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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David R. Hayworth, February 6, 1997. Interview I-0099. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fond memories of a hotel

Hayworth describes his mother's encouragement of his father's business ventures, his father's business philosophy, and his family's ownership of a hotel in the North Carolina mountains. As Hayworth describes the ownership, sale, and eventual demolition of this hotel, he reveals the depth of his connection to it and recalls fond memories of his childhood there.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David R. Hayworth, February 6, 1997. Interview I-0099. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

This was before you were born, but did any stories come down through your family about the foundings of Alma and Myrtle? I know they were founded before your father—your father didn't found them—but he did buy into them or buy them early on. Do you—were there any stories about why he decided to do this? Did he have any assistance in doing this? Did he have any partners? Were there any—I guess there weren't any local, state or federal agencies involved in the founding of these companies; that was really before—
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
It was before the government tried to tell you how to run your business.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
That's right. Literally.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Literally. That's right, literally.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
But, were there any stories about how he came upon these opportunities?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Yeah, I can tell you—what I know I'll be glad to tell you. I'm glad you asked the question. As we've already stated, he had established—founded—started Hayworth Roll and Panel Company, the first and oldest plywood company in North Carolina, which happened to be located—Grimes Street is right across from what was then the Alma Furniture Company, which was owned and operated by Mr. J.P. Redding. He did not have any sons or heirs. Ms. Alma Redding, for whom the company was named, did not live to be an adult, I believe; I think—according to my mother, she died at sort of a school age level, maybe fifteen or sixteen. But anyway, that's where the name came from, which my daddy—this is just a little aside, I don't know why it popped in my mind—but when he bought Alma and then subsequently Myrtle, he used to call the two companies girls, you know. Interestingly enough, when he bought Myrtle the question came up, 'Well, what are we going to name the company?' He said, 'Well, we're going to rename it Myrtle Desk Company in honor of my mother,' whose name was Myrtle. But anyway, the reason he bought Alma was because Mr. Redding was getting to retirement age and wanted to sell his company, having no sons to take over. And so it was—it came up for auction. So it wasn't a private sale in that sense of the word. The significance of that, Dorothy, is the fact that he put in his bid, okay, and—there was a rather, I guess he was probably one of the wealthiest people in High Point at that time—Mr. Wren—and he owned a lot of real estate.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
This is Tom Wren?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
No.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Manliff? Was it M—wasn't there a Tom?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Tom Wren, that's who it was. Now, there was another Wren who was Mr. M.J. Wren.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Well, they all called him Bud or something.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Exactly. Bud Wren. But this was the other one. He was very wealthy—they both were—but I think he was maybe more so. And, long story short, he raised my daddy's bid, and daddy wasn't rolling in money in those days by any matter of means. He had a prosperous operation and he was making money and all that, but he wasn't a multi-millionaire; wasn't anybody in those days a millionaire, I'll say, but Mr. Wren probably was. So, daddy came home and told mother that he didn't get the company because Mr. Wren raised his bid, and mother said, 'You go right back and meet that bid; don't let that old you-know-what get that company away from you.' He did, and she always felt that if it hadn't been, if she hadn't been so supportive and so anxious to see him succeed that he might have not bought the company. And so she sort of took credit for him buying the company.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
