Mount Airy, NC
October 2007 – I stayed at Mayberry Campground when I was on my return portion of my Blue Ridge Parkway tour. It was just opening then and I had a great time visiting with the owner, Benny. He told me about how the campground came into being and his plans for its future.
But I was totally honored when he invited me inside the family homestead. Grandpa Byron and Grandma Maude’s 5 bedroom home is just as she left it when she died in 1990. The home is still kept in as pristine condition as when Grandma Maude departed this earth.
Entering through the porch where you see the original well that was hand dug where Grandma cranked buckets of water back in the days when she had to go outside to the outhouse to do her business.
Going into the kitchen you can almost smell grandma’s fried chicken, biscuits & hoe cakes baking in the oven. Besides raising chickens, she made her own butter and cheese (Benny said his favorite as a kid was her fried cheese). There’s still a fullly stocked freezer with Grandma goodies. Benny says even if it’s not good anymore, it’s still Grandma’s and he’s leaving it! It was such fun to listen to his stories of growing up here. He has such fond memories of being babysat by Grandma and camping out on the farmland with his boy scout troup.
The living room – where I swear grandma still hangs out! Benny said that was Grandma’s favorite chair. See that orb of light above it? When I was in Savannah working on an article about the spirits haunting that old city (Supernatural Savannah), I was told that these lights are reflections of the energy of the spirit. Of dozens of pictures I took inside the house, this is the only one that came out that way. Hi Grandma!
Benny’s family are descendants of the famous Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang. Eng is Benny’s great-great grandpa. Byron’s daddy, Will Bunker, Eng’s son, built and settled into it in 1904. Here’s an oil portrait of Eng and Chang. Benny told me they had traveled all other the world and they said this was the “Garden Spot of the World.” The loved the 4 seasons and the friendly people, so they settled here and farmed over 2,000 acres of tobacco & grain.
Benny showed me numerous mementos, including this poster used for appearances when they were traveling and sold as souvenirs.
This was their chair, still looking cozy in Grandma’s house.
They are buried in the White Plains Church Cemetery, within walking distance of the campground, a church they helped establish.
Meet Glenn & Ruby, Benny’s mom and dad. Ruby grew up here with her six sisters and she remembers working in the fields when they used mules to work the tobacco farm.
I also had the chance to meet Benny’s aunt, Nonnie, great granddaughter of Eng. She is a great lady and a real “hoot and a holler” as Andy would say! I tell ya, by the time I left here, I felt like family – which is exactly the way Benny wants it! I really look forward to visiting this campground and these folks again.