Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012....a Few Links


I was working on a regular column to post today when it dawned on me that it would be a holiday….and an important one at that.

So….i made an executive decision and decided I would put my regular posting on hold and provide you with some links to read during the lulls of sunbathing, grilling, or doing any of the other things people tend to do on Memorial Day.

The first two links have ties to Douglas County involving our own fallen soldiers.

Remembering Those Who Serve……Remembering Robert G. (Jerry) Hunter

Douglasville During World War I. Remembering Douglas County’s first fallen soldier from World War I
While these next two links don’t exactly deal with fallen soldiers they are my efforts to remember the war service of two of my uncles who both served during World War II
Gliding into D-Day…..was written in 2008 as a remembrance for my Uncle Buck who was a glider pilot that fateful day.   Later in his life he would tell me about his experience with tears flowing from his eyes.  I write, “Had it not been for my Uncle Buck and the other members of the US Army Aircorp Glider Pilot Corps the first wave of soldiers would not have gotten to the shores of Normandy as they did. The soldiers who were carried on the gliders had the very important job of securing the right and left flanks of the beach prior to the advance of the larger invasion force on the beach.
Timberwolf Up!.....is my salute to my Uncle Robert where I took some family information and was able to trace his movements in and around Europe.  I wrote in 2006,He also received a Purple Heart for being wounded in battle. A bomb hit close by him, and a large piece of flat metal hit his leg. He was told that if it had hit edgeways, it would have cut off his leg. His knee swelled so badly that he couldn’t get his pant leg on. He was sent to a medical unit where he remained for four weeks, but then was sent back to the front line.....That’s what Timberwolves did. They didn’t give up. They were tough.Nothing in Hell can stop the Timberwolves was their battle cry, and they proved it day after day as they slogged through Europe.
and have you ever wondered how Memorial Day really got it’s start?    Sure, we know it as Decoration Day….a day that got its start here as thousands of Confederate widows decorated the graves of their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands, but one of the very first organized efforts to recognize fallen American heroes was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 primarily by newly emancipated slaves.   You can read more about it in my post Remembering the Martyrs of the Race Track:  The First Memorial Day.
I hope everyone has a restful day……

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival



While I adore flowers I’m certainly no gardener….maybe one day I’ll dig in the dirt, but for now I’ll admire from afar.   One of my favorite flowers happens to be the hydrangea….and if you’ve driven down Campbellton Street you may have noticed hydrangeas are popping up everywhere and I don’t just mean across the lawns. 

Hydrangea decorations are popping up on mailbox after mailbox…..that means only one thing here in Douglasville…..

The Fifth annual Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival is almost here.   This year it will be held on Saturday and Sunday…..June 2nd and 3rd.

Penny McHenry was the founder of the American Hydrangea Society.   The festival is given to celebrate her work as she passed away in 2006.  The festival is presented by the Douglas County Tourism and History Commission with the support of the City of Douglasville, Douglas County and various other sponsors.



There is something for everyone even if you aren’t into gardening.   

I’m most excited this year concerning Saturday’s guest speaker…….Vince Dooley.   Yes, THAT Vince Dooley!   He will be speaking at the Douglas County Courthouse in Citizen's Hall at the Douglas County Courthouse at 2 p.m.    Tickets to hear Coach Dooley are $10.00 per person.  The festival website states, “Enjoy Coach Vince Dooley’s presentation filled with motivation, inspiration and humor …..[He] will also make an appearance at the flower show and will have his books available for sale.”


Other paid events on Saturday and Sunday include daytime garden tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $25 per person and a Moonlight and Magnolias dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.    A $50 ticket per person includes the opportunity to explore three different gardens at twilight while enjoying hor d’oeuvres, a main course and desserts.  These gardens will be different from the gardens featured in the daytime tour. Tickets for the dinner are ONLY available through the Douglasville Welcome Center and the Douglas County Museum of History and Art.



