Bill & Sandra Montgomery's The Christmas House
Chances are if you’ve ever driven I-26 toward Exit 5 (Campobello) during this time of year you’ve noticed a cheery glow up the hill on the right. It’s impossible to miss. And for thousands of people each year, they take that exit and within minutes jumpstart their Christmas spirit. You can’t help but be moved by this incredible display of holiday lights and scenes at Bill & Sandra Montgomery’s “The Christmas House.”
Bill & Sandra look forward to the Christmas season just about as much as kids – and maybe more. It’s in Sandra’s DNA for sure and somehow or other that has taken hold in Bill.
Bill and Sandra do this for the enjoyment of others and to help remind everyone that we’re celebrating the birthday of Jesus. Sandra says, “That’s what Christmas is all about. We want to keep traditions going and to keep family close. We want something families can do to help keep them connected to each other.”
The Christmas House opens every year on Thanksgiving night and closes on New Year’s Eve. Hours are 5:30 until 10, though if you’re in line at 10…Bill keeps it open. There is no charge. Visitors can leave a donation and often Bill and Sandra will find coins left by a child in a plastic bag in the donation box or a hand-scribbled note or card. They love to read how much the children, and the adults, love this place.
If you weren’t in the holiday mood before driving in, you will be by the time you leave. And as many people do, they get back in line and go through again…and again. And you can be sure they’re already planning to be back next year. Looking into the future, Sandra wistfully mentions that she has a daughter and a granddaughter that are showing a sincere interest in keeping The Christmas House going for another 45 years and beyond.
Bill has a tagline he uses on his occasional videos he posts, and that is “Come out and see the lights and hear the sounds of Christmas at The Christmas House.” I can assure you, the invitation is genuine.
We’re the lucky ones.
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The Christmas House is located at 360 Foster Road, Inman. Your GPS will bring you right there but if that starts to fizzle, you can’t miss it. The Montgomery’s do ask that all visitors remain in their car because of plenty of trip hazards. You can ride through as many times as you wish and look for your favorite scenes from last year and new ones that are added each year.
Photo Gallery. Click each photo to see an enlarged version. Better yet, drive over to 360 Foster Road in Inman between now and December 31.
Fast-forward several decades and LJ and his boys were visiting the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia. LJ steered his sons to the barn with the birds and they loved seeing all the different types and colors and sizes. But when the boys learned that birds could be raced their eyes lit up and LJ knew they were hooked. That led to LJ starting his first loft and the entire family enjoyed raising and racing the birds. LJ and his family continued to race birds for several years but as the boys started to outgrow their interest, LJ’s excitement never waned.
The dove releases can symbolize all kinds of things depending on the event. It’s not always easy as some occasions are very sad and others joyous. But watching a release has an impact on everyone who witnesses it. His Homeward Angels reach into your soul. The dove release can help bring closure on one day and it can mark the beginning of something new on another. LJ says, “It’s not about the birds but about the symbolism and the birds are the conveyance of that special meaning.” Everyone who sees or participates in one of LJ’s white dove releases comes away a changed person. It’s a great feeling.
More to know
LJ Meyers provides professional white dove releases for private and public events and ceremonies. Fees depend on travel distance, number of birds requested, and any special services LJ might need to provide. He is, by the way, an ordained minister. LJ does a lot of releases as a community service at no charge. Photos are from a recent 9/11 ceremony and a Veterans Day release. You can contact LJ at 864/ 457-4676 (home), 864/ 357-5581 (cell), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is: HomewardAngelsWhiteDoves.com. LJ is a member of the National White Dove Release Society.
A sample of a release. This is from an impromptu Veterans Day release L J provided in Landrum.
You can also see the video by clicking this link. This might help if the video below is slow to load.
L J recruited a few kids to help him with an unannounced dove release on Veterans Day at the Veterans Memorial in Brookwood Park in Landrum, SC.
Click on each photo below to see an enlarged version and captions.
I asked Tyrone if he remembers any coffee-business stories since he’s gotten started. He says of course just meeting new customers and having them return is good enough for him, but he did remember a time when one customer ordered a drink and only had a $100 bill to pay for it. Tyrone didn’t have enough change so the customer said he’d go get change and come on back and pay up. He never did, but then one day Tyrone found a $100 bill in his tip jar. He didn’t know which customer gave it to him…but it was a sign of good things to come.
