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Streetcar was a popular diner around Lula for more than three decades

POSTED: January 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The intersection of Ga. 52 and Old Cornelia Highway remains a busy crossroads near Lula in east Hall County, but before four-lane Ga. 365 opened just to the west it was an even more popular place.

The intersection was known as Big Hickory, and its principal landmark was an old streetcar that once ran between Atlanta and Stone Mountain. Guy Wiley bought the streetcar in 1948 and converted it into a diner that served customers from around North Georgia until 1982.

The diner doesn't dish out heavenly hamburgers or to-die-for fried apple pies anymore, but the old street car sits on blocks in the backyard of Mere Colbert Barbee, who lives at the Hall-Habersham line. She bought it from the Wileys after the business closed.

"I have so vivid a memory of the diner," she said of her time growing up in the area. "We'd go up there to get the news," she said.

The street car still contains the original stools, soda machines and other memorabilia. "Everything except the jukebox," Barbee said.

She hopes to restore it gradually because diners fascinate her. "My dream would be to travel across the country and eat in every diner," she said. Guy's Diner is pictured in a book about diners.

Dolly Wiley Turner, 73, and her late sister, Jeanette, practically grew up in the diner. When her parents returned to the Lula area from Baltimore, Md., her father, Guy Wiley, built a rock house for their home, which still stands at the intersection. But he also built rooms onto the rear of the diner, and the family lived there most of the time. They rented out the rock house or allowed people in need of temporary housing to stay there free.

Turner's parents would go to L.E. Morris Grocery in Lula every morning to buy fresh ground beef for hamburgers. "Mother would never use patties," she said.

Neither would Mrs. Wiley put up with any misconduct in the place. "Late one night she was mopping the floor when this man who had one or two drinks came in saying a cuss word," Dolly said. "She took that mop and swung it across his face and told him she didn't allow that in there."

Lula's basketball teams didn't have a gym and used New Holland's to play their games. Otha Parker, who now lives in Arizona, remembers Guy's as a must stop on the way back to Lula from games.

The Wileys also had a grocery store on the property until it burned after a lightning strike.

Dolly used to go to the skating rink in Cornelia every chance she got. "There was nothing to do around here," she said. So her father built a skating rink behind the diner. She has people come up to her today saying that was where they met their husbands or wives.

The skating rink later also served as a dance hall, and the Wileys were strict about not allowing drinking.

The Wileys' health forced them to lease the diner, but it was never the same and finally closed.


Alonzo Wade ran a junkyard on the old Cornelia Highway before Ga. 365 came about. Lady Bird Johnson's highway beautification program in the 1960s caused him so much hassle that he finally moved it way out in the country away from everything so it wouldn't be an eyesore on a heavily traveled road.

Lo and behold, several years later the new Ga. 365 was routed right by his new junkyard location.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. Originally published Sept. 2, 2007.



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