Free events include the Festival Market on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the lawn of the Douglas County Courthouse including several vendors  with lots of things to look at and buy – plants, fine arts, antiques, jewelry, food & more



The Standard Flower Show is also free on Saturday and Sunday and will be held in the Douglas County Courthouse Rotunda.  There will be display gardens as well on both days  for you to view created by nationally published and award winning garden designers  at the Cultural Arts Center located at 8652 Campbellton Street in Douglasville from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



For more information you can call 678-838-4449 or visit the official website for additional details and to purchase tickets.  Tickets can also be purchased online or at the Douglasville Welcome Center or Douglas County Museum of History and Art.

See you there!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Anatomy of a Photo



Look at the wagon wheel I’ve pictured above.  Notice the hub in the middle.  Let’s say the hub of the wheel is our starting point – or a topic I felt needed a bit of research this week.  

Notice radiating from the wheel’s hub is several spokes – all heading off in various directions.

The wheel is a great visual regarding my history research.  I just never know where my focus or hub of research will take me, but one thing is certain…..my research usually develops several spokes carrying me off in several different directions all at once, and then I get to decide how to put it all together.
 
The process is interesting, intriguing, frustrating and delightful……all at the same time.
 
My most recent research involves the house in this picture below:
 
....as a reminder you can click on pictures to isolate them and make them larger.  Then hit your "back" button to return to the text

 
McElreath House on Cambellton close to the Broad Street intersection.
I’ve been hanging onto the picture for several months.  I had it stored on my camera phone, but didn’t get any type of caption with it, and I had forgotten the source.  I had hoped I would eventually happen upon the picture again.  

I finally put the picture on my personal Facebook page and hoped someone would be able to tell me something about it.   The picture really intrigued me because the house appeared to be sitting in the middle of our downtown area.  While I mentioned it might be Broad Street I was quickly corrected by a very knowledgeable friend who told me the only houses that would have been on Broad Street would have been east of today’s Hartley, Rowe and Fowler law firm and west of the buildings next to the courthouse.   Houses would have been on the side streets and along Church and Strickland Streets.

Finally, I located the source of the picture much like I locate many other things– while I’m busy looking for something else.   It wasn't the original source, but it was a picture of the house.

The picture was in Fannie Mae Davis’ book From Indian Trail to Interstate 20. The caption for the picture said, “The McElreath House –  [around 1900 used for] board and room.   Later George McLarty home.”

The house was most certainly a boarding house and might have been known as the McElreath house in later years, but according to local genealogist Elaine Steere, the 1880 census indicates the house belonged to John Morris, and two important citizens of Douglasville reported living there in 1880. S.A. or Samuel McElreath and Robert Alexander Massey both reported living in the Morris “hotel”.
During the 1870s and 1880s McElreath served as a city councilman.    He was a partner with David W. Price in one of Douglasville’s first businesses.   In 1878 a business license was issued to Price and McElreath Drygoods and Groceries.   The next year the business changed its name by adding the words “cotton warehouse” to the title. 

The store was located where the Precedence building  is located today at the corner of Campbellton and Broad.   The building is one of the oldest brick buildings in the commercial district, and I commend Greg Peeples and Allen Bearden for making the location a viable part of our downtown business district.    

Samuel N. Dorsett was later brought in as a partner with Price and McElreath. Samuel McElreath was also  involved with Mr. Dorsett in another business venture….that of the Weekly Star newspaper.

Samuel McElreath died in 1886 still a relatively young man of 35.  I am making the assumption the home in the picture above was his since it was located directly behind his business, but I have not researched the property for a direct line of ownership to him. 

Soon after her husband’s death Sara Emma McElreath was given the job of postal attendant by Judge Robert A. (Alexander) Massey.   My research indicates he had been a good friend of McElreath’s.    Massey had been appointed as postmaster in 1888 following a scandal involving the position, but he was too busy to oversee all of the duties.   He appointed his friend’s widow since she happened to need the income.

