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Johnny Vardeman: Some historic happenings back in 1980
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Doesn’t seem all that long ago, but in 1980 Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were locked in a presidential race while Iran held more than 50 American hostages. A U.S. rescue attempt failed with helicopters crashing in the desert.

That helped Reagan win the White House, and Iran announced the release of the hostages on his Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981. They had been held for 444 days.

Also in 1980:

It was a significant time for historic buildings in Gainesville. Jim Smithson announced he would buy the old First Methodist Church complex on Green Street when the church moved its home to a new building on Thompson Bridge Road. Other churches occupied the old building for a time until the Smithgall family rescued it from demolition to be used by The Arts Council. Meanwhile, on West Washington Street, the old Tom Bell homeplace came tumbling down to make way for an apartment project. Bell was a longtime 9th District congressman.

And on the other side of town, the old Rudolph residence at 700 Green St. became a restaurant. Warren and Bert Smythe and family renovated the home and hired Sicilian George Badalament as chef. Rudolph’s became a popular Gainesville restaurant, changing ownership a couple of times before becoming  Mellow Mushroom. Dr. John Rudolph and family lived in the home for half a century.

Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department was developing Longwood Park on Lake Lanier off Pearl Nix Parkway, but budget problems were slowing down the project. Complete for many years now, the park is a popular picnicking and fishing spot. It connects with Wilshire Trails across Pearl Nix Parkway, and Wilshire runs into Ivey Terrace Park, which leads into Rock Creek Veterans Park in downtown Gainesville.

The Georgia Mountains Center on Main Street in downtown Gainesville had been completed and dedicated during the Georgia Mountains Jubilee. James Mathis, father of the successful Jubilee, asked the city council to make the event an annual affair, which it did. The Jubilee was an offshoot of the highly popular Home Federal Curb Market, started by Mathis and held annually in the fall at the bank’s property on South Green Street, site of the present SunTrust Bank. The Jubilee morphed into the Corn Tassel Festival, named after an Indian chief who was hanged in Gainesville, and later to the present Mule Camp festival operated by Gainesville Jaycees.

Outdoor enthusiasts in the spring of 1980 celebrated Georgia Power Co.’s opening of Tallulah Falls Park and its Terrora Visitors Center. The park included 300 acres around Tallulah Lake. The park is now known as Tallulah Gorge State Park, a part of the Georgia parks system. It encompasses 2,700 acres and is a partnership with Georgia Power, which continues to manage a campground and day-use area. The state park came into being in 1993.

About the same time, hikers celebrated the opening of Jack’s Knob Trail, which runs from the parking lot of Brasstown Bald to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. The trail was named for a man named Jack who acquired the property after the Cherokee Indians were forced from their lands. Timber companies got the land in the late 1800s, and the Phister and Vogel Land and Leather Co. used tannic acid from chestnut trees in their business. When the trees ran out, the federal and state governments bought the land, and in the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps and the U.S. Forest Service mapped out the trail that once was used by Indians and pioneer settlers. The trail runs 4.5 miles south along the Towns and Union counties line, crosses Highways 66 and 180 in Jack’s Gap and connects to the Appalachian Trail.


White County author Emory Jones’s play, “The Valley Where They Danced,” will be performed by the North Georgia Theatre at Piedmont College in Demorest June 15-17, 22-24 and Sundays, June 18 and 25. The play is based on his book by the same name and is set in Nacoochee and Sautee valleys after World War I.

Week-night performances are at 7:30, and Sunday matinees are at 2. Tickets are $10 general admission.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays.


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