Remembering the Oak Hall Hotel

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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Oak Hall Hotel was a big white frame building sprawling across the top of the hill now dotted with the condos that replaced it. Rotary and Kiwanis met there on different days; it was a good place to enjoy fine dining, along with Carter Brown’s Pine Crest Inn on Godshaw Hill and Earnest Kerhulas’s Tea House at Lake Lanier.

Probably the first time I was at Oak Hall to eat was when as finalists in a contest, Lavinia Greene and I had to present our papers on World Government to Rotary. I had not planned to enter the contest because I did not believe that World Government was a good idea, but our History teacher, Miss Myrtle Baldwin, insisted that I write a paper.

Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations had long since died, and there was no United Nations yet, and I did not make a very good case for a World Government. I questioned how much of our sovereignty we might lose to such a governing body. Lavinia won the contest, and I do not believe it was because she was a pretty girl!

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 Mr. Leslie K. Singley was Superintendent of Tryon Schools when I was in High School, and he put a woodworking shop in the basement of the gym and hired a Mr. Foster to teach shop classes. He also taught a drafting class at my request. He had me design a speaker’s stand for Rotary and Kiwanis. Davey Powell and I built it in the shop. Mr. Singley obtained the club insignia decals and I put them on the stand.

Davey and I both got to eat when we presented the stand to Rotary. I wonder what happened to that stand when Oak Hall was demolished . . .

Mrs. (General George) Marshall resided in Oak Hall for a number of years. My late friend Howard Greene used to chat with her, sitting on the porch, when he arrived early for Kiwanis. Oak Hall had a huge porch which accommodated many guests who enjoyed a commanding view of downtown Tryon and the backdrop of our beloved mountains beyond.        

Fran and I stayed a night in Oak Hall when Miss Clara Edwards owned it, just to say we had. She told us she might be able to find a key to our room if we wanted one, also that a phone was outside in the hall. Our bill was $168; this at a time when “Motel Six” ($6 a night) was the well-promoted motel chain of the day. Most motels cost more than $6, but I thought the bill for Oak Hall was “excessive”. . . Guess I needed to consider “the honor of the thing!”

The wait staff was several black men in white coats. They were well known and much appreciated among regular Tryon diners. On one of our visits with Aunt Mildred Rippy, she took us to Oak Hall with Mrs. Sarah Darnall and a young Asian woman pianist named Megumi (as I remember, and I am spelling it phonetically).

Megumi and I had played for each other. I don’t remember what we played, but her piano playing was as pretty as she was. Protocol dictated that I should sit next to our hostess, but I wanted to sit with Megumi. I did, but Aunt Mildred let me know later that she did not like it. I don’t know, but I think Mrs. Darnall just shrugged it off as an aberration of the young.

We met Aunt Mildred and Mrs. Darnall at The Tides Inn in Virgina and enjoyed a fine meal there. Mrs. Darnall was impressed by Fran’s ability to control our two pre-schoolers by seating one on each side of her and using both hands. I was happy to be seated next to our hostess this time.     

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