Within the year Sara had a new husband and father for her son, Glen.   Yes, you guessed it – she married Judge Massey and later had a daughter named Louise.   The couple settled on Price Street in what Fannie Mae Davis described as a three room cottage….. and another spoke for my research wheel is born.

Per the City of Douglasville’s well researched brochure titled “Founding Fathers” Judge Massey “was a local lawyer, devout Democrat, and was the first editor of The Weekly Star.
  
Are you beginning to pick up on the fact like I have that almost every mover and shaker in the City of Douglasville….at one time or another…..was connected to The Weekly Star?

Judge Massey was also Mayor of Douglasville from 1880-1881 and was a county court judge from 1884-1886. 
 
Sadly the good Judge passed away in 1890 leaving Sara alone….again… now with two small children
 
Poor Sara.
 
Within five years she had given birth to three children. One had died and she had had a child with each of two husbands plus she had buried both of the husbands.
I can’t even imagine the stress, and apparently Sara couldn’t handle it. Joe Baggett’s research on file at the Douglas County Public Library indicates Sara became emotionally unbalanced and disappeared in 1891.Baggett states his source was the County Ordinary’s minutes.
The Ordinary’s minutes also indicate that a member of the McElreath family – John McLarty Morris – was awarded the guardianship of Glen McElreath in 1891 while a member of the Massey family took Judge Massey’s daughter, Louise.
I’ll be writing the rest of the story involving Sara Emma McElreath Massey at a later date.
Getting back to my original focus – the house in the picture – it was torn down in the 1950s. At one point the property was home to Smith Motors, a used car lot owned by R.L. Smith
 

Smith Motors on Campbellton near the Broad Street intersection....1950s.   Source:   Bob Smith
For as long as I remember the space has been an empty gravel lot.  Today we see a little more action there since it’s the endpoint for the new Plaza East.   This Douglas County Sentinel article advises, “Plaza East is the final phase in a three-pronged project spanning 20 years and three mayors.  Completion is set for June….The City of Douglasville’s downtown area is intended to create a community identity and have a greater livability, mobility, and development alternatives, such as mixed use and walkability…When the plaza is complete, there will be connectivity to the main plaza [O’Neal Plaza] and Plaza West….“ [per City Planning Director Michelle Wright.
 
While projects come and go….while progress marches on....as it should....remember…..a gravel lot is never JUST a gravel lot just as a picture is never JUST a picture. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cotton Mill Fire: May 12, 2012

The long neglected and derelict cotton mill building in Douglasville, Georgia burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 12, 2012.   

Readers have been very generous to send me pictures of the inferno.    Here are a few "Stefanie" forward to me.  There are several images in this set....I posted a few here.   To see the rest please join the Facebook page for this blog  at this link.    

Joining the Facebook page also helps you to keep up with new additions to this site.  

You can read all of my posts regarding the historic cotton mill by following this link.   Simply scroll down to see all of the posts or click the words "cotton mill" over in the Site Index to your right.  







Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day, the Mill, and Memories

One of the hardest things I have ever done…and there have been many hard things… was walking away from the hospital room where my mother lay dying.  I’d been at her bedside alone with her all day.  I had been grateful for the time I could spend with her just she and I, but once my sister arrived I felt she needed her time alone with mom….so I made ready to leave. 

Still when I told Mother I would see her later our eyes met and she smiled in that little knowing way she had.  We knew we would not see each other for a long, long time….but we didn’t acknowledge it….being strong for each other.  What I really wanted to do was jump up on the bed next to her tiny, frail frame, wrap my arms around her and demand that she stay, but I didn’t…..and it wouldn’t have mattered at all. 

My selfish demand wouldn’t have changed anything.   Mother had a date to keep with my memories.

I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me, and I walked out.
   
Mother died early the next morning as my sister brushed her hair.

Things change.

People pass.

Buildings burn….

But the memories remain.

