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Johnny Vardeman: Elvis made a short stopover in Gainesville early in career
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Elvis Presley never held a concert in Gainesville, but just as his career was taking off, he made a pit stop here, according to a Hall County man whose brother met the famous singer.

The Gainesville High School Class of 1966 held its 50th reunion recently, and Dwight Whitmire was enlisted as an Elvis impersonator. It was appropriate because he told his classmates the story about the time his late brother, “Flossie” Whitmire, encountered the real Elvis outside a Gainesville gas station.

Dwight guesses it was in the late 1950s when his brother worked at Roy White’s service station on what was then Broad Street, now Jesse Jewell Parkway. One evening, a four-door Cadillac drove up with four men in it. One of them was Elvis Presley, who got out to stretch his legs and buy a Coke.

Flossie pumped gas for the Elvis crew, chatted a minute with the entourage, who soon took off, Dwight guesses, for a concert in Atlanta or somewhere. Flossie turned down an invitation to go with them for a party.

It was a memory Dwight’s brother, somewhat of a clown, he said, enjoyed retelling to friends and family.

Elvis Presley was approaching the peak of his career at that time. His “Heartbreak Hotel” record had climbed to No. 1 in 1956, his first hit at the top of the charts, and his first movie, “Love Me Tender,” debuted. He was drafted into the Army in 1958, and his career soared when he was discharged.

Dwight’s class reunion at American Legion Post 7 at the end of Riverside Drive in Gainesville, featured other oldies’ skits, including the Ed Sullivan Show, The Supremes and Sonny and Cher. Dwight is a novice Elvis impersonator, but only because “they couldn’t get nobody else to do it.” However, his act already has drawn attention to his Shriners club, who asked him to perform at its Nov. 11 $10,000 giveaway fundraiser.

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In the early 1900s, Banks County was hoping for an “electric car line.” Seems financier J.P. Morgan had acquired right-of-way for such of line from Gainesville to Gillsville, Homer and Carnesville “in the guise of telephone lines,” the Banks County News reported. Morgan also was looking into providing a line from Gainesville to Dahlonega.

Morgan was a big believer in the future of electric-powered vehicles, but those lines never came about. It was he who was responsible for the merger of two electric companies to form the giant General Electric.

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How much time does it take for a trip from Dahlonega to Gainesville or vice versa? Twenty to 30 minutes tops?

The roads weren’t all that good in 1912, and it might explain why it took Homer Meaders an hour and a half in his car from Dahlonega to Gainesville. Wrote the Dahlonega Nugget: “When Homer Meaders made the run to Gainesville in an hour and a half with Emmett Stargel, it was not because any trouble was expected, but just to try the speed of his auto. News that some men tried to stop the auto on the way was a false alarm.”

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A White County minister once told the story of a friend who swore off drinking except in case of a snakebite. Sometime later, the preacher saw his friend scrambling around in a briar patch. Asked what he was doing in the somewhat tangled undergrowth, the friend replied that he was looking for a snake to bite him so he could have a snort.

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The Canada community in Union County was named by its first settlers who declared the region on top of the mountains as cold as Canada. It named its first post office “Quebec” for the same reason.

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Gainesville has claimed the title “Queen City of the Mountains” for more than a century. But W.B. Townsend, editor of the Dahlonega paper in the early 1900s, complained that Porter Springs was the original “Queen City of the Mountains.” H.P. Farrow, onetime Gainesville postmaster who operated the Lumpkin County resort, is said to have attached that nickname to Porter Springs.

Hazard, Ky., also boasts it is the “Queen City of the Mountains.”

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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