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Johnny Vardeman: Residents were upset the time city gave shoes to barefoot boy
Johnny Vardeman

One snowy day in the winter of 1922, a little boy walked barefoot into E.T. Parks’ store in Gainesville, hoping to get a pair of shoes, but with no money to buy them.

One of Parks’s clerks washed the boy’s feet, dried them off, and Parks told the clerk to fit the boy with some shoes and socks. That was the kind and good thing to do, he figured. Only problem was Parks billed the city for the shoes, knowing it often contributed to the poor. That would have been OK, too, but Parks was a member of the City Council, and council members weren’t supposed to do business with the city.

Some Gainesville citizens got wind of it and filed an injunction against the city to block payment of the bill.

If the shoe incident had been the only conflict, it might never have gone to court. But Will Summer was a council member and a car dealer. He talked the council into buying a Studebaker over a Ford for the police, maintaining that it was faster, and that desperadoes could outrun the good guys in a chase. 

Twenty citizens went to court to prohibit the sale.

Still another part of the injunction asked that the sale of some flashlights to the police department be stopped because they came from a store in which Councilman Summer was a stockholder.

The city argued that those purchases were small amounts in a $6.3 million budget. The shoes cost only $11.40, and the flashlight about $14.

Judge J.B. Jones upheld the injunction in the case of the car sale by Summer’s Gainesville Auto Co., but sympathetically and wisely allowed the council to pay for the little boy’s shoes and for the policemen’s flashlights.

It didn’t say what car the police ended up with or what it cost, but it apparently wasn’t a Studebaker, which, at least in modern times, would have been hard pressed to keep up with a Ford. It apparently did get rid of its old Buick, which police said had to be towed nine times in recent months.

Before today’s Civic Center on Green Street, Gainesville had another “community center.”

Under the leadership of the American Legion, residents came together to secure a building on East Spring Street. The Legion and Women’s Auxiliary furnished the building and made it available to citizens at large and various organizations.

Local businesses and citizens donated money for the project. Prominent leaders in the 1920s, including W.G. Mealor, Albert Hardy, H.H. Dean, John Hosch and W.A. Charters led the campaign.

The official opening Aug. 10, 1922, included a dinner followed by a watermelon cutting on the lawn of the “community house,” as it was called.  It served as headquarters for various local organizations,  and it would be host to “lady visitors” to the city and serve as a “rest room,”

Hall County and Gainesville each contributed $200 to the effort, while numerous individual citizens pledged $10 or more.

Brookton in northern Hall County once was a thriving place with stores, a railroad depot, churches and school. Still it was considered a small crossroads community.

Residents were devastated by two large fires within months in 1922. First J.C. Quillian’s warehouse burned, destroying 150 bales of cotton, hay, farm equipment and other supplies. Later the old Brookton School, which cost $3,000 to build, burned, leaving the community without a place to send their children. The Oddfellows Lodge had been located on the second floor of the building.

The school later was rebuilt and became famous for its annual Brookton Chicken Pie Supper around Valentine’s Day every year. The supper later was moved to the new Wauka Mountain School at Quillians Corner and later discontinued.

The old Brookton School served as a catfish restaurant for a time.

Fires were common in those years, one of the victims being Piedmont Drug Co., which was located on Gainesville’s square at the corner of Washington and Bradford streets. A fire gutted the building and damaged a nearby doctor’s office and another business. All the Piedmont’s inventory was destroyed. The business reopened Aug, 5, 1922, and operated well into the 1950s and ’60s before it closed.

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

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