Sam Burnham, Curator
I saw an interesting question on Twitter this week. NwGa Football was asking for opinions on why the state’s smallest classification, A, had the longest tenured coaches. My answer was that these small schools are more ingrained in the local community. The coaches become more of a fixture, the schools become more of a home to them. One must only look to Lincoln County's Larry Campbell who retired with 477 victories, 33 region titles, and 11 state championships.
But really, this is more of a small town scenario than just a small school scenario. Way back when, Valdosta was in the largest school group but there was little chance of the New York Giants luring Nick Hyder away, much less some school in Atlanta. The City of Carrollton named the road Grisham Stadium is on after the late Ben Scott. Dalton has similar love for Bill Chappell.
But this isn't just about coaches. It is about the stadiums, the traditions, the small towns that "roll up the sidewalks" at 5 pm on Fridays in the fall. I remember pulling into a vacant lot in Bowdon and paying the only human I saw in town outside the stadium $5 to park. That night I saw Larry Weathington's Bremen Blue Devils almost knock off Dwight Hochstetler's Bowdon Red Devils in "the Hole" - our old term for Bowdon's highly intense stadium environment, one of the biggest home field advantages you'll find anywhere.
You can feel the excitement grow in the Cartersville crowd when the PA announcer places Weinman Stadium under a "Tornado warning." You know when Polk County is in the midst of Rockmart-Cedartown week. Pepperell's fire breathing dragon always "fires up" the crowd. Visitors in Trenton find themselves praying their defense can keep the Dade Wolverines out of the end zone and avoid hearing that air raid siren go off again.
The mascots can be predictable - Indians, Eagles, Tigers. But there are also Atom Smashers, Syrupmakers, and Catamounts. The mascots show up on businesses in town. You may see tiger paws painted on the street. The teams are part of the local identity. If one of the kids signs with a college, especially a big one, he achieves a local hero status. Maybe you've heard of Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Malcolm Mitchell, or Nick Chubb.
In The South, this isn't just a game. It is a part of the culture. And it isn't just the team. It's the bands, the cheerleaders, and so many die-hard fans. Local eateries turn profits on fans heading to games. Local churches host after game events for students. You can't go anywhere on a Friday night where you don't see a cheese wagon bus headed to or from a game. Local radio stations broadcast shows that announce scores and allow fans to call in to share their pride in a glorious victory or in the face of a hard fought defeat.
So if we're a little excited about the coming season, you'll have to forgive us. It's just a part of who we are. And we're thankful for it.
Sam Burnham, Curator
In Floyd County, just north of Rome you'll find (with a little direction and some luck) an old dirt road cut off from the world by a simple metal gate. Signs at the gate communicate that the road is closed to automobile traffic, that the road is an entrance to the Berry College Wildlife Management Area, that permits and permission are required for seasonal hunting, that hunters must check in at the GDNR station, and some generalized messaging to let you know that if you come out there acting a fool that you'll probably going to jail. It is typical of the many such entrances to Berry WMA properties throughout norther Floyd County but this one is still a bit different.
I don't remember how old I was the first time I heard someone telling me of the horrors and frights that were somehow ubiquitous along the "CC Road." There was the apparently indisputable truth that you crossed three bridges going out and only two coming back (or 5 out and 4 back, depending on who was telling the story.) There was always some ghost sighting or other supernatural phenomenon that this group or that couple experienced. There was the ruins of an old church and cemetery that had been adopted and defaced by a band of Satanists (roving bands of Satanists form the spine of many spooky stories in the area) who used the property for all manners of frightening and unspeakable rituals and ceremonies.
To people in northwest Georgia, these stories were as big as coastal Georgia's Altamaha-ha. This was on the same level as Atlantis, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, or Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The legends inspired the Georgia-based band Southgang song The Legend of CC Road which appeared on their 1992 album Group Therapy. What made it even more real and foreboding is that it is right in our own backyards. You'd hear where John or Sally had ventured out with older siblings or friends. They'd made it to the old church, seen the inverted crosses, heard chilling screams or voices. and, most notably, somehow crossed fewer bridges coming back out than they had going in.
Because there just isn't much that can be scarier than a disappearing bridge.
I have to admit that my skepticism is a recent development. When I was a kid, this was one of the most thrilling things to hear about. "What did you see? Was it really like they say?" I never went down the CCC Road before Berry (wisely) gated it off to cut back on the shenanigans. In fact, the first time I went down the road was in broad daylight and I don't recall noticing any bridges other than the one at the gate. That could explain why I'm more intrigued by the disappearing "C" in the name than I am the reports of a disappearing bridge. It leaves me wondering which word in Civilian Conservation Corps, who is credited with building the road, is being omitted.
Regarding the church, I have no idea if the church of legend still stands. Currently the only church I know of in that area is the old Mountain Springs Church, the last remnant of the community of the same name. Small communities used to dot the landscape that has since been absorbed by the Berry Wildlife Management Area. Occasionally a church may remain, perhaps a few weathered headstones in a neglected cemetery - Mountain Springs, Freemantown, Sand Springs - mostly just memories survive to the present day.
In the remaining churches periodic meetings may still be held. A sign at the gate advised a meeting being held at Mountain Springs Church at 4 and the gate closing at 6. In other words, feel free to attend the service but don't expect to get out if you are using the open gate as an opportunity for running amok in the dark. You'll return to find yourself locked in the with legends. Sweet dreams.
While I am skeptical about many of the stories and I despise vandalism of any kind, I'm thankful for these tales. We don't have enough mystery and intrigue in our days. Everything has to be logical, explainable, provable. In simpler times we could dream, fear, be wary of what may be lurking out an old dirt road nearby.
I think there may be more to this story in general. I may need to look into this...
Sam Burnham, Curator
Over on our Instagram and Facebook pages, I posted a story with a James Oglethorpe Quote. Oglethorpe was, of course, the founder of the colony of Georgia having secured a charter from the king, sailing with a group of settler to present day Savannah, establishing friendly ties with the native Yamacraw, and fighting the Spanish for the security of the colony.
Since the stories on social media only consist of a picture, a quote, and a hashtag, I thought I should expand on the quote just a bit.
"If we allow slaves, we act against the very principles by which we associated together, which was to relieve the distressed." - James Oglethorpe
Oglethorpe had a plan for Georgia before he ever sought out the charter. He wanted a land based on hope and Christian charity. The idea that Georgia was a prison colony is erroneous. The original settlers were not criminals by our modern interpretation. The original settlers were indebted in Britain and came to Georgia for a chance at a new life. This meant the first Georgians were seeking an escape from bondage. Therefore it was essential to Oglethorpe that the new colony did not use an even more brutal form of bondage in order to free people from their debts.
The new colony was to be based in the idea of personal enterprise. No large plantations would be allowed. Businesses would be small family operations. Lawyers were also prohibited. Georgia stood in juxtaposition to its neighbor, South Carolina, which was a haven of big plantations and big money. That difference would eventually be the downfall of Georgia's original plan as greed and competition overrode the founding principles and led to slavery in the colony.
When we talk about the small things - small towns, small businesses, small family farms, we aren't just enjoying an abstract daydream. We are discussing the very principles that our state was founded on. While Columbia, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, and New Orleans may run the Deep South, it is still dependent on places like Due West, Talking Rock, Smut Eye, Iuka, and Lafitte. Our celebration of the small things is an attempt to draw attention back to the basic, the intended, the original.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire