By Eric Plaag, Chairperson, Digital Watauga Project
As some of our regular visitors know, historic film footage of Boone and Watauga County that is available for free online has been limited over the past few years. Until now, three films in particular have drawn a great deal of attention.
One of these is the infamous H. Lee Waters 1936 film of Boone and the Cove Creek vicinity, which was shot as part of his "Movies of Local People" film series. (You can read more about this film here: http://www.wataugacountyhistoricalsociety.org/blog-1/2016/9/27/identifying-the-people-and-places-in-h-lee-waterss-1936-film-of-boone.) As we reported last fall, the original 16mm version of this film 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, you can see ASU's digitized copy of a videotape of that film here:
A second film shows a 1937 train excursion from Tennessee to Boone as folks travel aboard the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad ("Tweetsie") to Watauga County for an ASTC football game. The most interesting footage occurs after the lengthy football game section of the middle of the film, right around the 4:10 mark, when students are seen waiting to board the train near campus. At 5:17, the train makes a stop in Shull's Mills. Thereafter, shots out the train window show Grandfather Mountain and the Western North Carolina scenery.
You can view ASU's digitized copy of this film here:
Still another film that apparently served as a late 1950s/early 1960s promotional film for Appalachian State Teachers College has recently surfaced. While the focus is on ASTC, the film nevertheless shows some excellent footage beginning at the 7:10 mark of Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns, Tweetsie Railroad, Horn in the West, and Downtown Boone. The film features a panning shot (9:00 mark) of the front of the Appalachian Theatre, where Imitation of Life (1959) starring Lana Turner is shown on the marquee. Our friends from the Archives and History Committee of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (thank you, Gary Boye and Craig Fischer!) tell us that this film ran at the Appalachian Theatre from Sunday, June 28, to Tuesday, June 30, 1959.
You can see the 1959 ASTC film here:
Now, though, Digital Watauga is ready to vastly expand the available historical footage of Downtown Boone, thanks to the generosity of Janie Price King of Sunset Beach, NC, who has graciously donated her father's home movies to Digital Watauga. We first became aware of this collection in 2014, when a friend passed along a copy of a DVD of this footage to a member of the Watauga County Historical Society. The video below contains all footage from this composite DVD of the Clarence A. Price Home Movie Collection that was compiled by a commercial video transfer firm in the 2000s. In 2016, Digital Watauga arranged a formal donation of this copy of the original DVD to Digital Watauga as a gift from Janie Price King.
Janie Price King's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence A. Price, managed the Daniel Boone Hotel on the north side of West King Street in Downtown Boone, where the Daniel Boone Condominiums are now located, for many years, and their daughter Janie was a frequent subject in the silent, 8mm footage shot by Clarence A. Price. The Daniel Boone Hotel, built 1925, was a grand (for Boone!) establishment that dominated the hill above Downtown Boone. Sunday dinner at the hotel was considered "legendary," but by the 1970s, the hotel was in decline. The hotel was demolished shortly after it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Due to a digital processing error, the frame rate used in creating the Clarence A. Price Home Movies DVD sometimes does not match the proper frame rate for the footage, creating the "jumpy," digital blur that sometimes appears when subjects are in motion. In addition, the poor quality of the original reels sometimes causes the footage to flutter or cycle through its frame. There is no way to correct these issues on this video file. In response to these issues, though, Digital Watauga arranged with Ms. King in late 2016 to re-digitize the original home movie reels one at a time using the latest, high-resolution digitization equipment.
Of the 26 surviving reels, 10 had deteriorated to the point that they were no longer able to pass through projection equipment. As a result, this footage from the DVD contains some scenes that survive in no other location since they can no longer be reproduced from the original reels. Most notably (and sadly), the footage of the 1949 Watauga County Centennial Parade is one of these reels that cannot be re-scanned. The high-resolution transfers of the remaining 16 reels are being uploaded separately by Digital Watauga.
Noteworthy scenes include frequent shots of the south side of West King Street (opposite the Daniel Boone Hotel) in Downtown Boone, particularly between present-day Appalachian Street and Depot Street; footage of the new mail truck featuring Palmer Blair (25:30); the 1949 Watauga County Centennial Parade, misidentified as the "Boone Centennial" (33:40), with Palmer Blair again (35:07); the January 21, 1950, fire at the Appalachian Theatre (54:50); the 1950 May Day Celebration at Appalachian State Teachers College (1:02:20); the 1950 Echoes of the Blue Ridge Parade (1:14:36); and the 1953 May Day Celebration at Appalachian State Teachers College (1:42:46). Numerous Boone landmarks are visible throughout the footage, including the Daniel Boone Hotel, the Appalachian Theatre, the Boone Post Office, and the Jones House.
You can see the full, two-hour video here:
Digital Watauga is in the process of creating a Clarence A. Price Homes Movies Collection interface on its website, DigitalWatauga.org, but since the YouTube link had to come first, we wanted to bring it to you first. The other individual reels will also be uploaded to YouTube, with connections back to the collections page. Stay tuned.
Janie Price King adds the following information about the footage:
"Don't pay the dates on the [title cards] any attention. I think the people who originally put the reel-to-reel footage to the disc went by the dates on the reel canisters, which [indicate] when the film was developed, not when the events occurred.
"Here is a brief description of things that are on the video that might help you enjoy it:
"PAINTING THE HOTEL--The two men are Ralph Wilson (Gail's uncle) and a Mr. Vannoy.
"CHICKEN ON A LEASH--The old couple are my paternal grandparents.
"WINKLER'S CREEK--The old man is Walter Horton, who none of you probably knew. He lived in Miami in the winter, but came to Boone every summer and operated Horton's Fish Camp, a group of cabins on the right side of Winkler's Creek Road beyond where Eddie Paul lived but before where the road takes the sharp left around the rocks.
"MAIL TRUCK--Daddy was taking pictures of what evidently was a new postal service truck. The other man also taking pictures is Palmer Blair.
"ETHERIDGE FAMILY REUNION--This was my mother's family in Wilson County, NC. The old lady in the wheelchair is my maternal grandmother.
"WATAUGA COUNTY CENTENNIAL PARADE --There is a brief shot of Dr. George Moose before the parade starts. You can see Palmer Blair again, and the old man riding the brown horse with the red ribbon around its neck is Walter Horton again.
"CHURCH PICNIC--This was at Hound Ears [Shull's Mills vicinity] before it was developed.
"JANELLE--She's in a lot of the footage; she is one of my cousins.
"MISS BROCK'S NURSERY SCHOOL--It is easy to pick out Miss Brock, but difficult to recognize anyone else because we're running around outside, and almost everyone is wearing a hat. I can find myself only because I remember the gray/maroon hat and jacket that I'm wearing. Jane Buckland is the girl in the bright yellow bathing cap; don't remember the reason for that. Pam is wearing a red hat and coat; you can see her blond curls sticking out from under the hat. I think John Stacy is the boy wearing the plaid coat and matching hat. I think Graydon is wearing alight blue coat and red hat. Chuck is bound to be in there somewhere, but if he isn't the boy who is hatless, I don't know which one he is. The boy climbing the fire hydrant is Stevie Hodges, whom probably no one else remembers unless it would be Ed Brown or Joe and Bob Todd. Stevie and his older sister, Olivia, lived behind the hotel on Orchard St. in the first little white frame house on the left. They moved away about the time we started the first grade."
Digital Watauga extends its profound thanks to Janie Price King and the Price Family for their remarkable generosity in sharing this vital film record of Boone's past with Digital Watauga.