Chapter 20 "Civic And Cultural Life"

Chapter 20


IN indication of the progressive spirit which has typified the — growth of Alamance County is found in the early establishment of newspapers by county residents. What is believed to be the first newspaper to be published in Alamance County was a small weekly which was published in Graham and named the Ratoon. Historical records offer little additional information about this first journalistic endeavor.

More is known about the second newspaper to be published in the county. This was The Southern Democrat which first appeared in 1851. In his Historical Sketches of North Carolina John H. Wheeler described editor J. W. Lawrence as " . . . a member of the bar, an educator and a skilled writer." This newspaper was also printed at Graham.

In 1875 a third newspaper which, incidentally, is still a going concern, made its debut. In that year Capt. E. S. Parker, a lawyer, printed the first issue of The Alamance Gleaner. In 1948 the 75th year of continuous publication was celebrated by the present owners of the paper, Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Kernodle, Jr. Since 1882 the Gleaner has been owned exclusively by the Kernodle family. Immediately prior to that date the paper was owned jointly for two years by the late J. D. Kernodle and T. B. Eldridge.

The Alamance Gleaner was first published in a small tin building on Court Square. It has been in its present location on West Harden Street for 42 years. An interesting note about the staff of the Gleaner is the fact that the late Captain Foster set type for the paper at the age of 97 without the aid of glasses.

From 1909 to 1919 a weekly newspaper, the Leader was printed in Mebane. Shortly before publication of the Leader ceased,



another weekly, the Enterprise, was founded by W. B. Miller. The Enterprise, which began operation in 1918, is still published weekly at Mebane.

The Burlington Daily What-ls-lt?, a tabloid size daily newspaper, was started in October, 1893, by W. P. Ezell and E. E. Workman. Across the top of the front page this little newspaper carried the legend that "We Are Little—But Oh My!" Subscription rates were thirty-five cents a month, and, according to an editorial which appeared in one issue of the paper, it was difficult getting this small amount from the readers. It seems that many of the citizens would ask for "extra copies" gratis rather than subscribe to the paper. The editor laid down the law to the effect that henceforth individual copies of the newspaper would sell for five cents each.

In the number one spot of one issue of the Burlington Daily What-ls-it?, there appeared a three-quarter column poem advertising the merits of a Thomas and Zachary photograph. Below it there was an advertisement which featured watches, sponsored by J. Stewart, Jr., Jeweler. On an inside page the newspaper carried a full page ad which described the exhibit of farm machinery, wagons and supplies at the Alamance County Fairgrounds.

Stewart, the Jeweler, mentioned above, had another advertisement in the paper which told of the Fair's greatest attraction— the Phonograph, or Talking Machine. "The Phonograph," the ad relates, "reproduces stump speech by J. H. Shelburn, Cornet solo by Prof. Davis Ruickstep of the Burlington Band, Banjo and Accordeon Duett, 'Ta ra-ra Boom de-ay' and many other choice selections. Only 5 cents."

On the news side the information that "Nat M. Pickett, of Madison, formerly of this place, is doing the fair" was communicated to the readers in the personal column. A civic note was found in a comment on the mayor's proposal to keep the streets in as good shape as possible. Civic pride received a boost when a reporter heard an out-of-stater declare that Burlington was the biggest little town he had ever seen.

In 1887 Will F. Clapp began publishing what was the forerunner of the present Burlington Daily Times-News. The first



issue was mostly news with little advertising. An explanatory note by the editor promised that ads would appear in future editions as the copy from the merchants arrived. In his opening editorial Mr. Clapp expressed the hope that " . . . long ere my journalistic career shall have ended, I will realize that my efforts to aid in the upbuilding of Burlington, Alamance County, and my beloved Carolina, may not have been in vain."

Mr. Clapp did not remain as editor of the Burlington Weekly News, as it was known then, for long. He was succeeded by J. W. Hunt, who was, in turn, succeeded by J. R. Ireland. In 1898 O. F. Crowson became editor. He retained this editorship until 1926, with the exception of two brief periods when he served the paper inactively. One of these periods was the space of a year during which he bought and published the Durham Sun. Another time was for 18 months when he served as secretary of the rules committee of the United States Senate.

