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Johnny Vardeman: Lanier Tech had only 235 students back in 1973
Johnny Vardeman

Some miscellaneous trivia from Northeast Georgia’s past:

Lanier Technical College announced last week its enrollment for the new school year will set a record with 4,613 students registered for classes.

The school is 55 years old, having started on a campus in Oakwood along with what was then the Gainesville Junior College, now the University of North Georgia.

Just to show how dramatic the growth is, in 1973 Lanier Tech’s enrollment was 235, and the school was planning an expansion that would increase the student body by 305. That expansion would cost $500,000 and allow the school to offer training in practical nursing, carpentry, automobile body repair and masonry.

Lanier Tech’s future home was in the works

That same year, 1973, planning was just beginning on extending Interstate 985 from Gainesville to Cornelia, the highway off which Lanier Tech is situated today. I-985 was known then simply as Ga. 365, as the present extension north from Gainesville is today. However, I-985 technically also is Ga. 365. The route today goes 69.5 miles north to other highways that carry you to Toccoa. U.S. 23 extends from there into Rabun County and beyond.

That route carries different names as it is Lanier Parkway in Hall County, Tommy Irvin Parkway in Habersham County. Irvin was the longtime state agriculture commissioner.

Ga. 365 north of Gainesville didn’t come under construction until 1979. There was some controversy over the building of the four-lane between Gainesville and Cornelia as it wasn’t being built to interstate standards, that is, side road intersections would be level with the main road. Only around Cornelia are there overpasses over Ga. 365. The road is considered dangerous because of the lack of overpasses, and numerous accidents, including fatalities, have occurred since it opened.

Gainesville’s first wartime blackout

During World War II communities throughout the country practiced “black-outs,” during which all lights were extinguished. This would guard against enemy air raids. Gainesville’s first was in February 1943, and 500 Civil Defense workers spread out around the city to ensure lights were turned off. Earl Terrell was CD commander and reported a total black-out during the exercise. All traffic also was halted, and vehicles had to put out their lights. 

Gainesville’s first senior class

Candler Street School opened to 250 students in grades one through four in the spring of 1947. It’s no longer a school, but the building remains in use as offices. In the fall of that year, Gainesville High School added the 12th grade. Previously students went to school through 11 grades before getting a high school diploma. 

And then there was the frozen chicken 

Frozen foods are a given in supermarkets today. But it wasn’t until November 1946 that grocery shoppers could buy frozen chicken. That was when J.D. Jewell Inc. of Gainesville introduced it. It was a nationwide sensation, and television and radio commercials sang of “J.D. Jewell’s frozen fried chicken.” Those first packages contained 10 pieces of chicken.

Parking meters once ruled the square

In 1947, the City of Gainesville ordered 250 parking meters to place around the downtown square and on streets a block from the square. They were supposed to solve a parking problem in downtown Gainesville. The meters were controversial, and enforcement was somewhat erratic. Parking close to downtown businesses remained a problem and still is today despite two large parking decks.

Parking meters around here are collectors’ items today, although they are still used in some cities.

Patton’s newspaper and the missing pants

The Northeast Georgian newspaper in Cornelia was founded in 1892. However, there have been other newspapers carrying the Northeast Georgian name. One was edited by John F. Patton and began publication in December 1857. It carried advertisements from firms from Atlanta to Madison and news from all over Georgia.

“If we don’t defend ourselves, none will defend us,” was its slogan.

It announced the new county of White, which was formed out of Habersham County. The village of Mount Yonah was to be the county seat, but Cleveland is today. Because Habersham County was holding elections, the newspaper urged voting precincts of Mossy Creek, Nacoochee and Mount Yonah in the new White County not to open their polls.

Among ads in the paper was John C. Addison running a stage coach three times a week from Athens to Clarkesville, Toccoa and Tallulah Falls.

One person offered a $20 reward for his pants that somebody had stolen. Besides being underdressed, the man was missing $58 that supposedly was in his pockets.

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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