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Johnny Vardeman: Gainesville High's annual of 1933 was dedicated to ‘Depression’
12032017 GHS RADIATOR 1933
Gainesville High’s 1933 yearbook, The Radiator. - photo by For The Times

Few areas and few people escaped the impact of the Depression of the 1930s. Things were skimpy all the way around.

An example is the 1933 Gainesville High School yearbook, the Radiator. It was a flimsy booklet compared to the glossy, thick full-color productions that come out of high schools these days. Its pictures, naturally, were all black and white. The crimson cover wasn’t much thicker than the pages inside.

Johnny Vardeman

The cover read, “Depression Number, 1933.”  Its dedication read, “In an endless cycle life revolves and those who live it must turn with the wheel. We, of the Gainesville High School, have gone through life’s latest downward cycle and feel the benefits have outweighed the evils. We have learned more of ourselves of the spiritual sides of life, putting aside the material things and living in a higher and by far richer realm. Knowing, therefore, that we have gained, we believe it most fitting to dedicate this, the 1933 Radiator, to the DEPRESSION.”

Unique, to say the least.

Members of that student body were unique, too. Perhaps living through hard times made them better and more successful citizens.

Familiar names pop off the pages. In the list of “Who’s Who!” in the freshman class, Dick Kenyon’s name appears five times: most studious boy, most capable, most reliable, most popular and best all-around boy. He also was class president. Kenyon became a respected, longtime Hall County Superior Court judge. 

Then there’s William Rogers, most handsome boy, who served as Gainesville mayor, and Frank DeLong, most attractive boy, among the successful DeLong business family.

Rafe Banks was the sophomore class most studious boy and best all-around. Junior superlatives included Roy Cromartie, Hammond Johnson, Herbert Bell and Roy Ledford, all of whom became successful businessmen, professionals or public servants. 

Other familiar names in that yearbook were builder Carl Puckett, theater owner Paul Plaginos, businessman Johnnie Mack Harrington, and chair company owner Charles Edmondson. Tom Ham was co-editor of the yearbook and senior class poet.

T.H. Robertson was Gainesville school board president, and A.C. Wheeler was vice-president. Prominent names were on the board: R.W. Smith, J.A. Adams, J.A. Rudolph, E.B. Dunlap, G.E. Pilgrim, J.H. Reed and H.J. Pearce Jr.

Some of the 1933 faculty taught GHS alumni who still remember them well: Bertha Turner, “Miss Sue” Johnson, J.H. Pittard, Lucy Finger and Grace Speer.

Minnie Dunlap, sister of Ed Jr. and James (Bubba) Dunlap, was senior class prophet. In her “prophecy,” she predicted being able to see an opera on “radiovision.” 

The Class of 1933 became the first to win the Ninth District basketball tournament with all-around athlete Ralph “Pee Wee” Smith named best player.

Charles Mauldin was captain of the football team, on which “Pee Wee” Smith also played, along with Pete Tankersley, former pool room owner and city commissioner. Coaches included J.H. “Coach Pitt” Pittard, Clyde (Coach) Payne and Tom Paris Sr., a former Gainesville High and University of Georgia football star and owner of Paris-Dunlap Hardware.

Gainesville also had tennis and swimming teams in that era.

High school basketball in those early days was nothing like today when teams routinely score in the 80s and 90s, occasionally breaking 100. For instance, in 1915, Gainesville beat Cornelia 14-8, more like a football score than basketball. In 1917, GHS girls won 11-10 over Washington Seminary, and in 1919, they beat College Park 9-3. Either the goals must have been smaller back then, or there were some very good defensive teams.

Where they played might have had something to do with the low scoring. There were few gymnasiums around at the time, and practice, if not some games, was on dirt courts.

The Fair Association building at the fairgrounds off Shallowford Road had been used for some games, though its floor was dirt. In 1922, a floor was installed, and the Gainesville teams, perhaps others, were allowed to use it for basketball.

A few area schools at the time had rough barn-like gymnasiums. Gainesville High didn’t have its own gymnasium until after 1936. The tornado that year hit while its gym was under construction, thus the name “Gym of ’36,” which is used for offices today. That gym came attached to the school that was built in the early 1920s. Previously students attended the old Main Street School, which had no gym.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times whose column appears Sundays. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; e-mail

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