Taking baby steps, we drove north toward the Appalachian Mountains, the barrier between the east coast plains and interior lowlands of North America where we would eventually get to. But first, we had some things to do on this side of the country. Three hundred miles west of the coast as the crow flies, we spent two nights near Winston-Salem at Tanglewood Park, our first county park camping experience.
County parks are urbanesque compared to state parks and tend to offer much more than a campground. But, we took our chances with Tanglewood and glad we did. The RV campground is a relatively small area within a 1100-acre park filled with beautiful cycling and hiking trails, a manor house, a horse stable, swimming pool, two golf courses, lakes, playgrounds, tennis courts, etc, etc. The history of Tanglewood park is even more interesting.
In 1921, William Neal Reynolds (brother of tobacco’s R.J. Reynolds) and his wife Kate, purchased the Tanglewood tract and Manor House. There, the Reynolds lived until 1951 when the Tanglewood property was willed to the citizens of Forsyth County as a public recreational park. The couple wanted the county citizens to enjoy the beauty and history of their country estate – but under one condition. The generous couple added a stipulation to their will that the park be open to white people only.
Along came the Civil Rights Act in 1964. At once, the trustees who oversaw the Tanglewood estate were thrown into a modern-day predicament. In some form of compromise, the trustees closed much of the park including the Manor House, pool, theatre, motel and restaurant. A few more years past as officials attempted to find a legal solution but it was a suit filed in federal court in 1970 that forced the issue to final resolution. The court ruled that Tanglewood must be open to all races or be closed. After some complications concerning park operations, the county park was officially integrated in 1971. Now that wasn’t so difficult, was it Tanglewood?
The history of Tanglewood probably would not have come onto our radar screen except that a week earlier during a 4th of July celebration at the park, a park visitor made the news. While relaxing at the park’s pool, she noticed something odd about the festive red, white and blue wrist bands handed out to all the park visitors. What were supposedly semblances of the American flag were instead of the confederate flag. When this was brought to the park’s attention, blame was passed on to certain park employees who unwittingly ordered the wristbands and park officials immediately got rid of them, the bands that is.
During our short visit, we spent the day in Winston-Salem, and it brought back memories. I clearly remember the iconic green and white package of Salem cigarettes because my dad smoked them right up to the day of his first heart attack. I wouldn’t have known Salem cigarette packages were green despite all the TV ads because we didn’t have a color TV back in those days. I also remember how a pack of cigarettes felt in my small child’s hand because dad would occasionally give me a dollar and send me to the corner drug store to buy his cigarettes. And if it weren’t for my family history, I would not have known that Winston-Salem was once the tobacco industry capital of the world. It’s also the home of Krispy Kreme, by the way.
Not to put heart disease in the forefront, but what is left of the tobacco industry is barely noticeable in the charming city of Winston-Salem. The twin city is called by some as the “City of the Arts and Innovation”. What’s not to like about the second most livable downtowns in America according to the Wall Street Journal? By the 1940s, 60% of Winston-Salem working folks worked for either Reynolds or the Hanes textile factories. And here’s an interesting cigarette fact, despite being 200 miles from the ocean, Winston-Salem was once designated by the U.S. government as an official port of entry for the U.S. because it imported so much French cigarette paper and Turkish tobacco for Camel cigarettes. Now, the largest employer in the twin city is Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Once again, times have changed – tobacco has been replaced by biomedical research.
We spent most of our day at Old Salem, which I knew nothing about until then. And I knew nothing about the Moravians. Old Salem is a historic district in Winston-Salem and originally founded by the Moravian community in 1753. It is now a living history museum that provides an interpretative tour of a Moravian lifestyle. During the early 1400s, Catholicism was firmly established in Europe. In Moravia, a small group of Germans began following the teachings of a local priest, John Hus who believed that the bible should be interpreted by the individual and not be reliant on the interpretation of the clergy. This went against the traditional Catholic Church, so they burned him at the stake for heresy in 1415.
Hus’s followers, the Moravians were forced to stop their religious services; but in secret many continued the practice. Eventually, the Moravians who had turned to the Protestant reformation, resurfaced in the Czech Republic. There, Count Zinzendorf was so taken in by the Moravian’s spiritual expression and acceptance to all who wished to join their faith, that he granted them land to build a village where they could practice their faith freely. From there, they thrived and grew, and embarked on missions throughout the world.
Converts were attracted to the emotional religious services and the orderly and close-knit community life of the Moravians. Moravians, contrary to traditional religions, believed women and men were spiritually equal and women were full participants in religious services. Women could be spiritual leaders, alongside their male counterparts. In 1735, the first Moravian missionaries arrived in the New World, specifically Savannah, Georgia. Later, more successful colonies grew in Pennsylvania (Bethlehem for example) and later in North Carolina, now known as Old Salem. Unbeknownst to us, this would not be our last encounter with Moravians on this trip.
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love”. A Moravian Motto
I’d like to mention something about the Hanes family that also comes out of Winston-Salem because I grew quite fond of them after visiting SECCA, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem. SECCA has been around since 1956 as a non-profit visual arts organization. In 1972, James G. Hanes willed his 32-acre estate and English Hunt-Style mansion to the gallery. The mansion was renovated and a 8896-sq-ft gallery was added to it, followed later by a 24,500 sq-ft addition in 1990. A small donation gets you into the gallery where you can enjoy cutting edge and contemporary art exhibits dedicated to southeastern artists. A portion of the Hanes mansion is also on exhibit and the exquisite taste of its owners in full display. SECCA is one of Winston-Salem’s jewels, and we have an underwear magnate to thank for that.
Our stay near Winston-Salem was a short one, but so glad we took the time to visit. Now, we have some climbing to do, before passing over into the vast lowlands of North America.
RV and travel issues and concerns
Issue 1: Unlevel sites. When RV traveling, parking on unlevel sites are inevitable. At Tanglewood, the site was flat and paved, but inclined significantly. We’ve had a few occasions where our auto level system resulted in a wheel coming off the ground. We figured out how to finesse the landing jacks to avoid this from happening, but it took a few trials and errors. You simply have to know that you will encounter unlevel sits and prepare to deal with it. We have several leveling blocks that are quite easy to drive the wheels up onto. Despite the leveling system telling me we are perfectly level, I always check with my own level and tweak the system if needed.