Many people think the housing shortage came out of World War II. The following news items taken from a 1902 issue of the Burlington News indicates otherwise: "There are more people heading for Burlington than there are houses to supply them, but going up out of reason on house rent is no remedy for the state of affairs. We must have more houses or the town will suffer, in that excessive house rent will drive away those who are here, and the inability to secure houses will keep away those who would come."

An economic note is found in the information, taken from the same issue, that, "Mr. W. J. Diamont sold a one-horse load of tobacco at Burlington for $49.00." In a January, 1907 edition of the News, the building report for the previous year shows that $100,000 worth of construction took place during 1906 in Burlington. The editor, in enumerating the various buildings that were constructed during 1906 seemed pleased with the report and prediction that the sum would be even higher in 1907.

On the death of 0. F. Crowson, Sr., in 1926, his son, O. F. Jr. became editor of the Burlington News. In September, 1931, The Burlington News, which was published twice weekly, and the Daily Times were combined into one newspaper by the Burlington-News Company, which had published both for 45 years. At this time a 24-page press was installed and other mechanical equip-



ment valued at more than $50,000 was added. The new Goss press could turn out 25,000 papers an hour and was one of the first four presses in the South to be equipped with three-level color deck.

In 1935 O. F. Crowson, Jr., left the Burlington Daily Times-News and took over a weekly newspaper in Graham, The Burlington Journal. He was succeeded as editor of the daily by Staley A. Cook, who is the present managing editor. The Times-News operations were transferred in March, 1949, from the former location on Maple Avenue and Spring Street to a larger building on South Main Street.


Early in 1939 some Burlington businessmen were making plans to set up a radio station in Alamance County. By the middle of June, 1941, The Alamance Broadcasting Company, Inc., had filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a permit to operate a radio station and had received permission to go ahead with their work. The new station was assigned the call letters WBBB, which has been interpreted to mean "We're Building Better Burlington."

E. Z. Jones has been general manager of the station since it first began operation. Its record of operation since it first began broadcasting has at various times brought it national recognition. WBBB was one of the first thirty radio stations in the nation to apply for F.M. or Frequency Modulation broadcasting permits. It has pioneered in the Southeast in Facsimile transmissions and is still experimenting with this type of broadcasting. WBBB is an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting Company. Its transmitting tower, which employs the Western Electric, eight-bay F.M. transmitting antenna, is located on the old Elon Road. The broadcasting studios are located on South Main street in Burlington. This antenna is placed atop a 440 foot tower.

In the early part of 1947 another radio station began operation in Burlington. At this time the Burlington-Graham Broadcasting Company, Inc., which was also organized by a group of Alamance county businessmen, put into operation station WFNS. From its beginning WFNS broadcast on FM and AM frequencies. The studios of the Burlington-Graham Broadcasting Company are



located at the corner of Main and Andrews street in Burlington. The transmitter is on Burch's Bridge road. WFNS is an independent station with no direct affiliation with any of the coast-to-coast networks.

With four radio stations in Alamance county, two AM and two FM, a pretty complete coverage of local, state, and national and international events is provided for the residents of the county. In addition, radio entertainment in the form of recorded music of all types, local artists, coverage of local baseball, football and other sports events is available to the listener. WBBB is a member of the Dixie FM network through whose facilities events of special interest in the state and college sporting events are carried. WFNS also has a direct line to other stations in the state which is utilized for sports broadcasts and other events.


At present Alamance County has only one major, active theater group. That is the Elon Players. This Elon College dramatic group gives from three to five plays each season. The group, which is directed by Mrs. Elizabeth R. Smith, since its organization some years ago has consistently strived to provide the people of Alamance county with a native theatre of which they can be proud. The repertoire of the Elon Players ranges from dramatic plays to musical comedies.

In addition to the Elon Player productions, the Elon College Lyceum Series sponsors annually a number of professional touring theatrical groups, concert artists and other stage entertainment.

The Burlington Little Theatre, which has flourished at various times during the past decade, especially during the early 1930's, was revived under sponsorship of the local Lions Club in 1948 and presented two amateur productions. Dramatic groups are also active at the Broad Street High School and Hillcrest schools, and at several other schools throughout the county.

Eleven movie houses offer the county a wide selection of motion picture entertainment throughout the year. Burlington boasts five motion picture theaters, including one exclusively for Negroes: Graham has two; Haw River, Mebane and Gibsonville,



One of Burlington's first "movie houses", the Victory, was located on South Main Street.

one each. An outdoor "drive-in" theater is located on Highway 70 between Burlington and Haw River. Both the North Carolina Theaters, Inc. and the local management of the State Theater have announced plans for the construction of new motion picture theaters in Burlington.

