Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: Folks love Hole Doughnuts on the corner of Haywood Road and Wamboldt Avenue in West Asheville. However, friends and I have practically come to fisticuffs over the proper pronunciation of “Wamboldt.” Tell us, Answer Man, is it “Wahm-boldt” or “Wham-boldt?” Our lives depend on your diving deeply into researching this vital community issue.
My answer: So much pressure! I had to eat a dozen cream-filled doughnuts just to settle my nerves.
Real answer: I spent an embarrassing amount of time on this query, only to basically come up with this:
“It’s both,” said Jerry Israel, an 82-year-old West Asheville resident who’s spent a lifetime in Asheville. “I’ve heard it pronounced both ways from people who live in that neighborhood and who live on it.”
Israel, who also spent 37 years working in sales and on the business side for the Asheville Citizen Times, did offer his preference.
“‘Whamboldt,’ I always pronounced it,” Israel said.
I couldn’t get mad at Israel, because he did toss out this nugget in parting: “I may not know an answer, but I can certainly come up with an opinion.”
The street is named after Wickes Wamboldt, a mayor of Asheville in the 1930s.
Jenny Bowen with Buncombe County Special Collections, part of the library system, did some helpful research on this.
“So, Mayor Wickes Wamboldt had a radio show on WISE radio in Asheville called ‘Road of Life’ or ‘Looking at Life,’ but unfortunately I could not find any oral histories that have any recordings of his show,” Bowen said via email. “So I can’t hear his sign off to get specifically correct on this pronunciation.”
“Looking at the etymology of the surname, it is German ‘Wambold’ which traditionally would be pronounced ‘Vam-bold,’” Bowen said. “But the Americanized version of Wamboldt is more likely pronounced, ‘Wahm-boldt.’ ”
While I’m reluctant to enter the fray here, I would agree with Bowen’s assessment. So yes, I’m a “Wahm-boldt” guy.
By the way, I reached out to WISE radio about this, but I never heard back.
I also checked with UNC Asheville’s Special Collections, and while they did find a photo of Mayor Wamboldt, they could not locate a recording of his radio show. But Special Collections Assistant Ashley McGhee Whittle also said the pronunciation is “Wahm-boldt.”
“I talked with Gene (Hyde), head of Special Collections, on the Wamboldt pronunciation,” Whittle said via email. “This is based on ‘Wamboldtopia’ — Gene went to WAGS in the past and apparently knew the pronunciation of it.”
We’re going down a bit of a rabbit hole here, but WAGS refers to an article from Mountain Xpress in 2014 about the West Asheville Garden Stroll, which featured a whimsical home and gardens called “Wamboldtopia” on Wamboldt Avenue. The home is still there, although the owners who built the gardens were moving out.
Going back to Israel for a minute, he had a good idea: “If (Wamboldt) had descendants around, they might be willing to tussle about it.”
Whitepages.com coughed up no local Wamboldts, although it did list a few in the Carolinas, and one very promising one in California, a man named, “Wickes Wamboldt.” I figured he had to be some kind of relative, but alas, that number was disconnected.
Findagrave.com noted that Wickes Wamboldt was born in January 1877 in Jacksonville, Florida and moved to Asheville. He and his wife, Alice Luella May Wamboldt, had a son, Melvin Plumer Walboldt.
Adding to the confusion, UNCA sent me a picture of Wamboldt with a woman they identified as his daughter. Census data from 1950 states the Wamboldts had a daughter, Martha Wamboldt Trostler, Whittle said.
But back to Findagrave.com
“Wickes was an early child welfare advocate, and a representative of the National Congress of Mothers,” Findagrave.com states. “He was heavily involved with fundraising for the National Red Cross during WWI. He was a syndicated columnist, published regularly by newspapers across the U.S. for decades. Wickes was mayor of Asheville during the early 1930’s. He also had a radio program, ‘Road of Life,’ on station WISE.”
Wamboldt died in Asheville in 1953 at age 76 and is buried in Lewis Memorial Park, according to the website.
Surprisingly, of the half-dozen calls I made to random Wamboldts in the Southeast, one woman hung up on me, and the rest either did not return my call, or the numbers had been disconnected. I tried several in Jacksonville, Florida, too. No luck.
I also asked a neighbor of mine here in Fletcher, James Hungerford, about the pronunciation, as he grew up in West Asheville.
“I pronounced it ‘Wahm-boldt,’ ” he said. “I suppose it’s based on one’s Southern drawl.”
For the record, I’m going with “Wahm-boldt,” too, mainly because of the German derivation of the name and European pronunciation guidelines.
But I also suspect one of you good readers out there is going to send me some kind of more definitive answer. Or possibly, a living, breathing Wamboldt will reach out.
I’m sure it will hit me upside the head like a ton of bricks, making a really loud “WHAM!”
I mean “WAHM!”
Question: You recently wrote about Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputies doing off-duty work at Biltmore Baptist Church. What about the county-owned sheriff cars that they use to get to the church? Do the moonlighting officers reimburse the county for their freelance use of cars? Or do they get to use Sheriff’s Office vehicles while off-duty?
My answer: Let’s not get bogged down here with arguments over the separation of church and state when the Wamboldt pronunciation issue is still demanding our attention.
Real answer: “The deputies do have their vehicles and regular equipment when working these off-duty assignments,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Aaron Sarver said via email, adding that they do not reimburse for that. “Deputies need their regular equipment to respond as needed at the church or another location in case of emergencies. The deputies check in with dispatch when working off-duty and would respond to nearby emergency calls that may come in.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.