Weaverville – Weaverville’s Beech Community, fixated north of Reems Creek, hosted their 137th annual Independence Day parade on July 3.The celebration began with a parade touting antique cars, a dozen Reems Creek Fire engines, motorcycles, scooters roller skates and more. Hundreds attended the 10 am patriotic parade.
Next was a “patriotic program” in the community center. Organizer Cindy Wilson welcomed former Beech School students and community members.
Rebecca Gurney opened the event in prayer, saying, “We thank you that you’ve given us the ability to be loyal to our family and friends and community and country. And we pray that we would continue to be good citizens and neighbors.”
Clara Hale, 2020 Miss North Carolina High School Rodeo Queen and North Buncombe alumni, read a poem titled “America, My Hometown.” Hale is attending Erskine College in the fall, accompanied by her horse, on a rodeo scholarship.
“Our founders’ vision of liberty and freedom and our country still lives on today, throughout our nation in cities with origins and all in all Main Street USA,” Hale recited.
This year’s theme was “Beech School Memories.” Activities, speakers and displays honored the former two-room schoolhouse. The original schoolhouse was located at the beginning of Maney Branch Road. Eventually, the schoolhouse moved to the current Beech Community Center on Sugar Cove Road.
Guest Speaker Deane McDaris, who attended the Beech School first through fifth grade before later attending the Weaverville schools, recounted her early education.
“The spring of 1954 was the last time we had school here. And in the of 1955, the first commandment was for [the former school] to be turned into a community meeting place…Reems Creek Wildlife Club met here, Beech Baseball Club met here,” McDaris said.
Former student Tom Barbee followed.
“My great grandparents were African-American Pendlands and Sarah Louis Pendlands. They started this July 4 celebration in 1884,” he said.
I started school here in 1947 and attended for grades one through three. Since I lived 300 yards in school, my first introduction to school was hearing the students at recess before I was old enough to attend classes. I would walk out here and play with the first graders, so my impression of school was a good one.”
When Barbee entered first grade, Ms. Brittain was nearing retirement. Students recalled her as kind, gentle but strict.
“There were about 20 students in the room ready for third grade, a mixture of ages, varying levels of ability, a mix of personalities, some rambunctious and some calm and paying attention. All in one room all day, every day, much like homeschooling this year, many parents and grandparents today would tell you that teaching in that kind of environment is impossible. But Ms. Brittain was moved about teaching one group of students while others are supposed to be studying or working in silence,” Barbee said.
Barbee says that he still holds a pencil the way Ms. Brittain taught him to. Several other former students spoke, recounting a time before indoor plumbing and recess playsets. Each alumni reflected positively on their experience attending the Beech School.
Next, the Beech Nuts, a trio of Beech School alumni, sung songs including “My Country Tis of Thee,” the “ABC’s” and a song about Beech community legend, Uncle Dave. “Uncle Dave” Penland started the tradition of the July 4th wildflower presentation sometime in the early 20th century. He would pick wildflowers in the morning of Independence Day, make a unique arrangement and present it to someone. The tradition ceased somewhere along the way but when Charles and Ocie Penland returned to the Beech Community in 1967, they resurrected the tradition.
Organizer Cindy Wilson presented this year’s wildflowers to Mary Dean Roberts.
“My favorite part is the wallflowers because they make people’s day and make somebody smile.”
The celebration concluded with lunch on the grounds, field games and fireworks.