(Originally published November 2015)
The Watauga County Historical Society (WCHS) is pleased to announce that it will hold a public screening of the 1936 H. Lee Waters film documenting the people and streetscapes of Boone and the surrounding area. This screening will occur on Tuesday, November 10, from 5:00 to 7:00pm at the Watauga County Public Library.
But this is no run-of-the-mill movie screening. We actually need your help. While the film itself is relatively short and fairly well known among Boone residents, the goal through this event is to better identify the individuals and buildings that appear in the film. The WCHS will show the full film (approximately 11 minutes long), then show a series of screenshots from the film, asking for those in attendance to help us identify the buildings or people in the screenshots. We especially encourage long-time Boone and Watauga County residents to attend and help us identify and properly credit the people who shaped our past.
Using this information, the WCHS will then create a full list of identified individuals and locations, linked to the film by time code, and make this information available to the public through the Belk Library at ASU (which owns a circulating copy of the film), the Digital Watauga Project, the Watauga County Public Library, Duke University, and other outlets and organizations.
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. Copies and original prints of many of these films are presently held in the H. Lee Waters Film Collection at Duke University. The original 16mm film of Boone is presumed lost, but numerous second- and third-generation VHS and DVD copies survive.
Members of the public who attend this screening and assist with this process will be thanked publicly on the WCHS website.
UPDATE: The November 10, 2015, event was a huge success, and with help from numerous folks, we were able to identify nearly 70 individuals and locations in the film that were previously unknown. We are currently working on syncing time codes between our version of the film and a second version that is also circulating online, and we hope to publish those results in late 2016.
In the meantime, a very special thanks to Terry Harmon, Robert (Bob) Cook, Cecil Greene, Mary Helen Cole, Sarah Lynn Spencer, Sharon Blair Tolbert, Linny (sp?) Trivette, Ted Hagaman, Flavel Eggers, Elizabeth Phillips, Bettie Bond, and Lenore Pipes for their memories and insights in helping us with identifications!
In case you've never seen the film, you can view it for yourself right here!