Sometimes we don’t want that exchange.   It doesn’t seem fair exchanging memories for the real thing or for the real experience, but it happens whether we want it to or not.

So, our mill is gone, but if we are really honest with ourselves it was gone when the mill ceased to operate and the doors were padlocked…..it ceased to exist when the first awning sagged….it ceased to exist when the fence surrounding the property developed a patina of rust.


Our mill ceased to exist when Inman Park Properties purchased it and wound it up in their little scheme to allow dozens of properties across the Atlanta area to be demolished by neglect as I wrote in August over at Douglasville Patch.

As I’ve discussed before the property was doomed once Inman Park Properties purchased it, and once the city failed to hold their feet to the fire regarding code violations as well.  The property was doomed when the Douglasville Historic Preservation Commission was pressed  to remove the mill from a list regarding historic designation.    As I mentioned in my article in August…..sources indicated to me the City Council pressed the commission to remove the [historic designation] a couple of years ago after being convinced by a developer that the designation limited development options…and because no one held the property owner‘s feet to the fire regarding code violations the minute the property began to slide down into despair we ended up with a derelict eyesore.

However…..while those who control historic properties ultimately have the final say memories don’t fade.   Memories don’t die.  Memories don’t rust away or cave in, and they certainly don’t perish in a fiery stroke that wiped the mill away Saturday night. 

In fact, if you stop and think about it fire is often used to refine things…..to make things stronger…..even our memories.
 
I was heartened Saturday morning to see so many Douglas County citizens being interviewed on television regarding the mill….as well as comments I saw on Facebook regarding the building’s significance to their lives.   Our people built the mill, our people worked at the mill…..they met and married because of the mill and they supported their families as well as Douglas County’s economy.

Most citizens in Douglas County had a connection to that building in some way or another.


 You can neglect a property into despair….you can formally decide a property has no historical value, but you can’t erase the memory or the connections citizens have to the property.  Many spoke of grandparents and parents who worked at the mill.  Some mentioned the traveling ball team.  I’ve heard they were considered to be the best traveling ball team in the state.   I’ve heard stories of young adults who walked Fairburn Road daily to deliver a dinner pail to their parent working away in the mill.   All great memories to hold onto….even though the building itself was in dire need of a meeting with a wrecking ball. 

I was up early Saturday morning around 1 a.m. when the Douglasville Police posted a picture of the fire on their Twitter account which also posts to Facebook.   I immediately posted something about it on my wall and immediately assumed a group of kids had probably gotten inside the fence and a fire had either gotten out of control or….it had been set deliberately in some macabre pretense of having fun.  

A young man….a neighbor of mine named Tyler Rowan instantly commented on my post and his words regarding the mill gave me instant pause.   Now, I’m not that naive.  I know that over the years photographers have gotten in the mill and kids had gotten in as well….and not necessarily to take pictures, but Tyler gave me a different perspective regarding the fence jumpers when he told me, “I can’t tell you how many nights we spent just exploring and enjoying that place.   So much history.  The place was stuck in time.   There were fire extinguishers on the ground still in place from where they were left when the place caught fire in the 80s.   Dated papers scattered around.   Not to mention the top of the water tower had to be one of the best views in Douglas County.  You could see Atlanta, Downtown Douglasville, Hiram, and a little of Villa Rica.”


I expressed to Tyler my own desire to have explored the mill, but I knew that after the last round of tornados through the middle of town the building was just too unstable.   I had only explored on the correct side of the fence with my camera’s zoom lens.
 
Tyler continued……and his point really hit home with me.    He said, “I will legitimately miss the mill...  They wouldn’t preserve it, so we had to admire it and enjoy it for ourselves risking a slap on the wrist. The mill was something to be proud of.  It was such a unique and vast structure.


