Terry Roberts’ direct ancestors have lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina since the time of the Revolutionary War. Steven Roberts, during the early 1900’s, was the proprietor of the Mountain Park Hotel in the town of Hot Springs in Madison County, North Carolina. In 1917, the setting for A Short Time to Stay Here, Julius and Belva Anderson Roberts lived and farmed near Hot Springs in Anderson Cove.
        Born in Asheville and raised in Weaverville, North Carolina, Terry Roberts grew up close by his grandmother, Belva, who “dipped snuff, raised chickens, farmed, and read till her eyes couldn’t bear it.” Through her came many of the stories that breathe again within the novel. Today, Roberts is the Director
 of the National Paideia Center and lives in Weaverville, North Carolina.

        If you could avail yourself of a real—rather than fictional—time machine, to travel back to Hot Springs, North Carolina in the summer and fall of 1917, you would discover a place much as I have described in A Short Time to Stay Here. There is the huge German Internment Camp, employing dozens of local men to guard over 2300 German guests: common sailors in barracks on the upper lawn and officers in the elegant Mountain Park Hotel on the lower. Rumbough is an important name in town, as are many of the others in the novel. Up on the hill overlooking the village is the Rumbough mansion, Rutland. The Dorland Institute is there and in operation, close by Sunnybank, the boarding house run by the famous ballad singer, Jane Gentry. The Germans leave the camp singly and in small groups to work for local residents and are much as I have described them; indeed, many of the names are the same. There are two names in the novel, however, that you won’t find in town: Robbins and Ulmann, although Anna Ulmann is perhaps a fictional cousin to the photographer Doris Ulmann. While at the Springs, were you to take the train upriver to Asheville, you could stay at the Old Kentucky Home-with its infamous proprietor—and have a drink at the Sky Club (though it probably wasn’t serving during those years).
        If you’re the sort of person who enjoys seeing those settings that are at once both real and fictionalized, you can actually visit the places I’ve mentioned above. Indeed, if you’ve never been to Hot Springs, you have unfinished business in this life, and as that line in the old mountain song goes, you have only a short time to stay here.

Terry Roberts 


Photographs of German Detainees
Mountain Magnolia Inn, the Rumbough “Rutland” mansion, site of release party 2012
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