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Images in ‘Conover' enlighten, entertain

December 15, 2011

Lifelong Conover resident Don Barker spent many years behind a camera as a photographer for The Observer News Enterprise. Photography was also his hobby, along with history — especially area history.

In 2007, Barker wrote “For the Love of the Game,” which reports the history of the Newton-Conover Twins baseball team.

Barker’s “Big Time for a Dime” delivers a history of movie theaters in the Catawba Valley.

Barker’s recently released book “Conover” is the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular “Images of America” series.

The book boasts more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by.

The majority of the images were donated from private collections of area residents. However, many were images photographed by Barker.

The decision to compile a book about Conover was easy.

“I have boxes and bins of photographs all throughout my house,” Barker said. “One day, the idea came to me to tell the history of Conover using photographs. Some of these images are unpublished.”

Although many of the images are Barker’s, he is quick to explain that not all are his.

“The majority of images in my book were donated from private collections of local residents,” he said. “The long cutlines with each image identify people and places. But moreso, history is included.”

Conover developed in the mid-1800s as a Y intersection of the Richmond and Danville Railroad traversing North Carolina.

Although originally called Wye Town, legend says the name Canova was adopted and transposed to Conover after several years, and it was eventually incorporated as such in 1877. The new German and Scots-Irish settlers surely may have said, “Here we will make our home.”

“By the early 1900s, Conover was building schools, and the wooden store fronts were replaced with brick buildings,” Barker said.

Additionally, a new passenger rail service provided the townspeople with vital links to cities across the nation.

“My book is full of pictures of the businesses and people that created today’s Conover,” Barker said.

A “thumb-through” of “Conover” quickly becomes a better-sit-down-and-read session. Take for instance, a few of the images.

The early 1940s legendary White Pine Club, built and operated by the McGee family for many years, was the scene of dining and dancing and live bands on weekends.

“Club steak was the Saturday night special,” Barker said.

There’s also Margaret Sparkman, the national Gourd Lady.

“A most lovable lady,” Barker wrote.

Ned Jarrett, retired race car driver and two-time NASCAR champion, was known as “‘Gentleman Ned,’” Barker said. “Ned lives in Newton.

“Chapter three is called Newton Neighbors,” Barker said. “You just cannot write about the history of Conover without including Newton.

After all, for many years so much of the area was known as Newton-Conover.”

Barker is happy with early sales of “Conover,” and indicated his book is the talk of many gathering places.

“Folks love to talk history and relive the early days,” Barker said.

“My book ‘Conover’ opens many conversations.”

Want a copy?

“Conover,” by Donald Barker is available for purchase from Conover Hardware and Home Center, Shops on Main, Bowman Drug, Stewart Jewelry and Morganton Hardware, as well as area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing:
www.arcadiapublishing.comPrice: $21.99, 128 pages/ softcover. E-mail Don Barker at dbarker33@hotmail.com

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