I’d been there many a night with either myself or just a couple of others, and it was pretty creepy.  The office section had a long dark hallway with about 40 rooms to the end, so shining a flashlight down to the end was almost nerve racking.  And yes, just because the City of Douglasville wouldn’t cowboy up years ago and recognize it as a historical building, it didn’t mean the building didn’t have historical value to us.  I feel lucky enough that we had something like that so close to us…and so did many others my age.  I just wish I had taken more pictures.  I never really thought that it would be totally gone one day.

We love and admire people in our lives. We love and admire various things. Those people...those things...all have deep rooted meaning for us in so many various ways. Yet, we are so busy loving and admiring that when the time comes to exchange those people and those things for memories...it can be a very defining moment.

The old mill burning to the ground is one such moment for the City of Douglasville and for the citizens of Douglas County as a whole.

Now comes the job of gathering the memories...and learning from the mistake of taking things for granted.



Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Forgotten Town of Campbellton




Map of Campbell County, Georgia....1830

 Yesterday was one of those nice lazy days spent with family and friends that you want to bookmark and remember for a very long time.  We sat at my sister’s house under her lovely portico and watched a steady stream of traffic coming and going from the Cotton Pickin' Fair down at Gay, Georgia   Like many along the route Dear Sister had filled her front yard with several odds and ends in hope that the fair goers would stop and load up on some new found treasures.

We never actually made it down to the fair……

Who really needed to go all the way down to Gay when both sides of the road in Dear Sister’s little crossroads of a community was filled to capacity with crafts, odds and ends, signs that exclaimed boiled peanuts and funnel cakes as well as any other item that could be sold.    Seriously, if you could conceive it you would have found it on the side of the road meandering south from Fayetteville towards Gay, Georgia.

Of course, the draw for me wasn’t yard sale after yard sale.  It had something to do with my niece being town, something to do with getting to see the newest edition to the family as well…..a sweet little baby boy.  Then there was the promises of the grilled feast my brother-in-law can produce….sitting around with friends….and enjoying the down home locale where my sister and her husband now make their home. 

And what a home it is…...    I have to admit I’m drawn to Dear Sister’s home….a turn of the century house with lots of character and hints of history that we have yet to discover.  No, it’s not hard for me to  cross the Chattahoochee River and head south at all when that invite is extended.

Our route home was lit by the Supermoon.  I swear we could have turned off the headlights and still could have made our way home.  

Wasn’t the moon beautiful….so big and bright?   

We headed back into Douglas County along State Route 92, and as we approached the four way crossing at Charlie’s Market I couldn’t help but notice how bright the remaining features of the town of Campbellton were…..the Methodist Church on my left with its old graves , the old Baptist Church cemetery up the hill on my right along with Campbellton Lodge No. 76 F & AM which dates to 1848. 

I made a silent wish I could look up on that hill and see the old Campbell County Courthouse with the moonlight bouncing off the window panes, but no matter how hard we wish sometimes…..they just can’t come true.   The old courthouse was torn down many years ago.

As we zoomed across the river I turned back towards Campbellton and noticed how the moonbeams lit up the river making a path right through the middle of the water.   I was overcome with sadness at that moment….mourning the town that had been along the banks of the Chattahoochee River , and I recalled a description Atlanta’s esteemed historian Franklin Garrett had penned in his book Atlanta and Its Environs.  

Garrett said, Old Campbellton, upon its eminence overlooking the Chattahoochee with its brick courthouse, masonic hall, academy, and ante-bellum homes gleaming through the avenues of magnolia, myrtle, or cedar, were doomed.  Most of its old families drifted off to other places, including the newer railroad towns of Fairburn and Palmetto.   Weeds rioted and choked neglected flower gardens.   Rows of comfortable homes, once housing a population of some 1200, fell into decay.  The Masonic Lodge Hall was deserted.  For two decades the red brick courthouse stood dark and silent the habitation of owls, bats, and ghostly memories of better days, until it was mercifully dismantled.   The names upon mossy tombstones in the Methodist churchyard and the old Baptist cemetery are the only remainder of the once flourishing and beautiful town, the site of which, since 1932, has been in Fulton County.

