540 Focus Legends

02/19/14 Eddie Dietz>/h3>

Eddie Dietz told about how he was approached by Martin Cook in 1964 to join the Inspirations Quartet but at the time he was singing with his family and pastoring a church in Haywood county and did not want to give that up. In 1969 there were some changes to the group and he was again invited to join the group and did and continued to sing with the Inspirations until the year 2000. At that time he was called to pastor a church in Waynesville and the work load became much larger which led to his retirement. He told how they had gotten their opportunity to song all over the country through their relationship with Gospel Music Promoter JG Whitfield. Also Less Beasley who was the head of the Florida Boys got them on Gospel Singing Jubilee. He also talked about the travel and the tremendous amount of time they were on the road… sometimes two weeks at a time. He told about being booked in Hollywood but JG Whitfield said only two tickets were sold so he gave those two people their money back but paid the groups their fees anyway… he was an honest man. Eddie also talked about his call imnto the ministry and how the Lord had blessed his work.

02/12/14 Robert Dyer

Robert Dyer hold the state record for the largest Brown Trout ever caught in North Carolina. Robert told about his experience in catching the fish as well as some tips for fishing in small fresh water streams and the larger Tuckaseigee River. He explained how one wanting to catch fish would have several different types of bait which would be used initially until the fish started biting a particular kind of bait. Once the pattern was established the bait would continue to be used. Robert shared some of his experiences fishing on the lake, fishing in tournaments, and how he liked to get into some of the rural streams to continue fishing for native fish.

02/05/14 Jim Dean

Jim Dean came to Jackson County in the eighties decade as an employee of the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board. His assignment was to establish a resort ministry program at the campgrounds in the Cherokee and Bryson City tourism area. Once he commenced the day and family night programs the adjoining campgrounds came asking if he would be interested to starting a program. Soon enough volunteers were coming to the area to keep the programs going while Jim departed for a Texas seminary to complete his education. After the completion of his education degree Jim returned to western North Carolina to continue growing Southwestern North Carolina Resort Ministries. In time he was led to East Sylva Baptist Church as Youth Minister. After nine years in that position Jim again felt the call to commence The Summitt Church which is the first church in Jackson County that concentrated on a worship service of contemporary Christian Music. The Ministry has been a success.

01/15/14 Susan Leveille

Susan Morgan Leveille who operates the Riverwood Shops in Dillsboro. She was this year’s recipient of the WCU Mountain Heritage Award. She spoke of how her father  Dr Ralph Morgan interested in preserving the mountain culture including the famous Riverwood Pewter. Dr Morgan was instrumental in getting Harris Regional Hospital into the modern era and recruiting the initial core group of doctors.  He bought CJ Harris’s house in Dillsboro and turned it into a craft center where craft people could come and work and show their work and sell the products they made such as the pewter. Susan was trained as a weaver from about age 6. She took over the Riverwood Shops business after her father died and has continued operating it as a place for crafters.  She now teaches alot of weaving classes at Southwestern Community College.

01.08.14 Alvin Frady

Alvin Frady grew up in a children’s home. Once old enough he joined the Army and served two tours of duty in the Viet Nam War. In addition to being in the field as warrior he was also involved in communications for the soldiers. Once out of the military he worked in the communications field including a period of time at WRGC radio. His interest in Amateur radio continued to grow and he became involved with the organization of the Jackson County Amateur Radio League. More reverently the League has developed partnerships with the Jackson County Emergency Management services so the amateur radio operators can be called upon for emergency communications in a storm and etc which could cause commercial communications to break down. He also talked about DXing which is an effort to contact as many other amateur radio operators as possible during a designated period of time

12/18/2013 Robert Jumper

Robert Jumper grew up in Jackson County and has been involved with travel and tourism for most of his career. He started working at WRGC Radio in high school and learned the fundamentals of promotion. He later took a position in the travel and promotions department for the Eastern Band Of The Cherokee Indians. He was recently appointed to the position of the Chairman of the Tourism Development Authority so much of the conversation was on the marketing of Jackson County as the tourism destination rather than a stop and go venue for those going somewhere else. He views Jackson County as a variety vacation destination which includes both the water resources, the scenic component, hiking, hunting and fishing, and a cultural center headed both by Cherokee and Western Carolina University.

12.11.13 Newton Smith

Newton Smith started his professional career as an English Professor at Western Carolina University.  Seeking a different opportunity to be an independent businessman, entrepreneur, and writer he left the university and started farming primarily to raise planting stock for the Fraser Fir industry. After several years in the nursery business the lifting and labor commenced to take a tole on his back and body. He was able to find work again in education, published some of his books, and started a different sort of work. Newton also, commented on what he had seen as some of the major milestones in the growth of WCU, of which the emergency as a university rather than as a teachers college was viewed as significant. Also the expansion of the campus into what is now called the Millennium campus is viewed as providing a potential for the University for many years.

11.20.2013 Molly and Jerry Schwartz

Molly and Jerry came to Western Carolina University in 1968. Molly was an English teacher and Jerry was a history professor. They talked about their childhood and growing up in Indiana and other placed. Molly recalled as a young woman going to a concert to heart this heartthrob singer named Elvis Presley who was doing one of his early performances in a northern state. Jerry was not aware that Molly had seen Elvis until she mentioned it in the show.  They also spoke of their experiences with different types of music in the early rock and roll eras, attitudes toward integration, and how they had enjoyed watching WCU develop into a major liberal arts university.

