Recalling Fontana: Appalachia sacrifices to generate power for the war effort

A celebration honoring the sacrifice of those who made the WWII construction of Fontana Dam possible will be held as part of Appalachian History Weekend at Fontana Village Resort on June 1 and 2.  

The program will include guided history hikes, talks, a historical play and readings by authors of regional literature about the Fontana area.

Fontana Dam was built during WWII to generate electricity for Alcoa Aluminum factory, which made airplanes for the war effort. Hundreds of workers and their families poured in to the area to build the dam. Meanwhile, thousands of mountain people made a sacrifice of their own by giving up their homes, farms, towns and land, which were flooded by the creation of Fontana Lake held back by the dam.

“The celebration will honor the citizens of WNC who sacrificed their home, land and way of life for the success of WWII. During this difficult time in American history, these citizens used their ingenuity, creativity and tenacity to reinvent themselves and begin a new life,” said Judy Carpenter with the Proctor Revival Organization, who is hosting the “Time to Remember” festivities in conjunction with Fontana Village.

Events get under way Friday, June 1, with a walking history tour of Fontana Village. A film about the creation of Fontana Dam will be shown that afternoon, and Gary Carden’s one woman play, “Birdell,” about the life of an Appalachian woman, will be presented that evening at 5 p.m. on the porch of the old Gunter Cabin at Fontana Village and again at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Dr. Walter Larimore, author of “Bryson City Tales” and most recently, “Hazel Creek” will be featured as one of several regional authors from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, with a talk by Larimore at 6 p.m. on what he learned during the writing of his book.

There will also be a lake tour and hike to what remains of the old logging town of Proctor on the north shore of Fontana Lake on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The fee for the four-hour lake tour is $15 and a bag lunch can be added for $10.  Reservations for the lake tour can be made by calling the Fontana Marina at 828.498.2129.

Carpenter is seeking stories from people with memories to share about the Fontana area “People are encouraged to participate by sharing and telling their own histories and stories so that these can be captured and archived for future generations,” Carpenter said. These storytelling sessions will be set by appointment and can be made by calling or 828.479.8743.

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