Making statewide news the first week of January was the death of Martin Chudick, incarcerated at the Avery County Prisoner Camp off Three Mile Road. Chudick attacked a guard and Camp Superintendent Virgil Vance “with a prisoner-made dagger.” The guard, Dave Hall, fired at Chudick, killing him. Hall was later cleared by a coroner’s jury.
On January 8 it was announced that a Boy Scouts of America Troop was organizing in Crossnore. The sponsor was the Crossnore School. Dwight A. Fink was chair of the troop committee, and Edward Guinn was the scoutmaster.
Lees-McRae College announced in late January that work was slated to begin on a new administration-library building on the Banner Elk campus.
There had been some discussion of consolidating the African-American schools in Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties into one school, possibly located in the Grassy Creek section of Mitchell County. J.M. Jackson, of Frank, wrote a letter to the Asheville Citizen Times protesting the idea. Neither Mitchell nor Yancey, according to Jackson, had schools for black students, whereas Avery County did. Mitchell County was already sending its five African-American students to a school in McDowell County. If there was a consolidation, he asked why not send the students to Avery? The “Avery colored school is located in one of the most beautiful spots in the State for a mountain colored school,” Jackson argued. “Spruce Pine is practically an all-white community. Therefore, it would not mean much to go to Spruce Pine.”
In early March, papers across the state reported that the new autobiography on the life of Mary Martin Sloop, “Miracle in the Hills,” was available. The Davidsonian reported that the book, written by LeGette Blythe, chronicled the life “of a person who with her family has, through no end of plain hardness and toil, made a thriving community from a hopeless chaos of backwardness and misery.”
In April the Asheville Citizen Times reported that Avery County ranked second in the state in home ownership, with four “out of five” houses in the county “occupied by owners.”
Various newspapers reported problems with measles outbreaks, in March in the Linville area, and April in the Crossnore community.
Municipal elections were held in Crossnore on May 8. Officers elected were J.H. Vance (mayor), O. Johnson, John Webb and H. E. Johnson (aldermen). Later that month, the senior class from Newland High School headed to Wrightsville Beach. The students swam and walked on the beach, attended the movies, and took a ride on the Rempang, a Dutch WWII-era aircraft carrier.
It was announced on June 11 that nine post offices in Avery County were being “shuttered” on July 1. The plan would save $20,000, and, according to the Postmaster General, would “provide a superior ‘up-to-date’ postal service for residents of the area.” Those offices that were closed were Balm, Frank, Hughes, Pyatte, Senia, Spear, Three Mile, Valley, and Whaley. Three other post offices, Altamont, Ingalls, and Heaton, were “to be operated by private citizens under contract, instead of postmasters,” according to the Asheville Citizen Times.
Aunt Arizona retired in June. Born in 1876 in the Spear community, legendary educator Arizona Houston Hughes had taught school for 57 years, and had recently been honored by the North Carolina Education Association. Those five-plus decades had been spent in one- and two-room schoolhouses, and then later, at the Riverside Elementary School.
Roy A. Harmon was nominated by President Dwight Eisenhower to be the new U.S. Marshall for Western North Carolina. Harmon had represented the area in the N.C. House in 1925 and 1953, and as a state senator in 1931 and 1947. Harmon was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July.
The Avery County News reported in July that county commissioners had cut the tax rate from $1.90 to $1.80, through “close planning and economy measures...”
Five cases of polio popped up in July in Avery County. Local health officials quickly ordered a county-wide quarantine of all public gatherings in an effort to head off an epidemic. This quarantine covered Sunday schools, church services, movies and other social events. In August, 3,000 local children were inoculated against the disease. Local schools were finally opened on September 7. Horton Cooper later wrote in his History of Avery County that there were 20 cases of polio reported in 1953.
As a whole, 1953 was very dry. Drought conditions existed not only in the mountains, but across North Carolina. When it did rain, it seemed to be torrential. This happened in early July with two big thunderstorms, with up to four inches of rain in less than half an hour. Crops, suffering from lack of water, were suddenly flooded out of their fields. By September, some creeks and rivers were the lowest they had been since 1881.
The Tri-County News reported in August that, after several attempts, and three cases of dynamite, water had been struck by a crew working near the new Mile-High Swinging bridge on Grandfather Mountain. The well was over 450 feet deep.
In Newland, in September, work was being done to the courthouse and jail. A boiler and storage building were being constructed between the two buildings. The newspaper considered it the “greatest improvement that has been made to the court house since it was constructed in 1911.”
In November, the Rev. Joseph Hall passed away at the age of 83. Hall had moved from Texas to Plumtree about 1896, where he helped found the Plumtree Presbyterian Church. He later met Edgar Tufts, and went on to help run the Plumtree School for Boys. The school, according to the Tri-County News, produced “some of” the “finest ministers” in the area.
In national news, Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as president in January, “Peter Pan” premiered in February, the first Corvette was built in June, an armistice was signed in July stopping the Korean War, Earl Warren was appointed Chief Justice in October, and Hugh Hefner published the first issue of Playboy in December.
Those born in 1953 include co founder of Microsoft Paul Allen, former governor Jeb Bush, former senators Kay Hagan and John Edwards, and comedian Tim Allen. Those who died in 1953 include singer-songwriter Hank Williams, director Francis Ford, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson and astronomer Edwin Hubble.