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

Jan. 8, 1959

“During 1958 Southern Bell Telephone Company added 230 telephones here to keep abreast Watauga County’s expanding telephone needs brought about by the area’s continued growth and progress, it was announced today by H.m. Inabinet, manager for the telephone firm, “ according to a Jan. 8, 1959, Watauga Democrat article.

“In meeting the state’s telephone needs the company gained more telephones in 1958 than in any previous year of its history, adding approximately 42,000 phones. To accomplish this record, Southern Bell averaged spending in North Carolina over $81,000 every working day of the year on telephone construction, for a total outlay of construction of over $21 million in 1958.

“For North Carolinians, the telephone continued to play an increasingly important role. The number of calls over Southern Bell telephones averaged almost (3.5 million) calls a day,” the article stated.

“During the year, the firm paid over $16 million in taxes on its North Carolina operations. Approximately ($6 million) of this total was paid locally to the state, cities and counties with the balance being paid to the Federal Government in income taxes. The payroll for Southern Bell’s approximate six thousand employees in the state amounted to over $25 million in 1958.

“Telephone growth and expansion continued strong throughout the state. Today there are over 560,000 Southern Bell telephones compared to only 399,000 five years ago,” according to the article.

Jan. 11, 1979

“Monday night the school board unanimously agreed to bring the student bus drivers’ hourly wage up to $3 with a 38-cent per hour pay increase,” according to a Jan. 11, 1979 article titled “Hourly wage goes up: Bus drivers win their point.”

“I think we’ve made a big step forward,” said Paul Brown, school board chairman, just after the increase was granted. “I agreed ... that maybe when we work up our budget the next time we will try to even up the difference in the wages and make it more equal ... We appreciate what you all are doing here.”

“Board members approved the increase as well as a budget amendment of $4,500 to cover the additional expense. The increase would be effective for 24 drivers for the present pay period which began in December,” according to the article.

“Approval of the increase followed a formal request by student drivers last month who asked for a 38-cent pay increase to bring their wages more in line with that of adults.

“The students were saying it was discrimination for the adults to be paid more than the students because ‘we have just as many risks as they do...,’” according to the article.

Before the pay increase, students were getting $2.62 an hour with adults receiving $3.25 an hour,” the article stated.

Jan. 21, 2009

“With the countdown to digital television conversion approaching, deliveries of coupons to help consumers purchase converter boxes are backlogged,” according to a Jan. 21, 2009, article titled “TV conversation coupons slow to arrive.”

“Households using analog televisions will not be able to receive digital broadcasters after Feb. 17 unless the analog television is connected to a box that converts the digital signal to an analog format, or the analog television is connected to cable or satellite service.

“While converters may be important to connect some TVs, other viewers may not need or want converters, such as those who have digital televisions or pay-TV service.

“Carl Highsmith, owner of Protronics repair shop in Boone, said the confusion was causing some people to either ditch their old televisions or buy equipment they didn’t need. He’s concerned because he believes the people who can least afford to buy new technology are the ones most susceptible to buying needless equipment,” the article stated.

“Everybody’s worried to death about losing TV,” Highsmith said. “But it only affects people with an outside antenna or ‘rabbit ears.’ People that are on cable or satellite will not be affected.”

“He believes some electronics businesses don’t educate their consumers, instead letting them buy new televisions even though they are not needed,” the article added.

“Because the U.S. Congress mandated the conversion change in 2005, there has been ample time to make the switch. However, the government’s coupon program is behind schedule, with more than 1 million requests still on the waiting list, with the $990 million allocated for the program already depleted.

“New coupon requests will be placed on the waiting list and sent as more funds become available,” according to the article.

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