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Bryan wowed large crowd in Gainesville

POSTED: May 24, 2009 12:30 a.m.

William Jennings Bryan went down in history as one of the country's greatest orators. He is best known for his part in the Scopes trial, which debated the teaching of evolution.

But he also was a staunch leader of the national Democratic Party. He became the party's nominee for president at age 36 in 1896. He lost to Republican William McKinley that year, and again in 1900. As Democratic nominee yet again in 1908, he lost to William Howard Taft. He later helped Woodrow Wilson win the presidency and became his secretary of state.

During his second campaign for president, Bryan drew a large and noisy crowd when he spoke at Brenau College. Gaggles of local dignitaries and supporters met his train and paraded him around the downtown square in a carriage with Georgia Gov. A.D. Candler of Gainesville.

In his speech, Bryan constantly brought people to their feet as they yelled themselves hoarse and waved handkerchiefs. His talk went two hours. He railed against the world's money powers, saying they lobbied for legislation that would line their pockets at the expense of the common man. Bryan also opposed U.S. policies that he called imperialism, saying it was against the country's principles to war for conquest.

He continued his support for the "free silver movement," which proposed silver backing the U.S. dollars in addition to gold. He and Gov. Candler stood at the door and shook every hand they could as the audience filed out the auditorium. Supporters dined with them afterward in Yonah Hall on Brenau's campus.

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Perhaps the country is finally getting serious about energy conservation with talk about improved vehicle fuel standards and more emphasis on alternative sources. World War II gasoline rationing and other measures helped the nation conserve resources for its military to fight the Axis powers.

It was even more severe during World War I. The Federal Fuel Administration at that time required most businesses to turn off electricity after 6 p.m. Retail stores had to shut down at that hour except on Saturdays, when they could remain open till 9 p.m.
Exceptions were drug stores, restaurants and bakeries. Industries using more than five horsepower motors were restricted to operating between 7 a.m. and noon.

• • •

Sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays, except in restaurants at certain hours, comes up about every year in the General Assembly. Stores still can't sell them, which puzzles many people, especially those from states where such sales are legal.

But it was tougher back in 1907 when a grand jury indicted 31 Gainesville merchants just for selling soft drinks and cigars on Sunday. The law at that time prohibited the carrying on of any business not a necessity on Sunday. "This law is openly violated nearly everywhere," noted the Danielsville Monitor.

• • •

Gov. Perdue recently signed a bill that allows additional fines of $200 for "super speeders" who are caught driving cars considerably more than posted speed limits on highways.

While super speeders might be identified as those who are caught driving more than 85 mph on any road or 75 mph on two-lanes, it was quite a different definition in Gainesville back in 1920. Super speeders at that time would be traveling more than 15 mph on city streets, and you could go only half that speed around corners or curves. You wonder how they could determine that with no radar guns. In addition, children under age 16 could drive only if accompanied by an adult who had control of the vehicle.

Other motor vehicle rules passed by the city commission required a car to display a number on its rear, two "lighted lamps" at dark and "every automobile be fitted with good bell, horn or signal device." Muffler cutouts and other "noise devices" were prohibited.

The commission passed the ordinances "owing to the general disregard of city ordinances regulating the driving of automobiles and other vehicles ... which has resulted in ... a great amount of unnecessary noise ... and the more serious condition of danger to the safety of our citizens in their use of the streets, caused by fast and reckless driving ..."

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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