So, how did Campbellton basically become a ghost town of sorts?   Here’s a little regarding how it all played out……

Campbell Count was named for Colonel Duncan G. Campbell.   Part of Campbell’s claim to fame is he helped to negotiate the Treaty of Indian Springs – the treaty where the Creek Nation ceded a portion of their land including the land that would become Campbell County.

If an initial settler in the area – Judge Walter T. Colquitt – had gotten his way the county seat for Campbell County would have been established on his property at Pumpkintown eight miles south down the river, but an online publication by the Chattahoochee Hills Historical Society states another judge – Francis Irwin – offered his eight acres of undeveloped land [along the river]….with an added incentive for free lots for prospective builders and inhabitants….

By 1829, establishment of the county government began in earnest with the creation of a judicial system and the appointment of James Black, Jesse Harris, Robert O. Beavers, Thomas Moore, and Littleberry Watts as electoral commissioners and county organizers….and by 1835, streets and lots in Campbellton were surveyed and [ready for construction].

Eventually, the town would have a courthouse, doctor’s office and pharmacy, academy, hotel, blacksmith, stores, lodge hall, post office and many homes.

One of the homes I’ve pictured below….


The Latham Home....Campbellton, Georgia


It’s known as the Latham Home and per this webpage it was built in the 1830s.   You might remember it…I know I do.   You could see it from Charlie’s Market .  Built in the 1830s it faced Old Campbellton Fairburn Road which crossed the Chattahoochee via the ferry.  Around 1958 the old road was closed and a new road was cut behind the home going to the new Chattahoochee Bridge (that we cross today).

In his book The Courthouse and the DepotThe Architecture of Hope in an Age of Despair Wilbur W. Caldwell discusses a Coweta County account that relates in 1830, Samuel Keller moved from Newnan to Campbellton ‘lured by expectations’ of steamboats on the Chattahoochee River.

Yes!  Steamboats!
   
Can you imagine?

Chattahoochee Hills History mentions there were high hopes for the rich loamy soil [ which did make the area successful agriculturally, but] there were also high hopes for the Chattahoochee to become a major transportation and shipping channel in the region….but the river proved to be shallow and difficult to navigate.

Caldwell also mentions something from a Troup County history source that recalls in 1831 Colonel Reuben Thompson brought a load of goods upriver from West Point to Campbellton,  but just the one trip can be confirmed.   The dream of a Chattahoochee navigable all the way up to Atlanta persisted well into the second half of the twentieth century, but it was never to be.

The death sentence for the town of Campbellton came about per most sources when the Atlanta & West Point Railroad failed to be built through Campbellton.  The line went through Fairburn, Georgia instead.    Many local sources state the citizens of Campbellton refused the railroad, but Caldwell states, a quick look at the terrain ‘on the banks of the Chattahoochee’ reveals some pretty rough country for railroad building while the natural ridge at Fairburn is flat and inviting.  Thus it seems unlikely that the opinions of the citizens of Campbellton had much influence on the survey of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad.

Even so…the loss of the railroad meant a slow death for Campbellton over the next several years beginning in 1870 when as Caldwell reports the citizens of Campbellton moved to Fairburn in droves.  One local account relates Campbellton residents were dismantling their homes and moving them as well.  The town had close to 1200 citizens at its peak, but by 1860, only 239 white citizens still remained.

The original courthouse in Campbellton was wooden, but was eventually replaced with a brick structure.  The picture below was taken in 1914 after it had been neglected for several years per this webpage.  



A local man – Robert Cook – bought the building and dismantled it.   He used the materials to build a barn on his property along Cedar Grove Road.

All that remains of old Campbellton today is Campbellton United Methodist Church  and even though the Baptist church building is not original to the town the cemetery is original. The Baptist church faces what once was the town square where the courthouse stood.   Both Union and Confederate soldiers rest in the cemeteries.  Close to the Baptist church stands the Beaver home – a Greek Style farmhouse which was taken over by Union soldiers when they crossed the river at Campbellton during the Civil War.   The house sits across from where the original Campbell County Courthouse stood. 

