More newspaper treasures to share

Published 5:07 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

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In this space a week ago, I introduced you to a new way to access the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald archives. We’ve worked since September of last year with (part of to digitalize our old microfilm. The first part of that effort (1914-1999) is completed and those files are now available to the public online.

Last week I shared a bit of my research of those files, with a promise that I would offer up some more of my discoveries in this space. Well, I couldn’t wait to do so. What follows is a sampling of what I stumbled across during a recent visit to our online archives.

Randomly selected newspapers included one from Friday, May 10, 1968. There, a front page story told of the arrests of several people associated with a carnival that set-up in Murfreesboro.

Two carnival workers – one age 18 from South Carolina and the other a 20-year-old hailing from Mississippi – were arrested for breaking into the Western Auto store on Main Street where they stole two shotguns and two and one-half boxes of shells.

Additionally, Murfreesboro Police Chief Calvin Pearce said he was aided by Hertford County Sheriff deputies in detaining four women on charges of indecent exposure. Those women were part of the “girlie” show at the carnival. Apparently they left the area after each posting a $100 bond.

Earlier that year (Jan. 12, 1968), a winter storm impacted the local area in ways other than just snow covered roads. The Herald reported that a downed power line fell across the hood of Highway Patrol Trooper Jack Hardison’s car. He had the presence of mind not to exit the car in fear of being electrocuted. Instead, he slowly backed up until the wire cleared the vehicle and then used his two-way radio to notify others of the danger and get a repair crew en route.

Meanwhile, the Ahoskie Volunteer Fire Department was answering a call for a house fire on the Wallace Gray farm. Upon arrival, the firemen realized the water in their 1,200 gallon pumper was frozen. Instead, they extinguished the blaze using buckets of snow.

During the week of the storm, Roanoke-Chowan Hospital treated 16 individuals injured after falling on the ice and snow.

In an effort to see what was happening locally in late June of 1953 (somebody I know very well was born then), I researched The Herald dated June 23, 1953. That edition featured a story about Ahoskie’s plans to have a national bank located here were delayed when town officials learned that Planters National Bank & Trust of Rocky Mount wanted to first locate a branch in Plymouth before considering Ahoskie.

At that particular time, two state banks – the Bank of Ahoskie and Tarheel Bank and Trust of Gatesville – filed applications with the State Banking Commission to locate branches in Ahoskie.

The big news of that day in Murfreesboro was the circular drive at Chowan College (now University) was paved with asphalt. J.H. Jones of Red Oak, a trustee of the college, paid for the materials, which were put down by the state highway department and the local public works department.

On page 3 of that edition was a summary of the expected operating budget for Hertford County local government for the new fiscal year (July 1, 1953 to June 30, 1954). County officials predicted they would need $281,135.43 to cover its operating expenses for 12 months. The lion’s share of that was for schools ($129,500) while $88,850.43 was for the General Fund. There was $11,370 set aside for the Health Fund, $7,660 for Welfare Administration, $4,755 in the Poor Fund, $2,100 to help the blind, and a little over $12,500 to pay down the county’s debt.

That budget was built around a tax levy of 20 cents (per $100 of property value).

In comparison, now, 70 years later, Hertford County operates on an annual budget of nearly 29 and one-half million dollars with a tax levy of 84 cents per $100 of property value.

I’m hoping that my research of the archives is correct in identifying the very first coaching win by the legendary Charles Simmons. “Sir Charles” – as I call him – currently has over 700 wins to his credit, the majority of which have come during his long stint as the head coach of the Hertford County High School boys basketball program.

His local coaching career began in 1981 at Ahoskie High School (HCHS was formed in 1988 upon the consolidation of Ahoskie and Murfreesboro high schools). That 1981-82 AHS Cougars squad got off to a slow start that season. Their first win came at home on Dec. 11, 1981 where they scored the game’s final nine points to knock off Williamston High School, 52-46.

One fun thing to search in the archives is your name. While mine appears thousands of times due to my work as a newspaper writer, photographer and editor, I found my name printed on several occasions long before I was first employed here in 1972.

There was a “Society News” story in the Jan. 1, 1959 edition about the Dec. 28 (1958) wedding of Jessica Louise Vann and Thomas Hamilton Davenport Jr. They were married in Ashley’s Grove Baptist Church, my home church. I don’t remember it, but the story confirms I was the ring bearer at the wedding.

A photo in the Oct. 16, 1964 edition showed the members of two football teams organized as part of the physical education program at Woodland-Olney School. There I was, a sixth grader pictured on the front row. Joining me were Joseph Futrell, Don Joyner, Cecil Parrish, Fred Vaughan, David Motzno, David Gunnell, Dan Joyner, Tommy Vaughan, Cliff Copeland, Cola Vaughan, Larry Lassiter, Ed Timberlake, John Lee, Carl Corey, Larry Shackleford, Wayne Taylor, Roger Futrell, Jessie Hoggard, Donnie Joyner, Arthur Jenkins, Stuart Bryant, James Gunnels, and Conrad Babb.

A little over five years later (Nov. 17, 1969), my name showed up again in The Herald. This one, which I do remember, wasn’t a pleasant experience as the car I was driving, a 1966 Ford Falcon, was involved in an accident on Memorial Drive in Ahoskie. I was 16-years-old at the time and remember being with some friends as we “cruised” around Ahoskie. I changed lanes without noticing there was a vehicle on my right rear quarter panel. The collision was minor (causing reported damages of $50 to each vehicle) but I was cited by Ahoskie Police Officer Thomas Rhea for failure to see safe movement. Nobody was hurt, except for my feelings.

That wraps up round #2 of searching for tidbits of history within our newspaper archives. I’ll share more at a later time.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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