Lake living offered idyllic childhood
One of Buffy Phillips’ earliest memories of growing up at Lake Junaluska is that of her first job — delivering copies of the “Assembly Daily” to the residents and guests who flocked to the lake each summer.
“I had the largest route, all of South Lake Shore and probably received the least money,” Phillips said with a laugh. “I rode my bike beginning at 7 a.m. to deliver the paper starting Monday, and would then go knock on doors Friday to ask for a donation.”
There were many jobs at the Methodist conference and retreat center for youths cleaning rooms, waiting tables, working as lifeguards, soda jerks, desk clerks, ticket sellers or being the gate or playground operators.
Phillips’ grandparents, Claude and Polly Leatherwood Medford, owned and operated the Cherokee Inn on North Lakeshore, which eventually was torn down. The Medfords built the Mount Valley Inn in Maggie Valley where many summer lake visitors stayed for the summer.
Her parents, Alfred and Lucille Phillips, lived on South Lakeshore Drive, where their home was one of only three where families lived year around early on. Her father worked as a chemist at Dayco and her mother was a homemaker.
“If you heard the story about the lady who let her new car go into the lake, well that was my mom,” Phillips said. “As she sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee at the window, she said, ‘My, what a pretty yellow boat on the lake so early in the morning. Oh my gosh, that’s my car.’”
Phillips can remember how the lake grounds filled up with the same group of children returning to their summer homes with their families and the rich array of activities offered.
“We had our own sort of utopia, a beautiful, spiritual and safe place with plenty of friends and endless exploring,” she said. “It was a big deal to come to the lake June through August. There was always something going on. Growing up there was really special.”
Phillips’ family was always an integral part of activities, including the Coronation festivities. Her mother, then Lucille Medford, was crowned Queen of Junaluska in 1939 when she was 20. In 1955, Phillips became a flower girl, her brother, Jeff, was a gift bearer and her sister, Nanette was a junior attendant in the 1955 Coronation ceremonies when Sylvia Camlin, was chosen as the Junaluska Queen.
Starting in the mid-1960s, more and more activities were added during the off-season, and the number of full-time residents grew, though the lake didn’t officially become a year-around destination until 1984.
Phillips clearly remembers the teen hot spot in the county —The Soda Shop in the Youth Center — where not only lake visitors congregated, but young folks from Waynesville and Canton flocked nightly.
“It was a true soda shop with vanilla cokes, sundaes and a juke box,” Phillips recalls.
“There would be a steady stream of cars going back and forth. The Soda Shop had its own little night-life going on. It was the hangout. Guys would drive their cars past the shop, circle around to the swimming pool and come back up. Then there was Asbury Trail…” she said, her voice trailing off.
While Phillips’ memories are vivid, she’s sad she didn’t spend more time quizzing her parents and grandparents about their experiences.
“I regret not taking the time to learn more of the history,” she said wistfully. “Once you have lived at the lake and experienced all that there is to do, you will never be the same. I have friends who no longer live here but we reminisce at frequent get-togethers. We had it made.”