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Johnny Vardeman: Herschel’s rise, Carter’s demise led big news from 1980
Georgia tailback Herschel Walter (34) dives over the line against the Florida Gators on the way to rushing for 238 yards during the Bulldogs' 26-21 win on Nov. 9, 1980, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stan Badz) - photo by Associated Press
President Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan after debating Oct. 28, 1980, in the Cleveland Music Hall in Cleveland. - photo by Associated Press

If you were living hereabouts in 1980, you might remember some of this.

Phil Niekro, now a resident of Flowery Branch, was still winning baseball games with his knuckleball at age 41 for the Atlanta Braves.

Johnny Vardeman

Vince Dooley coached the Georgia Bulldogs to the national championship, a 12-0 record beating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. 1980 was freshman running back Herschel Walker’s debut. Coach Dooley held Walker out of the first game against Tennessee until Georgia got behind in the first half, then turned him loose, and he bowled over Vol players for touchdowns twice in Knoxville to lead the Dawgs to a 16-15 win. It was at the time the largest crowd, 95,288, to see a college game in the South. Walker gained 84 yards on 24 attempts.

In 1980, Dennis Reed won the City Golf Championship at Gainesville’s Chattahoochee Golf Course.

Jimmy Carter was running for re-election as president of the United States against Republican Ronald Reagan. Georgia ruled independent candidate John Anderson ineligible, but he eventually was on the ballot, getting only about 2 percent of the vote. Carter claimed his home state, but Reagan won the presidency with a little over 50 percent of the vote nationwide. Besides Georgia, Carter won only a handful of other states.

During the campaign, Carter’s brother, Billy, was a topic of controversy because of his business ties with the country of Libya. Jimmy Carter had called on Bess Truman, widow of former president Harry Truman, during his unsuccessful effort to retain the White House.

Paul Harvey was still telling “the rest of the story” on his radio news broadcast.

A re-regulation dam on the Chattahoochee River, proposed as a way to stabilize the level of Lake Lanier and keep Atlanta supplied with water, was the subject of an extended and intense controversy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers never built the dam.

Gainesville approved plans for the widening of Park Hill Drive from Enota Avenue to Northlake Plaza shopping center across from Poor Richard’s Restaurant. The lanes merge back into two plus a passing lane at about Johnny’s Barbecue.

Roy’s supermarket was holding its grand opening in Gainesville, a successor to Tyner’s Grocery at the intersection of Ridge Road and Athens Street. Roy’s was part of Savage and Holloway Enterprises.

Donald Gailey, former manager of Talon in Cleveland, became manager of the new $6 million Clark-Schwebel plant on Woolen Mill Road.

Hall County’s Community Chest became United Way of Hall County. Wayne Clark was campaign chair, and the 1980 goal was $378,000.

Cable television finally came to Helen in White County.

The wreckage of an airplane that had crashed months earlier was found by hikers on Tray Mountain near Rice Cabin Falls. Four people died in the accident.

Cuts to Medicaid, the federal/state health insurance program for lower income people, isn’t a new issue. Medicaid has always been contentious in federal and state debates.

More than 1,000 people crowded into a 300-seat auditorium in Atlanta in 1981 to protest proposed $67 million in cuts from the federal budget.

After Gainesville’s golf course was completed in the early 1920s, it became a member of a North Georgia Golf League. The Chattahoochee Country Club at the end of Riverside Drive joined with clubs from Atlanta, Marietta, Rome and Newnan to form the league.

Blue stop signs? Does anybody remember stop signs in a color other than red? Ed Newberry recalls some off Atlanta Highway in the vicinity of the old Dairy Queen and the former Emmanuel Baptist Church. Probably south of Atlanta Highway and east of Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Probably many, as Ed does, remember the old Dog’n’ Suds restaurant on Brown’s Bridge Road near its intersection with Pearl Nix Parkway.

Hall County is said to be in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, which loom just a few miles up the road to the north. But it does have its Wauka Mountain overlooking the Clermont area and Skitts Mountain, both of which are shared with White County.

Then there’s Buckhorn Mountain off Mount Vernon Road in Hall County. A few bumps that might be called “mountains” are in south Hall County: Chestnut Mountain in the community of the same name, Peach Mountain and Price Mountain off Candler Road.

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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