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Johnny Vardeman: Curious news nuggets from regions papers of past
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Some nuggets mined from mountain newspapers from the past:

“A Ford was sold here last week for 50 dollars. They’re getting cheap as corn liquor in Nimblewill District.” — Dahlonega Nugget, 1922.

While eggs were selling for $4 a dozen, “blockade liquor” was selling for $3 a gallon, and the Nugget commented, “Not only is it high, but it’s mean. One fellow said he took a single drink and could hardly work the next day.”

• • •

The Clayton Tribune fathered the Towns County News at the beginning of 1916. The editor of the new News proclaimed, “We are aware of the fact that we cannot please everybody, but we have that consciousness of mind that we have done our best, we will be satisfied. Some people will say that we should give them as large a paper as some of our dailies two or three times a week for $1 a year. We will say in answer to this that if they will give us as many subscribers with six or eight pages of solid advertising matter at the rate charged by (the other papers) we will give you a better paper than the most of them do for the same money.”

• • •

One of the Towns County paper’s first news items was a daring prison break. During a string music concert outside the courthouse, three men found the jailer outside listening to the music. They also found his wife and held a gun to her head while they marched her husband inside the jail to free a prisoner serving a sentence for murder.

The prisoner walked out of his jail cell while the desperadoes locked the jailer and his wife inside. The gang with the prisoner all escaped despite a posse quickly organized to search for them.

• • •

The Cleveland Progress was celebrating its third year of operation in 1894. In announcing its plans for the year, it wrote, “We expect to be up to our neck in the coming political campaigns. It is useless for us to reiterate our political policy; everybody knows just where we stand; we are not on the fence and never near enough to see the top rail.”

• • •

Phillips, Dockins and Sons, Blacksmiths, announced in Clayton in the early 1900s that they no longer would accept credit for their work. Apparently, they were due a lot of unpaid bills. However, the blacksmiths announced, “We will take cash, corn, peas, beans, potatoes or meat ...”

• • •

Sidney O. Smith III, son of the late federal Judge Sidney O. Smith Jr., gives credit to Jerry Rylee of Gillsville for starting the ball rolling to name the Federal Building and courthouse in Gainesville after his father. Rylee, former Hall County solicitor, worked in the clerk’s office at the federal courthouse in Atlanta when Judge Smith was on the bench.

Smith III also credits three other Gainesvillians — Jim Walters, Gene Cobb and Harold Smith — with helping Rylee promote the idea.

Legislation was approved and signed by former President Barack Obama to put Judge Smith’s name on the Federal Building. A ceremony officially naming the building probably will be held sometime this summer.

Smith III, his sisters and their husbands, Ellen and Robb Andersen of Dalton and Charters and Hugh Wilson of Charlottesville, Va., as well as Smith III’s fiancé, Lucy Kimbrough Henry, a Gainesville lawyer, hope to participate in the ceremony at the appropriate time.

Judge Smith was a superior court judge in Hall County before being named to the federal bench. He served as Northern District judge from 1965 to 1974, some of that time as chief judge. His and his family’s roots run deep and wide in the county. He died in 2012 at age 88.

Brenau University’s graduate school also bears his name.

• • •

When Gainesville High School marked its 125th anniversary with an open house with memorabilia from years past a few weeks ago, more than 2,000 alumni and friends toured the exhibits and swapped memories. In July 1992, GHS held its 100th anniversary reunion. More than 500 attended that event with classes from 1960-70 simultaneously having their reunions. The Class of 1967 was host for its 25-year reunion at the Civic Center.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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