Several local residents accepted an invitation this month to speak their minds about particularly memorable stories that they saw – over the course of decades – in The Star, whether the events in question might be classified as good, bad, ugly or otherwise.
One of the earliest came from the world of local sports, and had Cally Gault in his role as North Augusta High School's head football coach. Gault, who died in April at age 91, had a legacy including two state titles (1958 and 1961) and a 42-game unbeaten streak that was ended by Greenville High, which has Gault among its alumni. He was on board with the Yellow Jackets starting in 1950, as an assistant coach, took a break for Army service in Korea (1951-52) and headed back to Aiken County (1952-63) as the Jackets' head coach.
Gault's years also included, in 1956, the 50th anniversary of North Augusta's founding. Men were encouraged to reflect the styles of the early 20th century and grow mustaches for the occasion.
Newspaper coverage of several fires was mentioned – most prominently, the destruction of Grace United Methodist Church's sanctuary in July 1983, followed by the same calamity occurring in 1988 at Second Providence Baptist Church, and then at Seven Gables, known in various modes as a motel and restaurant over the decades, in September 2008.
No one mentioned the destruction, by fire, of North Augusta Country Club in April 2007, which helped lead to the end of the institution and the land's eventual acquisition by the municipal government for use as a park.
Retired educator Galan Potter, who served for decades as an administrator, fondly recalled coverage of a partnership that she helped create between Fort Gordon and North Augusta Elementary School. The 1990 item acknowledged "G.I. Joe Buddies," described in The Star as "a group of volunteers from the 67th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon who come to North Augusta Elementary School and work with students in their classrooms."
She recalled coverage of another occasion, at North Augusta Middle School, when she arranged to celebrate the first day of school by having a team of skydivers (trailing black and gold smoke) make a descent onto the school grounds, with the Kool and the Gang song "Celebrate" being played as the soundtrack.
In the category of politics and humor, another resident recalled (apparently in the 1970s) an occasion when local Republicans voluntarily spent a night in jail – working in shifts – in order to guard ballots from an election, purportedly in an effort to reduce the risk of monkey business before the ballots could be counted. The ballot boxes were stashed overnight in a North Augusta jail cell. The late Doris Jones, mother of former mayor Lark Jones, was among the short-term jailbirds.
Also in the 1970s, history buff and memorabilia collector Gordon Farmer (who would be featured decades later on the TV show "American Pickers") wound up in the news for his attention to local railroad history, including the Charleston-Hamburg Railroad, which was the longest in the world in 1833, at the time of its completion, at 136 miles.
Rod Greeneway, known largely as a retired educator and as a booster of North Augusta High School sports, recalled his visits to The Star's office, during the decades when Sam and Mim Woodring owned and ran the business.
"I used to go to The Star to see Sam and Mim, and as soon as I'd walked in the door, Sam would push back from his little typewriter and he'd say, "Rod Greeneway," and then he would look up into the air, like he was thinking, and scratch his temple, and then he'd finally say, 'What can I help you with?' He said it the same way every single time."
He added, "He and Mim were so proud of that newspaper. It was unreal."
Another Star tradition that existed for decades was the Star Player of the Week, involving top performers in North Augusta High School football throughout each season – an honor that went to Greenway once (and to his brother, Dan, four times), he said.
That particular honor used to involve the honoree of the previous week's game being singled out for recognition at a pep rally a few days later, in preparation for the next game. The honor would include a certificate signed by Sam.
Ray Fleming, a retired Savannah River Site health physicist, known to some for his years of service on the Aiken County Board of Education, recalled The Star's coverage of a blizzard that blasted Aiken County on Feb. 9, 1973, laying down about 15 inches of snow and leaving thousands of people stuck in their houses for several days.
Gary Street, a retired Savannah River Site chemical engineer and manager, recalled interacting with the Woodrings – Sam, in particular – in placing newspaper ads on behalf of the local Republican Party.
"He was a great believer in the freedom of the press," Street said. "North Augusta had a voice that wasn't afraid to speak up no matter who it might offend, and he offended a lot of the officeholders and so forth, and candidates ..." He added, "So many people in North Augusta now don't even seem to know that we live in South Carolina. They just think we're in Augusta."
North Augusta resident Linda Skinner remembers Sam and Mim fondly, especially from her years as a teacher and adviser for several organizations and activities at North Augusta High School.
“I have always known that whatever promotion or publicity was needed The Star would provide,” she said, remembering that the North Augusta chapter of Future Business Leaders of America decided to hold a fundraiser to purchase a van, and that event was the first Miss North Augusta High School Pageant.
“Because of their experience with pageants, I sought help from Mim and Sam. Sam suggested the name Vanities for the pageant, and Mim began her work with me in directing the pageant. The Star, of course, came through with all the publicity needed,” Skinner said.
“Although The Star has seen some personnel changes, the goal of promoting activities in North Augusta and keeping our citizens informed has not changed."
She also mentioned that The Star publishes promotional articles for the North Augusta Christmas Tour of Homes sponsored by Beta Sigma Phi sorority.
“As a result of those publicity that reaches so many people who enjoy the Christmas tour, Beta Sigma Phi grants several scholarships each year to North Augusta graduating seniors and makes donation to North Augusta nonprofit organizations,” she said.
Rushunda Lett, another longtime resident of the area and current Membership Development Manager for the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce, said as long as she can remember, her family has had a subscription to The Star.
“It was our go-to resource for community news, local achievements, etc.,” she said. “My grandma would collect a copy of any edition that featured an article on me or one of my relatives.”
Richard Fletcher, North Augusta architect, also recalls the North Augusta Star arriving in the mailbox every week throughout his childhood, he said.
“News included coverage of garden clubs, The Woman's Club, school honor rolls, civic clubs, horse shows, beauty pageants, city government, and of course, North Augusta High School sports. The Star was THE source for North Augusta news,” he said, adding that he had a subscription to the paper when he attended Clemson University.
“...For six years I eagerly awaited news from home to arrive in PO Box 4392 at Clemson station each week. The Star has literally kept me informed about happenings in North Augusta for a lifetime.”