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Christmas in Gainesville had a special glow
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Houses on Gainesville’s Green Street were populated by families instead of mostly offices and businesses, as they are today. Prominent names such as Hosch, Dewitt, Rudolph, Jackson, Palmour, Browning, Garner, Roper, Hardy, Strong, Smith, Carter, Ham, Estes, Moore, Burns, Redwine, Wheeler, Hulsey, Quinlan and Dean filled the Victorian homes that lined the city’s main entrance.

Around the downtown square, stores prospered as other shopping centers were yet to develop. Jewelers such as Hoyt Ledford, Courtenay’s, Gem and Mintz tempted customers with watches, bracelets and other trinkets as potential gifts. Frierson-McEver, the men’s store, was ground zero for gift-buying as its distinct aroma and holiday ambiance made it a must-stop during the season. You could buy a pair of Jarman shoes for $12.95.

Jimmie Reeves, Pilgrim-Estes, Martin and Mather furniture stores had eight-piece sofa sets for under $200. Drug stores such as Whatley’s, Piedmont, Imperial and Dixie not only filled prescriptions, but were shopping stops as well as places to refuel with coffee and hot dogs or pimiento cheese sandwiches.

White Music Co. on North Bradford was pushing Jimmy Wakely’s “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Kay Starr’s “Changing Partners” on 45 rpm records. Gainesville National Bank had a Christmas Club that you could deposit a quarter a week and end up with $12.50 at the end of the year. Just off the square on Brenau Avenue, Colonial Stores supermarket competed with Toy Minor’s tiny, but humming Bee Hive Market on the corner across the street.

Off the square on East Broad, car dealer Sawyer-Womack was showing its new Dodges, Jacobs Motors its Oldsmobiles and Martin Motor Co. on Main Street its Chevrolets.

If you didn’t have a car, you could take the bus from the Union Bus Station on North Main to Greenville, S.C., for $1.65, or New York City for $16.20.

At the annual football banquet, Ronald Judson had won the Gem Jewelry watch as most valuable player for the Gainesville High School football team, and he and Tommy Aaron were named co-captains for next year.

Tailor Harry Tucker got an early Christmas gift by being named Gainesville postmaster, Dr. Henry Jennings opened his new office, and Talon dedicated its zipper plant in Cleveland.

The Community Chest, now United Way, was celebrating the end of its campaign, reaching $40,459, about $100 over its goal under chairman James Dunlap.

Another community milestone was reached when Southern Bell switched over from its 50-year-old manual system to dial telephones. Instead of two, three and four-digit numbers such as 264W or simply 42 called in to operators at switchboards, Hall Countians could now dial calls, but they had to add the Lenox prefix to a five-digit number.

Not all was mellow and bright, however. Gainesville was in the throes of an annexation controversy with one proposal on the north side passing, and another on the south side failing. Gainesville also debated the location of a second Gainesville fire station. City officials wanted to use the parking area in front of Green Street swimming pool, but enough opposition surfaced to move it to the intersection of what was then Grape Street, now Holly Drive, and Piedmont Road, where it is today.

This was also was the time when River Bend School burned to the ground. Some records and equipment were recovered. Located at the intersection of Cleveland Road and Clark’s Bridge Road, the school under principal J.O. Crowe rebuilt on the same site, where it continues today, though modernized and expanded.

This was the beginnings, too, of the city’s Enota Elementary School. The Gainesville school board paid $20,000 for 40 acres on Enota Avenue to build the new school, which also continues at the same location today.

Otherwise, residential areas glowed during the holidays. Dr. Josiah Crudup, president of Brenau College, won the Christmas lighting contest along with the Bill Gunters on Hillside Drive, the A.D. Wrights and Charles Hardys on Dixon Drive.

It was the second year for the Junior Service League’s Charity Ball, at which it would crown its “Snow Queen.” Candidates included Patti Palmour, Boots Meroney, Sarah Allen and the winner, Margie Meeks. Tickets to the dance and breakfast at the Civic Building cost $2.50 for students and $5 for adults.

This was Christmas 1953 in North Georgia.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.

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