The Work Program
Leonard Billing: As a student, I found the work program one of the
most interesting and rewarding experiences there.... I was glad to get
more experience as a carpenter on the new studies building, working
under Charlie Godfrey, the local contractor, and under the influence of
A. Lawrence Kocher.
Robert Bliss: The work program had greater educational value than
recognized at the time and certainly instilled a responsibility for
community service that remains with us.... I don't know how it really
began, but it was surely invented by necessity to share chores for an
economical and harmonious existence. The value of physical work, of the
whole mind-body routine (as opposed to required PE credits) must have
been embraced later. My introduction to the work was in gathering
apples, converting them to cider through a hand-cranked press.... The
next experience was more strenuous in emptying a railroad car of coal at
the Black Mountain siding and transporting it up to Blue Ridge in the
old Chevy truck. Of course there were the jobs such as serving and
clearing four o'clock tea, and hauling wood for the great Lee Hall
fireplace—the hearth of much pleasure as well as occasional pain
during acrimonious general meetings.
Ruth O'Neill Burnett: The work program was sometimes interesting and
sometimes boring, but there was always the feeling of accomplishment—and
of camaraderie—of building something important even if the assignment
for the day was only to dig potatoes at the farm. I remember one
glorious afternoon when my job was to drive a large dump truck up and
down those rocky roads. I was in my glory!
John Campbell: At BMC I enjoyed helping build the study building and
then did most of the electrical wiring.
Mary Brett Daniels:
The work program contributed to the sense of
community. Not a token work at all, but real and necessary work that
everyone shared, that had to be done. One fall I was part of a crew that
cleared the hillside for a pasture. I had my turn as the plumber's
helper. Bas Allen taught me how to put washers in toilets and install
new toilet seats.
Our custom of spending half-days at work on the
farm, the road, or the forest, besides waiting on tables and performing
our own housekeeping chores, brought economic sense and psychological
Marilyn Bauer Greenwald: ... I think perhaps I gained more of lasting
value from the work program than from many of my formal classes....
Will Hamlin: Our work program, my first year – voluntary, not
mandatory like Goddard's – was helping design and then being trucked
over to Lake Eden to work with the architect and a couple of local
carpenters in constructing a "Studies Building" jutting out
over the edge of the lake.
Gisela Kronenberg Herwitz:The work program was an important and
exciting part of my life at BMC. I even enjoyed digging the ditches that
became the foundations for the Study Building at Lake Eden....
Eventually I was put in charge of the tool shed and later worked with
Bas Allen, the general maintenance man and an excellent teacher,
learning to steamfit the lodge and other existing buildings, wire them,
put in street lights, etc. I learned to put in subflooring, to drive a
nail straight, and to do some masonry work with field stones on the
Study Building. These accomplishments gave me a lot of confidence and
some useful skills that have lasted me a lifetime.
Jane Mayhall: I much valued the work programs and enjoyed, to the
extent that it was possible, working in the fields in the afternoons,
picking corn, and getting rid of rocks that were hampering planting. It
was great, going to classes in the morning and taking part in the rural
life in the afternoon. Although I wasn't as much a participant in this
as I wanted to be ... I found that this routine became my
"ideal" for how to live years later. Living the life of an
artist or intellectual but never losing contact with nature or some kind
of physical work.
Martha Hunt Smith: My other big interest was the work program. I was
active in organizing and working with both students and faculty,
building the new building at Lake Eden – going over in the truck
several afternoons a week, gathering rocks, building stone foundations,
carrying lumber, sawing, hammering.... It all appealed to me and was a
great alternative to studying, which was not my forte!
Claude Stoller: The Work Program was of major importance to me
because of its construction component (although I also loved hauling
coal up to Lee Hall). It was a means of relating theoretical design and
structures studies to actual practice. We learned skills from the
contractor Charlie Godfrey and his construction crew (along with a bit
of Buncombe County folklore). This was an important part of the
education of designers as well as good physical exercise. An unexpected
bonus of the work program for me was the experience of working alongside
a scientist who saw things such as relative capillarity in different
soil strata or the comparative densities of rock which opened my eyes to
new things; Albers's admonition once again.
Robert Sunley: Another part of life at BMC was the work program which
perhaps was unusual in that it was not required, was not usually arduous
or overtaxing, and was varied. My own experience was such that I did
learn by doing, though the conclusion I reached was that I did not
relish farm work and could not muster up any enthusiasm for the work
despite its usefulness to the college. John Rice had evidently already
reached the same conclusion – one of his succinct remarks was that
"the gospel of work makes me tired" (referring obliquely to
Ted Dreier's enthusiasm for physical work).
Norman Weston: The various work programs were a significant part of
life at Black Mountain.... The farm was a major enterprise. We had
dreams of becoming somewhat self-sufficient. It was located east of the
main gate and had a farmhouse and sort of a shed that slept a few people
in the summer ... we did grow an acre of tomatoes and enough wheat to
hire the roving thrashers ... we raised some squab. Fattened a hog,
killed her, butchered her, and ate her.
Renate Benfey Wilkins: The work program was a big part, especially
the first two years when we all pitched in to build the building. We did
everything from pouring concrete to nailing floorboards.
Harold Raymond: I took an active part in the work program and learned
a great deal about people and a rather romantic ideal of work as a