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Wilkes County Human Library: Donnie Bumgarner - Growing-Up Memories

The Human Library is very much like a regular library where people go to check out books. The only difference is that the books are all human volunteers that can be 'borrowed' for conversation.

Do you remember when wild animals rolled through the streets of Wilkesboro?  Or do you remember when a man was shot from a cannon in Wilkesboro?  Believe it or not, I really do!


My name is James Donald (Donnie) Bumgarner and I was born at the old Wilkes Hospital, Inc. on Eight Street in North Wilkesboro, but lived and grew up in Wilkesboro. I call Wilkesboro my hometown.  I am married to Patsy Wingler Bumgarner and we have two sons, Jonathan and Joseph Bumgarner, and five grandchildren, Winnie, Daisy, Frannie, Annabel and Samuel.

Wilkesboro is a beautiful little town nestled in the foothills of western North Carolina.  As a child growing up I have only fond memories of family and friends, adults who were wonderful role models, as well as some humorous characters, all now of a bygone day.  These individuals were instrumental in shaping and molding me into the person that I was to become.

Come along with me as I travel through Wilkesboro from the west end of town where I grew up to the east end of town and the bridge over the Yadkin River separating the two towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro.  The journey begins in the summer of 1946 and hopefully ends with encouraging others to recall their own childhood memories and to share them with family and friends so they will not be soon forgotten.

During our journey we will learn about the circus coming to town in 1952, what cost $41.50, who drove a T-Model through the barn doors, what operation turned out a million flowerpots annually, who were called the Father and Mother of Holly Farms, who did Tom Wolf call The Last American Hero, where is the Curtis family cemetery now located, who helped start Bojangles and Lowe’s, how many tractor dealerships, grocery stores and tourist homes were located in downtown Wilkesboro in the 1950s, which judge had a federal building named in his honor, where was the Congressman Charles H. Cowles house originally located, where was Lenderman’s Shoe Shop located, who painted a building size mural of Doc Watson, when was the old J.T. Ferguson building built, when did ‘Nike’ Smithey purchase the Wilkesboro Hotel, where was the Blue Ridge Hatchery located, where was the J.T. Irvin & Son Livestock Dealers located, where was the Clevenger College of Business Administration located, and where was the old Y.M.C.A. located.