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This week in the archives: drought, dedication ceremony, Afghanistan protest | Community

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Editor’s note: This article features news and photos from past editions of the Watauga Democrat.

Nov. 6, 1978

A Watauga Democrat article from Nov. 6, 1978, titled “Water Problem in Boone: Last Year It Was the Flood, This Year It’s The Drought” detailed Watauga County’s drought dangers.

“Last fall, the worst flood in 37 years hit the North Carolina mountains,” the article stated. “A year ago today, floods resulting from 13.11 inches of rain in a five-day span turned Boone into a disaster area. This year, no rain has fallen in that same five-day span, turning Boone into a drought-stricken tinderbox.

“Less rain has fallen this fall than the autumn of 1938, when 3,500 acres of woodland burned in Watauga County. That fall was the previous driest period since 1929.

“So far, damages due to the drought have been held to a minimum, but the possibility of disaster lingers. Several small forest fires have already been extinguished in the county,” the article stated.

“In addition to the hazardous fire conditions, the danger of flooding once the rains do come looms in the future, according to forest service officials,” the article stated.

A dedication ceremony was held in October 2000 for the naming of an 11-mile stretch of U.S. 421 from Deep Gap to Boone as the “Doc and Merle Watson Highway,” the Watauga Democrat reported in its Oct. 20, 2000, issue.

“Because of Doc and Merle Watson, North Carolina is a better place, not just Watauga County,” Sam Erby, member of the N.C. Board of Transportation, was reported as saying. “Doc Watson is North Carolina’s favorite flatpicker,” added David McCoy, secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation, who presented the elder Watson and his wife, Rosa Lee, with a miniature replica of the sign before its unveiling.

Merle Watson, son of Doc and Rosa Lee, died in a tractor accident in 1985. The Wilkesboro festival MerleFest was founded to honor the music of Doc and Merle Watson. Doc Watson died in May 2012, followed by Rosa Lee in November of that year.

The Democrat also covered an ongoing hearing by the North Carolina Property Tax Commission to consider a request by the 537-acre Maharishi Spiritual Center of America for an exemption from Watauga County property taxes. The center, located in eastern Watauga County in what was known as the Heavenly Mountain development, included two campuses, one for men and one for women, with a focus on Transcendental Meditation.

“Students come to the Spiritual Center — generally committing to six- to 12-month stays — to learn how to practice TM,” the newspaper reported.

The creation of Heavenly Mountain started in the early 1990s, when brothers David and Earl Kaplan began building a community to act as a hub for Transcendental Meditation, the newspaper previously reported.

The property tax question would eventually rise to the state Supreme Court, with the court affirming that the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America was not a qualifying tax-exempt educational, scientific or charitable institution, according to Watauga Democrat archives.

The center and its groups began to disband in the mid-2000s, and the development’s assets were sold and divided.

Oct. 24, 2001

More than 150 individuals demonstrated at the Jones House on West King Street in favor of peace and ending the recently started war in Afghanistan on Oct. 23, 2001.

The organizers, High Country Citizens for Peace, was formed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from seven weeks prior and asked that the U.S. end its war on terror and use more diplomatic solutions.

“We support President (George W.) Bush’s resolve to end terrorism, but not his military agenda for doing it,” the group stated. “We believe that the best security for the world is peace, particularly in the Middle East.”

The ripple effects from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack were still being felt locally as Halloween events were concerned about decreased attendance. This was partially due to an email hoax that told people to stay away from malls on Oct. 31, as detailed in an article titled “Halloween is on but special caution is being taken.”

Then-Boone Police Chief Bill Post told the Watauga Democrat that plans were in place to have officers at the Boone Mall and residential areas during Halloween events, saying it was part of a “highly visible presence.”

Tanger Outlets, which hosts a Halloween night event at its Blowing Rock location, said that they would not host the event in 2001, with the decision being a corporate one. Boone Mall said they were planning for additional security.

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