Morrisville History Center Opens June 24

Morrisville, NC – Morrisville is planning a Grand Opening of the Morrisville History Center on Friday, June 24th starting at 5:30 PM at Morrisville Town Hall, 100 Town Hall Drive. Read more

Black History Month: Billy Strayhorn of Hillsborough, NC

Story and photos of Hillsborough by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – I’ve been pondering what to write for Black History Month. Yesterday, on a trip to nearby Hillsborough, I discovered a small hole in the fabric of black history. It concerned Billy Strayhorn, composer and arranger for jazz great Duke Ellington. Read more

Cary History: Dr. James Templeton

Story by Peggy Von Scoyoc. Illustrations by Jerry Miller.

James Templeton was born in 1855 in Lincolnton, North Carolina. He was chairman of the school board for thirty years, founder of the Wake County Medical Society, began a newspaper in Cary which he edited, and was in demand as a public speaker. He was a candidate for governor on the prohibitionist ticket and a soldier in the Great War.

But most of all, Dr. James Templeton was a pillar of Cary society. He ministered to the sick and tended to the growth and well-being of the community in equal measure. Read more

Cary History: Henry Adams

henry adams

Cary, NC – With thanks to Peggy Van Scoyoc and her book, Desegregating Cary, which is on sale at the Page-Walker History Center in downtown Cary. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker. Proceeds from the sale of this book support the preservation of Cary’s history.

What follows is from Henry’s son, Charlie:

Making a Mark in Education and Local Business

Henry Adams was born and raised in Cary. He left Cary to go to college at Trinity Park, which is now Duke University. He had a sister who had a drugstore in Durham and she heavily influenced him to go to pharmacy school in Massachusetts. When he came back, he opened a drugstore in Cary. He ran Adams Rexall Drugs until he tired of that and found out that I was not going to be a pharmacist after college. So he sold the store to Ralph Ashworth and opened an appliance store on Chatham Street. He had that store until he died. Later, an elementary school was named after him – The Henry R. Adams Elementary School. Read more

History: Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church

Story by Mary Beth Phillips, photo by Hal Goodtree

Morrisville, NC – Finding a Cary-area native is getting harder and harder these days, but if you travel down the road from Cary just a piece, you can find a community made up of folks that have been born and bred in these parts since their families settled here in the mid-1800s. Read more

History: Desegregating Cary

Author Peggy Van Scoyoc and Gwen Mattews at "Desegregating Cary" event

All photos by Brooke Meyer

Cary, NC – The turbulent Civil Rights Era was experienced right here in the Town of Cary, but many of us don’t know about it.

Real Life Stories

Peggy Van Scoyoc, Cary’s oral historian,  recently published a book titled “Desegregating Cary” to tell real life stories about people that lived through these times in Cary. In her book, Peggy records the oral histories of 43 people.

Five of those individuals spoke as part of a panel discussion on Monday, October 23 at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center.

Charlie Adams speaks of his father's commitment to desegregation

Charlie Adams is the son of Henry Adams, the original pharmacist and owner of the drugstore that later become Ashworth Pharmacy. Charlie remembers those times when his father was not popular in town.

Henry served on both the local Cary School Board and the Wake County School System’s board.

Henry knew in the early 1960’s that desegregation was coming and firmly believed in it. He thought  there should be a plan and it should begin with his own town. He became one of the chief architects of that plan.

At times friends shunned him and threats were made. Mr. Adams stuck to his beliefs and Cary became one of the first towns in North Carolina to institute such a plan  – and do so peacefully and voluntarily. One of Cary’s elementary schools,  Adams Elementary, is named so in his honor.

In 1963, Cary High School was the first formerly “all white” school to allow African-Americans to voluntarily enroll, and 6 girls did so. The plan went smoothly, and became a model for other schools in Wake County and then spread to other areas in North Carolina. Other areas in the south called upon Cary to help with their own plans. Imagine – Cary only had 5300 residents then and was a civil rights model for the country!

Other members of Monday night’s panel included several of those early students.

