Haywood County 50 years ago — 1963

County grows at break-neck speed
By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 04, 2013
Photo by: Mountaineer file photo In May 1963, this sign was erected above Main Street: “Waynesville Scenic Center Eastern America Haywood best balanced county in NC.” The white sign with green letters replaced the previous sign proclaiming Waynesville as the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As Haywood County begins to tackle the challenges of 2013, it’s a fitting time to look at where the county was 50 years ago.


From church building to road construction to industry expansion to increased tourism, there was a lot going on in Haywood County in 1963. In just a year, both the pace and the sheer number of projects showed that what was happening five decades ago set the tone for current life across the county.


News items included in the Waynesville Mountaineer told the week-by-week story of much that took place in the county as it unfolded.


Business and industry

In January, the Carolina Division of Champion Papers, Inc. announced it would tackle a major modernization effort by expanding the smelter operation to 800 tons a day and expand the paperboard production to 500 tons a day. Company officials called the investment the single largest capital project in the history of the company, one that would spend $50 million over and above the normal replacement/improvement program.


The Haywood burley tobacco crop was worth $1.5 million in 1963, and Haywood County Cooperative Fruit and Vegetable Association bought a $19,000 piece of equipment to grade and pack produce grown in the county. The machine replaced two smaller machines.


A $683,802 contract was let for Robertson Memorial YMCA in Canton, a center paid for by the paper mill to serve the Canton community. It is now the campus for Bethel Christian Academy.


The Pigeon Valley Development Corporation and the Haywood Improvement Foundation, Inc., (also known as the “30 Club”) joined forces to become a single entity to attract new industry to all parts of the county. Leaders said having two organizations sent the wrong message to industry and government officials and reasoned all parts of the county would benefit from working together.

Wells Funeral Home celebrated its 75th anniversary with a new facility and chapel in Canton, and in Clyde, a new Clyde Savings and Loan Building that would also house the post office was built.

Belk-Hudson held a grand reopening in its three-story Waynesville location, and in Maggie Valley, two 16-unit motels, a seven-unit motel, seven new cottages and three tourist cabins were put up. Three new restaurants opened in Maggie Valley.

Bill Prevost quit his job at Unagusta to devote all his energies to the development of the 140-acre Maggie Valley Country Club Estates, which opened with an 18-hole golf course and had 125 lots for sale. Tthe Waynesville Country Club added a $100,000 auditorium and Lake Junaluska embarked on a building program as well.


Skiing at Cataloochee was popular after an early January snow dumped 5 inches of fresh snow and meant the ski area had 30 inches of natural and artificial snow to welcome visitors and locals alike.

Federal legislation was introduced by Rep. Roy Taylor to build a road into the Cataloochee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 20-mile stretch from Beech Gap to Balsam Gap, opened, and the Pink Beds were developed at what is now known the birth place of the Cradle of Forestry. A September 1961 visit from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman started the process as that was when the secretary directed steps be taken to develop the project.


Mrs. Sam Queen stepped down as the county’s welfare director so she could devote her time to building Queen’s Farm tourist business, something she said would leave her dealing with the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots.”

In May, a new sign was erected above Main Street: “Waynesville Scenic Center Eastern America Haywood best balanced county in NC.” The white sign with green letters replaced the previous sign proclaiming Waynesville as the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A new 25-foot by 75-foot swimming pool was constructed at Camp Hope, and two Florida men opened a helicopter sightseeing service in Maggie Valley.

Dan Blocker, better known as Hoss Cartright of the “Bonanza” television series, was one of the weekend attractions at Ghost Town in the Sky.


Building highways

The 1960s was a prime time for road building in Haywood County. Local business and government leaders lobbied hard to have Interstate 40 routed through the county and mustered the political muscle to make it happen. In 1963, a 12-mile link of the interstate known as the Canton Bypass was completed and leaders were able to make some progress on getting rights-of-way for what was to be known as the Waynesville Bypass.


Maggie Valley


Maggie Valley residents talked about forming a town. State Rep. Ernest Messer introduced a bill to form a town that included property 2,000 feet to the south and 1,000 feet to the north along U.S. 19. The east boundary would start at the Wild Acre subdivision and the west end would be Edwards Coffee Shop. The bill followed a community meeting in the valley where the issue was discussed.

L. L. Lyda was to be mayor, and the board of aldermen would be Fred Campbell, Sam McCrary, Harry Ward, K.W. Parker and B.H. Holland.

Because of numerous protests, the legislation was later withdrawn.




