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Adair Street was a dare for youngsters
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Adair Street, which connects Oak Street to Ivey Terrace, is one of Gainesville’s shortest streets. It isn’t insignificant, though because it provides another access point to Ivey Terrace Park and trails, including Wilshire and Longwood, that lead from the shores of Lake Lanier to downtown Gainesville.

The Adair Street hill also wasn’t insignificant to children who used to ride it like a race track when there was even less traffic on it than there is today.

Youngsters living around Ivey Terrace Park about 1960 would rob the wheels off such discarded items as lawn mowers, carts or wagons, attach them to 2-by-4s on a 2-by-8 frame, and they’d have a racer steered by a rope on the front axle. They first challenged the five-point intersection of North Avenue, Northside Drive and Hillcrest Avenue, now a five-way stop. But it proved too hazardous trying to compete with cars and trucks.

So they moved to the Adair Street hill, starting from the top at Oak Street and zooming down to Ivey Terrace. The older boys were brave enough to risk making the corner at the bottom, usually on two wheels. Vince Evans, field services director for the city of Gainesville, who grew up on Hillcrest Avenue, was one of the younger race guys, but he was wise enough not to try that maneuver. Instead, he would do as some other racers did and apply his feet to the pavement to stop his homemade racer.

Evans and his buddies, Bobby Harbin and Wayne Nix, might have thought Adair Street was named because it was “a dare” to go down it in their four-wheeled contraptions.

The street might have been named for an Adair family that was in the real estate business. But it also might have been named for Dr. E.F. Adair, a prominent Gainesville dentist. He was a Jackson County native who spent the last years of his life in Hall County.

Having worked four decades in dentistry, at the time of his death at age 66, he was one of the oldest dentists still practicing in North Georgia. People came to him from all over Hall and Jackson counties, but also other nearby communities.

Dr. Adair was an active Baptist, teaching Sunday school and serving in other capacities.

As testament to his stature, when his funeral was held at First Baptist Church in Gainesville, Gov. L.G. Hardman gave a eulogy. Dr. Adair died Feb. 24, 1928, and is buried in the Woodlawn section of Alta Vista Cemetery.

This time of year is flu shot season, the vaccine apparently in plentiful supply as it not only is available in doctors’ offices, but pharmacies as well.

North Georgia suffered with the rest of the world in 1918-20 when the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic took millions of lives. That flu outbreak actually didn’t originate in Spain, but it got stuck with its name because of the severity of the disease in that country early on. It is believed that World War I contributed to the spread of the disease because of the congestion of military camps, troops’ vulnerability to disease and their movements across Europe.

The flu closed Gainesville schools for three weeks in the fall of 1918. Even churches curtailed services for a time, and movie theaters weren’t allowed to operate. Schools made up the lost time the following spring.

Spanish flu is said to have infected about 500 million people around the world with an estimated 20 million to 40 million deaths. It spread to all corners of the world from January 1918 to December 1920.

Another serious health threat in those days was scarlet fever. Medication had not yet been developed to treat adequately and combat the disease. In 1900, Gainesville’s official physician, Dr. K.A. Smith, warned about a growing number of cases. At one time, as many as 20 children were infected. Those with the disease were quarantined at their homes, and yellow flags were placed in their yards.

The doctor warned others not to come into contact with the patients, but also advised that residents from outside the city could come to town to visit, shop or otherwise conduct business without fear of contracting scarlet fever unless they came in direct contact with a patient.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilltimes.com/johnny.

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