This is the third in a series of stories examining life — and news — in Haywood County 50 years ago.
Those living in Haywood County in 1969 would have been familiar with issues surrounding garbage, growth, efforts to get a community college going and education, one of the top issues of the day.
Just five years earlier, the county was embroiled in a raging argument about education. There were seven high schools in the county which were the lifeblood of each community served. However, most were not accredited, and the ones that were could not stay accredited.
A consolidation plan was narrowly passed by voters that would build two new high schools. Despite the turmoil in passing the bond to finance the schools and getting them built, the transition went fairly well. Trouble was brewing again in 1969, however, over school leadership.
In April 1969, the school board — and the community — were locked in a divisive issue concerning the retention of Superintendent Clyde Pressley.
Six new school board members had been elected on a platform of bringing in new leadership. The school board voted 5-4 to not renew Pressley’s contract that would expire in July, despite an endorsement for Pressley from the N.C. Education Association and many in the community.
An estimated 600 residents packed the courthouse for a 3.5 hour meeting where noted historian and author W. C. Medford, a retired teacher, said “There’s only one way to continue the democratic process of this country — find out the will of the people.”
A public statement from the board said the decision was “not because of any incompetence” but was in deference to the wishes of the people.
The action prompted numerous irate parents to call school officials suggesting the consolidation progress made since 1966 could be in jeopardy.
Ultimately the board vote was nullified because it was determined the new board members took office five days too early after not duly considering the Easter holiday.
The board eventually advertised for the superintendent position and conducted interviews. The interview process for Pressley lasted 20 minutes, while the board members spent most of the three-hour meeting time interviewing W.T. Bird, who was ultimately offered a four-year contract as superintendent.
The announcement drew a standing ovation from the 300 or so individuals who attended the meeting.
School tidbits• The school system crafted a major drop-out prevention effort following a survey showing there had been 168 drop-outs the previous year, and 161 the year before.
• Supt. Clyde Pressley said many students planned to leave school upon reaching age 16, at which time the compulsory education requirement had been met.
• School lunch prices increased a nickel across the board, raising the price to 30 cents for elementary students, 35 cents for high school students and an extra 10 cents for teachers.
• The board of education passed a new policy for dealing with unruly students, one that was summarized as “getting hard, staying firm and acting quickly.”
• The Haywood County Board of Education endorsed a statewide proposal that would allow counties to raise the sales tax by a penny. The school board was hoping some of the proceeds would fill a much-needed school building program.
The priorities set were: a new junior high school in Bethel; a new elementary school in the Junaluska/east Waynesville area and renovations at Canton junior high; a new elementary school at Maggie-Rock Hill; a new elementary school in the Morning Star-Penn Avenue area; and other school building renovations.
Even though the school system was to receive 60 percent of the county’s $360,000 should the sales tax pass, it was soundly defeated by voters.
Broyhill’s beginningsIn January, trustees of WNC Baptist Children’s Home selected a name for the children’s home to be built in Haywood, Broyhill’s, in honor of the J.E. Broyhill family of Lenoir, which contributed $150,000 to defray construction costs. The family founded Broyhill Furniture Industries.
The new home for orphaned children was to be constructed on a 96-acre site at an estimated cost of $634,000. The organization’s sixth campus was to include four family style cottages, a campus recreation center, administrative offices and a superintendent home that would serve 50 children.
In Hawyood, 19 Baptist churches pledged a penny per day per member to raise $57,200 over a three-year period. There were other contributions of $23,460 from Haywood.
Prior to completely relocating to its present campus location in 1972, Haywood’s community college was part of the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institution. It was housed in the former Patton School in Canton and later in Clyde Elementary School. The name was changed to Haywood Technical Institute in 1967.
In 1969, HTI broke ground for the first building on its present Clyde campus — a sawmill and a classroom where construction industry courses would be taught. A $99,000 federal grant mostly covered much of the the $123,000 project.
In March, Congressman Roy Taylor announced a $193,000 grant for Haywood Technical Institute for four vocational programs in the wood products department. An 80-student training program was set to start in the fall with the aim of helping employability.
By July, architects had plans drawn for a new campus for the estimated $1.5 million job of constructing buildings totalling 50,000 square feet. It was anticipated the buildings would be completed in July 1971.
Canton town hallThe practice of alternating district court days between Waynesville and Canton was threatened because Canton hadn’t provided adequate facilities as required under the 1966 court reform program.
The renovated police courtroom was deemed inadequate and Canton’s court sessions were halted in December 1967 after Canton voters turned down a $350,000 bond that would finance the construction of a new town hall.
It turned out voters disapproved due to the proposed location, so Canton and Bethel leaders worked on a new plan for a new town hall and fire station on Park Street. If voters approved a $500,000 bond, it could be completed by the middle of 1971. The measure passed in the November election.
There were numerous complaints about the town of Waynesville burning garbage at its dump along the Waynesville bypass.
Motorists complained that the smoke obscured their vision and was hazardous. Downtown merchants, who could see the smoke, complained it was unsightly. Burning was once stopped, but began anew after attempts to cover the garbage with dirt couldn’t keep up with the volume.
After conferring with the state health sanitation engineer, the town began looking for a sanitary landfill site where garbage would be covered by dirt and not destroyed by burning.
That required an investment in $40,000 for heavy equipment. The county board of health passed an ordinance the previous fall prohibiting burning, but authorities determined it was too broad to enforce.
(Coming Wednesday, Canton paper mill is modernizing, a battle ensues over location for a new hospital and the local toll of the Vietnam War.)