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Johnny Vardeman: There were no sacred cows safe in Dahlonega editors witty writings
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W.B. Townsend, the colorful editor of the Dahlonega Nugget, who died in 1933, was often quoted by newspapers all over the country. His writings still entertain today.

Conservative, but ahead of his time in some ways, he was always readable issue to issue. For instance, one of his “nuggets” from a 1927 paper:

After Turner Quillian lost another barn in a fire at Brookton, he suggested that cigarettes might have been the cause. Townsend wrote, “Cigarettes a long worse crime in the country than liquor, but little is said about it.”

The “Roaring Twenties” were winding down when, among other things, women’s dress hemlines had inched up from the floor to above the knee. Townsend credited this trend for a reduction in moonshine whiskey on public streets.

“Up to a few years ago,” he wrote, “two or three females in this county would tie a couple of quart bottles of liquor to the necks by a string around their waists under their skirts and come to town and supply their customers without any fear of being disturbed by any officer, because if caught on it, it would have been embarrassing for them to have made a search. But no embarrassment is in the way as the women’s dresses are too short now to hide a bottle.”

Townsend, as many newspapers are today, was constantly prodding people to renew their subscriptions. He had at least one reader he didn’t have to:

“A minister told us the other day to let him know time enough before his subscription expires, so he can renew and not miss a copy. If he did, his wife would quit him. We certainly will because it is a pleasure to be able to get out a paper that will create and keep love in any home.”

His paper was filled with names and goings-on in the community. Townsend wasn’t bashful about what he printed. Sometimes his stories didn’t need names because his readers probably knew whom he was writing about:

“The other day when a wife returned home from a shorter visit than expected, she found a woman sitting on her husband’s lap with his arms around her to keep her from falling. Before giving him time to explain that it was caused by them having no cushioned chairs for the visitor to rest in, he wanted to make her as comfortable as possible, the wife kicked over a chair and threw the lamp at the woman as she ran out the door. Then she turned to her husband, who looked bad enough to die, and preached his funeral.”

Often irreverent, nobody or religion could escape his printed barbs:

“The Pentecost use what they call healing oil to rub on one who professes religion in their doctrine when anything is the matter with one who desires to receive such treatment. We prefer chicken gravy. It is fine for a hungry person’s stomach, matters not whether the participant is a sinner, saint or printer, can take it himself without song or prayer or any excitement whatever and make body and mind strong, and if without religion and want it will feel more like getting it after their stomach receives a big bait of the chicken gravy with three or four good warm biscuits ... ”

Later, he wrote about an incident at the Baptist church: “It was circulated that the Pentecost preacher would fill the pulpit at the Baptist church last Sunday. But before the hour arrived, the janitor received a note from some of the official members for him not to pull the bell cord, nor open the door. So there wasn’t any. The Baptist people have long since found a direct satisfactory road to Heaven, who don’t care to abandon it and start on any new blazed out path with a little bottle of oil in their pocket, and no record of where the other end of the path will lead to. By doing this, there was no confusion in this church whatever.”

Townsend’s view on religion in general: “We do not want the kind of religion some of them claim to handle in Dahlonega. It is like a little pocket knife —lost too often, or laid down somewhere by the owner and never thought of anymore until it can be used, or want to show it to someone.”

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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