Paul and Ruby Weston Collection
This collection consists primarily of photographs associated with or taken by Paul and Ruby Weston, two long-time Watauga County photographers.
Paul Weston (October 24, 1899-July 7, 1962) was born in Boston, MA, to Rudolph and Helen Macavoy Weston, accordingly to information contained on his death certificate. He apparently had a long career in the motion picture business before shifting to professional touring work as an organist and pianist when "talkies" became the norm (Watauga Democrat, June 15, 1950). Performing under the stage name Paul Weber (in part because of the existence of another famous musician name Paul Weston, who was known as the "father of mood music"), Weston performed for years on radio programs at WSB in Atlanta, establishing his own reputation as The Man with the Dancing Fingers. His name appears as early as 1936 on WSB's programming schedules (Atlanta Constitution, February 9, 1936), and newspaper accounts document his performances with Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, and Abe Lyman.
The 1944 Billboard Music Year Book detailed the breadth of his popularity as well as the rigor of his schedule: "Paul Weber plays the organ and celeste simultaneously, or electric organ and piano at the same time. His theme song is his own original, Dancing Fingers. He did 104 weeks at Garfield Theater, Alhambra, Calif., and 130 weeks at WSB, Atlanta, and 64 weeks at the Victory Theater, Providence, R. I., among other extended engagements. Weber started at the age of 14, and is noted for his hot tempos on piano and organ."
Paul and Ruby Weston relocated to Todd, NC, in 1934. By 1937, Paul Weston was operating the Boone Photo Shop in downtown Boone, NC, in the Jones Building, presently home to the Mast General Store (WD, June 24, 1937). In 1940, he took the bold move of opening a recording studio in his photo shop (WD, March 21, 1940), although this venture appears to have later been taken over by Kermit Dacus of the Dacus Radio Shop. By 1945, Weston's shop had moved into the space underneath the Gateway Cafe (today known as the Vetro Building). In 1947, Weston changed the name of the studio to the Westbrook Photo Shop and moved to Todd. By 1953, he was back in Boone, operating as the Paul Weston Photo Studio out of the Watauga Hotel Building (two buildings east of the Appalachian Theatre), but a fire in April 1953 forced him out of this space. Weston then moved the studio to the R. T. Greer Building on Depot Street, occupying space previously tenanted by Palmer Blair. Weston's studio later relocated to Appalachian Street and was operated by Ruby Cox Weston (November 10, 1913-April 27, 2000), Paul Weston's widow, following Paul Weston's death.
Series 1 of the collection consists of various 8" X 10" images featuring Paul Weston or shot by him, including several related to his touring gigs as Paul Weber.
Series 2 of the collection consists of a number of snapshots and other items related to his photo studio businesses.
Series 3 is the real gem of the collection, including 75 images shot by Weston showing damage in Boone and Watauga County (particularly the Stony Fork vcinity) from the 1940 Flood. Roads were so poor following the flood that Weston apparently walked the images into Boone so that the Watauga Democrat would have something to print. Weston also walked the images to Wilkesboro so that they could go out over the wire services, given that telegraph lines to Boone were out for several weeks after the flood.
WARNING: Some of the images in Series 3 show devastating damage to homes and the recovery of victims' bodies. While not overtly graphic, these images may be upsetting to some viewers. Digital Watauga sought the input of Greene family descendants before making the decision to share these images for their historical significance, a decision that Greene family descendants supported.
Many of Paul Weston's images and Ruby Weston's studio portraiture were lost following Ruby Weston's death, as items were either auctioned or disposed of from Ruby Weston's belongings without permission or authorization from the Weston heirs. The collection here comes directly from a Weston heir, Rejean Young, who discovered these images in the Weston house at Todd.
In 2012, a large collection (27.5 linear feet) of portraiture and some non-portrait images attributed to Paul and Ruby Weston were donated without provenance to Appalachian State Univerity's Special Collections library. Many of these negatives and photographs were badly damaged by water and had to be disposed of. Those that survive are available at ASU Special Collections. A finding aid for their collection can be seen here: http://collections.library.appstate.edu/findingaids/ac876