Lucille Evan Cotten was one of 6 students to integrate Cary High School in 1963

The Six Young Women Profiled

Lucille Evans Cotten and Gwen Matthews were two of those first six students. They spoke about what they endured as they attended Cary High School at a time when few wanted them there. Gwen later went on to become the first black woman to graduate from Meredith College in 1971.

Debrah Matthews Wright was one of the first black students at Swift Creek Elementary in 1965

Gwen’s younger sister, Deborah Matthews Wright was one of four black students to attend Swift Creek Elementary School in 1965. Deborah told of her bus rides with all ages riding the same bus – elementary schoolers along with high schoolers – and how she had to stand in the bus and endure ridicule on these rides for three years.

Carolyn Rogers was one of the first black school teachers in Cary in 1969.

Carolyn Rogers was one of three black teachers hired in 1969 to teach the predominantly white school children. She experienced an uphill battle not only with the students, but with the parents and faculty. There was a predominant  opinion that she was not qualified to teach the children.

The Raleigh City School System merged with the Wake County School System in 1976 to become the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) that we know today.

The evening was always inspiring and often emotional.

“History informs us of past mistakes from which we can learn without repeating them. It also inspires us and gives confidence and hope bred of victories already won.” – William Hastie

History: Cary Library Celebrates 50 Years on Friday

Cary, NC – The Cary Library is having a party and everyone’s invited!

The Cary Public Library celebrates it’s 50th birthday this Friday, October 22nd.  At 7 p.m. a special after-hours event will celebrate the past, present and future of the Cary Library. Refreshments will be served and music will be performed by Chris and Gail Anderson. Read more

Profile: Former Cary Mayor Koka Booth

Story: Matt Young. Photos: Hal Goodtree

Cary, NC – We drove up to a neatly trimmed golf course cul-de-sac where every modest house had a American flag hanging from it, in the exact same spot next to the garage. I was early and waiting next to my car with Hal Goodtree, the publisher of the CC. Out of an open garage came Koka Booth waving us in.

We shook hands and he told us with a wink that we needed to get in the house quickly because “Blanche will fuss at me for letting you in the garage”.

I had never seen a garage quite like this. No garden tools, no grease stains, clean as a whistle.  Its walls were covered with mementos of Mr. Booth’s 40-year role as a key “founder” of our town as it is today and our Mayor from 1987-1999.

Coming to Cary

It was 1971. The town’s population was 7,640. Cary’s park system consisted of a ball park. The concept of Planned Urban Development (PUD) had just been conceived for Cary to accommodate new people moving here for RTP “mostly from IBM” .

Koka (his wife, Blanche calls him “Kokie”) told me, “There was no sewer or water, Kildaire Farm was really a farm on a two lane road. We had two traffic lights. If you needed anything you went to Raleigh…I loved it. But I had seen the town I was from go downhill from lack of progress and I didn’t want that to happen to my new home.”

Mayor Booth went on to tell us that he was a coal miner in Kenova, West Virginia  as a young man. He had watched the town go from 120,000 people down to 49,000.  Ultimately he had bought an interest in the coal mines and sold his share at a handsome profit.

One of the reasons he and Blanche decided to come to Cary was the Cary High School Band’s reputation (for their son).  He was told about Cary by a “dear friend”.  After moving here the family soon became active in the Cary High School band and in the Town of Cary itself.  Jimmy Burns – the CHS Band Director – “soon had them  performing at the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Peach Bowl and 140 other events”.

With development of Research Triangle Park in the 1960s, Cary began to grow as a bedroom community for the park from a quiet town of a few thousand people. Growth escalated during the 1970s, with the population nearly tripling to 21,763. The population doubled during the 1980s, and doubled again during the 1990s.
– From the TOC web site.

The New Mayor and New Cary

Koka soon was a member of the Town Council and was elected Mayor of Cary in 1987. Research Triangle Park was booming. IBM was hiring. Firetrol came here. American Airlines and Container Graphics came here.  Then Hunter Industries. SAS came to Cary in 1980. The tax base was quickly going from residential to industrial.

