Editor’s note: This article features news and photos from past editions of the Watauga Democrat.

Jan. 28, 1954

“Highway Construction Is Accelerated in Watauga,” was the top front-page headline in the Jan. 28, 1954, issue of Watauga Democrat, with news that “the contract for the proposed new road from Foscoe to Linville will be let in February, and the last link of Highway 603 is being graded and will be hard-surfaced to the Tennessee line as rapidly as weather conditions will permit.”

“Property owners along the Foscoe-Linville route have speeded up the plans for this road by donating the complete right-of-way at no cost to the State Highway Department,” the article stated.

In other developments, state highway and local officials met and discussed a tentative 421 bypass of Boone and the uncompleted link between Boone and Blowing Rock on 221 and 321, the newspaper reported.

Another front-page story heralded the installation of a new 15-foot-by-25-foot wide screen at the Appalachian Theatre, which was said to rival those of “the largest theatres of the state.”

“Special engineers from the Statesville Theatre Corporation supervised the screen installation and equipped the theatre’s two projection machines with new big lenses that can fill the big show area with a clear picture that can be seen without distortion from any of the house’s 960 seats,” the article stated.

“J.W. Beach, manager of the theatre, said Tuesday that installation of the new wide screen and lenses are but another on a long list of improvements made at the Appalachian, and pointed out the fact that within the past year the big project of installing equipment for the showing of 3D was accomplished, along with improvement of the sound system.”

On page 2 was an article about Southern Bell Telephone Company’s installation of the 400,000th telephone in North Carolina.

Jan. 31, 1974

“An 80-bed addition to Watauga County Hospital received approval from the State Department of Administration this week,” stated the top story in the Jan. 31, 1974, Watauga Democrat. “The planned facility would nearly double the hospital’s present 83-bed facility, plus add other services which the hospital now has no room for.”

The newspaper issue was dominated by coverage of a visit by the astronaut Col. Charles Moss Duke — “the first authentic spaceman to come to this part of the mountains.”

Duke, who served as Apollo 16’s lunar module pilot, visited the area as part of the observance of the French-Swiss Ski College’s fifth anniversary at Appalachian Ski Mountain.

Upon Duke’s arrival in a NASA jet at the Douglas Airport in Charlotte, “40 French-Swiss instructors saluted Duke with a traditional arch of skis.”

He also made appearances at Watauga High School and Appalachian State University.

Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, 1994

The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a former Triplett resident, Daniel Brian Lee, who had pleaded guilty to the widely publicized 1989 murder of Jeni Gray, the Watauga Democrat reported on Jan. 31, 1994.

Lee would later die in prison due to health causes before a death penalty could be executed.

“Shannon to produce live concerts,” another headline read.

“Local musician and educator Joe Shannon will begin producing live concerts at Our Daily Bread in downtown Boone,” the article stated. “The concerts will be videotaped for play on High Country Cable Television.”

Shannon said the concerts, which would be the forerunner of his Mountain Home Music series, were inspired by NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion” and “The Thistle and Shamrock.”

The scheduled performers for the first shows were Steve Smith, Diane White, Steve Lewis, Tony Testerman and Randy Greer.

Shannon continued to steward the Mountain Home Music series, which is now a nonprofit organization, until his death in 2014. It has continued since then under the directorship of Rodney Sutton. Its 2020 season will be Mountain Home Music’s 27th year.

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