Olsen, Ted. Blue Ridge Folklife. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.
This weekend I read part of Ted Olson’s book titled Blue Ridge Folk Life. The book was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 1998 and covers the culture and history of the people who have lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ted Olson was a ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway before becoming a college professor and a folklorist. I never realized how common of a name he had until I searched him to find more bibliographical information on him and found several other Ted Olson’s instead.
Anyways, his book is a general look at the people of the Blue Ridge and how they and their culture were affected by time and tourism. In his chapter on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Olson covers the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I picked up this book at the library I was hoping it would have more details on how Parkway tourism changed local economies, but unfortunately he does not go into any great detail about that. He does, however, mention that the construction of the Parkway and other major roads that came before it did change the economy of the region. He also outlines how tourism changed local culture. He writes about the National Parks Service romanticizing ‘mountain culture’ for the sake of tourism, and exaggerated aspects of the culture in order to make for more interesting talks and presentations. His bibliographical notes are very different from what I am used to seeing as a student of History as he doesn’t use footnotes or end notes but rather has about a paragraph with several sources per sub topic. That being said, his sources on the Parkway were slim. All in all I think this book will be good for us to use if we want some information about the area where the Parkway was built and what it was like before its construction but I do not see it being of any value to us in our examination of tourists and tourism caused by the Parkway. As a lesson to my fellow classmates I’ll say this: skimming is your best friend because there are often more not useful sources than useful ones out there.