Politics and government

Sheriff Willis Beck came under fire after a state investigation and a petition filed by the County Solicitor Glenn Brown addressing issues involving his public intoxication. Beck resigned his post, withdrew his resignation and then resigned again after Brown took the issue public. The same day Beck resigned, county commissioners appointed Jack Arrington to the post.


Canton native Dan Moore kicked off his campaign for governor with 200 county supporters present.

Funds for a new federal building and Waynesville Post Office were approved at a cost of $587,800.

A 100,000 gallon reservoir was being built at Camp Branch to serve the Allen’s Creek area, and a groundbreaking was held for the Balsam Fire Station. County voters laid plans for an air strip where costs would be shared 50-50 with the federal government.


The North Carolina General Assembly convened at Western Carolina College and made a stop at Lake Junaluska to have refreshments and commemorate the assembly’s 50th anniversary. A legislative resolution recognized Lake Junaluska as “one of the most beautiful centers in all the world and is more than an institution of North Carolina and the southeastern states being a world center.”




This was a pivotal year in Haywood for addressing education and set the stage for how the school system operates today. In 1963, seven high schools in the county — Waynesville, Canton, Bethel, Clyde, Crabtree, Fines Creek and Cruso. Two school boards, one in Canton and the other in Waynesville, oversaw the education in schools within their boundaries. None of the county’s high schools were accredited.

Industry, business leaders and the clergy in the county worked together to support what was simply called the “Better School Program.”

The plan would build one high school in the western part of the county and one in the eastern part and retain the elementary schools in the rural community or town settings. The effort was billed as the “first complete overhaul of the county school system in 40 years.”

The county’s two legislators, Rep. Ernest Messer and Sen. Oral L. Yates, introduced a local bill for the Haywood County Consolidated School District. It was this legislation that established the school board membership reserving slots for two members each from Canton and Waynesville, and one member from each of the communities of Clyde, Bethel, Crabtree-Iron Duff and Fines Creek. Once the legislation passed, voters had to approve it, which they did with the full knowledge the change would cost between 22 and 48 cents on the tax rate.


Ten coaches from five of the county’s high schools decided a single stadium would suit the needs and save money in building costs and on maintenance. They advocated building the stadium large enough to attract college and pro exhibition games. Bill Milner, a Waynesville coach, chaired the committee, and Ted Wells of Clyde was the recorder. They said having an off-site stadium would also protect schools from crowds and possibly vandalism. It’s an idea that was likely discussed the following year, and one that we know today, didn’t get off the ground.



Miss Joyce Leatherwood (Miss Waynesville) was selected to compete in the Miss North Carolina competition, something her father jokingly said would send him to the poor house because of all the clothes he needed to buy for her.


“Big John” Hamilton, a Waynesville television and movie star, was pictured in The Mountaineer with John Wayne during a break in shooting for the movie “McClintock.”

Onley DeHart replaced Grady McCarter at the Clyde Police Chief.

Crabtree Baptist built a new church, and Cruso Methodist Church opened a new sanctuary in January. Waynesville First Baptist Church completed a building project that included a three-story education building.


Herbert Plott, a direct descendant of those who developed the Plott Hound, which two decades later became the official state dog of North Carolina, was honored posthumously for his efforts to further develop the bear-hunting canine.

Haywood County joined the rest of the nation in the fight against polio, rallying residents to get the Sabin polio vaccine. On Sunday, Oct. 27, 31,062 of the county’s 39,500 residents were vaccinated against polio at eight different locations. That was a 78 percent vaccination rate, one that grew to 84 percent before the year’s end with additional vaccination opportunities.



Lake Junaluska

The Methodist conference and retreat center celebrated its 50th anniversary by announcing a $1 million long-range expansion plan, including a $400,000 addition to eas east wing of Lambuth Inn. The project included 42 additional bedrooms, a new dining hall, kitchen and seven conference rooms, as well as new parking for 150 cars. New  shuffle board and tennis courts, a new lodge building, apartment renovation and street repair were also included in the package.

Aug. 25 was Haywood County Day at Lake Junaluska, an event attended by civic, business and government leaders across the county as they celebrated the facility’s contribution to the region.

The county commissioners were quoted as calling the Assembly as “one of Haywood’s distinct assets.”

An audit that year showed all debt was paid on the Edwin Jones Cafeteria, he Junluska Apartments and the Harrell Center, and the Assembly had capital assets of $2.4 million.

The long-range plan was to make Lake Junaluska “one of the most widely recognized and best-equipped religious assemblies in the world.”

When it came time to dredge the lake, equipment was delivered in several pieces that would take several days to assemble.