My introduction to the Foxfire Series of books came by way of an Appalachian Studies class I took in college. The required book for the course was The Foxfire Book-and all these years later I still have it.
The Deer Hunter and I both love to read-and we both share an interest in old timey ways and of course the heritage of Appalachia. During the first years of our marriage, Miss Cindy helped us acquire the complete set of Foxfire books. She used the occasion of a birthday or Christmas to gift us a Foxfire book until we had the complete series-or at least that’s what I thought.
Since I was a fan of the Foxfire Series of Books, I was familiar with how they were made-how the information within the books was compiled by high school students from Rabun County Georgia. However I, wrongly assumed the program had run its course and ended.
I don’t reacall exactly what I was writing about here on the Blind Pig-but whatever the subject I found an online site that offered a free download of the Foxfire Book I was using as a source. I thought-I would mention the download to you-but then I decided I should find out if it was legal-I mean how do you give away someone else’s book?
I discovered Foxfire’s Website and was soon in contact with Ann Moore, who is President and Executive Director of The Foxfire Fund. Ann told me Random House was attempting to track down the people who created the electronic version and make sure it was removed permanetly-so needless to say I did not mention it to you guys.
Over the next few months Ann and I continued to email each other about one thing and another. In the process I discovered-The Foxfire Program is alive, well, still publishing books and a even publishes a twice yearly magazine.
Did you know there is a Foxfire Museum? I didn’t until Ann told me about it. One rainy cool morning last summer I headed over the mountain to spend a few hours touring the museum and visiting with some of the folks who are keeping the Foxfire Program alive.
The Gate House (in the photo above) is the entrance to the Foxfire Museum. It also houses the gift shop and a few administrative offices. As the rain began to pick up a little, Joyce Green and I set on the front porch and she told me about student involvement within the Foxfire Program.
Joyce became involved with Foxfire after her son went through the program when he was in high school. At that time, George Reynolds was running the music and folklore program and the class was divided between gathering material for the Foxfire Program and encouraging students to learn a musical instrument. Joyce was a teacher at Rabun High School and during those years she also edited the Foxfire Magazine. Joyce explained how the students benefit from being part of the Foxfire Program to me.
There’s the obvious education value-each student who passes through the program gains a first hand look into their past with each interview they conduct or work on. But Joyce pointed out a side of the program I would never have thought of-the business side. Students are not only interviewers, writers, photographers, and editors-they are also hands on business managers of the magazine. Students keep up with subscriptions, bulk mailings, take care of payments, marketing, and handle any issues that arise within each of the processes.
Students at Rabun High are not required to be part of the Foxfire Program-but those who are interested are eligible to be part of it for all 4 of their high school years. There is a scholarship aspect to Foxfire Program-the more hours a student works the more scholarship money they may earn. Over the years, the Foxfire Magazine Program has become such a success that other organizations come to them to learn how to develop their own program. Joyce said to date thousands of teachers have been trained around the country in the Foxfire Teaching Program and students K-12 have created programs using the teaching approach as well.
After my talk with Joyce I went upstairs to Ann’s cozy office to speak with her. Ann has been with Foxfire for 35 years. Even though I didn’t know the Museum existed-a lot of other folks do-Ann said on average they have 12,000 to 13,000 visitors each year. Ann told me a little more about the scholarship program-it was started in 1976. From 1989 forward the scholarship program was underwritten by a lady from California, Julia Fleet. Ms. Fleet passed away in 2005 and generously endowed the program further through her will. Especially interesting to me-Ann said over 60% of their revenue comes from online sales. In addition to the teaching program Foxfire also offers on site Heritage Days to public schools and have even taken the heritage day directly to the school campus in certain cases.
I enjoyed talking with Ann-but I was anxious to see all those artifacts. The rain had let up and I headed up the trail towards the museum with Barry Stiles for a personal tour. Barry told me for a small admission fee, folks are welcome to do a self guided tour of the museum and a guided tour may be possible upon request. The museum consists of several buildings which house a multitude of items. Many of the buildings are authentic themselves-having been donated to the Foxfire Program through the years-disassembled and reassembled on site by the Foxfire Students.
It would be impossible for me tell you about all the wondrous things the Foxfire Museum holds-or all the stories Barry shared with me about the items. But I can’t resist highlighting just a few.
I found the Alex Stewart displays especially interesting since The Deer Hunter and I had just finished reading a book about his life.
I felt drawn to the Moore House-since it was from Clay County-just up the road from me.
The museum had several sleds. I loved this big one. Pap has told me so many stories about using sleds pulled by horses or mules from when he was a boy-and I finally got to see exactly what one looked like.
There was an awesome collection of jars, bottles, and other cooking utensils.
Barry even let me peek into the archive room. Since Foxfire first started in 1966 they have made every effort possible to archive each interview done by the students-even the ones never used in the magazine or books. My heart did flip flops just thinking about them.
I tremendously enjoyed my visit to The Foxfire Museum. But most of all I was heartened and encouraged to discover they are still going strong. Just last fall they published a brand new book-Singin’ Praisin’ Raisin’ in celebration of 45 years of the program. The book covers a broad spectrum of musical families-from the Primitives to the Foxfire Boys-it also includes a how to section as well as a crimes and murder section. There’s even a cd accompaniment with the book.
I hope you learned something new about The Foxfire Program-like I did. Be sure to drop back by tomorrow-I’m going to share one of my favorite things from the day at the museum-and I’m going to give away a subscription to the Foxfire Magazine too.
p.s. All photos in this post-except the first one were taken at The Foxfire Museum.