11.13.2013 Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is a douser. While working as a building contractor he was constantly calling individuals who douse for water which potentially could create problems with wet basements and weakened foundations of the houses he was building.  He learned how to to the dousing himself and soon figured out he could locate more things underground that just water. He had doused for lost graves, water lines, septic tanks, minerals, and other treasures. Once he became famous for some of his finds as a douser other people started asking about his dousing rods. Tom hastens to tell people that a coat hanger, welding rod, a limber stick or numerous other things will work for the dousing but he makes custom dousing rods for people including a model which is constructed in a handle with bearings included. He stays so busy making dousing rods that he does not build houses anymore. He was also a building trades instructor at Southwestern Community College, he does not teach those classes anymore because he is so busy making dousing rods.

11.06.2013 Gene Middleton

Gene Middleton told about his entering into the Marine Corp and his military service. He also spoke of numerous mission trips he has taken with his church to places in the United States doing disaster relief. He has also made numerous mission trips to the former Soviet Union states including the Ukraine and Moldova. He also is a singer with Community Chorus and is active in the Marine Corp League.

10.30/2013 Robert Blanton

This was the second appearance by Robert Blanton in a short time period on the Legends show. This time he spoke of some of the legends of the mountains and talked about the first time he had seen a black person. The older people had used stories about villains who were normally black to frighten kids to not be out wandering aground at night and away from home. The first time he saw a real live black person indicated he was terrified.  He also told about John Brinkley who was a famous radio innovator during the time period when Robert Blanton was a youngster. He also spoke of his years as an accountant in the Jackson County Public School System and how the system hired him to return to school as an advisor to students in the School Of Alternatives.

10.23.2013 Freeman Owle

Freeman Owle is a historian and member of the Eastern Band Of The Cherokee Indians. Mr Owle had been the guest presenter at the dedication of the Dillsboro Mural and told about the work of Jarret Nimrod Smith who was born during the time of the 1938 removal but was hidden in the mountains. He later served with distinction in Thomas’s Legion  in the American Civil War. Smith later became a chief of the Eastern Band. Owle also told a scary story about a youngster who was stuck in a boarding school in Cherokee. After being forced to stay at the school until late in the evening the youngster started walking home and took a short cut by the cemetery on Tsali Road. Being frightened by an animal on his heels he ran home he fell exhausted at the front step of his house. It was then he learned the villain was his pet dog who had caught up with him in the dark. Freeman reported that most of his career was as an educator, mostly in the Swain County School System.  in the school

10.16.13 Dave Waldroup

Dave Waldroup explained how he decided to join the Navy after getting out of High School and worked during his enlistment as a mechanic on ship engines. After getting out of the Navy he took his GI bill money and completed classes at WCU and began working in the Human Services field.  He told about some of his experiences as a citizen during some of the heyday of Sylva Webster High School sports and his effort to document the local team which was the first little league team to ever play for a championship in the Senior Division of the Little League World Series.

10.09.13 Cheryl Beck

Cheryl Beck who talked about her growing up in Robbinsville and being involved with the 4 H club. She received a 4H club scholarship to Mars Hill College where she got a degree in Home Economics. After graduation she applied for and got the job in Sylva with the Agriculture Extension Service as a 4 H Club Specialist and worked for 15 years in that capacity. Cheryl had the opportunity to apply for the position the Family Consumer Science Agent. She got that position and worked in that capacity for 18 years.  Ms Beck talked about the values of the 4 H program in developing leadership among young people and expressed specific delight at seeing kids bloom and become productive citizens. He was especially proud of those who’s leadership skills started to emerge during their 4 H Club experiences.Cheryl has been retired for a couple of years and is spending more time with her aging parents in Robbinsville and continues to write an article for the Extension Service for the newspaper. Due to budget cuts her position has not been filled.

10.02.13  Amy Garza

Amy Garza told about her childhood in East Laporte and how she and her sister were both friends and sisters in this remote and isolated community. She explained how her sister Dorelle draw in the dirt when they were children. While Doryelle was the artist Amy loved to write stories.  When she was a junior in high school her dad got a job and moved the family to South Carolina. She remembered her dad telling stories about far away places he had seen while in the US Navy. After graduation she joined the Air Force and soon her sister Dorelle did the same so they too could see the world. After their own individual successful careers they decided to retire from their current work and move back home and start Catch The Spirit of Appalachia. Amy has written seventy five books which her sister has illustrated. Dorelle has painted a murals for four different towns including the Dillsboro mural which will be unveiled on Saturday October 5th, 2013. They received the Mountain Heritage Award in September 2013 at Western Carolina University.


09.25.13 Jack Hinson

Jack Hinson told about how he was recruited to come to Cullowhee Baptist Church in 1974 from a church in Raleigh, how he raised his kids is in the church and how they are still very much involved at the churches in the communities where they live. He also talked some about the history of the Cullowhee Baptist Church Church and some of the success of his ministry there. He also told how the church was instrumental in starting other churches in the area. There was also a discussion about the traveling preacher Humphrey Posey who was responsible for starting many churches in the mountains. After serving at the church for nine years he was selected to develop the hospital chaplaincy program at C J Harris Regional Hospital in party based upon a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from W.C. Hennessee. He wrote the book and guidelines for hospital chaplaincy He also wrote a book on the power of healing in medical situations,  the book is entitled Laughter Is God’s  Gift.

09.18.13 Ernest Bumgarner

Ernest Bumgarner grew up in the Fairview Community and told about plowing corn in the fields that are now the Fairview Recreation Complex and Fairview Memorial Gardens. After high School he went to California to work in the timber industry where he received his draft notice. After spending time in Korea as a welder who repaired military equipment he came back to Sylva, played football for a while at WCU, worked at a town policeman, then decided to go back to California where the money was better working timber. He spent his career working up to the foreman position with the company then operating a tugboat on the Kalamuth River pulling logs for six years. He retired back to Sylva after a successful career and is active in the American Legion. He expressed strong feelings about the careless harvest of timber without taking the extra step of replanting the forest for more growth can take place to renew the timber harvest in the next generation.

