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North Georgia residents share vintage village tales

New Holland resident's memories a collection of stories for children

POSTED: November 3, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Sitting on grandpa’s knee listening to him spin yarns about yesteryear is something every kid should cherish. But little did Jackson, the young grandson of Vic Wilson, know what those stories would start.

There was the story about the time Wilson’s bicycle was stolen and thrown into the pond behind the Milliken mill, where it presumably still lies.

And the time Wilson and his friends sneaked into the mill village’s gymnasium for a winner-take-all game of basketball with some of the older boys in the neighborhood.

He told stories of those less fortunate living in New Holland Village getting a hand up from other families when times were hard. And stories of the people who lived, worked and died in New Holland in the 1950s and ’60s.

Wilson tells the story of Dead Man’s Curve and the numerous lives lost to carelessness behind the wheel. Witnessing accident after accident had a lasting impact on the boys that carried over into adulthood.

The characters, with nicknames like “Wart,” “Stump” and “Little Dink,” were Wilson’s closest friends. And the shenanigans were endless.

“I was telling (Jackson) all these stories of growing up around New Holland, and my wife said ‘You should write these down,’” Wilson said.

So that’s just what he did.

With the help of a few childhood buddies, Wilson carefully crafted their collective memories — slightly embellished, he admits — into a book of stories geared for children.

“The essence of the stories are true; they’ve just been stretched a little,” Wilson said.

“MilliKids: It Took a Mill to Raise a Village” blends sentiment and nostalgia with silly hijinks. But sprinkled between chuckles are stories recalling events that shaped the lives of all involved.

One of the collaborators, Ken Burnett, said of the stories that no words could describe what they meant to him, “you just had to live it.”

“I was born in New Holland and have been friends with Vic, Mike, Ricky, Jimmy, David and Alan (Millikids) my whole life. Vic’s book has meant so much to me; it was like going back in a time of fun and friendship growing up in New Holland. As I read the stories, I could see us as we were then.”

Lifelong Gainesville resident and retired Times editor Johnny Vardeman helped Wilson with historical context and getting some of the facts accurate in portraying life in the mill villages of the early 20th century, where residents lived, worked, shopped, attended school and church.

“I just think Vic captured the essence of growing up in a mill village,” Vardeman said. “New Holland is unique, especially when all the homes were occupied by mill families, which I don’t think is the case today.”

He said Wilson “does a great job relating those childhood stories, many of which revive memories for many, whether they grew up in New Holland or other neighborhoods.”

“When textile companies employed hundreds of workers, those villages were very close-knit. The same with Chicopee and Gainesville Mill, as well as scores of others across the South especially. They were pretty much self-contained, and everybody knew everybody and took pride in their community.”

Burnett agreed.

“We were lucky because of what New Holland had to offer,” he said. “We had a gymnasium with a basketball court, swimming pool and, at one time, a two-lane bowling alley.”

The mill provided the community everything it needed to thrive, one of the ideas Wilson wants the book to convey.

As Wilson put it, “we were poor, but we didn’t know it.”

Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal, feels the same way. Deal, who grew up on a farm just outside of the village, wrote the forward to “MilliKids.”

“All of our activities were centered around the village. Of course, my experiences were a little different than Vic’s,” Deal said.

She admits that as a young girl, she didn’t have the same experiences as Wilson did with his group of boys.

“We didn’t pull the same kind of stunts they did,” she said with a chuckle.

She recalls gathering behind the gym and playing horseshoes and shuffleboard.

“We grew up having lots of activities in (New Holland). We had club meetings, the annual Halloween carnival, basketball games,” Deal said.

Community, she said, was central to the village.

“Everybody knew everybody. Everybody watched everybody’s children and if they saw someone doing something wrong, they would tell the parents,” she said.

Deal feels today’s children miss out on the kind of childhood she had.

“People aren’t as tight knit anymore.”

Wilson said the book also shows the possibilities of having hope, even when life is less than perfect.

“It took a Northerner and a Southerner to come together after the Civil War and start the mill to give people jobs, give them hope. The people of this nation can make anything happen,” Wilson said.

The book has become a local hit and several hundred copies have been sold.

Wilson is currently working on a second book chronicling the lives of the village mothers, and so far he’s received numerous story ideas.


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