Other recreational facilities offered in Burlington and vicinity are professional and semi-professional baseball games which attract large crowds to the Elon Park and Graham Park; high school baseball and basketball in season; and collegiate football at Elon College, or at the nearby stadiums of other colleges. High school football has also developed a large following.

Burlington has a number of small parks, tennis courts, an eighteen-hole golf course, a Country Club, bowling, swimming, riding and other recreational facilities, and year-around recreational program for children. A number of teen-age and other social clubs function.

The fields and streams of Alamance County draw many sportsmen who seek to hunt or fish. One of the best-known and most popular fishing spots is the Burlington Municipal Reservoir on Stoney Creek, where large bass, crappie, bream, perch and cat-fish attract local anglers. There are also well-stocked lakes at Kimesville and at Alamance Camp, south of Graham. Along Haw



A picturesque view across the Stony Creek Reservoir, which supplies Burlington and Graham with their water. It is located near Hopedale.

River and its tributaries can be caught a variety of gamefish, and in recent years, there has been a large increase in the number of private fish ponds in the county.

Although the woods of Alamance offer no large game, there are some rabbits, squirrels and oppossums, and with more diligence, the hunter can find coveys of quail and traces of the gray fox, and in autumn, wild ducks along the waterways of the county.


The clubs and other civic organizations of Alamance County have increased so rapidly in recent years that only the largest can be mentioned here. Each of these groups plays an important part in community life, and many of them conduct blind-aid, relief, and citizenship projects and sponsor programs of major worth in addition to their social activities.

E. N. Pearce, president of the Burlington Lions Club, expressed recently the sentiment of the civic clubs of the community



Recreational facilities include this attractive swimming pool at Burlington's new Alamance Country Club.

when he said, "We try to make our community a better place in which to live."

The Rotary, Kiwanis, Exchange, and other national civic organizations have active branches in Burlington, Graham, Haw River, and Mebane. There are also local Sphinx, Pilot, Business and Professional Women's, American Business Men's, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations here.

The veterans groups of the county have greatly increased their membership, and a number of new organizations have been founded by the veterans since World War II. The Walter B. Ellis Post of the American Legion at Burlington was founded in 1920 and named for Sergeant Walter B. Ellis, who was the first man from Alamance County killed in the first World War. The Post home was completed in 1931. An American Legion Post was also organized at Mebane following World War I and now serves the community with the facilities of its post home. Legion posts were



organized at Graham and Haw River in 1947, and the Graham Post has begun the construction of a memorial home which will serve the town as a community center.

Other active veterans groups in the county include the Burlington Post 1920 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which has a home near the Burlington-Graham highway, and which is conducting a number of community projects; and the Disabled American Veterans, who operate a post home in West Burlington and conduct projects including the annual "Buddy Poppy Sales" for disabled veterans.

Other societies and civic organizations include the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Odd Fellows, Junior Order, Masons, Modern Woodmen of America, Woodmen of the World, Shriners, a local branch of the C.I.0. and the United American Mechanics, the Alamance-Caswell Medical Society, Elks Club, Alamance Saddle Club, Ala-mance Country Club, the Grange, 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America, Home Demonstration Clubs, and a large number of similar organizations.

Alamance County has also played a leading role in the Boy Scout movement. Lon G. Turner organized Troop I at Graham in 1912, the seventh troop to be formed in the State and one of the first fifty troops in the Nation. Fourteen members of this troop served in the first World War, all of whom, with the exception of one who was killed in France, as officers. Troop I was the forerunner of the present Troop 6 of Graham.

There are now a number of Boy and Girl Scout troops throughout the county, many of them sponsored by civic clubs or church groups.



Main Street, Graham, (at top) about 1900; (below) today.




Chapter 5

Chapter 10

Chapter 15

Chapter 21

Chapter 1

Chapter 6

Chapter 11

Chapter 16


Chapter 2

Chapter 7

Chapter 12

Chapter 17

Book Index

Chapter 3

Chapter 8

Chapter 13

Chapter 18

Chapter 4

Chapter 9

Chapter 14

Chapter 19