09.11.13 Lee Wilcox and Mike Ensley

Mike explained the tragedy of 9-11-2–1 and how the Jackson County Emergency Management responded to the actions on that date. Lee Wilcox had family members in New York on that date. He shared their experiences and some of the letters he had received from them. Mike also told about some of the steps that were taken to protect the dogs that were looking for survivors.  The dogs were being devastated with respiratory problems and trash getting into their eyes. Mike also told about the beepers that are connected to each fireman and first responder and how many of those beepers were going off at the time shortly after the building collapsed, and how hard the personnel worked to try to save as many as possible. Both Mike and Lee talked about their feelings after the buildings collapsed and the heroic efforts of those who chose to die in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania rather than allow that plane to reach its projected destination.

09.04.13 Winston Hardman

Winston Hardman grew up in Florida before the development craze and Disney came to town. He got a degree from the university of Florida in Citrus and thought he would follow in the family business. After induction into the military he started seeing different options and felt called into the gospel ministry. After completing his military obligations he returned to Florida for a while but decided to go to seminary in Texas having no idea what he was to do except to go to seminary. After a period of time in studies he was inclined to look into campus ministry and took a job in Georgia for a while, then later moved to eastern North Carolina for a job as a campus minister with the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. When the opening at Western Carolina University in the Baptist Student Union became available Winston took that job and stayed there until he retired. he now works as a volunteer with the National Park Service as the miller at the Mingus Mill near Cherokee.  This mill was one of the first Turbine mills in the mountains. A turbine mill does not have a waterwheel, but is able to use water power to grind meal and about five times the rate of a waterwheel.

08.28.13 Phyllis Foxx

Phyllis Fox grew up in the Savannah Community of Jackson County. He shared her childhood experiences of going with her father  high school football games where she watched the parents of individuals such as Jimmy and Stevie Streater, Tommy Love, play football and other sports in Jackson County.  She talked about the smooth integration of Sylva Webster High School because of the outstanding individuals who came to High School and immediately made an impact upon the sports program. Phyllis was also instrumental in the development of the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame which has the images of those selected now on display at the Jackson County Justice Center. Phyllis has been involved with countless community service projects in Jackson County and has been a tireless advocate for the county all of her life.

08.21.13 Allen Jones

Allen Jones is an entrepreneur. After completing Sylva High School Allen followed some of his friends to Virginia and started working in a tire recapping facility. Later he was drafted into the Army where he learned to work with heavy equipment and construction. After getting out of the Army he landed a job building Interstate 26 in South Carolina. He told of the difficulty with the section of the highway between Columbia and Spartanburg caused by the lay of the land and the swampy conditions making it hard to find a solid foundation. One day at church he was approached by the Office Manager for the Mead Corporation who told him of an opening in the maintenance department. He completed the paperwork, turned in a notice to his foreman in South Carolina, then came to work in Sylva. When word started spreading about the possible closing of the paper mill Allen decided to go into business for himself selling used cars. He purchased land on East main Street, completed the excavation to accommodate his used car lot, and made an agreement with Jackie Jones in Georgia to purchase the used  cars that had been traded in at the Jackie Jones dealerships. In his prime Allen Jones Used cars was averaging at least one sale a day, better than most of the new car dealerships at the time.

08.14.13 Robert Blanton

Robert Blanton is a lifelong resident of Jackson County. Robert told about his childhood experiences especially surrounding how he and his friends collected scrap iron for the war effort. The students took part of the money they made from selling the scrap iron and purchased a picture of George Washington for their school.  The picture is still posted in the NEW Scotts Creek School. Robert told of his military experience in Texas where he started attending churches near the military base. There he felt the call into the ministry and began following that call on a part time basis. After completing his time in the military he came home and started classes at Western Carolina College and after time got a job as a bookkeeper for the Jackson County Public School’s and worked there until his retirement. In the meantime he was a bi-vocational pastor and served in many years in each of several churches including his current pastorate at Deitz Memorial Baptist Church. After retirement he returned to the school system and the vocational instructor at the School of Alternatives

08.7.13 Robert Varkoney

Robert Varkoney is a resident of Glenville Community. He grew up in city with a large population of European immigrants who were looking for the American opportunity and a way to avoid getting caught up in the troubling political turmoil spilling out of Germany after World War One. He learned both Hungarian and other languages as well as English. After the occupation of Germany by the Americans after World War Two many citizens of German descent who were living in countries previously occupied by Germany were kicked out of those countries and directed back to Berlin. Being fluent in several languages Robert was assigned top help the Army process these individuals and help with their resettlement. Many of those people he worked with were shocked that an American soldier could be so fluent in their language and soon became a favorite person among group of people enduring a very difficult period in their life (replay of a prior show)

07.31.13 Al Byers

Al Byers started in Jackson County in the early 1970’s as the Lab Technician at C.J. Harris Regional Hospital. He became close friends with Dr Joe Hurt who was a Pathologist at the hospital. The partnership the two formed was instrumental in recruiting numerous doctors in a variety of specialties to C.J. Harris Hospital. They also led several of the capital fund raising efforts which let to the construction of the Don Morgan Wing at the hospital and and other significant equipment and technology advancements. During this time Al developed more into an administrator and eventually got the opportunity to be the administrator at the Highlands Cashiers Hospital. After his retirement he returned to Sylva and became active in numerous local civic organizations.

