There’s Nothing Like a Picnic

There is nothing like a picnic. . . Most important is a pretty spot outdoors, such as the one chosen by the J.D. Earle family. Some folks prefer a blanket on the ground. Hard boiled eggs are a favorite, as are pies.

MS222_001I PHOTO C
Real photo postcard of the J.D. Earle family. Earle is on left peeling an egg. His wife Bess Johnson Earle on right. Little girl identified as Annie Love Oliver, so others may be the Oliver Family. AZO stamp box on back dates card stock to 1904-1918.

This man chose to sit on his picnic basket while eating in his pretty spot in the middle of the river. A baguette?

Man sitting on his picnic basket by a river, circa 1880s.

“The word picnic was originally a 17th Century French word, picque-nique. Its meaning was similar to today’s meaning: a social gathering where each attendee brings a share of the food. The literal meaning of picque-nique, which became our picnic, is “each pick a bit.” The term picnic does not appear in the English language until around 1800.”

The Creasman family chose an outdoor table with a pretty tablecloth strewn across it. Foods are unfortunately not identifiable.

The Creasman family seated at an outdoor table. From right, Ruby Creasman, Asheville photographer George Masa, mother Effie Creasman, father Oscar Creasman, Doris Creasman, Blanche Creasman, cousin Lelia Pressley, Blake Creasman, and unidentified man. Circa 1915-1933.

The historic place to picnic in Asheville was on top of Beaucatcher Mountain. In Look Homeward, Angel Thomas Wolfe wrote a beautiful passage about Eugene taking Laura on a picnic there. The young couple took a shoe box to a little grocery on Woodfin Street and “they bought crackers, peanut butter, currant jelly, bottled pickles, and a big slice of rich yellow cheese.” On the way, they stopped off at Eugene’s sister’s house, who in the lusty way typical of the Wolfe family, continued to add to their box, boiled eggs and sandwiches, and then still, meeting them on the front porch as they were leaving, she handed them “another shoe-box stuffed with sandwiches, boiled eggs and fudge.”

“They climbed sharply up, along a rock trail, avoiding the last long corkscrew of the road, and stood in the gap, at the road’s summit. They were only a few hundred feet above the town: it lay before them with the sharp nearness of a Sienese picture, at once close and far.” . . . “But the hills were lordly, with a plan. Westward they widened into the sun, soaring up from buttressing shoulders. The town was thrown up on the plateau like an encampment: there was nothing below him that could resist time.”

Real photo post card view of Asheville from Beaucatcher Mountain; old Battery Park is here obscured by foliage of an oak tree on the right. Card from collection of Eleanor (Brown) Hall. [AZO stamp box with triangle corners; stock produced from Aug. 1907 to Oct. 1912.]
Some people have their favorite picnic basket, some passed down through the family. Old wicker baskets are pieces of art in themselves. Note the small feast spread out.

Asheville photographer Herbert Pelton and his second wife, Allie Vivian Moore Pelton, (on far left) of a group picnicking beside a mountain stream. Circa 1920s.

One can always, these days, with a little planning, get in the car after work and take a short drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a late picnic dinner, maybe looking over Asheville, or further north.

Family picnic, probably in the Craggies for the 13th annual Rhododendron Festival (1940).

Or one can plan a weekend trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, picnic basket packed carefully in the trunk of the car. It is summer, just about, and picnic time.

Postcard garishly colored photo-offset of “Camp Life in the Heart of the Mountains.”
Colored & textured photo-offset of woman camper feeding a young Black Bear, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Postmarked 1940.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

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