Bluets – A Literary Magazine

1929 flyleaf
Flyleaf, Bluets 1929

A directive by Virginia Bryan for students in her literature class at Buncombe County Junior College to write their own philosophies in verse, prose, play, or editorial, resulted in two creations that are still evident at UNC Asheville today. The first was a Creative Writing course being added to the curriculum, the second was a literary magazine to publish the students’ work.

Bluets, was first published, we believe, in the spring of 1929, and initially contained mostly poetry. Indeed, its name, which had been chosen in a contest, came from a poem by John Charles McNeill, that was included on the flyleaf of early editions. Writing in 1977, Virginia Bryan recalled how the first edition was produced with “much encouragement and no money,” and that students “secured a few ads to pay for early publications.” In the first edition, these ads were for a life insurance company, three cafes, a Chinese restaurant, and a shirt shop.

The content soon expanded beyond poetry to include editorial comment, stories, book reviews, biographical sketches, articles about local places (e.g. Biltmore Estate, and Grove Park Inn), and interviews by the students with people such as Thomas Wolfe’s sister, and the wife of O. Henry.

Although initially described as a “Literary Magazine”, in 1935, Bluets began to be described as, “A Literary Magazine Dedicated to the Expression of Progressive Undergraduate Opinion,” probably to reflect the expanded content.

Until 1944, the cover art of each edition was different, with designs often being developed from ideas in the Creative Writing class.

Bluets, May 1933
Bluets, Spring 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editions published during World War II included tributes to students killed in action, and, not surprisingly, wartime articles generally took on a more somber tone.

Bluets May 1942
Editorial. Bluets, May 1942
In Memoriam, 1944
Former Students and an Instructor are Remembered, Bluets, January 1944

Any student at the college could submit work for inclusion, and the editorial board would decide which to accept or reject.

Many of the students who had work published, would go on to make a name for themselves after leaving college, and not always in the field of literature. For example, the first edition of Bluets included work by Gordon Greenwood who, among many other civic contributions, served in the NC House and on the board of UNC Asheville. Another contributor was Dorothy Post, who provided works to the magazine and served as Associate Editor in the mid-1930s. She subsequently trained as a pilot and was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII. Post later wrote several books, and other Bluets literary alums include Gertrude Ramsey, who became society editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times, and writer John Ehle Jr., whose poetry and prose was published in Bluets in 1944.

Ehle, 1944
From Bluets, January 1944

Ehle was awarded an honorary degree by UNC Asheville in 1987. Appropriately, that same year, Virginia Bryan Schreiber also received an honorary degree.  Ten years later, in 1997, an honorary degree was awarded to, arguably, the locally best known Bluets author, Wilma Dykeman Stokely.

Wilma Dykeman, 1937
From Bluets, January 1937

During 1937 and 1938, Wilma Dykeman wrote poetry and prose for Bluets, and served as co-editor. After graduating from Asheville-Biltmore College, she went on to write radio scripts, short stories, magazine articles, and books, including The French Broad and The Tall Woman. In 1985, she received the North Carolina Award for Literature, an award that, in 1972, had also been bestowed on John Ehle.

Dykeman, 1938
From Bluets, May 1938

With such talented contributors, it is no wonder that Bluets won many awards, including numerous first place certificates from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

The last copy of Bluets in the archives is dated fall 1962. In The University of North Carolina at Asheville: The First Sixty Years, William Highsmith wrote that “the faculty had decided to discontinue [Bluets] because of its junior college overtones” and, “in May 1967, the first copy of Images was published.”  The latter comment seems incorrect however, as there are materials in the archives that indicate Images was first published in the spring of 1964.

Images was described as “The Fine Arts Magazine of Asheville-Biltmore College,” and combined artwork with poetry and short stories. It was published until the late 1970s, (The archives has copies up to 1977), before being followed by several short-lived publications, such as Fury, The Seventh Veil, and Alchemy of the Muse.

Since the late 1990s, Headwaters has been the creative arts magazine of UNC Asheville, and it is published annually.

