Hall County was quite a different place 60 years ago with men and women who served in World War II just settling into a new chapter of their lives.
The community, too, was well into its postwar mode with abundant optimism and ambitious goals.
The Gainesville Daily Times, still in its infancy, had somewhat of a bold platform that reflected objectives of local government as well as community leaders. The list wasn't long, but it was substantial:
- Extension of Gainesville city limits.
- A Young Men's Christian Association.
- Solution of traffic problems.
- Extension of water and sewer lines.
- An annual poultry exposition.
Well, how many times have the city limits been extended since then? After the war, there was a big push to expand the city limits. It required a vote of the people, and many outside the city opposed any extension because although it would bring about more services, it also would increase their tax rate.
Opponents also might have seen this as a prelude to schools consolidation, but six decades later that remains a distant, if desirable, goal for some.
Annexation is easier now, if more gradual. An adjacent property outside of the city usually can become part of a city if its owner requests and wins city council approval.
As for solving traffic problems, that's an eternal goal. Sixty years ago, a traffic problem might have been too many vehicles circling the downtown square trying to find scarce parking places. Or traffic slowing up on Broad Street leading to the two-lane highway to Atlanta.
Despite widened and new roads, traffic signals and numerous other improvements, congestion is worse. That is a product of growth, an enviable attribute to some other cities, but traffic comes with success.
It takes longer to get from one side of the town to the other, for a couple of reasons. It's farther from one side of the town to the other; the city is much more spread out; many more vehicles are using the streets; and where once you waited a few seconds for traffic signals to change at intersections, instead you wait minutes, and it seems even longer.
An annual poultry exposition of some sort did happen for a few years. A large poultry festival included a beauty pageant and a parade featuring elaborate floats cruising through downtown Gainesville. People were lined up six deep along the parade route.
Water and sewer lines indeed have been extended many times and continue to spread throughout the county. At the time the only water and sewer system that served Gainesville and nearby areas was operated by the city. Today, Lula, Oakwood and Flowery Branch are very much in the water business. Yet the demand for more sewer continues.
It's almost unbelievable that a YMCA came about in the community only a few years ago. Some citizens for years campaigned for one, but financial support for a first-rate facility was lacking until recently. Today the Georgia Mountains YMCA is flourishing off Ga. 365 north of Gainesville.
Sometimes it just takes time, patience and persistence to accomplish goals. Some of them never will be completed. You just keep gnawing away at them.
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Sixty years indeed make a difference. What a turnaround when in 1948, there was a fuel crisis, but not so much price as supply. The Secretary of Interior ordered a 15 percent reduction in oil and gas consumption. The government, contrary to what is coming out of Washington today, urged citizens to reduce their speed on the highways and form car pools to save gas. Predictions were the oil shortage would last another two years. Shortsighted, for sure.
Ironically, the Commerce Department ordered a reduction in U.S. oil companies' oil exports to other countries. Supplies from other oil-rich countries had not yet reached potential, and OPEC didn't form until 1960.
In 1948, world oil prices were $27 a barrel, and gas at the pump sold for 26 cents a gallon. But the average U.S. pay was $3,500 annually, minimum hourly wage was 40 cents, postage stamps were 3 cents, you could buy a brand new car for $1,500 or a pretty nice house for $13,500.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesville times.com. First published June 8, 2008.