The 1949 Watauga County Centennial: A Look at the Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection

By Ashley Parker, Digital Watauga Intern

Each semester, Digital Watauga asks its interns to select some aspect of a collection on which the intern has worked to explore in greater detail for a blog post. Our intern for Fall 2017, Ashley Parker, worked on three collections: 1) processing and archival re-housing of the forthcoming Paul Armfield Coffey Collection, 2) scanning, metadata entry, and uploading of Box 6 of the Palmer Blair Collection (now online), and 3) scanning, metadata entry, and uploading of the Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (now online).

Costumed participants (and a chicken!) from the 1949 Watauga County Centennial posed for this image by local photographer Palmer Blair. Mickey McGuire is at far left with a pumpkin on her knee. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-020).

Costumed participants (and a chicken!) from the 1949 Watauga County Centennial posed for this image by local photographer Palmer Blair. Mickey McGuire is at far left with a pumpkin on her knee. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-020).

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Watauga County is a place known for its extraordinary landscapes and rich history. Before European colonization, the indigenous Cherokee nation inhabited the area that became Watauga County. The word “Watauga” itself is taken from the Watauga River, a Cherokee word that has a range of theorized translations including “beautiful waters” and “river of plenty.”[1] During the mid to late eighteenth century early American pioneers began exploring and settling the Appalachians. Among these early pioneers was the famous Daniel Boone, who allegedly camped with some frequency in the vicinity of Watauga’s county seat of Boone, lending his name to the town.[2] The county itself would not be formed until 1849 from the southern portion of Ashe County as well as parts of Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey counties, and Boone did not incorporate until 1872.[3]

In 1949 Watauga County reached a major milestone in its history—the 100 year anniversary of its founding. That year county leaders led by Stanley Harris, President of Watauga Centennial Inc., organized a massive six-day Centennial celebration.[4] The festivities began on July 5 and lasted until July 10, with each day being themed: Governor’s Day, Pioneer Day, Education Day, Youth Day, Farmer’s Day, and Worship Day.[5] Within this schedule, centennial events included a parade, contests for “Queen of the Centennial” and “Watauga Pioneer,” as well as a historical pageant on the history of Watauga County titled Echoes of the Blue Ridge. This production included twelve vignette, each telling the story of a different period of Watauga history, including a dance representing the natural formation of the area before human settlement and entries addressing the history of the Cherokee and their interactions with the De Soto expedition, Daniel Boone’s hunting cabin in Boone, the formation of the county, and the establishment of the Appalachian State Teacher’s College. The pageant concluded with the entire cast joining together onstage for a “Grand Finale” that symbolized optimism for the future.[6]

Woody Richardson donned this recreation of a Civil War military uniform as part of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial festivities. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-013).

Woody Richardson donned this recreation of a Civil War military uniform as part of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial festivities. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-013).

One important part of the Centennial celebration was the Queen of the Centennial contest. About seventeen ladies from the county were nominated for the title by various organizations sponsoring the Centennial. When spectators purchased tickets to the events, they were allowed to select their choice for Queen. Votes for Queen were determined by the number of tickets sold in the candidate’s name. Among the candidates was Mickey McGuire, nominated by the Chamber of Commerce. McGuire was very popular and well known throughout town because of her job at the Boone Drug Company on King Street. By the end of voting, McGuire held over 96,500 votes, winning the contest.[7] McGuire was crowned on the Centennial’s opening night, wearing a dress made for her by Mrs. Ethel Teems, who also worked at the Boone Drug Company. As part of her Queenly duties, McGuire gave the opening speech for the celebration, welcoming all of the spectators and visitors to the week-long festivities.[8]

Mickey McGuire posed in her Queen of the Centennial costume for Palmer Blair, a local photographer who shot many of the commemorative photos of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-001).

Mickey McGuire posed in her Queen of the Centennial costume for Palmer Blair, a local photographer who shot many of the commemorative photos of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-001).

The entire event featured impressive attendance by people from all over Watauga County coming together to celebrate their history. According to Mickey McGuire Hagaman, Queen of the Centennial, nearly everybody in the county participated; even people from outside the county came to take part in the celebrations.[9] Participants dressed in costumes related to the history of the Appalachians. People who marched in the parade dressed as pioneers driving wagon trains, Native Americans, and Confederate soldiers. Many men who participated grew nineteenth century-styled beards in preparation for their costumed appearances. In addition to costumed participants the parade included various floats from local organizations, marching bands, and a color guard.[10] The color guard was made up of servicemen from all branches of the military, including Von Hagaman, who was in the Navy. Von Hagaman married Mickey McGuire about a year after the Centennial ended.

Local photographer Palmer Blair also shot this image of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial Parade color guard marching down West King Street from west to east. Von Hagaman is visible as the second man from the right. The 1875 Watauga County Courthouse with its unusual corner entrance on the first floor is visible at right in the distance. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-030).