You might be asking yourself why I’m discussing a dead town that lies on the Fulton County side of the river today, but back in 1828 Campbell County extended beyond the river into what is today Douglas County.   In fact, Douglas County was created from Campbell County in 1870.  You can read more about that here

Many of our county’s forefathers were citizens of Campbell County long before they were citizens of Douglas County.  

The long forgotten town of Campbellton IS important to Douglas County history…..it is our beginning.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sunday Alcohol Sales: Give Citizens the Vote!


My main reason for starting this page was to publish my findings regarding Douglas County history, but I also figured I’d throw in an opinion or two from time to time regarding pressing issues regarding the place I’ve made my home for over 25 years.

So, the first issue I’m speaking out about regards Sunday alcohol sales because the situation has reached a point where I can’t stay silent any longer.

One year ago this month Governor Nathan Deal signed SB-10, the bill that allows local communities to vote to allow the sale of alcohol in stores on Sunday.  This past November more than 100 cities and counties voted on Sunday liquor sales.  

Overwhelmingly, cities and counties across the state are tearing down the last vestige of Georgia’s blue laws; however….citizens in Douglas County and the city of Douglasville have NOT been allowed the vote…..at least not yet.

I’ve been reading many of the Sentinel articles regarding Sunday sales.  I also joined the Facebook page regarding Sunday sales found here titled “Douglasville and Douglas County for Sunday Alcohol Sales”.   I also used my former history column with Douglasville Patch to publish a question and answer forum with all four of the Douglasville mayoral candidates regarding various issues.  One of the questions I asked the candidates involved Sunday sales.  You can read their responses including how current Mayor Harvey Persons responded here.

It looks like a majority of the members of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners are in favor of letting the people decide by placing the issue on the November, 2012 ballot…..though they have not officially voted to do so.

It also looks like the city council may also understand the people should vote regarding the issue of Sunday sales.

However, it seems as if a few are putting the cart before horse regarding the issue.  At this point it doesn’t matter…..shouldn’t matter how our county and city elected officials feel personally about Sunday sales, but it seems to keep coming up.

In a recent Sentinel article District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones-Guider mentioned keeping the Sabbath holy as one of the reasons why she doesn’t want a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales.  What about citizens who don’t recognize Sunday as the Sabbath?   Some people recognize Friday as their Sabbath while others recognize Saturday…..still others recognize no Sabbath.   I’m also trying to wrap my head around the Sabbath reason since a true recognition on the Sabbath would mean no dining out….no shopping…..no activity of any kind but worship, right?  

Another issue I find upsetting is misinformation.

Recently, a pastor in Douglas County sent a letter to the members of his church regarding Sunday alcohol sales.   The letter was printed in its entirety at the Facebook page I linked to above.   I see nothing wrong with a pastor informing members of his church regarding issues, however, the letter had some factual errors that were noted on the Facebook page and corrected.  

I’m presenting the letter here along with the corrections by “Douglasville and Douglas County for Sunday Alcohol Sales” in bold italics:

“Dear Church Family,

The Douglasville City Council made a proclamation on April 16th declaring April 2012 to be Alcohol Awareness Month. In the same session, Mayor Pro Tem Larry G. Yockey introduced for consideration three alcohol-related issues, three weeks before the review on these matters wer
e to be released from the Public Safety Committee. “

Alcohol Awareness Month has nothing to do with the three issues introduced by Mayor Pro Tem Yockey.   It is about underage drinking, which is illegal and continues to be if these changes are made.

“The three issues at hand are allowing for Sunday alcohol sales, lowering the food to alcohol ratio required by establishments, and extending the pouring hours. All three issues will be voted on by the City Council on May 7th at 7:30 p.m. to be placed on the November ballot.”

