Monday, April 8, 2013

The Rigors and Rewards of Being Raised in Bill Arp

One of the perks of researching and writing about Douglas County history is the fact that I constantly get to meet interesting people. A couple of weeks ago I met up with Neal Beard and his lovely wife Charlotte over lunch.

Neal is known to many in Douglas County as the author of a column that appeared in Chapel Hill News and Views called “Local Lore”. Many more know him as pastor currently leading the flock at Douglasville Baptist Temple.

Neal Beard is also the author of a book titled Buttermilk and Boxer Shorts which detail his experiences as he grew up in the Bill Arp community of Douglas County during the 1940s and 50s.
Neal explains he “writes stories plucked from [his] past…My southern roots drink deeply from a fast fading culture…There are few left who remember the rigors and rewards of being raised in the country – in the south – in Bill Arp.”

These types of first-person biographical accounts are vital to the historical record of a community, and I applaud Neal for his book. Plus, I found it a very entertaining read. More often than not I found myself laughing out loud.
Neal’s book begins with the Beard family’s move to Douglas County in October, 1945. Throughout the book Neal discusses various aspects of living in Bill Arp mentioning he survived “the bloodiest and best seven years” of his life at Bill Arp grammar school. He recalls, “Serious disciplinary problems among us first and second graders were handled in a long skinny room in the back called the cloak room…In this wretched retreat [Miss Floy] lectured longer than it took the Titanic to sink – with no hope of a lifeboat. She then applied the board of education to the seat of learning.”

Neal fondly remembers swimming in Bear Creek and speaks of Kings Highway and Big A Road during a time when asphalt was far into the future.
Describing his home Neal states, “Some homes in Bill Arp had five rooms and a bath. Ours had five rooms and a path.” Neal also introduces us to concepts long forgotten such as the party line and hog killing time which had to be done on a cold day.

Throughout Neal’s story we are introduced to various folks who resided In Bill Arp including Herbert Fouts who had a water powered mill on Bear Creek where Neal worked for a time.
Neal also fondly remembers the hub of Bill Arp’s community – Bart Duke’s Store by introducing us to a cast of true life characters stating, “Over half a century ago Bill Arp was home to some distinguished visionaries, philosophers and profound thinkers. The Supreme Court of the United States with its pomp, pageantry and professionalism wasn’t as impressive to me as were these country sages…Their seats of higher learning were empty upturned Coke and R.C. Cola cases. They smoked cigarettes rolled from Bull Durham, Prince Albert or Country Gentlemen while they deliberated current concerns.”

Among the many stories in his book Neal admits to being “the only male who ever held membership in the WMU at Prays Mill Baptist Church…If you need to know anything about WMU work in the late 40s I’m the authority.”
You’ll have to buy the book for the rest of the story.

I salute Neal on his efforts to memorialize his experiences growing up in Bill Arp. We need this type of historical record to remember times gone by, and to salute folks in our past.  
You can purchase Buttermilk and Boxer Shorts via Amazon including a Kindle version, or you can contact Neal directly at his e-mail address: He advises he might include his autograph inside the front cover! 

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