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Johnny Vardeman: Quillians first to ask women to cast ballots
Johnny Vardeman

1920 was a significant year, not only in local education, but also because it was the first year women could vote. While Congress approved women’s suffrage, not everybody was happy with it, especially some white males.

There was no major announcement locally that women would be welcome at the polls in the 1920 elections. However, one Hall County voting district made it clear it wanted women to vote at its ballot boxes.

Democratic election officials in the Quillians District published a notice in the local paper before the September primaries. “We cordially welcome them into the Democratic Party,” the notice read. It was signed by D.T. Quillian, L.N. Long, Thomas D. Hulsey and H.M. Gilstrap, members of the Quillians Democratic Committee.

In that 1920 primary, Thomas Hardwick was nominated governor, Tom Watson U.S. Senator and Ernest Palmour state senator. Tom Bell was nominated for 9th District Congressman and won in November as did the other Democratic nominees.

Georgia voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic nominees for president, James M. Cox and Franklin Roosevelt, but Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge won overwhelmingly nationwide. As today, Republicans also were in control of Congress. 

Gainesville city schools this year are dealing with an overcrowding problem in some of its campuses.

They had a similar problem back in 1920 before the high school building was built on Washington Street, where the Gym of ’36 building is located today.

Before that building was built, most of the city school students were housed in the old Main Street School building, which was located where the recently demolished Hall County jail was. Candler Street Elementary opened in 1911, but other elementary students were in the Main Street building with the high school.

Black students were housed in the old Northwestern School on Myrtle Street, later in Fair Street School.

City school enrollment in 1920 was 1,125. Housed in the Main Street building were 19 seniors, 36 juniors, 74 sophomores and 115 freshmen in addition to the elementary grades. The building was so crowded that some elementary grades had to attend split sessions, one in the morning one in the afternoon.

The Candler Street School building, which is now offices, housed students from 1911 to 1978.

City school officials and others laid the cornerstone for the Gainesville High School on Washington Street Oct. 29, 1920. The present high school off Pearl Nix Parkway opened in 1957.

There wasn’t a paved road between Gainesville and Dahlonega in 1920, but efforts were under way to get one. Lumpkin, Dawson and Hall counties collaborated with the state to build “a permanent highway.” Lumpkin would do its part via Auraria, and Dawson would be responsible for the road from Landrum. Hall County, with the state’s help, would pave to the Lumpkin County line.

If you owned a car back then, you would have to slow down in Gainesville. The speed limit was set at 15 miles per hour and half that around curves. You couldn’t drive if you were under age 16 and without a parent, similar to today’s law. Your car had to have two lights on between sunset and sunrise, and no “muffler cut-outs” or other noise-makers were allowed, decreed Gainesville Mayor Hammond Johnson.

That was the year, too, that Chattahoochee Golf Club formally opened where American Legion Post 7 is today at the end of Riverside Drive. The course covered 146 acres, though only nine holes at the time. “Greens” were “skinned” instead of grass, and the fairways lacked a lot of grass because of a dry summer.

Nevertheless, famed amateur golfer Bobby Jones played opening day Sept. 24 in a foursome that included Milton Dargon Jr., Douglas Edgar and Tom Nichols.

The clubhouse later became the American Legion’s home before it burned several years ago. The golf course was relocated to the end of Woodsmill Road before Lake Lanier flooded it and is now off Thompson Bridge Road.

A Mutual Aid Society of the Chamber of Commerce at the time was lobbying for a restroom in the downtown area and complaining about speeding cars endangering children on Main Street. It also wanted sidewalks built on Green and Candler streets. The society also suggested “rewards to fly catchers.”

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

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