Tyrone Perry is driving the coffee business in more ways than one. Next time you see the red Java Up trailer parked along side the road…make a stop, order a drink, and know you’re doing your part to “shop small.” You’ll make a new friend at the same time.
More to know
Tyrone will be happy to bring his Java Up trailer to your location for just about any kind of special event, and he’s always thinking ahead to future locations. Give him a call at 864/ 814-8067 if you’re interested or if you just want to know where he’ll be tomorrow. His email is JavaUpCafe@gmail.com and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Paul is his own boss but this doesn’t mean he can just do what he wants! Since his hours are posted he’s got to be there. His customers expect it and aren’t always forgiving if Paul says he opens at 7 and doesn’t make it in until 7:05. Paul says unless he’s contagious he’ll be there even when he’s not feeling so great. Most of us would call in a sick day, but for the self-employed missing a day means you don’t pay the bills. Paul talked about a time he broke his hand and had to plead with the doctor to leave two fingers free so he could at least hold a comb. Luckily for Paul (and probably his customers) it was his left hand and Paul holds the clippers in his right.
Paul enjoys his work and his customers. He has some memories of things that have happened in his shop including the time a would-be groom runs in looking for two “witnesses” so that he could get married over at the Polk County Courthouse, just around the corner. Two customers quickly volunteered and as far as we know the couple is still married. Paul has a few standing gags like occasionally spraying water over the small play area where little kids are waiting for their haircuts only to have it fall down from the sky. They look upward and Paul makes a little joke saying it must be from the leaking toilet upstairs. Well, they get grossed out and then Paul has to explain that there is no upstairs.
More to know
Paul’s Barbershop is located at 40 East Mills Street in Columbus. 828/ 817-4598, but don’t call for appointments. It’s a wait your turn shop…but it’s never a long wait!
It takes a bit of luck to find the Country Peddler Antiques & General Store in downtown Campobello. It’s a couple of blocks off of the main drag and that makes it in the country by Campobello standards. The morning I visited a customer walked in for her second visit in two days. Heather, the customer from Greer, had just discovered the store the day before because of a bridge detour which took her right past the Country Peddler. She liked what she saw so much she made a second trip to pick up some items she had eyed on day one and picked up that and some other finds she hadn’t planned on day two. That’s what makes a shop like this so much fun—you’ll never know what you’re going to find.
Jeaneen isn’t quite ready to embrace social media so a Facebook page is just not in the current marketing plan. So if you want to “like” this place, you’re going to need to go check it out in person. Slow down and enjoy your stay.
UPDATE: Jeanneen reports she DOES have a Facebook page and is learning to use it. So search for Country Peddler Antiques & General Store and look for a photo of Pappy. Then, click that "like" button.
“Do what you love” is Jeaneen’s advice to anyone looking to start any kind of endeavor. It’s obvious she loves what she’s doing.
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Click each photo to see an enlarged version.
Cherie has had an amazing set of career experiences starting with being one of the youngest students enrolled in Moorpark College’s world-renowned animal training program commonly known as “America’s Teaching Zoo.” She’s spent years at Marine World in California, served as Dogtown Manager at Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Utah, taught SCUBA diving classes in a variety of places where she interacted with marine life, ran her own wildlife education program in Washington, worked on a cruise ship, and ended up a few years ago as a caretaker for several animals on a 200-acre estate in Waynesville. That experience led her to Polk County where she and Ron have lived for the past couple of years. Ron is “retired,” but Cherie has happily found herself in demand helping animal parents in the region learn how to make the relationship pleasurable for pets and their parents. She gets referrals from area vets, rescue programs, the local Humane Society shelter, and from her clients. Business is booming.
Cherie has advice for people looking for that perfect pet and it begins with doing your research. Just because you want a Jack Russell doesn’t mean it’s the right dog for you. Prospective pet owners should match their own lifestyle with the personality and lifestyle of the animal. Some are noisy, some are messy, and all take a lot of care. If you’re choosing a trainer, ask for references and watch a training session to see how the trainer and the animal interact. You can tell a lot by the demeanor of the pet during these sessions. They shouldn’t cower in fear, and that’s not the approach Cherie takes. She showers love and kindness on the animals and might use a bit of cheese (or other tasty treats) to use as rewards and the animals learn better that way than by fear and intimidation. Again, do your research.
Cherie has had her brushes with fame in the past. She’s trained a l,500 pound Hampshire hog to roll out a red carpet and bow on Hal Linden’s late 70’s TV show Animals, Animals, Animals. And once she taught a chicken to dance and play the piano for actor John Travolta’s birthday party. But while Cherie will help you teach your pet some tricks if that’s what you want, she’s more about helping you and your pet both enjoy being with each other. That’s what’s most important to her.