07.24.13 Valerie Harrison

Valerie Harrison is one of the newer residents of Jackson County but has an interesting background. Her husband was with the CIA during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She and her husband knew the situation was much more tenuous than the general public knew so as the deadline grew closer her husband sent her to a safe house location in the mountains of Virginia. After the situation calmed she returned to Washington. Later she and her husband relocated to Denver where she met the young rookie basketball player Michael Jordan with whom she became close friends. After working in player development for several years she moves on to California to continue her work in the development of methods to help individuals develop positive mental attitudes and improve mental health. Later she relocated to Florida where she worked with youth in trouble to help then make life changing decisions on behavior and focus. She also had a radio talk show and a radio therapist. He relocated to Jackson County and works with the SHIIP Program, and runs some programs in laughter therapy and Yoga. She is on the Dillsboro Town Board.

07/17/13 Ron Yount

The softball field at Cullowhee Valley School is named after Ron Yount who came to Jackson County in the 1970’s to attend Western Carolina University. He used his GI Bill for his education after spending four years in the US Air Force spending alot of his time representing his military base on their Baseball team. He was also part of the parts and maintenance division with the responsibility of getting parts to the repair crew within minutes of the request. Failing to make the deadline meant an appointment officer in charge, meetings which were undesirable. While at WCU he had worked some with the local coaches and was recognized for his coaching skills. After graduation he returned to his home in the central part of North Carolina but within a year he was given the opportunity to coach Football and Baseball at Cullowhee High School. When he got to Cullowhee he learned that many of the prospective players had transferred to Sylva Webster High School making it hared to field a successful team. However he had some outstanding baseball players and won a state championship in the I-A division.

07.10.13 Archie Watkins

Archie Watkins was a founding member of the Inspirations Quartet in Bryson City.  One of their first pubic appearances was in a may day Program in 1966 at Swain County High School. Soon after that the group began traveling to gospel singing events across the south and making appearances on some South Carolina TV Stations and even got a guest shot on one of the Networks Morning Show (Good Morning America?) Archie and the group traveled together for over forty years until most of the original Inspirations retired. Martin Cooke has added new members as the original singers retired.  The Inspirations continue as one of the hottest groups in Southern Gospel music. Archie along with Eddie, Troy and Marlin continue to sing occasionally as the Smoky Mountain Reunion. Archie and the Inspirations have represented Bryson City and western North Carolina well and have touched many lives in the process.

07.03.13 Irene Hooper

Irene Hooper grew up in Cullowhee and completed classes at Western Carolina Teachers College, got married to Elmer Hooper who was a building contractor. They settled in Virginia and worked with a company building homes and commercial buildings while she had a clerical position with the phone company. During world War Two she relocated to Oak Ridge,  Tennessee and worked on the production line that was constructing the Atomic bomb. Even through the employees did not know what it was they were working on they knew it was important. Child care was a challenge in Tennessee so after a few months she came back to Virginia and got an administrative position with the phone company. After the war was over and she was reunited with her husband they became involved with numerous veterans organizations and services. They retired back to her home in Jackson County in the Cullowhee area and became full time community volunteers making countless and meaningful contributions to the citizens of Jackson County.

06. 26. 13 Gene Robinson

Gene Robinson has enjoyed a career in Vocational Rehabilitation both as a counselor in an agency, and more in a “sheltered workshop” but more recently has been instrumental in the development of Webster Enterprises as a not for profit corporation that employees both individuals with and without disabilities. Gene was happy the organization recently received their CARF accreditation as a rehabilitation facility for three years. They have added employment opportunities through partnerships with Haywood Opportunities in Waynesville and Industrial Opportunities located in Andrews.  Their work expansion will be the assembly of items for the military

06.19.13 Hugh Moon, Eric Simpson, Dr. Joe Hurt

These individuals shared some of their experiences coming from their military experience, where Moon was a Colonel, Hurt was a Major, and Simpson was a First Sargent in the Air Force.  The conversation then turned to the Man To Man program which Moon and Hurt started in Jackson County as a Support Group for men experiencing Prostate Cancer. They discussed the concerns, the importance of the program, the literature provided, helping the individuals develop a n plan and giving others the opportunity to be supporters later on.

06.12.13 Robert Varkony

Robert told of his experiences going into Germany as the first of the occupation forces after the fall of the Third Reich. He encountered many German blooded refuges who had been kicked out of Hungry, the European States of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and others in retaliation to what Hitler’s forces had done to innocent citizens during the war. These individuals were not welcomed by the German citizens so it turned out to be part of the work to American troops to help them get established. Also others from the eastern part of Germany fled to the west to get away what they knew would be a horrible life under Communism and Soviet Union Domination.


05.29.13 Gary Carden

Gary Carden came on the show to share the new information he obtained about the nineteen prisoners who were drown while working on the Cowee Tunnel below Dillsboro. He was able to work with other researchers specializing in train history to find the names of the prisoners who drown. Searching state prison records he was able to get both the identification and the charges against each individual which put them on the chain gang.  History shows most of the prisoners ended up on the chair gang for minor charges such as loitering, not having and permanent address and being in transit and perhaps stealing some food along the way.  The graves of the prisoners have actually been located on property off Joe Wilkey Road and not above the tunnel as many had speculated.

05.22.13 Gene McConnell

Gene McConnell was a very successful basketball coach at Sylva Webster High School. Prior to that he was a successful basketball player at Western Carolina University and teammate to Henry Logan. One of the reasons the Sylva Webster High School teams were so successful during those years was that Coach McConnell along with David Greene were the JV Boys Football coaches and were the scout team for the high school team. Coach McConnell mentioned several players from that high school era including Jimmy, Steve, and Eric Streater, along with Jerry Cagle, and several others.

05.15.13 John Reid

John Reid served many years as a pastor at Tuckasegee Baptist Church and later as the Associational Missionary to the Tuckasegee Baptist Association. He shared experiences with his missionary trips to Brazil, different places in the states working disaster relief for the North Carolina Baptist Men. He also told a story about how he went to the effort to find his father.  Once located and meeting his father he also found out that he had three sisters.  The story is moving as he tells about how he was able to connect with all his family members and form family relationships.