Local photographer Palmer Blair also shot this image of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial Parade color guard marching down West King Street from west to east. Von Hagaman is visible as the second man from the right. The 1875 Watauga County Courthouse with its unusual corner entrance on the first floor is visible at right in the distance. Image courtesy of the Digital Watauga Project, Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection (Von-Hag-1-030).

Due to the overwhelming popularity of the Centennial celebration, community leaders realized how important celebrating history could be for bringing communities together and drawing in tourists. They decided to put on the Echoes of the Blue Ridge pageant again the next year to continue celebrating the history of the county. Echoes of the Blue Ridge ran for two years until 1952, when playwright Kermit Hunter was hired to write a new drama on the history of the county and surrounding area.[11] Hunter was already well known for his work on other popular outdoor historical dramas in the Appalachians, including Honey in the Rock, a Civil War musical drama in West Virginia, and Unto These Hills, a history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee performed in Cherokee, North Carolina. The drama Hunter wrote in 1952 was titled Horn in the West and told the story of Western North Carolina’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. This summer Horn in the West celebrated its 66th consecutive season and is the oldest Revolutionary War outdoor drama in the country. Horn in the West continues to draw tourists from all over the country to Boone each summer to celebrate the history of Western North Carolina.

Many of the images contained in the Von and Mickey Hagaman Collection document this pivotal, centennial event in the history of Watauga County. The Digital Watauga Project is grateful to Rosemary Virginia, the daughter of Von and Mickey Hagaman, for her generosity in making these images available to the project.

NOTES

[1] Allan Scherlen, "What In The World Is Watauga?," Mountain Times 38, (April 27, 2000), http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/asu/f/Scherlen_Allan_2000Apr_what_in_the_world.pdf.

[2] “”Camped Here 1760-69” Newspaper Clipping,” Digital Watauga, accessed December 5, 2017, http://digitalwatauga.org/items/show/5822.

[3] Daniel Jay Whitener, History of Watauga County: A Souvenir of Watauga Centennial (Boone, North Carolina, 1949), https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x001317192;view=1up;seq=60, page 33.

[4] “Watauga County, North Carolina Centennial Papers”, W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina,http://www.collections.library.appstate.edu/findingaids/ac642.

[5] Whitener, History of Watauga County, 55.

[6] Whitener, History of Watauga County, 57.

[7] Watauga Democrat, “"Rev. Gragg is Pioneer; Mickey McGuire is Queen" Newspaper Article,” Digital Watauga, accessed December 5, 2017, http://digitalwatauga.org/items/show/5816.

[8] Whitener, History of Watauga County, 56.

[9] Mickey Hagaman, interview by Ashley Parker, December 4, 2017.

[10] Palmer Blair, “Palmer Blair Movie Collection #3: 1949 Watauga Centennial Parade, Part 1,” Digital Watauga, accessed December 5, 2017, http://digitalwatauga.org/items/show/5846.

[11] “'Horn in the West' opens Friday, opening night discount for Watauga residents”, Watauga Democrat, June 20, 2017, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/community/horn-in-the-west-opens-friday-opening-night-discount-for/article_d196fc34-9d13-57ac-9bc1-37cf96de0237.html.

New Website Documents the Theater History of Watauga County

The Watauga County Historical Society is proud and pleased to give a shoutout to our friend, colleague, and fellow WCHS member, Dr. Gary R. Boye, who is the Music Librarian and a professor at Appalachian State University. His new website, A History of Film Exhibition in Watauga County, covers the tangled web of cinema venues throughout the county from 1905 to the present.

Gary's website is in its early stages, with pages that currently document film exhibition at the American Theatre in Shulls Mills (1918-1921) and the Wonderland Theatre in Blowing Rock (1922-1928, burned 1933). But there is much more on the way, so be sure to check it out and check back from time to time!

 

First advertisement for the American Theatre at Shulls Mills, March 21, 1918, Watauga Democrat.

First advertisement for the American Theatre at Shulls Mills, March 21, 1918, Watauga Democrat.

Identifying the People and Places in H. Lee Waters's 1936 Film of Boone

The building in this image, from the 0:31 mark in our version (0:18 in the ASU/YouTube version) has completely stumped us. Some of us think it may have been located on the west end of King/Main Street, opposite the 1904 Courthouse. Others aren't so sure. Do you know what it is and where it was?

The building in this image, from the 0:31 mark in our version (0:18 in the ASU/YouTube version) has completely stumped us. Some of us think it may have been located on the west end of King/Main Street, opposite the 1904 Courthouse. Others aren't so sure. Do you know what it is and where it was?

