The festival was created out of a conversation in 1983 where Joe Sink, Jr., publisher of The Dispatch, discussed his love of festivals with BB&T officials. Together, Sink and BB&T hired Kay Saintsing, a local organization developer and manager, that completed a study of the feasibility of a new community event. After completing her research, Saintsing provided Sink and BB&T with recommendations that led to the creation of a new city festival.
Held in Lexington, North Carolina on October 27, 1984, Saintsing and her Saintsing Management Services staff (now Preferred Events) produced the city’s first Barbecue Festival. Its first year, the festival had approximately 30,000 people in attendance and 3,000 pounds of barbecue cooked. Ten years later, in 1994, the crowd was over three times as large with over 100,000 attendees and 11,000 pounds of barbecue cooked. In 2022, the festival had a record-breaking attendance of over 200,000 people. The festival continues to be produced by Saingsting’s company, which is now run by her daughter Stephanie, and held annually in Uptown Lexington on one of the last two Saturdays in October.
Information on the history of the festival was found on the Festival’s website here at this link.
Watauga County, much like the rest of Appalachian American, has a rich history of old-time music and two of the most prominent musicians from the area were Doc Watson and Frank Proffitt. In these 1964 and 1965 issues of Boone’s Watauga Democrat, we have many articles celebrating their lives and achievements.
Arthel “Doc” Watson (March 3, 1923-May 19, 2012) hails from the small community of Deep Gap, which is about 10 miles east of Boone, and was one of nine children. Despite being blind since infancy, Watson learned to play a variety of instruments at a young age including guitar, banjo, harmonica, and fiddle. By the time of his death Doc had won an astounding seven Grammys but he didn’t release his first solo recording until 1964, at the age of 41. His eponymous debut includes a version of the song Frank Proffitt made famous, Tom Dooley (or Dula), and the two were both featured on the bill for the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
Frank Proffitt was born June 1, 1913 and would pass away a year after his Newport encounter with Watson on November 24, 1965. Proffitt resided in the north-west portion of Watauga County in Reese, North Carolina and crafted his own instruments in addition to mastering them. In 1937, folklorists Anne and Frank Warner travelled to Western North Carolina, recorded Proffitt’s version of the murder ballad Tom Dula(story told in detail here by our own Sophie Hollis) and passed it on to Alan Lomax. This version would make it into Lomax’s book Folk Song U.S.A. and became a hit in 1958 when the Kingston Trio released a cover titled Tom Dooley. This would greatly increase Proffitt’s popularity as an American folk singer and he would even go on to represent North Carolina at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
The game, presumably modeled after the game Life, describes events that still sound familiar to contemporary high school students. One square reads, “Back to school. Laugh at sophomores — get lecture on maturity. Lose 1 turn.” Others are less relatable: “Term papers: your typist charges you $1.50 a page and you run out of money on page 2 — Lose turn.” While the board does seem to be weighted toward academic and social pitfalls, at least all players start with a credit (since “Everybody passes biology first time around!”).
Thanks to our partner, Greensboro Firefighters History Book Committee, a batch of over 100 records documenting the history of firefighters in Greensboro are now available on our website. The materials in this batch include photographs, scrapbooks, issues of the City of Greensboro’s City Beat, and much more. Utilizing the various materials in this batch specifically, one is able to uncover the history of firewomen in the Greensboro Fire Department.
Prior to 1884, fire protection in the City of Greensboro was dismal. Although a fire protection became law in the city in 1833, there was no guaranteed protection from fire. Improvements in fire protection only came after devastating fires such as one in 1849 that nearly ended the business community and in 1872 that destroyed a large portion of the city. After the 1872 fire, a second volunteer fire company was created and equipped with a chemical engine. While they had a chemical engine, the company had not been equipped with horses. This meant that the firemen had to pull the engine to fires by hand on the City’s unpaved streets.
The Greensboro Fire Department began as a volunteer organization in 1884 after Harper J. Elam, future founder of the Greensboro Record, noticed the city’s lack of fire protection relative to his former home city, Charlotte. In an effort to upgrade the firefighting capabilities of the city, Elam put out a call of duty for firefighters. A group composed of around 100 white business and younger men answered the call, forming Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 which was located at what was formerly known as 108 West Gaston Street.
Circa 1889, a Black volunteer fire company known as Excelsior Hose Company No. 2 was formed. Located at the City Market, the company was “well equipped with jumper, uniforms and other equipments” and always gave “good and satisfactory service in conjunction with the other companies for the city’s protection.” While segregated companies may have fought fires alongside each other at times, it was not until 1961 that the city’s fire department was integrated.
The earliest mention of “firewomen” in this batch comes from 1974. In August 1974, Fire Chief G. C. “Buck” Wuchae responds to an article for the paper stating he is not opposed to women joining the fire department nor should they fear being discriminated against by his office. The article’s writer seems to feel differently, asking the chief “But what if a woman meeting the requirements was hired and successfully completed the training—what would the fire department do with her?” Wuchae simple responds, “We would have to make some arrangements.” However, it is not until four years later, in 1978, under Greensboro Fire Chief R. L. Powell that the department actively began to recruit firewomen.
On October 2, 1978, after 129 years, Dee Ann Clapp, Melanie Trado, and Sandra K. Pearman became the Greensboro Fire Department’s first firewomen after completing a 13-week training class with other trainees. Fire Chief Powell states his satisfaction with the success of their training stating, “I have no doubt at all that they (the women) are now ready to operate out of our fire stations and do the job well” and that one of the women was one of the top in the class. Clapp, Trado and Pearman were assigned to separate platoons at Station 8. In 1984, six years after joining the Greensboro Fire Department, Dee Ann Clapp makes history again as the first woman to receive the State of North Carolina’s “Outstanding Young Firefighter” award.
