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They could have used some heat back in the winter of 1918
Johnny Vardeman

Some historical footnotes from the pages of the past:

While North Georgia this year suffered from heat and drought most all summer and into the fall, in 1918 one of the worst ice storms ever struck Hall County. Snow had fallen in December of 1917, and more fell the next month. Sleet followed, and the Gainesville News described the noise of trees and limbs crashing to the ground, as well as the falling of telephone and telegraph wires. Outside communication was off for more than a day.

Lake Warner, which was backed by Dunlap Dam on the Chattahoochee River, was a solid sheet of ice, as well as Brenau Lake. Temperatures fell to 4 degrees, followed by an even zero the next day. Some thermometers fell to 6 below.

At the time, the temperatures were the lowest on record since 1849, although extreme lows were recorded in 1899.

Those are cheap tires

In 1947 in Gainesville, you could buy a Goodyear tire for $14.40, $1.50 down and $1.25 a week at Kleckley’s on South Main Street. You could get suspender-back overalls at Penney’s for $2.69.

Ronald’s had women’s shoes from $8.95 to $9.95. Millner’s Buster Brown shoes for children were $3.45 to $6.95. Nickel Back Shoe Store also had children’s shoes for $3.95.

J.D. Jewell Inc. on Church Street was advertising Spartan feeds for chickens.

You could get Tussy Cologne for $1 at Piedmont Drug Co. Colonial Stores had sirloin steaks for 69 cents a pound.

DeLong Home and Auto Supply on South Main Street had a golf bag for $12.95 and tennis rackets for $3.19. The company renovated its building and added other products and services in 1947.

Gainesville Coca-Cola Bottling Co. was filling bottles that would sell at stores for a nickel.

Wallis Sand Co. would haul you a truck load of fill dirt for $1.25.

Remember the Alamo

Early movie theaters in Gainesville had a rough time over the years. The Alamo was one of the city’s first and went out of business. The Plaginos family built the State Theater on Washington Street just off the square in 1934. It burned five months later when a fire destroyed practically the whole block.

The Royal Theater on Main Street was built by the Plaginos in 1931 and was damaged by the 1936 tornado. The Ritz on Bradford Street, built by the Plaginos in 1934, was destroyed by the 1936 tornado, but rebuilt in 1940. Where the Royal and the Ritz were are now gaps between other business buildings and serve as parking lots.

Quarries in surprising places

Quarry Road was the name of a street that apparently ran along what is known today as Wilshire Road. Wilshire Trails Park and Ivey Terrace Park in Gainesville once was the site of a rock quarry. The stream that runs through the parks is called Rock Creek.

West Ridgewood Avenue, which runs into Wilshire Road, wasn’t paved until 1947.

Hall County boasted in 1915 it had 150 miles of graded and top-soiled roads, “which are as pretty as any roads in the world.” They were built using convict labor, but “its convicts are well cared for and humanely treated.” The county had 475 miles of mail routes, few of them paved.

At that time, Gainesville had three miles of paved streets, and it still had the street railroad that ran from the Southern Railway depot through downtown to New Holland and out Green Street to Chattahoochee Park at the end of Riverside Drive.

More cars were on the streets as World War I was beginning, but Bagwell Wagon Co. was still making buggies and wagons that were sold far and wide. Berry and George Bagwell could see the future of wheels, however, as they opened Bagwell Buick Motors in Gainesville.

That’s a lot of hosiery

 Before Owen-Osborne and Gaybourn Hosiery Mills, which operated from the 1930s into the 1970s, there was another hosiery mill in Gainesville. The Merck-Hetrick Hosiery Mill operated out of B.H. Merck’s four-story wholesale company off the public square. It opened in 1915 and was capable of producing 100 dozen pairs of hose a day. It received orders from all over the country, a large one being for 6,000 dozen from a concern in St. Louis, Mo.

B.H. Merck was president, and W.F. Hetrick was vice president. 

The power of war

 Georgia Power Co. operated a “war farm” in 1917 as part of the country’s efforts in World War I. The 1,000 acres between Gainesville and the Dunlap power plant at the end of Riverside Drive would be cultivated to grow crops.

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;