05.08.13 Victoria Casey

Ms. Casey told about how she was given the opportunity to enter the Teacher Corp Program in the late 1960’s which gave her the opportunity to complete her Master’s Degree and get teacher certification. She told about some of her experiences as a young woman going through the process of integration. She talked about her excitement as a student when the new school for black students was completed before the local public schools were integrated. The building is now the Jackson County Schools Central Office. She also told about her experiences in the Qualla and Log Cabin school districts when it came time to consolidate those schools. Ms. Casey is now a writer and is an interviewer with “Catch The Spirit of Appalachia”

05.01.13 Lionel Brooks

Coach Brooks was a component of the coaching staff during the “Glory Years” at Sylva Webster High School. Having been an outstanding high school player he went into the military after graduation.  Upon his return he was given the opportunity to start working as an assistant coach while completing his degree at WCU. He joined with Coach Charles “Babe” Hill and Boyce Dietz to win several state championships in football and baseball. Coach Brooks son’s have followed in his footsteps with successful careers in teaching and coaching

03.27.13 Jack Hennessee

Mr Hennessee’s father was the founder of W.C Hennessee Lumber Company in Sylva.  This sawmill operation was designed to accommodate the newest sawmill technology of the time and for many years the mill was known as ‘The World’s Largest Producer of Chestnut Lumber” Jack was drafted during the Korean War but did not have to serve directly in the war. He also told about being a Tennessee Football fan, knowing Colonel Neylend for whom the stadium is named. For many years he was a corporate pilot as well as President of the Lumber Company

03.20.13 Mary Nichols

Mary Nichols was a high school cheerleader at Swain County High School and was a Maroon Devils fan who rode the train to Sylva for what is known as “Train Game” She retired from Nantahala Power Company and has been involved with hundreds of community projects and initiatives during her long and fulfilling life in Bryson City. She has long been active in Frist Baptist Church in Bryson City and was one of the first churches to have a traveling youth choir. She told stories about people in desperate need in Bryson City getting started with a new opportunity when construction on Fontana Dam began. She was a guest cheerleader last year when the Maroon Devils went to the state championship football game

03.13.13 Frank Burrell

Frank Burrell is the retired Superintendent of Jackson County Schools and Principal of Smoky Mountain High School. After graduating from Western Carolina University he and his wife went to Alaska to teach. When an opening came in the Jackson County Schools he was recruited to come back to Jackson County to be a principal. After the consolidation of Cullowhee and Sylva Webster High Schools he became principal at Smoky Mountain High School. The School had many successful athletic and academic programs during his term. Now retired Mr Burrell lives in Cullowhee and is still a care taker of his childhood family farm.

02.27.13 Jim Hartbarger

Mr. Hartbarger came to Western Carolina University as a basketball coach in the early 1970’s upon the high recommendation of Coach Bear Bryant who knew one of the top administrators at WCU.  Hartbarger and Coach Bryant had become friends during a recurring coaches fundraising event in Virginia where Hartbarger was employed. Hartbarger also told about his being diagnosed with dyslexia ion college and how his grade performance showed incredible improvement after teaching modifications were made. In Coach Hartbarger’s early career at WCU he took the team to the NAIA National Title game. After retirement he purchased the Jarrett House in Dillsboro and made it a primary attraction in Dillsboro.

02.20.13 Sue Ellen Bridgers

Sue Ellen Bridgers has published four books. The focus on the interview was her book entitled Home Before Dark which was based upon many of her childhood experiences growing up on a tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina. She also discussed her son’s motion picture Paradise Falls with a local setting during the roaring 20’s. The movie was considered by many as being as excellent movie but did not get national distribution as an independent film because of the lack of promotion and funding.  Ms Bridgers has other books in mind and in the works but it has been several years since she has produced a new book for publication.

1.30.13 James and Barbara Dooley

The Dooley’s came to WCU to head the University Music Department in the late 1960’s. They soon started what has become known as the Community Chorus which was the focus of this program. This program gives individuals the opportunity to continue practice, develop, or improve their group performance skills. Also discussed was the WCU Steinway piano campus program, and the Bob Buckner Scholarship.  The Dooley’s have retired but remain highly respected in the community.

1.23.13: Winston Reed

Winston Reed grew up on Greens Creek just out of Dillsboro, NC. His father was a butcher for Bradley Packing Company. As a kid Winston often went cook and sometimes bear hunting with his father.  He highlight of there trip was to get to either carry the gun or the lantern.  His father,  Grady Reed became well know for trading coon dogs and bear dogs after his retirement. Winston finished at WCU and started teaching Industrial Arts in the Haywood County School System.  When the School’s Driver’s Ed teacher became ill, Winston was given the opportunity to take over that position which he did. Several years later he had the opportunity to teach at the LBJ Job Corp Center in Macon County which included Driver’s Education and several other classes.  Mr Reed said some of his greatest rewards in life came from seeing individuals arrive at the Job Corp site with plenty of bad experiences, but leave three or four years later after having gotten it all together.  Winston later joined the Jackson County School System from which he retired both as a Driver’s Education teacher and some additional responsibilities in the maintenance department. Upon his retirement Winston took up deer hunting which he greatly enjoys.  He also took the time to thank all the citizens and churches who had prayer for him while he was battling leukemia which is now in remission.

1/16/13: Marsha Crites

Marsha is working for the Clean Slate program now. She related some of her prior experiences in working as a Coordinator for the Western North Carolina Community Foundation, She has also obtained prior experience in teaching and working with individuals with disabilities. The current position with Clean Slate is rewarding in that it helps women with prior involvement with illegal drugs or other behaviors which resulted in their incarceration. Once getting out of prison the Clean Slate is a residential program giving them the opportunity to start over, get some education and coping skills for re-entering life often at a location far away from where their troubles began.