  • Colin Reeve, Special Collections

Founding a Miracle in Asheville

 

Asheville-Biltmore President Glenn L. Bushey
Dr. Glenn L. Bushey, undated [ABP_14]
In October 1997, UNC Asheville celebrated its 70th anniversary with the first Founders Day, described by Founders Day committee chair Arnold Wengrow as, “a tribute to the pioneering students, staff and faculty of UNCA, and its predecessor institutions”. One pioneer that received special recognition on that first Founders Day was Glenn L. Bushey, president of Asheville-Biltmore College from 1947 to 1962.

Bushey bench and terrace
Bench and Terrace dedicated to Glenn Bushey on Founders Day, 1997 [Photo by Colin Reeve, September 2017]
Dr. Bushey was honored by a bench and terrace area near Founders Hall being dedicated to him and, in January 1998, Bushey wrote to Chancellor Patsy Reed, thanking her for the honor bestowed upon him. His letter also included memories of his time in Asheville, and a description of Asheville-Biltmore College when he arrived in September 1947, to “face the greatest challenge of my professional career”.

The challenge included: “securing a permanent campus for the college; improving the library and other academic facilities, especially laboratories; upgrading a dedicated faculty with emphasis on raising the percentage holding graduate degrees; revising the curriculum to more successfully meet the needs of undergraduates as well as the business and professional needs of the community; instituting more effective admissions and counseling programs; expanding the public relations activities; developing adequate financial resources including increased local support and securing state aid; and attaining regional accreditation”.

Bushey described the task as “formidable”, which seems like an understatement, especially when you realize that the college was perennially in dire financial straits, and in 1947 was “receiving only about $5,000 from outside sources”. The previous blog mentioned how the lack of money created a mythology about the college, and Glenn Bushey echoed that, writing how “marvelous cooperation from…trustees, faculty, students, alumni, county and city officials, business and professional groups, the media, and the general public” ensured that “brighter days appeared” for the college.

One innovation that helped improved the financial situation was the establishment of an evening college, which not only allowed the college to provide programs for many sections of the community, but was also a boon to WWII veterans wanting to take advantage of the GI Bill. In a letter written in March 1998 to Tom Byers, then Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Dr. Bushey said that the evening classes put more emphasis on adult education, and that this was broadened by offering classes to benefit employees of specific firms, such as American Enka, Dave Steel, and the National Weather Records Center, as well as law enforcement officers of Asheville and Buncombe County.

The first item on Bushey’s list of challenges, “Securing a permanent campus”, was achieved in 1949, when Asheville-Biltmore moved to Overlook (aka Seely’s) Castle on Sunset Mountain.  Bushey recalled how, after initially securing larger gifts, the fund raising campaign then contacted the general public in a concentrated three day effort, with no gift being seen as too small.

Seely's Castle letter
Letter regarding the purchase of Overlook Castle. Presumably the $ amount was a target as the letter is dated before the “3 days” [UA11.1, box 2]
Plans for Seely's Castle
Reverse of the July 15, 1949 letter [UA11.1, box 2]
In his letter to Tom Byers, Bushey described the fund raising to purchase the castle as a “milestone”, and something that generated a feeling that Asheville-Biltmore was the community’s college.

A strengthened academic program and a permanent home contributed to the college being able to attain regional accreditation, which further increased its base of support. Support that was was to prove important in subsequent bond campaigns by the college and, more importantly, in the attainment of 4-year college status and acceptance into the UNC system.

In his letter to Chancellor Reed, Bushey wrote that his time at Asheville-Biltmore was “one of the most exciting a rewarding experiences of my life”, and acknowledged students, alumni, faculty and community members who “were almost like family”. Among those he identified for praise was A. C. Reynolds, “the founder of the college…an able administrator with remarkable vision”.

He closed his letter by writing, “It is most gratifying to me to have lived long enough to witness a very small college which struggled for existence for more than twenty years after its founding develop into a great university. This I view of somewhat of an educational miracle”.

In 1998, UNC Asheville further recognized Glenn Bushey’s part in founding the “miracle” by awarding him an honorary doctor of humane letters.

Dr. Bushey died in Chattanooga, TN on November 16, 2006. He was 101 years old.

  • Colin Reeve, Special Collections