One of the striking things about this collection of articles is how often they reflect on the Civil War in a romanticized way. Adickes sometimes refers to it as the “war between the states” and reminisces about some of the institutions of Chatham county before the war, including the Taylor Plantation. These kinds of articles are significant because they are from the 1950s—almost 100 years after the Civil War ended—documenting a resurgence of racism during the Jim Crow era.
This kind of rose-tinted retrospection has been in the news recently in relation to Confederate statues and monuments, many of which were erected during the early 20th Century. These newspaper clippings give some context to the historical moment in which many of these monuments were constructed.
To celebrate 14 years of NCDHC (on May 12, 2009 our first blog post went live with our first scanned collection), the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center have all picked a favorite item from the collection to share. Check them out below – and then we invite you to visit digitalnc.org and find some favorite NC items yourself!
Lisa Gregory, Program Coordinator for the NCDHC
When pressed to pick one item (!) I have to go with the September 26, 1874 issue of the Fayetteville Educator. The Educator ran for a single year and was published by W. C. Smith who went on to publish a later title, the Charlotte Messenger. A few years ago while researching Black newspapers in North Carolina, I happened to run across a reference to the Educator as the earliest known Black newspaper in the state. Other sources generally cite the Star of Zion, which began a short time later and is still published today. With the help of some of our partners we were able to locate and add the Fayetteville Educator to DigitalNC. I picked this item because many 19th and 20th century newspapers written by and documenting the Black community are no longer extant or are extremely rare. For me, the fact that we can now share this online on behalf of our partners really encapsulates why we do what we do at NCDHC.
Stephanie Williams, NCDHC Programmer
Movies of Local People (H. Lee Waters): Wadesboro, 1938
H. Lee Waters traveled around the state in the 1930s and 1940s setting up a camera on streetcorners and filming townspeople. There are a handful of these films available on DigitalNC, and one of my favorites is from Wadesboro in 1938. Waters captured people just going about their daily business, which is fun for so many reasons–but my favorite part is seeing peoples’ personalities, and realizing that the way we react when we realize we’re on camera hasn’t changed in 85 years.
Kristen Merryman, Digital Projects Librarian
“Adult feeding bear by Fontana Lake”
This is a photograph in our collection I always come back to because it really pulls together many things I love – bears, the gorgeous lakes of the NC mountains, and a good cookout in a park. This obviously portrays something many a park ranger would shun but I love the NC Variety Vacationland vibes it gives off! We digitized this photograph as part of a larger batch from the Graham County Public Library in Robbinsville, NC when we were there for an onsite scanning visit in 2018 and ourselves got to enjoy many lovely views of Fontana Lake and the surrounding mountains.
One of the things I love about our site is how many yearbooks, student handbooks, and students newspapers we have—I love seeing family and friends’ photos from when they were in school. These materials are where I see my own life reflected the most because they capture so many familiar places and people. It’s interesting to see how our schools have changed over the last century but also how so many things are apparently inherent to being a teenager. While I think all of our student publications are fantastic, this handbook is special to me for a few reasons. Not only is it a glimpse at my alma mater (go Deacs!), but it also features an excellent photo of one of my favorite professors in his early years of teaching.
Geoff Schilling, Newspaper Technician
Cat’s Cradle The DigitalNC item I chose is of a Chapel Hill location that means a great deal to me. The first four photos in this set are of the Cat’s Cradle’s early to late ‘80s location at 320 W. Franklin St. (now The Crunkleton), but the last three images are the reason I’m sharing it. Down this alley is their previous location at 405 1/2 W. Rosemary St., which they started occupying around 1971. In 1983, after the Cradle moved out, it became a venue called Rhythm Alley and they stuck around until 1987. At the end of that year the Skylight Exchange took over the space and in 2003 the one-and-only Nightlight came into existence. The Nightlight is an experimental music oasis where you can see everything from outsider folk legend Michael Hurley to Detroit techno heavyweight DJ Psycho. In addition to being my favorite venue in the world, it’s also the preferred stop of touring musicians from all over the country. The landscape of this “Rhythm Alley” has barely changed over the last half-century (save for a healthy amount of graffiti), but its legacy has grown with each new chapter.
Last year I had the opportunity to digitize some amazing slide images that were taken during several Chapel Hill Boy Scout Troop 835 and Girl Scout Troop 59 trips over the years courtesy of our partner Chapel Hill Historical Society. Many of the slides from these trips feature beautiful scenery and fun, but this particular photograph from the August 1973 Quebec trip is one of my favorite items on our site. In addition to being a great candid, I think it’s the individual’s sense of jollity and peacefulness portrayed in this moment of the trip that really makes it a top-pick of mine.
One of the main characters of this stretch of yearbooks is longtime teacher and alumnus Tom Orr, who graduated in 1957 and came back to teach at his alma mater after attending UNC Chapel Hill and Western Carolina. The HHSAA recently posted a scholarship announcement honoring his contributions to the school as well.
Since these yearbooks span a few decades, you can see Mr. Orr back when he was still a student in 1955. Back then, he was on the business staff of The Red and White as one of the ad men. Perhaps this is what later inspired him to pursue teaching English as a career.
His obituary notes that he taught at the school for 32 years, and in that time, he received several teaching awards, both for English and Drama.
One of the most iconic destinations is, of course, Philmont, which many former scouts would probably recognize. Located in New Mexico, the ranch has long been a testing ground for wilderness survival skills and troop bonding. Based on the camp’s photo archive, it doesn’t look like a whole lot has changed since these troops visited.
This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features the latest news and highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from organizations across North Carolina.