1/2/13: Harry Vance

Harry started his life in Procter, one of the towns flooded with the construction of Fontana Dam. However harry and his family had left long before the Lake was formed.  Moving to Sylva so his father could work on the Blackwood Lumber Company Lumber Train which ran from Sylva all the way to the head of Caney Fork. Trouble came to Harry’s life early when his father was killed in a train accident, his older brother immediately became the head of the house at 14 years of age and managed to work enough jobs to make sure his four younger brothers and sister were cared for.  While Harry’s goal in life was to finish college and become a pastor, becoming a pastor came first. After serving for a period of time as a pastor in Macon County he was called to East Sylva Baptist Church in Sylva. Following a stint there Harry was able to complete his degree at Gardner Webb College which prepared him for further pastoral work.  Harry recalls his childhood experiences with gathering chestnuts from the American Chestnut trees. His wife was from the Cable family who was forced from Judson with the construction of Fontana, but Harry and his wife have been active advocate for the continued access to the numerous cemeteries on the North Shore of Fontana Lake.  Their efforts and others have held the Park Service accountable foir the ongoing maintenance of those cemeteries which 30 years after the removal were nearly gone from neglect by the Park Service and lack of cooperation by the park service to allow family members to access the sites for maintenance and remembrance services.

1/1/13: Arnold Burnette

Arnold talked about the early career in dirt track racing at the Langley Track in Newport News, Virginia. His early successes were built on Ford cars which had been the primary car moonshiners used to haul their product to market over back roads in order to avoid encounters with the law. While not a moonshiner or a driver Arnold was a master at engineering high performance engines, body set-up for the best traction on a dirt track, gear ratios, and other formulas for winning.  In the early 60’s NASCAR changed the engine regulations. Part of the reason for the changes was to allow the GM engines to be more competitive with the Fords. This retooling was an expensive proposition so Arnold got out of racing and started picking a guitar.  Soon he and his wife joined up with some other musicians and started playing nightclubs which until that time had not experienced much in the form of live bands. The success of his music was immediate however domestic issues changed everything. Arnold and some members of his band landed a booking agent who kept them busy in Canada for two years instead of a couple of months.  After returning to the states Arnold received numerous offers until he decided to return to Canada where he ran several extremely success night clubs.  He returned to Bryson City and settled on the family farm after his retirement.  He still makes music and keeps bees.

12/26/12:  No Guest Scheduled (Holiday)

12/19/12: Curtis Blanton

Curtis talked about being born in his mother’s bed on the side of a mountain between the communities of Addie and Ochre Hill in Jackson County, North Carolina. His old home place was dynamited off the face of the earth shortly after his family was forced to move away from the daily explosions at an adjacent olivine mine. His home was near a horse and sled trail, but not even close to a passable automobile road. He vividly remembers that shortly after he finished the second grade at Addie Elementary his Uncle Albert moved the family to Ochre Hill on a wagon pulled by a team of horses. He also talked about how he earned spending money driving a school bus the last two years of high school at $40 per month. In spite of the hard work and drudgery of mountain farming and lack of educational and social opportunity, Curtis considers himself “blessed beyond measure” to have grown up in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Curtis also talked about attending Western Carolina University on the GI Bill. For four years Curtis was assistant principal of Sylva-Webster High School, but in 1968 he left the field of education, taking management positions with the Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 1994 they moved to Vienna, Austria, in association with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a major wing of the United Nations. While in Europe Curtis began reflecting on his growing-up days in the mountains of North Carolina and started scribbling what he jokingly called nozzles, because he remembered that was what his grandfather had called novels. He had no intention of publishing those nozzles, yet family and friends urged him to share them in memory of the tellers of tall tales who so graphically entertained the Western North Carolina boys and girls of yesteryear. After seventy years, Curtis is still going to school, taking at least two courses per semester at the Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning. He still considers himself a “mountain man” and loves to return to Western North Carolina to “lift up his eyes unto the hills” and feel the sacredness of God’s creation.

12/12/12: Baxter Wood

Baxter is a retired Director of the Western Carolina University Center with 32 years service, Baxter explained some of his childhood experiences when the Native American Chestnut trees where still thriving and the change in timber after the trees died out as a result of a blight infestation and he also discussed the similar ecological impact of the Wooly Adelgid which is decimating Southern Pines and Hemlock forests. Baxter also talked about going to school with one of Jackson Counties most outstanding athletes Eddie Sutton. He told us about how his families survival the flood of 1940 in their outhouse and he also talked about integration and how he perceived Henry Logan as being one of the most influential figures in the successful integration of public institutions in NC.

12/5/12: Mercedith Bacon

Mercedith Bacon talked about how her family moved from Bushnell which was a town that was to be flooded with the construction of Fontana Lake.  She grew up in McDowell County and talked bout her recollections of the end of WW2 and how the people celebrated. She returned to Bryson City as a teenager to care for her grandmother. She talked about getting involved with politics, having regard for Eleanor Roosevelt, meeting President Jimmy Carter and wife Roselyn and getting a tour of the White House. She talked about starting the domestic violence shelter in Bryson City and some about her Bed and breakfast that she now operates in Bryson City.

11/28/12: Jerry Cagle

Jerry, who was a star athlete in Sylva in the early 1970 era talked about how the high school football team instituted the veer offense which was no new that few coaches had a clue how to defense against it which led to a lot of success by the Sylva Webster High School Eagles. While returning from a State Championship Local All Star Baseball Game the driver of the car fell asleep driving.  The car wrecked which resulted in the death of Stan Sloan from Franklin and serious injuries to Jerry which ended his athletic career. He had received numerous invitations to division one schools including Notre Dame and most SEC schools. He encouraged all those who end up with a disability to not give up. Deal with what life gives you and do the best you can with it.