More to Know
Cherie has a busy schedule but does have room from time to time for new clients. In addition to her training work, she does occasional pet and farm sitting, provides help with medications and bandages, etc. Contact Cherie at email@example.com and check out her website at: https://allpetstraining.com.
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Openroad is located on Highway 108 between Tryon and Columbus. Open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 AM until 7 PM. The bakers get in around 3 AM and I know from experience that some of their favorite items might be sold out before noon. They have a drive-through, but hey…it’s worth the extra time to get out of your car and enjoy your coffee and treats inside the cozy shop or outside on the porch. And if the lot looks full, don’t worry – there’s additional parking in back and more on the side. More on the web at: http://www.openroadcoffeeroastery.com. Phone: 828/ 894-2021.
Click on photos to enlarge and read caption.
They soon bought a bigger sailboat and decided to spend the Thanksgiving holidays on it in Florida. It was then they started to see that people could actually “live” on their boats. They started talking with year-round “boatsteaders,” researched the lifestyle of being on the water year-round, and discovered that there’s an entire “cult” of people who do this. In 2006 Sami and Barry took the bait and made a big lifestyle change that started a whole chain of events to fall into place. They sold their Landrum farm, rehomed the horses, Sami retired from her job, they bought an even bigger boat, and made the decision to become one with the sea. Okay two with the sea. They were soon living a new life on the water. Barry, a college professor, was able to continue teaching as long as they had an Internet signal…and they learned to seek those out.
Even with the services of an equine vet donating his time and using his own money to help the effort, they were unable to capture the mare at the right time to collect the eggs. ViaGen, a company specializing in cloning special animals was providing the special collection kit needed to store whatever they could obtain and the kits had to be refreshed constantly in order to have the proper storage solution.
It finally came down to getting the vet on scene as Nunki was living her last hours. The vet and ViaGen were working together on what to do next and in this case that involved getting a clipping of Nunki’s ear once she died. This had to be placed in the solution and then there was only so much time left to get the tissue back across the preserve, to a boat, to a jet, and to the lab in the U.S. On top of that, there’s this thing called Bahamian government red tape. With just minutes to spare, the government gave its okay to leave the island with the preserved specimen and the USDA gave its approval to have it enter the US, and the final chance to preserve this breed was on the plane to the ViaGen lab where it would be kept in the proper environmental conditions.
The possibilities are real. It could happen. What is mostly standing in the way now is money. There is a non-profit organization set up for donations and every bit helps. Of course, a few large donors could make this happen now.
Mimi is still down on the Abaco Islands maintaining the preserve in hopes of bringing a brand-new Abaco Island Horse home for good. And then another and another until a small herd can preserve the species. She has given a quarter-century of her life and her money to this cause. She needs help to change this from a possibility to a reality. Sami is committed to helping in anyway she can. Just imagine how equine history could be changed. Sami Bolton wants to be a part and you can too! It can happen. It needs to happen. It has to happen.
More to Know:
Sami and Barry moved back home (here in the foothills) about a year ago. Sami is very active locally. She’s on the board of the Foothills Humane Society and volunteers with TROT (Therapeutic Riding of Tryon). Sami invites you to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on saving the Abaco Island Horse and how you can help. You might be able to convince her to tell you everything I’ve had to leave out. You can also check out www.ArkWild.org for additional information on the Abaco Island Horse.
Since the train stopped running there has been talk of transforming the track into a “Rails-to-Trails” conversion or possibly getting an excursion train to operate. Norfolk-Southern isn’t about to abandon this track though it is now officially “out of service” from Saluda to just beyond Landrum, SC. There is a shortline railroad that is currently hauling freight from the Hendersonville area to Asheville and some talk has been circulating that the company might start an excursion train experience. A lot of rail fans would love to see that line extend to Saluda. I would definitely be among the first standing in line to buy a ticket for that. I’m guessing it would be a very long line.
Mike Reeves and Evan Lazer are two of the volunteer docents and were busy helping visitors the day I visited. Nancy Pew (third from left) is a friend of the museum and helps out at the shop next door so that owner Mark Ray can step in and open the depot on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Judy Ward on the right is the chair of the museum board. It takes a village to keep something like this running without any paid staff.
