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Vardeman: Clubhouse from Chicopee filled with memories
Johnny Vardeman

Chicopee Village’s clubhouse once was the center of activity for the modern mill village built by Johnson & Johnson for Chicopee Manufacturing Corp., which opened on the Atlanta Highway in Hall County in 1927.

Colleene Ivey, who was six months old when her family moved there just as Chicopee started up, remembers during her growing-up years good times in the clubhouse. Children would gather there on Saturdays for fun activities, and numerous birthday and other parties were held there. 

Colleene’s father, G.H. Potts, was involved in building the company’s waterworks, so that was why the family was one of the original residents of the village. They lived in Oakwood until the village homes were completed.

She recalls Chicopee being pretty much self sufficient with its clinic and doctors’ and dentists’ visits, a company store, elementary school, ball field, tennis courts, post office, barber and beauty shop. Script, issued in coins, was available to employees to use in the company store. It was called “boogaloo.”

Swings faced the Atlanta Highway. “We used to sit in those and watch the two or three cars going by on their way to Atlanta,” Colleen remembers. That’s in contrast today when a steady stream of traffic speeds down the road between Gainesville and Oakwood.

She also remembers in her youth skating and riding bicycles through the village. Colleene lived in Chicopee until she was 20 years old. After elementary school, children could choose to go to Lyman Hall High School nearby or Gainesville High School. Colleene chose Lyman Hall.

Chicopee clubhouse.jpg
Activities at the Chicopee Clubhouse often brought many adults and children from the community together.

After a gymnasium was built, dances were held in it most Saturday nights. Parents would bring their children. A Chicopee Band performed at many of the activities.

Another popular activity was ball games on the field in the middle of the village.

The original school and gym were behind the plant across Atlanta Highway from the village. They also served as churches. The new school was built within the village in 1947, and the gym added later.

Chicopee had its own weekly newspaper for several years.

Colleene married Ted Ivey, who was a railroad man and volunteer coach for Gainesville’s youth athletic teams. Ivey-Watson Baseball Field, used by Gainesville High School, carries his name and that of former GHS Coach Drane Watson. Colleene recently celebrated her 92nd birthday.

In a Times podcast a few days ago, Kay Reed Scoville, who grew up in Chicopee, also recalled good times at the Chicopee Clubhouse. Labor Day picnics were a highlight when the company provided all the food and fun. The company also produced a big Halloween carnival at the clubhouse. The path leading to it was called the Trail of Horrors, with “bodies” hanging out of the trees and scary noises all around.

Scoville remembers as a child tense times during World War II. Her father was an air raid warden, and he would help conduct practice blackouts when Kay, her mother and little brother had to sit at home in the dark.

Another fond memory for Kay was getting a nickel for a scoop of ice cream at the village drug store. The “soda jerk” was Joe T. Wood, who later became a longtime Hall County state representative.

The Chicopee clubhouse no longer sits in the village. It was moved in 1972 to the property of Oakwood First Baptist Church. Though in a different location, it remains a center of activity for that community. 

Flo Ashworth, historian for the church, said the former clubhouse is a vibrant part of Oakwood First Baptist. Youth in the community use it for their activities, and it also is home to the church’s Wisdom Circle.

Since being moved from Chicopee, the building has been remodeled with new paneling, a new roof and repaired fireplace. 

  • Dr. Pepper Brown’s great-great-grandfather, Minor Winn Brown, built the first Brown’s Bridge. He owned a farm on both sides of the Chattahoochee River in Forsyth and Hall counties. The bridge originally was a toll bridge until the county bought it and eliminated the toll. Brown’s Bridge was washed away several times during floods, and the creation of Lake Lanier caused a new bridge to be built. 
  • This is the 200th anniversary year of Hall County’s founding. More local history news coming next week.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. whose column appears Sundays; e-mail.

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