The year 1958 started off bitterly cold. It was one degree above zero on the high peaks in Avery County on January 3. Grandfather Mountain was reported to have a 10-inch snow cap, and on January 24, received an additional seven inches. The cold weather led to the death of at least one person. Thirteen-year-old Freddie Moody of Banner Elk died when he fell through the ice while skating.
At the end of January, an announcement proclaimed the arrest of four individuals — two men and two boys — related to the break-in of post offices in Pineola and Newland. A few days later it was reported that two different prisoners being held at the jail in Newland sawed their way out of a second-story window. The escapees were Jay Thomas of Elk Park and Billy Cole of Newland. Two of those men, Alex Buchanan and George Ellis, were found guilty in district court and sentenced to prison time.
The snow continued to fall into February, with several snows that first week. There were at least 12 inches of snow on the ground, and a low of 10 degrees on February 3. The frequent snowfalls hampered local schools, with one newspaper reporting that for the past six weeks, each school had only been opened two or three days each week. On February 15, Linville reported a fresh snowfall of 12 inches. In Newland, the high temperature was reported at four above zero. Schools and churches were closed until conditions improved.
On February 7, it was announced that the Avery County Chamber of Commerce was reactivated at a meeting in Newland.
Much discussion in the area centered around the construction of a new, 100-bed hospital in Banner Elk. Much of the money had already been raised or pledged, and work was expected to start soon.
In March, the 40-year old Shady Lawn Hotel was destroyed in a fire. The fire was discovered about 2:30 a.m. by a patron, and was believed to have started in the kitchen. Patron Wiley Swift died in the blaze, and several volunteer firemen were injured when a chimney collapsed. The building was a total loss.
John W. Ellis, chairman of the Board of Education and of the Democratic Executive Committee, passed away at the age of 67 on April 3. Ellis had served on the board of the Avery County Bank and was a supervisor for the State Highway Commission. He was a member of the Heaton Christian Church.
Vice President Richard M. Nixon spoke in Banner Elk on June 21, at the dedication of the new Grace Hartley Memorial Hospital. The Nixons drove through East Tennessee, across Roan Mountain, where Nixon spoke about the Overmountain Men at the Rhododendron Festival, then to Bakersville, Spruce Pine, Linville, and on to Banner Elk. After the groundbreaking, the entourage made their way to Blowing Rock.
On July 20, Howard Dugger, former mayor of Elk Park, died in a fire at his home. He was buried in Vilas in Watauga County.
Classes started in Avery County on August 25. The county had a total enrollment of 3,825 students.
In an article in the Asheville Citizen-Times in October, local farmer E.T. Erickson was praised for his pioneering use of land and conservation of soil. Erickson advocated growing trees on land too steep to farm, but improving grasslands as well. “Proper land use should be the basis of all our agriculture. The toll on our soil by the improper use of row crops is terrific. A thousand years from now people will still be trying to make a living from the soil. God was not just thinking of this generation when he put this precious resource here for our use,” he was reported as saying.
During the election cycle for 1958, Pete Managoff, the famous professional wrestler who had moved to Newland several years before, announced he was running for sheriff. One newspaper reported that if Managoff won, “I’d think twice before breaking the law in that guy’s county.” The election was a close one. At first count, Managoff won by four votes, beating incumbent Sheriff Fred Banner. However, a recount of absentee ballots gave Banner a 13-vote victory. Managoff protested the results, citing irregularities in the Newland precincts and asking for a recount. The Avery County Board of Election ruled that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a recount.
Managoff took his appeal to the State Board of Elections, and then obtained a temporary restraining order barring Banner from taking the oath of office until the matter could be resolved. About two weeks after the election, the state Board of Elections, after hearing from the attorneys on both sides, dismissed the case.
Former chief deputy Ed W. Buchanan passed away in November. Buchanan, 71, had spent 30 years working with the Avery County Sheriff’s Department, and 40 years as bailiff of the Avery County Superior Court.
In national news, on January 31 the first successful American satellite, Explorer 1, was launched into orbit, followed by Vanguard 1 on March 17 and Explorer 3 on March 26; Elvis Presley was inducted into the US Army on March 24; on May 30, the bodies of unidentified soldiers killed during World War II and the Korean War were buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery; Alaska became an official state on July 7; Congress formally created NASA on July 29; the USS Nautilus became the first vessel to cross the North Pole underwater on August 3.
Those born in 1958 include singers Anita Baker, Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson; actresses Sharon Stone, Holly Hunter, and Michelle Pfeiffer; actors Alec Baldwin and Kevin Bacon; NASCAR driver Ron Hornaday, Jr.; comedian Jeff Foxworthy; and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Those who died in 1958 include Admiral James Flatley; writer Samuel Hopkins Adams, and dancer Doris Humphrey.