He welcomed this growth, taking advantage of it to clean up and develop downtown and adopting a new sign ordinance.  Water treatment facilities were built along with new roads, sidewalks, neighborhoods, parks and recreation facilities.

The Mayor recruited people to work on the new Cary. He told me the story of developer Jeff Sugg. Koka wanted him to join him in Cary politics. Mr. Sugg was resistant. “Koka I’ll do it if you kiss a pig,” he said. Jim Graham, who passed away in 2003, was Agricultural Commissioner at the time. “Well Jim brought in the cutest little pink pig. Kokie kissed it. It was in all the papers. Jeff kept his word,” Blanche said.

“We came up with the concept and consummated the Bond Park idea, for example, in a meeting at a motel.  There was nothing there. Nothing on High House at all. That was a deal that was a great one for us. And it was a bargain.”  Blanche was nodding her head. The Mayor’s eyes were twinkling.

The Booths Today

Their house is filled with awards, and pictures with celebrities and other memories of his service to our town. There’s a montage picture of Koka and Tipper Gore laughing. As the photographer snapped the picture Booth made the “bunny ears” gesture behind her head. In the next shot she is doing it to him.  It is signed “I don’t know who started this, Tipper”. “Kokie’s a Republican,” Blanche told us laughing.

These days Mayor Booth is recovering from a stroke he had in August of 2004, when he was 74. Mrs. Booth commented that he keeps busy these days with the yard. “When there is a task to be done, he must always do it ‘right now’,” Blanche told us.

I looked at the player piano in their living room and commented on it. True to form and on cue, Koka ran upstairs and brought down a paper roll and inserted it into the 1903 antique. “THAT is his pride and joy,” Blanche said. “We had hours of fun with that in the old days.” Soon he was furiously pumping the foot pedals as it played some old tune.

Hal and I had to try it. And we did. We were all laughing like old friends. He began reminiscing about N.C. native Kay Kyser concerts in Rocky Mount, his coaching his church’s basketball team, his stint in public relations with SAS, and his love of his wife and his two sons.

Legacy

I asked him if he had any regrets as we ended our interview.

“I’d like to just pass them by. Know what I mean? We made a difference.” He soon got serious, and began sounding like “The Mayor” again. “Look, please don’t give me credit in your article for anything. I was just here. I loved Cary then and I love it now. I am happy with what our town has become. Any credit goes not to me but to a lot of amazing people that selflessly worked on the vision to make Cary a great place to work and raise a family.”

A Lasting Image

One of the items on the wall in the garage was an ink & paper sketch of Page Walker with some text. The words are reproduced below.

“Greetings family and friends. This year I decided to do a pen-and-ink of a significant landmark in the history of Cary, North Carolina – the newly restored Page-Walker Hotel which will be dedicated this evening and become the center for visual and performing arts. As I sat across the tracks and sketched this morning a man with a broom and a leaf blower drove up and began diligently tidying porch and walks for the ceremony. It turned out to be our mayor. Does this tell you something about the spirit of our town?  Tonight after the dedication the first art exhibit in the beautiful new gallery will be opened to the public. I hope each of you will have a wonderful holiday with loved ones. Pete Turner”   – Holiday Letter to Friends from Artist Pete Turner 1994

If you look carefully, you can see Koka on the porch with a broom.

Cary History: Carpenter Village

0604_carpenter_wide

Story and pictures by Hal Goodtree

Cary, NC – A hundred years ago, the area we now call Cary was dotted with small villages. One of those was called Carpenter. Read more

History: 10 Years of Koka Booth Ampitheatre

Story by Lindsey Chester. Booth Amphitheatre at night photographed by AbbyLadyBug via a Flickr Creative Commons license.

Cary, NC- I remember walking through the woods with my 4 year old daughter in the summer of 1998 to attend an NC Symphony concert at the Ampitheatre in Regency Park.

The experience was magical and unlike any other concert I’d been to in the New York metro area before moving to Cary. Read more