She had a strong idea that he should? I mean, she felt strongly enough about it?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Absolutely. He was definitely a visionary, and as years moved on before his sudden death he—his philosophy of business, Dorothy, was to buy a company and have somebody run it. You see, he didn't limit himself to, 'Well, I've got this company and this is it.' And that's exactly what he did with Alma; I don't know exactly how long after he bought it, but he pretty soon he hired a man whose name was D.R. Parker, David Rowe Parker, to be the manager of Alma Desk Company. And I'm sorry I cannot tell you exactly what Mr. Parker's background was, but obviously it was in manufacturing or daddy wouldn't have hired him. And he was a good manager. And down at Myrtle Desk Company he had a man whose name was Tom Powell, which, of course, is a name that I'm sure you're familiar with. And then at the time of his death he had a company called Arnold Lumber Company, and he hired a man named Claude Cummings to run that company. And he was heavily involved in a household furniture manufacturer over in Burlington, and he just had his interests in all kinds of things. In August of 1927—before he died in February of 1928 he loved the mountains, and went to Blowing Rock a lot. There was a magnificent hotel in Blowing Rock named Mayview Manor, and it had been built by a man from Charlotte who had gotten into financial difficulties. It was sold at auction, and in 1928 he bought it for $180,000; it inventoried for a million. A lot of his friends here in High Point kidded him about buying this white elephant and his comment, according to mother, was that, 'Any time I can buy something—' Did I say $180,000? It was $160,000. Because he said, 'Any time I can buy something for sixteen cents on the dollar I'll make money.' And he would have if he'd lived. He had an awful lot of real estate all on top of the mountain. This hotel was way up on the top of a mountain and here was the little village of Blowing Rock down here, and it had the most gorgeous view of Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge that you could ever imagine; there's no more beautiful view in western North Carolina than there was from the sight of that hotel. I went there many, many times as a child, and my fondest childhood memories were being there at Mayview Manor. Mother, of course, kept—she inherited the hotel, and she didn't know anything about running a hotel but she had sense enough to hire a young man who she believed would be a very successful hotel manager. That turned out to be the case. This man was named Milton Chapman and he ran Mayview Manor; managed the Mayview Manor in the summer, and in the wintertime went to Florida and had a hotel down there. And he told mother many times that there was no real secret to running a hotel; all you had to do was make every guest feel they were the most important guest in the hotel. How simple, but how important. I think that's interesting.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
That's one of the major things about a fine hotel is it's good service and friendly help.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Good service, and he believed in having the best chef you could hire to run the dining room—have food that everybody would want to come back for.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
So your family continued to own this hotel.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Mother owned it.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Throughout the Depression?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Uh-hmm. She really did. And it was amazing—she was amazed too—but the season in those days was very short; the hotel opened the first week in June and closed the day after Labor Day, which is what?
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
[Laughter] [unclear]
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Yeah. They didn't go to the mountains in the fall, the most beautiful time, for some reason in those days. I don't know why. I guess people maybe did, but not enough to keep a hotel that had over two hundred rooms. It was huge, you know; just sort of went around the crest of the mountain, on the side of the mountain. And St. John's Gorge and Grandfather were in the distance. But she kept the hotel all during the Depression, and always said, 'We never made any money but we never lost any.' And I think that's incredible for those particular years. And one of my daddy's very good friends—a very successful household furniture manufacturer—was a man named Tom Broyhill, and his company was Broyhill Furniture Industries in Lenoir. This man never went to school a day in his life, but he went to work in a furniture plant in Lenoir and was obviously very successful until he could buy his own company. He was the youngest of I believe—I mean, correction—oldest of six children, and he sent every one of his brothers and sisters to school; that included Ed Broyhill who succeeded him. He was the youngest of six—Tom was the oldest—and, of course, he greatly expanded Broyhill Furniture Industries and was a legend unto himself. But his education came from his older brother and I have never, ever read that in anything I've ever read about Broyhill Furniture industries. One of Mr. Ed Broyhill's daughters wrote a history of the company and sent me a copy because she knew of my connection, you know, with Mr. Tom, not Mr. Ed, and there's not one word in there of what I've just told you. Now, how do you like that? If that isn't erasing history or making it read like you want. She wanted her father, Ed, to get all the credit and I don't think that bothered him one bit.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
