When the Old Cornelia Highway was in its prime as U.S. 23, the main route between Atlanta and the Carolinas, it was dotted with businesses ranging from truck stops to grocery stores to roadhouses to tiny seasonal fruit stands.
Even some of the abandoned peach sheds remain as reminders of another era. There are other signs, too, of a more prosperous time for business along the old road.
Sue and Eddie Waldrep live in her family's homeplace on Old Cornelia Highway, next door to what once was a thriving pottery shop.
E.C. Dale built the house in 1939, and Sue's grandmother liked it so much when she passed by it one day, she persuaded her husband to buy it. The shop, which also was a Cities Service gas station, was next door and now houses Adams Flower Shop. Sue's father and grandfather, Osborn and Howard Wilson, hauled pottery from Ohio and Tennessee to sell in the store from 1943 into the late 1960s. A display of dishes and pottery items often stood outside the front of the store.
Sue remembers the legendary goat man stopping there and other places along the highway. He attracted a lot of attention with his iron-wheeled wagon pulled by a team of goats and loaded with pots, pans and assorted other items. The grizzled, gray-bearded goat man, Ches McCartney, roamed far and wide preaching the gospel to whoever would listen. Newspaper and magazine articles and books have been written about him.
Gypsy bands, usually traveling by car, but sometimes wagons, often camped at Lake Adams or other places along the highway.
Back toward Joe Chandler Road was a community gathering place, a store run by Homer and Inez Miller.
The Redtop Cafe at Lula was another familiar stop on the road and thrived for many years. Others recall the bustling White Spot, a combination truck stop, gas station, store and whatever on the outskirts of Cornelia.
The old Red, White and Blue restaurant just south of Baldwin on the old road from Cornelia to Gainesville was popular for many years. Boards on the outside of the building alternated with red, white and blue colors. The place later became Bar-B-Q King and was noted for its broasted chicken. The building still stands marked by a sign that reads "Jamestown."
Just north of Lula at one time stood Petticoat Junction, which could sell alcoholic beverages because it was in Banks County. It attracted customers from just over the line in Hall County, which at the time prohibited such sales.
But it was a nuisance to neighbors, some of whom believed its activities included more than just the sale of spirits. Shootings, stabbings and general rowdiness prompted Hall County neighbors to appeal without success to Banks County authorities to shut it down.
The place finally changed hands, and the new owner is said to have had enemies who set it on fire. The owner rebuilt it, but put the business up for sale after still another fire damaged it.
Neighbors opposed to the place learned the price was $4,000, and they raised enough money to buy it. Then they turned the building over to Banks County firefighters who set it on fire for good to train their volunteers.
Thus was the demise of Petticoat Junction, to the delight of neighbors, but most unpopular to the regulars who patronized the place.
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; e-mail email@example.com. His column appears Sundays.
Originally published Sunday, September 9, 2007