Main Street Memories

Posthumous collection offers an insider’s view of the town

The late Tom Orr in front of the former Rosa Edwards Elementary School on 4th Ave.

When Hendersonville Times-News columnist Tom Orr died in January of last year, at 81, he left behind more than a decade’s worth of his much-beloved “Ridge Lines” articles on the history of Henderson County. Now, a GoFundMe campaign is underway to publish those writings in book form as Ridge Lines: Steps in Time, organized by the president of the county’s Genealogical and Historical Society, Patrick Gallagher; McCray Benson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Henderson County; and Beth Beasley, a former reporter at the newspaper.

The book will feature an introduction written by Henderson County novelist Robert Morgan (Gap Creek, Lions of the West) and historic photographs from the Baker-Barber collection, held and curated by the Community Foundation. Along with Orr’s memories of growing up near downtown and his many years teaching at Hendersonville High, the book includes sections on Henderson County pioneers, notable downtown businesses, prominent local families, county schools and educators through the years, local hangouts, and fun pastimes.

Tom Orr with novelist Robert Morgan.

Patrick Gallagher first met Tom Orr in 1961, when Gallagher was a freshman at Hendersonville High School, where Orr taught English and Theater Arts for 32 years. “I never had a class with Mr. Orr or participated in any of his plays, but he was such a friendly person, you didn’t have to be in his class to know him,” Gallagher remembers. “Our friendship continued throughout the years and he asked me to read the Times-News columns he had selected for his book.” Gallagher’s favorite “Ridge Lines” columns were about Main Street downtown when Orr, a Hendersonville native, was growing up during the 1940s. “Those words brought back memories of my own childhood in Hendersonville,” Gallagher says.

Beth Beasley, who has been editing the book and organizing the fundraising campaign, spoke often with Orr during her time at the newspaper. “He asked me about five years ago if I’d help him with a book of selected columns,” Beasley says. “It’s been a long process getting the book into the shape it’s in now, but it’s almost ready to be printed. I think Tom would have been pleased with the result.” 

A new book of Orr’s columns.

The GoFundMe campaign has set a goal of $30,000. Once printing costs are covered, plans are to sell the book at the Genealogical Society and other local outlets, with a launch party planned during the summer. In keeping with Orr’s wishes, proceeds from sales will be for the benefit of the Community Foundation. “This is a community-funded project,” Beasley notes. “The idea is to raise enough funds to print books to sell in the long term.”

Childhood photo of “Tommy Orr at Lake Summit Playhouse.” (used with permission; the book’s vintage photos are from the Baker-Barber Collection).

“Tom’s knowledge and affection for the people of Henderson County and Hendersonville were unparalleled and contagious,” Morgan writes in his introduction to the book. “His writing is a window on a world many of us have forgotten, giving us a new appreciation of our own community and heritage.”

To contribute to the campaign, see ridgelinesbook.com for information and click on the “Go Fund Me” link or go directly to the page: gofundme.com/f/support-ridge-lines-book-sales. Those wishing to donate with cash or a check can do so at Wild Birds Unlimited, 638 Spartanburg Hwy. in Hendersonville, 828-694-0081.

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