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Bits of Gainesville traveled far and wide

POSTED: April 4, 2011 1:54 p.m.

The 1936 tornado moved east out of Gainesville, taking with it dirt and trees and the makings of a small city. As it passed across the South, dropping on other towns and eventually dissipating into the skies, it scattered parts of Gainesville across its path.

Some of those relics eventually made it home again.

E.B. Whitfield ran a small service station near Broad Street, a white building with a Coca-Cola sign at the side and two tall gas pumps in the front. The storm flattened the shop and took with it Whitfield's business license, which hung on the wall.

Two weeks later, Whitfield and his family received a letter from an Elbert Moorse of Seneca, S.C.

"Our little girl found this license on her way from school," reads the now tattered note, written in thick pencil. "We live on Seneca (Route 1). I am sending it to you as I thought you would be in need of it."

Today, Whitfield's granddaughter, Barbara Judd of Cleveland, has the letter and the business license. The license, dated Jan. 21, 1936, gives her grandfather the right to sell cigars and cigarettes at his Woco Pep Service Station. It expired Dec. 31, 1936. For having traveled some 70 miles to South Carolina, the aged license is in remarkable condition, with a few tears and marks.

Judd's father held onto the items for years and when Judd received them, she worked to find a photo of her grandfather's shop both before and after the tornado to put with the collection.

"The fact that the man in Seneca felt it important to get it back to my grandfather and write the letter and send it back, that was kind of neat," Judd said.

The young children in her family now use the artifacts for show-and-tell at school and Judd said she hopes they will one day share the letter and license with their children.

"It's not just another photo," she said. "It's a composite of what happened on that day."


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