

Woody: That’s something that the newspaper sent me not long ago.

Zarbock: And here it is.

Woody: The Southern Highland Handicraft Guild of which I’ve been a member for 47 years.

Zarbock: Well speaking of membership, you’re also… what are these?

Woody: This is North Carolina Commission of Insurance where I was assigned to that for the fire department.

Zarbock: And on the right corner there with that red?

Woody: I got that just a few weeks ago in appreciation for 20 years of dedicated service.

Zarbock: You helped start the fire department.

Woody: Oh yes.

Zarbock: What’s up here?

Woody: Lifelong member of the fire department.

Zarbock: And I want to pan this, your World War II experience. The 693 Engineer Base Equipment.

Woody: We served in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Holland.

Zarbock: You were telling me about the history and your experience with the mule ear chair. Tell me about the experience and then I’m going to ask you to hold up the chair.

Woody: Well when we first started here right after World War II, this elderly lady in the community, she came in here and said she had 14 chairs that she bought from your granddad when she was first married. And she said they had been used every day when they were raising a family. She said her children were all over the country and they didn't want the chairs and she didn't have room for them and would be glad to give you three of them.

So I said I would be delighted to have them. She asked what I thought she paid for them. I said I had no idea. She said three for a dollar. So that’s the story behind that chair. Then after a few years, the American Craft Museum in New York and they wanted me to loan it to them and that’s when my wife colored that seat with tea and coffee and we polished it up and we sent it to the American Craft Museum. It was there about two years on display.

Zarbock: And there are the mule’s ears right there. Tell me about coffee and tea.

Woody: This seat was white to begin with and my wife colored it. She started out with coffee and it didn't color it enough so she put tea in the coffee and that made it the color it is now.

Zarbock: How old do you figure that chair to be?

Woody: About 100 years old.

Zarbock: And what is the wood?

Woody: Walnut.

Zarbock: What could it sell for now if you had a mind to sell it?

Woody: Well I’ve turned down $1000 for it because it’s not for sale.

Zarbock: One of my last questions is what have I forgotten to ask you?

Woody: Well my wife and I had a white cat that was really a member of the family and she was sick a lot, I was taking her to the vet a lot and I didn't tell my wife, but I was going to make a casket. So I made this for a pet cat and we lost the white cat. I took it and showed it to the vet and he said he could sell all that I made. He said he normally sent people to the funeral home and they buy baby’s caskets, but he knew they would rather have this. His secretary said she wanted one so I made them. I shipped several of them all over the country.

Zarbock: What’s the wood?

Woody: Walnut, made out of my waste.

Zarbock: Do you line it?

Woody: If they’re using it for a pet casket, I line it with white Styrofoam. If they’re using it as a miniature chest, I sell it as is.

Zarbock: What a way to end an interview. I’ll tell you if it’s happened, you’re one of the people that made it happen. It’s truly a treat to have met you. Thank you for making the time.

Woody: Thank you.

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