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Column: Wayne’s Lake on Atlanta Highway was once a hot spot for recreation
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

Wayne’s Lake is still there on Atlanta Highway, just as picturesque as it was in the 1920s when a tributary of Flowery Branch Creek formed it.

But there’s hardly a ripple on the deep-green waters most days, in contrast to the days when swimmers, boaters and fishers came to Flowery Branch from miles around to stir up the waters.

Paul Wayne built it with mules pulling pans in the late 1920s. Wooden planking that was installed in the sides of the lake remains visible today.

Brothers Bob and Gene Wayne turned the family lake into a recreation area pre-World War II and during the war, charging people a dime to swim all day. You could rent a bathing suit for a nickel, or for a quarter you could swim, use a boat and use the bathhouse all day. Paul Wayne built the boats himself. The lake was where Gene met his wife, Frances Emma Miller.

It was the first public swimming hole in Hall County, coming before Gainesville built swimming pools. Wayne’s Lake might have been the first such public swimming place in the state, Alan Wayne, son of the late Gene Wayne, says state archives people told him.

Ed Wayne, son of Paul Wayne, and Alan recalled the heyday of the lake.

Riverside Military Academy students would play hooky from school to cool off in its waters. On weekends especially, buses would bring personnel from the Naval Air training facility at the Gainesville airport to relax around the lake.

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Boaters, some dressed in coats and ties, and swimmers flocked to Wayne's Lake in Flowery Branch during World War II. Photo courtesy Alan Wayne

During World War II, the Waynes’ filling station held the only beer and wine license in Hall County. That made the lake an additional attraction for military personnel.

Ed’s father was into politics. He would stage barbecues from a pit that still stands and feed politicians from all over the state. A prominent visitor was Gov. Ed Rivers, Ed Wayne’s namesake. One of Ed’s jobs as a small boy was rowing people across the lake to the barbecue so they wouldn’t have to walk all the way around. One of his greatest memories is rowing the governor across.

Ed said his father gave him a whipping only twice. The first one was when he fell into Wayne’s Lake while he and his sister were trying to fill a Coke bottle with water for some flowers. Paul Wayne had told his 6-year-old son not to go swimming until he learned how to swim. Although Ed fell in accidentally, his father chased him up a hill anyway, spanking him all the way.

Alan Wayne, now in business with his sons, learned entrepreneurship at an early age. His job as a boy was to collect a dollar from all-day fishermen. He didn’t get any of the dollar, but he would sell Cokes to Wayne’s Lake fishermen. The Waynes had turned the lake into a popular fishing spot, stocking it with good-sized catfish.

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Swimmers used a bathhouse on the shore of Wayne's Lake. Photo courtesy Alan Wayne

Alan would go across the road to a service station and buy Cokes for a nickel. Then he would sell them for a dime to the fishermen. When they protested they could go across the road themselves and buy Cokes for a nickel, Alan would ask, “You’d lose your fishing spot, so how many fish are you going to miss while you do that?” The fisherman usually would come up with a dime.

The service station eventually was expanded, and that’s how Wayne’s Lake Furniture and Appliance Co. came about. Customers came from all over North Georgia. The building was expanded again in 1969. In 1996, the furniture store liquidated its stock, and the building was transformed into an office building named the Wayne Center. It houses offices that include Wayne Development Co., Tanner’s Creek Development Co. and Wayne Brothers Inc.

Alan Wayne and his sons, Alex and Daren, have large windows in their offices looking out over Wayne’s Lake. Jeff Wayne, a lawyer and former Hall County district attorney, wrote legal papers that keep the lake within the family. Alan and his cousin, Mike, are the present owners.

Family members and a few friends continue to use the lake as a fishing hole.


Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or johnnyvardeman@gmail.com. His column publishes weekly.