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Hula dance got Cornelia show into trouble
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While Northeast Georgia is still considered in a drought, every few days some rain falls to provide temporary relief.

Recent rains, though not frog-stranglers, helped slow the descent of the Lake Lanier level. Forecasters aren't optimistic that typical winter and spring rains will end the dry period and raise the lake to normal level again.

Droughts seem to come more often nowadays. Back in the fall of 1961, Northeast Georgia went through another dry period. At that time, people seemed more worried about forest fires than the level of Lake Lanier. The level did fall, but not as dramatically as we've seen this fall and in previous drought years.

In 1961, the area went six weeks without a drop of rain. Then from Oct. 4 to Nov. 4, except for a sprinkle one day, it was dry until light showers settled the dust. But it was Nov. 15 before appreciable rain came, about a third of an inch, and conditions improved from there.

The city of Cornelia had to ask a poultry processing plant to take a day off to conserve water and urged residents to use as little as possible.

That same fall, Cornelia had allowed its only movie theater, the Grand, to show Sunday movies on a trial basis. One matinee was all that was allowed.

But then, the theater advertised "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" by having a hula dancer in a skimpy outfit gyrate in front of the movie house. That did it with the Cornelia commission, who quickly pulled the Grand's Sunday movie permit.

Mayor Hubert Ritchie had provided the deciding vote in the first place to grant the Grand the right to Sunday showings, but it was he who reversed himself after the hula dancer showed up, and he provided the vote to nullify the previous action.

Nowadays, farmers struggle to save farms and the farming way of life. Family farms have either been gobbled up in some areas by mega corporate operations or subdivision and commercial development.

Would you believe farmers discouraging others to get into farming? That was the case three-quarters of a century ago. The Hall County Farm Bureau passed a resolution opposing additional farms in the county because it would add to a farm surplus and be a "detriment to farmers who depend on farming for a living."

At that time apparently some city folks were getting into farming for tax purposes, and the real farmers believed that wasn't helping them.

Doesn't seem like that long ago when U.S. 129 from Gainesville to Cleveland was straightened out at least part of the way. That fall of 1961, White County people especially were celebrating the completion of rerouting and widening part of the road between Quillians Corner and Cleveland. Many more tourists that year drove the route to watch the leaves turn.

Not as much work was done on the section from Gainesville to Quillians, and some of those mean curves and blind spots remain. Long-timers will remember when the whole route from Gainesville to Cleveland was a dangerous, curve-filled road where traffic backed up during leaf-looking season and numerous accidents occurred.

The old route went right through the middle of downtown Clermont, where today U.S. 129 bypasses it by a mile or two. At the time, highway officials estimated the new road would cut 10 to 20 minutes off the time between Cleveland and Gainesville.

Other tidbits from the fall of 1961:

• Miss Bessie Bickers, who founded the Hall County Humane Society, and built its offices and kennels with her own money, announced she would retire at the first of 1962.

• Hall County schools' offices moved from the courthouse to the old Downey Hospital building on Sycamore Street, now E.E. Butler Parkway.

• The Community Chest, as today's United Way was called then, had missed its $116,676 goal by $2,800. A few days later, however, volunteers brought in enough to surpass the original goal.

• 1961 also was the year Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, beating Babe Ruth's record by one home run. However, he played in more games than Ruth, so both records stood for decades. Maris hit another one in the third game of the World Series that year, when his New York Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds four out of five games.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and at