More to Know:
The Saluda Historic Depot and Museum is open every day except Monday. Times vary. Check the website at: www.saludahistoricdepot.com and their Facebook page for more info. The museum has a well-stocked gift shop along with their excellent professionally built exhibits including a “Z scale” model of the entire run down the famous Saluda Grade to Melrose Junction. To take your own trip down the grade from the safety of your laptop, check out an excellent YouTube video by Bob Keeton at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsS3fbhuJPg. The video combines original music by “The Carburetors” and Google Earth images into a fascinating “trip” that will give you a sense of the run. The Saluda Historic Depot offers tours, monthly “Train Tales” presentations, and has a couple of upcoming fundraising events including a 60s-themed party at the Party & Event Center in Saluda in July and a golf tournament in October at Kenmure. It’s a happening place!
Click on each photo in the gallery below to enlarge.
A big setback occurred just a few months after opening day. There was a late-night fire at the laundry that adjoins her building. While Andrea’s store didn’t suffer any direct damage from the fire, all her clothing stock was ruined from smoke damage. Most people would use this as a good excuse to lock the door for good. But not Andrea Whiteside. The store has just recently celebrated its first anniversary after reopening following the fire.
Andrea has yet to make a profit but she’s optimistic and doing her best to make this succeed. She’s received good advice from customers, from friends, and from Faye Bishop, the director of the Small Business Center at Isothermal Community College.
I asked Andrea what advice she would give to someone thinking of starting a business. Andrea, someone without any previous retail experience, says, “Be willing to take advice. Go to school. Ask for help. Find out what the people want. And do one thing and do it well.”
Andrea started the store for several reasons. One of course is that she herself is a “plus size” and knows how hard it is to find clothing that she likes. She knew there were plenty of potential customers faced with the same situation and why not be the store that can help?
Andrea’s Plus Size Clothing is more than “just” a store. She has become a de facto “counselor” helping people – friends and strangers, when they come in with something on their minds. She listens and listens and then offers them comfort. She recalls a homeless person who came into the store one day and she knew this woman needed some help. The woman said she just needed someone to talk to and Andrea was her rock in that time of need. Her pastor says the store is not just a store, it is Andrea’s own little ministry.
It has become a “calling” for Andrea to make this work. No doubt she will.
More to Know:
Andrea’s Plus Size Clothing is located at 415 Main Street in Spindale. 828-447-9737. She’s open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday. Check her Facebook page for hours. In addition to clothes, the store carries jewelry, handbags, scarves, and other accessories including some items handmade right in the store by Andrea herself. Clothes styles are changed with each season.
Dana Mayer lives and breathes compassion. She is the driving force behind Paws, Prayers & Promises- a local non-profit animal rescue and adoption organization. Dana can’t do it alone and is thankfully backed up by a small army of volunteers that help in every aspect of the almost three-year-old non-profit organization. Last year alone Dana and her like-minded volunteers helped over 500 cats and dogs find a better life. This doesn’t even include providing food for some of our area’s neediest animals.
Dana has loved, rescued, and taken care of animals all her life. For ten years she worked with the Foothills Humane Society as a board member and coordinator of the rescue, foster, and Po’ Kitties programs before leaving to form Paws, Prayers & Promises.
We are lucky and grateful in this community to have so many people willing to give of their time, talents, homes, and money to help others in need—including our animal friends. Dana Mayer is just one of many – but she’s also one of a kind. The Paws, Prayers & Promises website says, “We believe in miracles.” There is one happening every day with the help of Dana and her volunteers.
More to Know
Go to the Paws, Prayers & Promises website at: http://www.PawsPrayersandPromises.org to read about the organization. There you can also learn how to help the organization. Check them out on Facebook where you can get updates on new animals coming into their care and those finding their forever homes. Call Dana for additional info at 828/ 243-1852. Do visit P3 Consignment Shop at 112 East Rutherford Street in Landrum to see a couple of kittens looking for a home as well as some resident shop cats ready to welcome you as you peruse this amazing store.
Click on the photos below to see a larger image.
Michaila started running a bakery in Lake Lure (also called Huckleberry’s) while in high school and at age 16 she could smell success. She enrolled in Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte concentrating in several disciplines including culinary arts, food service, hospitality & tourism, and bakery & pastry. Michaila finished a six-year program in four…and that doesn’t surprise me one bit. All of that added to her already solid experience with her own bakery and on New Year’s Eve 2014 she opened the current Huckleberry’s.