11/12/12: :Mike Dietz

Mike is like the All American citizen for Jackson County. He played on the 1961 Little League All Star team that made the first ever appearance at Williamsport to play for the Little League World Series.  He talked some about how the camaraderie of that group has remained over the years and was humbled that after 50 years their accomplishment is still a big deal. Mike also talked about being volunteering for induction into the military and his rapid training then deployment to serve as a ammo carrier to the 165 mm guns used in Viet Nam. He also discussed returning home then ten years later decided to join the local National Guard Unit which was activated kin several disasters including the Blizzard of 1993, the first Iraq War, the Global War on Terror, and a second Deployment to Bagdad in Operation Enduring Freedom.  He also talked about the differences in the nature of both wars and the lingering affects that both have had on him. Mike won the 540 Nashville Dream Vacation contest sponsored by WRGC Radio. He talked abut their trip to Nashville and how much they enjoyed the trip. Also Mr. Deitz talked about his two daughters and grandson. One daughter is a marine biologist and the other is working on a Doctorate in Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.

11/14/12: Gary Carden, Local Playwright:

Gary came and talked about his play “Birdell” that will be held tomorrow night at WCU and also talked about “The Liars Bench” program he puts on at WCU and how important it is to keep the tradition of storytelling alive. He talked about receiving the NC Award for Literature from Governor Bev Perdue.  Gary also entertained listeners with some short storytelling.

11/7/12: Dr. Joe Hurt

Dr. Hurt talked about his military service in Vietnam, coming to Sylva as a Pathologist and starting the Forensic Pathologist Program in his clinic, collaborations with WCU and SCC for associate pathologists, efforts at recruiting doctors at Harris Regional Hospital, the outrageous cost fro the newest equipment for medical services.

Sean Crowe

Sean, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, told Native American Legends and stories for Halloween. On such story was the story of Spearfinger was a legendary Cherokee witch who had a finger that looked like a spear. She was said to have worn an impenetrable stone dress and to have eaten the liver of her victims. She supposedly haunted areas in the Appalachian Mountains, where she is said to still inhabit today.

10/24/12: Pellum Thomas

Pellum came in and talked about his service in the South Pacific during World War II, talked about his upbringing in Alabama on a farm and how he continued farming as a hobby while serving as the head of the Math Department at WCU.

10/17/12:  Fred Cantler

Fred discussed his career at WCU starting as head trainer under Coach Bob Waters. He explained many of the improvements in equipment to make playing football safer. He also discussed some of the memorable players and coaches involved with WCU sports.

10/10/12: Arnold Burnette

Arnold talked about the growth and development of Country Music in the 60’s and 70’s. He also talked about his years as an entertainer in the Dominican of Canada, establishing the Country Music Association of Canada, and experiences at operating one of the top night clubs in Canada. Arnold talked about being one of the early members of NASCAR in the 50’s.

10/3/12: Ron Smith

Ron, a local musician, discussed his musical influences, his background and how he got into music. He also entertained us with live music.

9/26/12: Jim Madison

Jim talked about knowing his grandfather who started Western Carolina University, playing football during the war years, becoming a geologist and teaching at DePaul University in Indiana and doing geology in Jackson County and how he helped establish the perimeters of the Olivine rim in Jackson County. He also told stories about Mr. Gullison who was an early researcher into the composition of mica and olivine as materials to be used in the manufacturing of solid state electronics, known today as microchips. Gullison, an immigrant from Russia prior to World War Two, was despised by locals who believed he was a communist, this was most likely a by-product of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Communist Red Scare hearings of that same era.

9/19/12: Paul Flynn

Paul was a founding member of Edwards, Clark, Flynn and Jenkins as a WCU college student. As the group grew in fame and fortune they became known as Cullowhee. While the group enjoyed considerable success, and settled in Nashville Tennessee for several years, they eventually developed solo performances in addition to their occasional group performances. He talked about their style of music as being a reflection of the unique values of a small rural town in Appalachia.

9/12/12: Jim Allman

Jim discussed growing up in Webster, the flood of 1940, the flood from hurricane Ivan and the fish trout that his grandfather maintained in the Tuckasegee river the fish trappers initially placed in the river by the Cherokee Indians before the removal in 1838. He also talked about the impact of the closing of the paper mill in the early 70’s, Henry Logan of WCU and experiences related to the integration of public schools in Jackson County.

9/5/12: Bill Serjack

Bill talkes about how he started into the ministry in Florida then later moved to Sylva to become pastor of the Sylva Presbyterian Church and how he has served as a minister to people of all faiths for over 35 years. Discussed some of the advances in community, partnerships and volunteerism, and neighbor helping neighbor kinds of thing.

8/29/12: Bob Holquist

Bob talked about changes he had seen at WCU and the expansion of the college’s music program, increased community involvement with WCU music program, the community chorus, and local church music advancements.

8/22/13: Brenda Oliver

Talked about her early days as a nurse in rural Tennessee and being basically the only medical professional in town and working with the school. She discussed moving to Sylva and working as a hospital nurse then decided to run for mayor because she saw so many things that were not being addressed and won serving about twenty years as Mayor of Sylva. Brenda oversaw many improvements in Sylva including the renovation to Mills Street and the facelift of Main Street and the new Sylva Fire Station and renovation of Town Hall.

