Remembering Holland, the raconteur architect

Published 6:13pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013

When I got to Miss Baldwin’s classes, she would often call on me as “Holland, er, Garland!” since I also wore thick glasses and looked studious. I identified with Holland because he also wanted to be an architect. His brother Carroll says that is all he ever wanted to be, but I was just as interested in airplanes as in buildings. After observing the work of some talented architects, I made what proved to be the better choice for me: airplanes. I only knew of two kinds of architects: rich or starving. I never got rich designing airplanes, but I certainly did not starve.

Writing columns and gathering them into books has given me great bartering opportunities. Every time I have offered to trade one of my books for one of theirs, it has worked . . . that’s how I got Holland’s delightful little book of Tryon’s architect-designed residences and churches, not to mention books by Jim Jackson, Pam Stone, “Charlie boy” Hearon, James W. Lawrence — a whole shelf of “first editions” also by sometime writers like me.

Holland loved to tell stories. He always had a story to go with everything. The reason I call him a raconteur instead of a mere storyteller, is that with Holland telling, you didn’t have to wait for the ending to enjoy it. There is a difference between exquisite detail and boring trivia, and that is largely in the ear of the listener. I always had trouble reading Dickens because I wanted him to get on with it — just tell me the story, I don’t need a history of England! With Holland’s delivery and timing, it was grins and chuckles long before the end.

I think this was the first celebration of life I have attended at the Congregational church when I did not see Holland singing in the choir. I went early because I wanted a place to park and a place to sit. Sure, the family took up several rows, but folding chairs soon appeared at the ends of the pews. Some wag has observed that attendance at your funeral will depend largely upon whether it rains. Thunder rolled and the rains came. Reminded me of when Beethoven left this world: it noticed.

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