Of these three issues, only Sunday alcohol sales would be placed on the ballot.  The other two issues are for the council to decide.

Currently, Douglas County law only allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays in a restaurant establishment after 12:30 p.m. “

Douglas County law actually does not allow for any sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays in a restaurant establishment, but this is irrelevant since this is about the law within the city of Douglasville.  The city of Douglasville law allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays in a restaurant establishment after 12:30 p.m.,consistent with state law.

“All restaurants must have a food to alcohol sales ratio of 60/40 (food/alcohol). The current pouring hours in Douglas County allow for establishments to serve until 2 a.m. Monday through Friday with an exception on Saturday nights to end serving at midnight.”

Those restaurants that serve alcohol 6 days a week (excludes Sunday) must maintain an average 51/49 food sales to alcohol sales ratio over the course of a year.  Those restaurants with a seven day pouring license must maintain an average 60/40 ratio for the year.  This means that those restaurants that want to serve on Sunday have to meet a higher hurdle every day for that privilege.   State law requires a minimum of 50 percent food, with no special higher hurdles for Sundays.

The current pouring hours in Douglas County actually allow for establishments to serve until 2:55 a.m. (the next morning) Monday through Saturday nights, but this is irrelevant since this is about the law within the city of Douglasville.

The current pouring hours in the city of Douglasville allow for establishments to serve until 2 a.m. (the next morning) Monday through Friday.  On Saturday nights, they can pour until midnight, and on Sunday nights until 10:30 p.m.

“The new proposal would change the ordinance to permit grocery and convenience stores to sell alcohol on Sundays, as well as to extend the pouring hours in restaurants until 2:55 a.m. Monday through Sunday. The council could decide to lower the food to alcohol ratio to 51/49, allowing for more of a bar setting than restaurant environment. If you lower the food to alcohol ratio and extend the hours of sale, you open the door for more drinking and greater intoxication. This in turn leads to the higher probability of DUIs and alcohol related traffic incidents.”

There are three proposals to each be voted on separately.  The first proposal would place a referendum on the November ballot to allow the citizens to decide whether retail establishments (supermarkets, convenience stores, package stores, Walmart) within the city limits should be permitted to sell bottles and cans between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.   These retail establishments are already allowed to sell 24 hours a day, 6 days a week if they choose.   This is adding 11 hours to the existing 144 hours allowed.

The second proposal would change the restaurant pouring hours in the city of Douglasville to match the pouring hours Monday through Saturday at restaurants outside of the city limits in order to level the playing field.   Sunday night hours would be extended only to 11:30 p.m.

The third proposal would change the food/alcohol sales ratio requirement to be 51/49 for all restaurants regardless of what days they choose to be open.  This would not make any restaurant more of a bar setting than the ones that already have the 51/49 6-day requirement.

As far as opening the door for more drinking and greater intoxication, there is no factual data to support that claim.   Driving while intoxicated is illegal now and will continue to be so if these changes are enacted.  Programs such as the designated driver program can and should be used to help reduce the risk of DUIs and alcohol related accidents.  With individual liberty comes personal responsibility.

Under the current laws in the city of Douglasville, it is legal to drink at a restaurant and then drive home, but it is not legal to buy an alcohol beverage on Sunday at a store and then drive home to drink it.  These changes could actually reduce DUIs and alcohol-related accidents on Sundays.

It doesn’t bother me at all the pastor sent the letter, however, I would hope that citizens educate themselves with many different sources of information to get a complete set of facts before voting, but……we don’t have the vote yet, do we?

What matters at this point is how city council members and county commissioners feel about allowing YOU to vote on an issue….NOT regarding how they feel personally regarding Sunday alcohol sales.

 The governor of Georgia as well as members of the Georgia General Assembly have all voiced their concern via SB-10 and realize Sunday alcohol sales is not an issue for elected officials to decide.

The people should decide.

Let the people speak.

Give us the referendum and allow us to make our own choices.
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