8/15/12: Phil Haire

Phil Haire discussed his time in the military as a member of the Judge Advocate General Staff. After his military service was over he established a law office in Waynesville then later moved to Sylva and served over twenty years as the Town Attorney. He ran for the House of Representatives and was voted one of the states most effective representatives numerous times by his colleagues. He was instrumental in securing funds for numerous improvements to Southwestern Community College and WCU. He talked about what he plans to do after his retirement from the House of Representatives in January.

8/8/12: Boyce Deitz

Boyce is a retired high school football coach and currently serves as Congressman Heath Shular’s liaison in Western NC. Boyce explained how he started his coaching and then discussed the integration of Sylva Webster High School and Western Carolina University. Changing positions to coach at a High School in a neighboring county, he explained how he was able to garner community support and construct a new football stadium. One of his players was Heath Shular who played for University of Tennessee, the Washington Redskins and the New Orleans Saints before he was forced to retire due to an injury. When he was elected to congress, his old high school football became his district liaison.

8/1/12: Henry Dowling

Henry is retired from the NC Vocational Rehab Division. He told about the effects of the institutionalization movement effecting people with disabilities and their families. He also explained how individuals with disabilities had been able to receive services through Voc. Rehab which enables them to obtain new employment after becoming a person with disabilities.

7/25/12: Conrad Burrell

We talked about his years as a public servant of Jackson County including register of deeds, county commissioner, member of Southwestern Community College Board and the new building on the SCC campus recently named in his honor. He also served on the NC Highway Board of Transportation. Burrell has been instrumental in many progressive innovations in Jackson County.

7/18/12: Livingston Kelley

Livingston talked about how he came to Sylva to live with the Pastor of the Cullowhee Presbyterian Church because Livingston had no family of his own, as a child he was moved from home to home relying on the generosity of others. He received a partial scholarship to WCU. While at the college he would take sports pictures, develop them himself and sale them to the media and hitchhike to Asheville and use the money he earned to buy more chemicals and supplies so he could take and sale more pictures. That’s how he made a living. Livingston also while in college entered the polar bear race down about a quarter mile of the Tuckasegee river with the determination the win the $50 grand prize at all cost, including hyperthermia, he won, stating that that was the most money he had every had in his pocket before. He talked about becoming friends with the Shulman family who ran business on Main Street and eventually renting a building from them to open a photo shop in Sylva and has made a living developing photos and taking pictures of individuals and their families for many years. He continues to run that same shop today. He also talked about being a Gideon, and also being part of the group who started the Jackson County Golf Club.

7/11/12: Lacey Thornburg

Lacey is a retired Federal Judge, NC attorney General, and a District judge who practiced law in Sylva for many years and has a section of road US74 named in his honor. He will be remembered as one of Jackson County’s greatest citizens. The discussing included some of Judge Thornburg’s achievements, his pride of being in Webster, being the second person from Webster to run for Governor, the other being Dan k. Moore. He also discussed some of the more significant court cases and laws that have helped shape modern law practices including the civil rights movement.

6/27/12: Ernest Bumgarner

 A Jackson County native talked about his 40 years in the redwood industry in Northern California where 500 to 1100 year old trees reached 300 feet in height and 25 feet in diameter. He told how he retrieved fallen tree from the Klamath River and used it to build his house. Ernest talked about growing up in Jackson County and his military service in Korea.

6/13/12: Sarah Madison

Sarah talked about the early development of Western Carolina University and living in Davies Hall, which was university housing provided for the professors in the early days of the college. We talked about the significant advancements in the college from accreditation to becoming a university then becoming a division one school in athletics. We also talked about dome of the key historical figures and their contributions to Jackson County including her brother Eddie Sutton who was one of the most prolific athletes ever produced in Jackson County. She also discussed some of the perceptions of the integration of the university and local schools by the Streeter family that she has known and respected for many years.

6/6/12: Richard Wilson

We talked about the formation and early growth of Southwestern Community College. He told several success stories of people who had essential missed the boat but came back to Southwestern Community College and after completing their education have been able to embark upon successful life changing careers.

5/30/12: John Bunn

John discussed his early life in ministry, his educational preparation for ministry,  and coming to Sylva as pastor. He also talked about some of the most significant changes in the culture of the town, such things as the changes in the culture of downtown due to buildings, activities, and the nature of the different business that operate downtown. Felt that Jackson Counties biggest weakness was lack of jobs for well educated young people so the county is losing its greatest resources.

5/23/12: Charlie McConnell

Charlie came on and talked about some on the leading sports leaders over the past 70 years in Jackson County including Eddy Sutton and John Henry Norman and how some of these sports figures were key figures in the integration of public schools in the 60’s and how Henry Logan was one of the most pivotal and prolific basketball players of the era and was first black athlete to play on a major college basketball team.

5/16/12: R.O. Vance

R.O. talked about his military service in Porta Rico where he learned to work on Military Fire trucks and how he came back to Sylva and applied that knowledge with the local fire department which used the same fire equipment. He later opened and has operated Vance Hardware for over 50 years and about being the oldest business owner in Downtown Sylva. He also told stories about several significant events that he experienced in Sylva, including the Hennesesee Lumber Company fire, Scotts Creek Church fire and the Joyner Building fire at Western Carolina University.

4/25/12: Gary Carden

Gary discussed the North Carolina Arts Council Grant to develop local stories based on the history of the local area. Upcoming events at the Liars Bench and the history of the Prince of Four Corners.

4/18/12: Clyde Bumgarner

Clyde talked about what the Sports Hall of Fame is, why his name is in the Hall, changes in the lay of the land in Fairview to make room for the High School athletic fields, working as a youngster in the great depression, military experience, playing college football, coaching.

4/4/12: James B. (Uncle Jimmy) Childress

Jimmy talked about issue with the name of the hospital and consequential problems with the hospitals loss of identity and decline. History of the radio station, some of the public services the station has done over the years.