Romance, marriage at Lake Junaluska
It’s almost like the garden scene in Romeo and Juliet. Except this Romeo stands in the gravel parking lot and whistles to beckon Juliet through an open window on the fourth floor attic of the building. And the scene isn’t in Capulet's Garden — it’s at Lake Junaluska! It was the summer of 1964.
Betsy McLean, daughter of the Rev. Miles and Margaret McLean, moved with her family to Canton in 1959 when her father became pastor of First Methodist Church. Betsy graduated from Canton High School in 1961. The day after graduation she began working as a waitress at the Colonial Hotel at Lake Junaluska where she and another waitress lived in a fourth floor room.
In the early 1950s Wannie Hardin’s parents, the Rev. Wannamaker and Margaret Hardin, built a house on Carolina Road at Lake Junaluska. His family continued to live in South Carolina but spent each summer at the Assembly. When he was 12, he began working as an office boy in the Assembly office. Not all of the cottage families had telephones and Wannie’s job included taking messages at the office and delivering them to cottage owners. He got the job because he had a bike. Through the summers (until he went to graduate school) Wannie worked as receptionist at the Assembly office, summer bookkeeper and editor of the “Assembly Daily,” a daily newsletter distributed at the lake.
In those days the youth employed at the Assembly worked hard and received very little pay but enjoyed their time at the Lake so much they returned year after year. Betsy recalls working seven or eight hours, seven days each week from June 1 to Aug. 30 and earning a total of $85 as a waitress at the Terrace.
Every night after, all the young people gathered at the youth center for fun. Usually, after a few weeks at the Lake, the young people paired off and began dating. Many of these summer romances led to wedding bells.
On July 18, 1964, Wannie Hardin asked Betsy McLean for a date. They “hit if off” and saw each other almost every night for the remainder of the summer. When Wannie had some time off, he would go to the Terrace Hotel’s gravel parking lot and whistle up to Betsy in the fourth floor attic dorm. She left the window open for the breeze and to listen for Wannie. The romance continued as Betsy went back to Scarritt and Wannie went to seminary at Duke. They became engaged that Christmas and were married in Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska on Aug. 28, 1965.
In 1996, Wannie and Betsy bought a home on Oxford Road, originally built by Bishop and Mrs. Paul Hardin, which overlooks the Terrace Hotel parking lot where he used to stand and whistle for his sweetheart. He likes to say that "life has come full circle" as today Wannie can stand in the now paved parking lot and whistle up the hill to Betsy, beckoning her to join him in a stroll down the Rose Walk to see what's happening at the Youth Center.