Remembering the 1973 Sesquicentennial

Published 4:36 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

Rummaging through a pile of stuff gathering dust and cobwebs in a dark corner, I discovered an historical program book of the Decatur County Sesquicentennial, 1973, Marvin Griffin, general chairman.

Folks back then, some 36 years ago, apparently had a first-class historical celebration paying tribute to our past from 1823 to 1973. Its official program listed all the county officials since 1834, mayors, county commissioners, city commissioners, state representatives, Clerks of the Superior Court, Ordinaries (whatever they were), Receivers of taxes, sheriffs, treasurers, tax collectors.

The program is filled with historic photos of faces, many no longer with us, some still with us. There’s a photo of the first Kiwanis Club with some recognizable member names: A.B. Conger, E.J. Perry, M.A. Ehrlich, E.E. Parker, M.E. O’Neal, Dr. Gordon Chason, Dr. R F. Wheat, Clarke Gurley, J.G. Kwilecki, D.R. Simmons. It seems few men back then had first names. Only initials.

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Meet members of the Decatur County Bar Association of the early 1930s. Those pictured are W. Herbert Miller, D.R. Bryan, “Buck” Shirley, W.V. Custer, Vance Custer. A.B. Conger, M.E. O’Neal Sr., Ben Kirbo, P.O. Rich, J.B.L. Barber, Joe Kirbo and Henry Grady Bell.

Wearing some strange clothes are the Knights of Pythias in a photo that appears close to the turn of the century. Members include Dr. V. Berry, C.W. Wimberley, M.E. O’Neal, Dr. S. J. Chesnut, Dr. Toole, Jim Bethea, Joe H. Gilpin and J. R. Brockett.

There’s a very youthful photo of Dick Ivey described as a Student Coordinator and one of the co-chairman of Education and Youth Day. There was Old Timer’s Day chaired by Sheriff Shorty Phillips, Heritage Day with Jack Trulock, chairman, Ladies Day with Mrs. Marvin Griffin and Mrs. Jack Trulock as chairs and Founder’s Day, Walter Cox, chairman.

See if you recognize these folks. We reported Marvin Griffin as leader of the event with W.W. Emanual, treasurer, Mrs. Louise D’Alemberte, secretary, Mrs. P.D. Miller, vice president and James M Pace Jr., attorney.

Some other noteworthy photo scenes include Water Street in 1904, Willis Park and the Courthouse in 1907, damage from a tornado that struck Lynn Station in 1905, the Old Callahan Theatre and Martin Theatre, which later occupied the site until demolished in 1973, which is now part of Park Avenue Bank drive-through, the old wooden high school, (photo not dated) the high school built in 1923, and a construction site photo of the current high school on College Street, the Riverside Hospital built by Dr. J.D. Chason and Dr. Gordon Chason, fishing in the Flint around 1907, the Rexall swimming pool built by J.B. Ehrlich in Raleightown, the river steamer John W. Callahan, and a photo of an unpaved Broad Street looking south with the Wainman Hotel in the background and the Sims & Bro. Cigar Factory in the foreground.

Now what centennial or bicentennial or sesquicentennial would be complete without a beard growing contest. You might ask when did men wear beards in Decatur County? Scanning program photos it was obvious few old timers wore beards. But we do have 1973 a photo of Sam Griffin complete with beard standing with Mary Ann and Ginger in historic dress.

Those 1973 “oldtimers” who had beards as pictured included Marvin Griffin, Jack Trulock, Johnny Reynolds, Cotton Hester, Roy Simpson and Sheriff Phillips. Guy Barber had a mustache.

The program also included in the elementary school students designated “Little Shavers.” (No doubt those too young to enter beard growing contests). See if you can recognized some of the “Little Shavers” in Oak Academy—Edward Reynolds, Mark Harrell, Joe Frank Battles, Sammy Griffin, Jay Leverett, Todd Mills, Bill Custer and Cotton Custer.

No doubt in order to raise money, the pages of the program were sold to sponsors.

See if you can remember these 1973 business sponsors—Shingler Motors, Modern Mobile Homes, Keenan Auto Parts, Derose Industries, Patchogue Plymouth, Kirksey Ford Sales, The Georgia Girl, Brams Restaurant, Glen Oaks Motel, Bell Jewelers, Dollar Brothers, Eloise’s Fine Fabrics, Harrell Chrysler-Plymouth, Bruce Jones Auto Parts, Downtown Used Cars, Credit Women’s Business Club, Su-Wil Launderette, Hodges Tractor Company, Willis Lumber Co., Ehrlich Drug Company, Rich Chevrolet, Citizens Bank, First National Bank

The celebrations began on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., with a baby contest, chaired by Mrs. Marvin Reed. You could enter your baby within three categories—one week, one year, and two years.

Next event was Sunday, a picnic in Cheney Griffin Park chaired by Elizabeth Roberts. Sorta like a brown bag, with Belles and Brushes entertaining.

Tommy Wheeler chaired an event called the Rocking Chair Marathon. First prize was $300 but it cost you a $15 registration fee.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, the event was the Pre-Spectacular Entertainment Musical Program. Gov. Carter showed up as did Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox. The spectacular performance consisted of a 250-foot long set, a replica of a southern plantation designed especially for Decatur County, with a professional sound system, script, direction, lighting with a cast of more than 350 depicting Decatur County’s colorful history.

For the next few days, you could participate in a baking contest and bake sale, a costume judging contest, the Sesquicentennial Costume Ball at the National Guard Armory with Jim Newton’s Orchestra, (Melvin Nussbaum, chairman), art show and sale, Old Timers Day with a “mammoth parade,” hear Alabama Gov. George Wallace and Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, participate in games and contests, pet parade, and if it was completed in time, Dr. Ed Mobley would greet you at an open house at the newly constructed Bainbridge College.

It’ll be 64 years before we can celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Decatur County. It’s a good bet today’s “Little Shavers” will chair.

As for the 1973 folks, I’ll bet they had a grand time. What better excuse to party.