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Johnny Vardeman: A century ago time zones kept people confused
Johnny Vardeman

One hundred years ago, August 1919, optimism prevailed in Northeast Georgia as World War I had ended a few months earlier, soldiers were either home or on their way, and new enterprises were energizing communities.

Here are some of the things happening back then:

More automobiles were running the roads, and gas stations were needed to accommodate them. D.P. O’Dell was building a “filling station,” as they were once called, on South Main Street in Gainesville. It would have two electric visible Tokheim pumps, the only ones in town.

Hall County’s grand jury recommended that speed limits be set on all public roads.

Four miles of Thompson Bridge Road would be paved with concrete as an experiment. Local officials noted that “two bad hills” that were impassable in winter would be eliminated. Main Street in Gainesville also was being paved.

Buildings were going up all over. Concord Baptist Church in Clermont was planning a new building at a cost between $15,000 and $20,000. The Jackson Building in downtown Gainesville was being completed, its fifth floor finished well ahead of schedule because of a demand for offices.

Felix Jackson, who built the office building, also was a principal in Jackson-Walton Co., a wholesale hardware and building materials firm that was building on Railroad Avenue, now Industrial Boulevard.

Newman-Frierson-McEver Co., a downtown clothing store, was remodeling its front with new show windows.

Gainesville school officials were deciding on a site for a new high school, its classes at the time being held with other grades in the old Main Street School. The new school would be built on Washington Street a block from the downtown square.

The Paul E. Bolding post of the American Legion was organized as Post No. 1. However, there was a Post No. 1 in the Atlanta area, and the Gainesville post eventually became Post 7.

Dawson Countians were trying to downplay the county’s reputation for illegal whisky-making. So many arrests of “blockaders,” those operating stills and running their whisky to other cities such as Atlanta, had caused “reputable” Dawson Countians to say its home “was not as bad as it was being painted.”

The first big airplane exhibition came to the Northeast Georgia Fair, which was being promoted as a good way to enjoy life again after the war and to display farm and other local products.

Wrigley’s didn’t have a plant in Hall County, but its chewing gum was being advertised locally as being “5 cents before the war, 5 cents during the war and 5 cents after the war.”

S.C. Dunlap sold to C.A. Hutchins of Winder between 2,500 and 3,000 acres along Thompson Bridge Road for $100,000. The sale was significant because the land had been in the same family for three generations. Dunlap had brought the property from the estate of O.B. Thompson, whose family built the first covered Thompson Bridge and for whom, naturally, Thompson Bridge Road is named.

As today, controversy ensued over required vaccinations against diseases. A big uproar came in Winder when officials there mandated smallpox inoculations. Area schools also experienced some protests from parents who didn’t want their children vaccinated for certain diseases.

Also, as it is today, Daylight Saving Time was controversial. Confusion was caused by Congress and the state legislature passing seemingly conflicting laws setting different time zones. One fellow underlined the confusion by saying he got out of bed a 8 a.m., caught a train to another town at 7:45 a.m., rode 14 miles to that town by 7:30 a.m., ate breakfast at 7:15 a.m. and caught the train back home at 7:30 a.m. He said he was gone from home an hour and a half, but got home 15 minutes before he started.

The dam that never was 

In 1914, Gainesville leaders were planning a dam at City Park to make a lake. They were to raise “a couple thousand dollars” to build a “pleasure resort” in the park. A concrete dam, fences and grandstands were planned. It never came about, but more than two decades later they built a swimming pool in the park. Green Street Pool closed several years ago, but the original brick pool house still stands.

Watch for more local history in this column next Sunday.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville; 770-532-2326;

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