In November 2015, the Watauga County Historical Society sponsored a screening of the 1936 H. Lee Waters film of Boone, NC, and the surrounding area (including Cove Creek High School and the Sugar Grove area). We had an awesome turnout, and as you can see from the attached spreadsheet, we were able to identify about 70 places and people who had been previously unidentified in this film.

As the image above suggests, though, we still desperately need your help identifying other folks and places in this film. Using the spreadsheet attached in the link above, you can go directly to the time code on the ASU/YouTube version of the film, which was uploaded by the Belk Library at Appalachian State University. You can view ASU's version of the film in the embedded viewer below:

H. Lee Waters (1902-1997) was an itinerant filmmaker born in Caroleen, NC. Between 1936 and 1942, Waters subsidized his income by filming 117 communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee for his “Movies of Local People” series, then partnered with local movie theaters to show the films. As suggested by the article below, from the October 29, 1936, edition of the Watauga Democrat, Waters was in Boone in late October to film the locals. The Pastime Theatre then ran his film during the first week of November 1936.

Article in the October 29, 1936, edition of the Watauga Democrat advertising the H. Lee Waters film of Boone.

Article in the October 29, 1936, edition of the Watauga Democrat advertising the H. Lee Waters film of Boone.

Copies and original prints of many of these films are presently held in the H. Lee Waters Film Collection at Duke University. In case you're curious, the reason for the multiple time codes in our spreadsheet is that there are actually at least two versions of this film circulating on DVD in the Boone area. We're not sure why the ASU version runs "slower" than the dub that the Watauga County Historical Society has, but both versions contain the same content, and we've accounted for those discrepancies in our spreadsheet. These two versions appear to be dubs from a duplicate reel of the original film. Numerous second- and third-generation VHS and DVD copies of these two versions survive in the area, many in private hands.

There is another version that the WCHS owns, donated to us by Cecil Greene last year, which is lovingly called the "Deluxe Pink Edition." This version, which is also a second or third generation dub from the original, was not properly fixed (a photography process) when it was made, which has created the pink cast it has. Unfortunately, this is also a sign that the film is deteriorating, and it is only a matter of time before the "Deluxe Pink Edition" loses its images to the ravages of time.

The original 16mm film of Boone has long been presumed lost, but the WCHS is now working on a lead on where it might be. We are told that the original reel of this film (which is missing from--and was never included in--the large collection of H. Lee Waters original reels and production materials at Duke University) may be located here in Boone. We are working with a potential contact to secure this reel and have it digitized using the latest digitization equipment. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please feel free to watch the ASU/YouTube version above, stop and start as you see fit, and let us know if you recognize anyone or see any familiar places. You can email us at wataugacohistsoc@gmail.com if you have any IDs to share with us. We'll update our spreadsheet as new identifications come in, and we'll gladly give you credit. Just be sure to indicate the ASU/YouTube time code in your email, so that we can locate the person or place you're referring to.

 

Pastime Theatre ad from the Watauga Democrat, October 29, 1936

Pastime Theatre ad from the Watauga Democrat, October 29, 1936

Digital Watauga Project Awarded $25,000 Grant

(This entry was originally published on June 3, 2015)

On June 3, 2015, the State Library of North Carolina announced that it has awarded one of its 2015-16 LSTA EZ Digitization Grants totaling $25,000 to the Digital Watauga Project. Stemming from a partnership between the Watauga County Historical Society and the Watauga County Public Library, the Digital Watauga Project is designed to permanently digitize Watauga County’s remaining visual and documentary history while building trust between the community and its surviving repositories.

The funds from this grant will be used to train and employ a digitization technician, purchase necessary equipment, and begin the first wave of digitization of at least 2,500 items from several prominent collections. These include 1,500 images from the Historic Boone Collection, several dozen images and advertisements from the Appalachian Theatre Special Collection, and another 750 images from the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Aerial Photograph Collection. Other noteworthy additions in the first year of the project include 80 images from the Junaluska Collection and 400 images from the Bobby Brendell Postcard Collection, which was recently donated to the Watauga County Historical Society. Also included are nine items from the 164 Carolina Avenue Collection, representing images and letters found within the walls of a Boone house during renovations by Adrian Tait several years ago.

This last collection is especially significant. While small—consisting of three photographs, five letters, and one postcard—it represents exactly the kinds of privately held materials that the Digital Watauga Project is especially interested in digitizing in the coming years. Many residents of Boone and Watauga County possess important historic images and documents that are rarely, if ever, seen by the public. Because the Digital Watauga Project is focused on digitization, allowing owners of historic images and documents to keep their materials and any ownership rights once the materials have been digitized, the project is an ideal means for facilitating partnership and promoting trust between the public and its local repositories. In addition, all digitized materials will be available to the public for viewing online at no charge.

 

Image from the 164 Carolina Avenue Collection, Digital Watauga Project

Image from the 164 Carolina Avenue Collection, Digital Watauga Project