Michaila wears all the hats in the business but she’s not alone. A staff of nearly 15 takes care of running the restaurant open seven days a week. Her family is also involved; her mom handles marketing, sister helps everywhere, and dad even designed and built the woodstove that cooks all the wood-fired specialties. She says she has the best staff and keeping a good staff is one of the challenges for any business owner.
Owning a restaurant isn’t for everyone, but for Michaila it’s everything. She enjoys being her own boss but it has its downfalls including the long hours. Michaila wears all hats and some days floats between front of house duties and kitchen work. “Some days I don’t have a set job, other days I’m dedicated to the chef whites and am working on the line. Some days I get to dress like the girls and wait tables, and there are days I’m staying late washing dishes. It’s all good.”
She does offer a bit of advice to anyone thinking of starting a business like hers…try it first! It’s not an easy life. In fact it’s hard. Long hours, every day, all year. It takes a lot to open a restaurant and even more to keep it going. Huckleberry’s is successful for several reasons including Michaila’s drive and hard work and the dedication of her staff. Of course having great food helps!
More to Know: Huckleberry’s is open seven days a week and is located at 62 North Trade Street (the main drag) in downtown Tryon. 828/ 436-0025. The restaurant seats about 120 counting indoor and outdoor patio seating. Boots & breeches are always welcome and dogs can join their people parents on the patio. Beer and wine are available now and a new full bar will have a grand opening on May 5 with 19 North Carolina distilleries offering tastings. In fact, it’s going to be a big celebration with a small section of Trade Street closed for a block party featuring craft vendors, two live bands, and food. Check the website for more info at www.huckleberrystryon.com.
The spelling of Michaila is itself an interesting story. She says she was born during a hailstorm and that’s how the name came about. You’ll need to ask her yourself if this is true.
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With the help and love of his parents, six siblings, friends, and his faith – Joseph moved ahead. Nothing is easy as I observed how everything we don’t even think about becomes a challenge for Joseph. Finding a way to support a fork, drinking coffee through a straw, needing a bit of help here and there. He takes it in stride. His humor helps. He is amazing.
Joseph was able to go back to college and finish his bachelor’s degree at Belmont Abbey and just recently was awarded his master’s in data analytics from Southern New Hampshire University.
Joseph puts things in perspective this way, “Every single person has at least one big cross that they carry through their life. Most of these crosses are invisible and no one notices and they carry it alone. For me, it’s visible. It’s one of those things that you allow to either make you or break you. It’s not in my nature to give up or sit idle.”
Writing has been an interest of Joseph’s for much of his life. He grew up with a literary family (both of his parents are educators) and they encouraged him to write along with teachers. Joseph sees J.R.R. Tolkien’s work as another inspiration and he gets a lot of positive feedback from social media. In fact, Facebook friends started commenting on his occasional literary posts wanting more. So finally Joseph posed the question, “Who would actually buy a book of my writings?” The answers started flowing in and that was enough of a rush to get Joseph Letterio to finally make it happen.
“I hear a lot of people say they would like to write. I say what’s holding you back? You have to recognize that nothing is ever going to be perfect in this world. And if you wait for something to be perfect, you’re never going to do anything. You need to brace a little bit of humility, say I have something to offer, and share it because that’s what the world needs.”
Well, Joseph is about as perfect of a man as I’ve ever met. He is an inspiring person to be around and should offer hope to anyone struggling with writing or with life.
More to know:
Musings of a Wannabe Renaissance Man by Joseph Letterio can be ordered from Amazon. Joseph is developing a YouTube channel to highlight read-alouds and through this and his writings, he hopes to inspire others. Joseph is already at work on his second book. Letterio, is his pen name, which also happens to be his middle name. There’s a good story there, but we’re out of room.
Listen and watch as Joseph reads a couple of selections from
Musings of a Wannabe Renaissance Man.
More to Know:
Martha’s Amish Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe is located in the Green Greek Community at 6431 Highway 9 South just a stone’s throw from the blinking light at the corner of Landrum Road and Highway 9. They’re open Wednesday through Saturday for early morning snacks, tasty lunch sandwiches, coffee, and more. Check them out on Facebook. Phone: 828/ 863-4643.
I've started setting up my first rounds of interviews and plan to post the first of these within the next few days. By the end of March I'll be well underway.
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Is starting out retirement with this new endeavor - to bring you short snippets of life through photography, videography, and audio recordings of some of the wonderful people and places of the Carolina Foothills..