Cook: When North Rowan was born

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 26, 2011

Letís flash back to August 1958, when Rowan County was opening its first ěsuper-highî ó North Rowan High School.
Fifty-three years ago today, Northís doors opened for its first school year, pulling in students who would have gone to the Spencer and East Spencer high schools.
The previous Sunday, the Post previewed the event:
Its opening will be a giant step in education for citizens of this community. The first new high school built here in many years, the new plant is designed and equipped to give the 500 students who will make up its first student body the utmost in modern education.
Moreover, it will serve as a guide and pattern for consolidation of all high schools in the western, eastern and southern sections of Rowan.
I lucked upon this piece of trivia with the help of Tony Brawley. He was helping a friend clean out a house in the neighborhood behind the cityís new Customer Service Building that houses Fibrant. And he came upon the Aug. 24, 1958, edition of the Salisbury Sunday Post.
Tony was born in 1958. The headline that struck him was Drysdale Sparks Dodgers to 10-1 Win Over Braves.
ěThis is a part of history here,î Tony said when he brought the crumbling newspaper to the Post newsroom.
Indeed it is. We donít save old editions past one year here at the Post; we rely on microfilm and now a digital archive that starts in 2002.
But itís hard to resist perusing the pages of an old newspaper when someone brings one by. Before this one disintegrates completely, Iíll share a few more news items of the day, a snapshot of history:
Convertible Race To Open New Speedway:
A 100-mile National championship convertible race will open the new Salisbury Super Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 14.
Promoter Bruton Smith, head of Salisbury Super Speedway Inc., which will direct races at the new track, made the announcement last night.
This was news to me. Bruton Smith, owner of Charlotte Motor Speedway just down the road, directed races at a track in Salisbury?
Smith, one of the leading automobile race directors in the Carolinas, said he believes the track will become one of the most popular in the south.
Woman, 100 Today, Figures The Lord Took Care of Her
Freedom was rattling the chains of history when Lizzie Gist was born.
… Medical science says that someday 100 years will be common in the life span of men. But then how can one explain someone like Lizzie Gist? She did it without medical science.
Her explanation: ěI just let the Lord take care of me.î
Gist was born on a plantation in Union, S.C., according to the Post story, and was 7 when the Civil War ended.
Tax Collections Set New Record
The Census Bureau said Saturday tax collections at all levels of government in the 1957 fiscal year totalled nearly 99 billion dollars ó a record averaging $580 for every American.
Such a story would be front-page news these days, but in 1958, it was tucked away at the bottom of page 5B.
Total annual tax collections ó local, state and federal, in all forms ó now are in the trillions in the United States. The figure is somewhere around $4.5 trillion now, according to a privately operated website (that sounds official), Another source says $3.6 trillion.
On the front page, there was an important story from Arkansas:
Gov. Orval Faubus Saturday called an emergency session next week of the Arkansas State Legislature to try to block further racial integration of Central High School.
This was the year after President Eisenhower brought in U.S. troops to escort nine black students past an angry mob of whites to enter Central High in Little Rock. Faubus continued to fight integration, even when it appeared he had lost. In a seldom-mentioned footnote to history, he won a temporary victory in 1958 when a federal judge suspended the federal integration order for Central until 1960-61, saying integration had ěbroken down under the pressure of public opinion.î
Back to North Rowan High School. The consolidation of Spencer and East Spencer high schools was a big step in 1958. Rowan County would take an even more important step later when students from Dunbar High School, the black school in East Spencer, also joined the North Rowan student body.
Weaving together threads from this 1958 paper, you can see signs of our society growing and moving forward ó sometimes with reluctance, sometimes quite deliberately.
Which way are we headed now?

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.