Haywood storyteller Donald Davis visits Junaluska

By Mary Ann Enloe | Apr 15, 2013

One of Haywood County's favorite sons, storyteller Donald Davis, kicks off Lake Junaluska's Centennial Celebration Thursday night at Stuart Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. and it's free and open to the public.

Davis entertains audiences all over the world with Haywood County stories.   The internationally known award-winning storyteller operates his global story-telling business from Okracoke Island, but his stories are about his formative years in Waynesville.

"Families are families," said Davis in an earlier interview with the Mountaineer. "I tell the same stories in New Zealand and the British Isles that I tell here. People are more alike than they are different. The stories resonate for the same reason Andy Griffith is the best-known re-run on television. I'm taking the audience back to what they perceive to be their grandparents' farm in Iowa or a Thanksgiving dinner with all the relatives seated around a big table. It may not be the way it was, but it's the way they want to remember it."

A retired Methodist minister, Davis spent his childhood in a farmhouse on Plott Creek across the road from what is now the new Hazelwood Elementary School. His mother, Lucille, was a teacher in the old Hazelwood school and his father, "Banker" Joe, headed up the town's only bank. They lived for awhile in East Waynesville before moving up on the hill beyond the Waynesville drive-in.  Sunday mornings found the Davis family at Waynesville First Methodist Church where they sat near the front on the right-hand side of the sanctuary in the old church that burned decades ago.

Hometown legend Donald Davis was the unanimous choice to launch the Assembly's historic year. Retired United Methodist Church Bishop Lawrence McClesky, chairman of Lake Junaluska's special events committee for the religious retreat's 2013 Centennial celebration, said, "We just had to have him."

McClesky learned from Davis that the storyteller's grandfather had attended some of the first meetings in 1913 when decisions were  being made about the Lake. Davis also preached at McClesky's Greensboro church 35 years ago.

"He used some of his Haywood County stories in that sermon and he was very effective," said McClesky. "I think he was ordained here at Lake Junaluska — a lot of us were, and since he was a graduate of W.T.H.S. (Waynesville Township High School) he probably graduated from high school in Stuart Auditorium."  For years, W. T. H. S. held its commencement ceremonies in the historic auditorium.

McClesky hopes the auditorium will be full Thursday night.  "We can seat more than 2,000, and we hope we have a full house," he said.

For more information, see www.lakejunaluska.com/100.