On October 10, 1946, an ad appeared in the Transylvania Times announcing the opening of The Chatterbox, across the street from Brevard High School, offering Drive-In service from 11:00 am-11:15 pm Monday-Saturday and closed on Sundays. Harry Sellers, who managed the A&P Grocery store, and his wife were the owners. For the next 14 years The Chatterbox would change hands and even its name a number of times, yet it remained one of the most popular places to eat in Brevard, particularly for teenagers.
By June of 1947 The Chatterbox was so popular that they built an addition which doubled the floor space, and added “The Terrace,” an outdoor seating area. At this time they had an “every day special” of one meat, three vegetables, salad, dessert, and a drink, all for 75 cents. They also expanded their hours to 7:00 am to midnight six days a week, but after less than two months, the Sellerses gave this up and went back to the previous hours. The Chatterbox offered Thanksgiving Dinner that year complete with turkey, dressing, gravy, candied yams, green beans, rice, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, rolls or biscuits, and a beverage for $1.25 per person.
The April 21, 1949 edition of the Transylvania Times reported that Morris Brown of Asheville has purchased The Chatterbox from the Sellerses, who retired to a home on Maple Street. Brown immediately enclosed “The Terrace” and added partitions. He reopened it shortly after as the Tastee Grill, in keeping with the name of his other café, the Tasty Diner, in West Asheville. The Tastee Grill however, was a short-lived venture. After only two months Charles Perry and Briscoe Anders bought it and changed the name back to The Chatterbox.
The Chatterbox closed at some point in 1950 or 1951, and the site was purchased by Freeman Hayes, who moved his used car business there in March of 1952. This was also a short-lived arrangement, as in September of 1953 The Chatterbox had returned and was now advertised as “Ye Ole Chatterbox,” and Hayes Motor Company had moved to North Broad Street. Hugh and Sybil Bramlett were the new owners, having moved to Brevard from Houston, TX in 1945. Hugh had worked for the Asheville Citizen Times for a few years until he and his wife decided to get into the restaurant business.
The new Ye Ole Chatterbox advertised a “Get Acquainted Special” of big sirloin steak, french fries, and salad for two dollars, as well as Wednesday night Meatball and Spaghetti plate for seventy-five cents. Presumably not many people acquainted themselves with the Get Acquainted Special; a week later it had become the “Week End Special” and the price had dropped to a dollar fifty.
In January of 1955 the Bramletts added “The Rustic Room,” an additional seating area to accommodate the crowded conditions during the school lunch hour. Then in August they added a large grill for barbecue and Sybil Bramlett was quoted in the Transylvania Times, saying “The Chatterbox is now prepared to do catering and could prepare meals for any number of persons on 24 hours’ notice.”
The Chatterbox was successful enough that the Bramletts added a miniature golf course adjacent to the restaurant in April 1957 and held tournaments on a semi-regular basis for at least the next year. They also experimented with keeping Ye Ole Chatterbox open 24 hours a day, which apparently did not last for very long. In early 1958 the “every day special” that had been seventy-five cents in 1947 was now $1.25, and just before Christmas that year they began advertising “Real Italian Pizza” baked in their “special” PizzaMaster oven (sidenote: PizzaMaster ovens are still made today). According to their advertisements, they offered pepperoni, mushroom, or a combination of both.
Hugh Bramlett died at the end of February 1959 at just 50 years of age. Sybil kept running Ye Ole Chatterbox and remodeled it that summer. For their grand reopening after the renovations, hamburgers and milkshakes were advertised for 19 cents. Unfortunately, things were not going well for the restaurant. By the end of October, the Transylvania Times reported that it was under the management of Peggy Gaddy, and just a few weeks later under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Truett Nelson. Whatever happened, Ye Ole Chatterbox disappeared from both the newspaper and the phone directory in 1960. The Chatterbox left its mark on Brevard though and is fondly remembered by many. There are quite a few mentions of it in the “Growing Up in Brevard in the 50s and 60s Blog.” Here are a few of the memories shared there: “The premiere food served there from that era was Mrs. Sellers’ lemon pie,” “I wouldn’t have survived without Mrs. Bramlett’s spiced ham sandwiches at the Chatterbox. I had lunch at the Chatterbox five days a week when school was in session,” and finally “The Chatterbox was the place to eat, if you were willing to fight the crowd.”
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Associate Hale Durant. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.