Editor’s note: This article features news and photos from past editions of the Watauga Democrat.
April 3, 1958
In early April of 1958, Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton “tolled the death knell” for tolls on the Blue Ridge Parkway, according to an April 3, 1958 edition of the Watauga Democrat.
Tolls for the national scenic route had “cropped up at intervals” since 1940, the Watauga Democrat reported, but Seaton said he hoped his decision would finally end the discussion.
He announced his decision at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing under questioning by Sen. Ervin (D-NC). Ervin was not a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, but was permitted by Chairman Hayden (D-AZ) to question Seaton.
The Watauga Democrat reported that protests against the imposition of tolls were brought to Seaton the week before the subcommittee hearing by a “large” North Carolina delegation including North Carolina Gov. Hodges and the Tar Heel Congressional delegation.
Costs would have included $1 or a 15-day auto permit and a $2 for a one-year ticket.
One of the chief arguments raised by protesters from North Carolina was that the parkway was created — in part with land donations by the Tar Heel state — with the clear understanding it would be toll free.
March 30, 1981
In 1981, damage was found in a dam on Winkler’s Creek, which forced the town of Boone’s water system to be put offline for months until the dam could be repaired, according to a March 30, 1981, edition of the Watauga Democrat.
“My expectation is that they’ve got about two weeks worth of work left,” Town Manager Marvin Hoffman said in the article. “I think they have misjudged a couple of times how much work remained to be done.”
The town contracted Blythe Industries Inc. of Charlotte to repair the dam for the price of $275,000 by Dec. 22, 1980. As winter turned to spring in 1981, the work still wasn’t done.
Hoffman said in the article that once the construction was completed, it would be another few weeks before the 44-million gallon reservoir could be filled up again.
In the meantime, the town reallocated federal revenue sharing funds to offset the cost of purchasing water from App State.
According to the article, the town was paying about $500 a day for water in 1981, and Hoffman estimated in the article that the total cost for the water would clock in around $155,000 during the 1980-81 fiscal year.
Since the water-disruption in the 80s, Boone has increased and diversified its water intake. In 2019, the Watauga Democrat reported on the completion of the town’s New River water intake at a location in the Todd area, near the intersection of Railroad Grade and Cranberry Springs Roads, which can take in 4 million gallons a day.
March 29, 1993
In January 1993, an App State student found a bank deposit bag lying on the ground while working at Beech Mountain Ski Resort and was astonished to find what he thought was $1,500. Upon further inspection, turning it over to his manager, senior Douglas Hartley had in fact found $3,000, according to a March 29, 1993, edition of the Watauga Democrat.
According to the article, the “frantic” owner picked up the money not long after Hartley dropped it off, and she left quickly.
“No reward. More importantly, not even a thank you,” the article lamented.
“‘I was so P.O.’ed,’” Hartley told the Watauga Democrat. It was somebody’s “very careless mistake” and Hartley said he could have taken advantage of it, but chose not to.
At the beginning of the article, the Watauga Democrat noted that the newspaper ran an article just weeks before about Clemson University students who returned a wallet to a Boone resident and received an award.
Hartley said that after his mother had told the story to the News and Observer in Raleigh, a reader sent him $100 for his good deed.
The Watauga Democrat asked the student if there is anything else readers should know about him, to which the soon-to-be-graduated Hartley said “I need a job.”