[Laughter] Sometimes we like to think we just come about full blown, don't we?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Yeah, and Ed's not by himself in that regard. But getting back to this, Tom Broyhill and my father were very close friends and so he talked my father into buying half of the hotel. So, anyway, mother sold her interest to Mr. Tom Broyhill, I think it was in 1939, and the reason she felt it was wise to do it was because the hotel really needed a lot of renovation. They felt it was critical to put in a sprinkler system, and there was a big lake at the foot of the mountain—where the little village of Blowing Rock is—which the hotel owned, and that required that they carry very heavy, expensive insurance in case of some child falling in the lake and drowning. And bearing in the mind that the country was just coming out of the Depression and money was not plentiful—I expect she could well use the money—she sold her interest to Mr. Tom Broyhill. So from the late '30s on we did not own the hotel, but we continued to go up there and it existed for several years. It began—I tell you what my daddy never would have done had he lived but mother and Mr. Tom Broyhill did, because of it being in the depths of the Depression. This may explain—no, this wouldn't explain why the hotel didn't lose money—but anyway, all this vast amount of real estate the hotel sat on my daddy would have built a golf course, which would have been incredible. That was the original owner's plan, and they chose to sell off the real estate for home sites so that a golf course was never built. My daddy would have played golf. That's what took him up there in the first place; they stayed at a hotel down in the village, whatever the name of it is where there was golf—you walk out the door and there's the golf course. But that was never done. So by the late '30s golf was really coming into its own, and you would go to a hotel that had, or a resort that had golf. So the hotel in the '40s and '50s began to go downhill and ownership changed. Mr. Tom Broyhill died and left the hotel to the Baptist Convention, obviously for them to sell—he was a very staunch Baptist—and they sold it to a group of businessmen from Tennessee. It just, you know, sort of finally was decided to tear it down. And I'll never forget standing out there on the grounds and listening to the workmen tear that hotel down.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Oh, you were there when they were tearing it down?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
It nearly broke my heart.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
What date was that? Was that in the '50s?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Uh-hmm. And fortunately, there was an artist there whom I was not aware of—whom I did not know—that painted a picture of the hotel on the mountainside, like you were over on Grandfather looking back towards the hotel; painted this beautiful, magnificent water color. And he has an agent—the artist was from Raleigh, most of his work was in landscapes—I mean, seascapes—but he just happened to be in the mountains and this magnificent hotel had been torn down and he [said],'I'm going to paint this.'
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Do you remember his name?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
His name was Walter Kerr. I don't know whether he pronounced it Karr or Kerr; you know, Governor Kerr, so I'm not sure and I don't know if there's any connection. I never met the artist. I never knew him, but his agent just happened to know of my interest in the hotel and he said—he wrote me and said, 'I have something I know you're going to want to buy.'
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Do you have the painting?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Uh-hmm. I have it in my mountain house and it's beautiful.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Wonderful. How fortunate!
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
I have a photograph of the painting I'll show you sometime. So, that's a little side light.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
[unclear] hotel.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
But, you know, I thought, when I walked in that door I thought I was the cat's meow.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
Oh, you were.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
And I was running around, you know, mother would get me out of the rooms, so she—and in those days you dressed for dinner every night, and so she wanted to get me out of the room so she could dress; she'd send me to go down and talk to all the ladies, and so I'd go down and show off.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
And be doted on.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
I'd love to have a picture of myself, but anyway. It was a beautiful place, and it was an exciting part of my childhood. I loved it.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
I can imagine. That's a lot of room to roam.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Yes, indeed. It surely was.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
And such a beautiful setting.
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Wonderful, big ballroom and they'd have a dance every Saturday night; had a separate dining room for children. Of course, people in those days would take their maids with them and all that; mother and daddy did, when he was alive—they always took the nurse along to look after the children. That was the way of life in those days. But they had a separate dining room for the children and I would not, I absolutely refused. I wanted to sit where the grown-ups sat.
DOROTHY GAY DARR:
And did you get to?
DAVID R. HAYWORTH:
Oh, yeah. You know, I thought that because my mother owned the hotel I could do anything. Well anyway, I remember always sitting there in the dining room.