Georgia’s southernmost town, St. George, is located within the “Georgia Bend” of the St. Marys River. This historic postcard, mailed from St. George, illustrates a picnic held along the river in February 1909. I have no idea what occasion warranted such a photograph. It must have been a really mild winter, though, as a few of the boys are standing in the river.
Tag Archives: South Georgia Documentary
I made this photograph in 2010 and somehow forgot all about it until working on my archives today. It’s quite unusual to see a horse being hitched at a convenience store, though I’m sure Surrency once had more than its fair share of horses. These young men even made sure to “park” the horses within the marked parking spaces.
Bad weather didn’t keep people away from this year’s 34th Annual Catface Turpentine Festival in Portal, which bills itself “The Turpentine City”. The recently named Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum (background, above) is the focal point of the festival. In 1982, Denver Holllingsworth and the Portal Heritage Society suggested restoring the old Carter still and with enthusiastic community involvement, the old boiler was finally relit. The Carter still is one of only three remaining in Georgia. The two other stills are located in Tifton and Walthourville.
As he’s been doing since the festival’s inception, Mr. Roger Branch is on hand each year and eager to tell you anything you might want to know about the history of what was once South Georgia’s biggest industry. Roger is the retired chairman of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Georgia Southern University and has always been interested in preserving historical and cultural aspects of life in South Georgia. I like to think of him as the “Ambassador of Turpentine”. The calendars behind him were produced for many years by the American Turpentine Farmers Association (ATFA) in Valdosta and feature annual winners of the Miss Gum Spirits of Turpentine contests. The ATFA disbanded in the early 1990s, as commercial production of turpentine disappeared from the scene.
There are several of these old markers on the walls of the Turpentine Museum, from the Carter & Son turpentine operations. F. N. Carter, Sr., put Portal on the map as one of Georgia’s centers of the naval stores industry in the 1930s and along with his son E. C. Carter maintained this vital part of the area’s economy until the early 1960s.
David King, from the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Tifton’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), is an expert on the distillation of turpentine and runs the old Carter still at the festival.
The museum’s namesake, Bobby Ronald Newton, was a longtime volunteer at the festival and was instrumental in preserving the area’s turpentine history.
The little building beside the still is filled with all sorts of memorabilia, from signs and calendars to tools and even catfaces themselves. To those who don’t already know, the name catface was given to the slashes cut into pines to gather sap. They’re said to resemble cat’s whiskers.
Also on display are Herty cups (below left) and other early innovations for the collection of sap.
Perhaps the most popular item, though, is the hardened gum rosin itself, which has a gem-like appearance.
A variety of vendors and activities for the kids insure a good day at the festival.
Come and learn about this vital part of South Georgia’s history, and have fun in the process.
You might even try some Rosin Potatoes.
Hot boiled peanuts really are a sort of Southern caviar. If you don’t understand, you probably never will. But as any Southerner will tell you, we love ’em down here! Georgia leads the nation in peanut production, so there are plenty to go around. Roadside vendors like this one are a link to the past and no small town in South Georgia is worth its salt if it doesn’t have at least one. Amanda Jones Little says this seller “has the best in town” and nice produce, as well.
The packinghouse at Dickey Farms is the oldest continuously operating facility of its kind in Georgia. Built in 1936 from lumbers hewn on land owned by “Mr. Bob” Dickey, it’s the most prominent structure in Musella and a real icon of Georgia’s most famous crop. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s the center of life in this friendly little Middle Georgia town. If you pass through here when peaches aren’t in season, you might think it’s a ghost town, but when they are in season, it’s like a small metropolis. Everything here revolves around peaches. The season runs from the middle of May through the second week of August and Dickey Farms is open seven days a week. When I walked onto the “porch” at the packinghouse I was greeted by baskets full of these beautiful June Princes, a variety of Semi-Freestone that gets plump and sweet around the 10th of June.
A bit of history from the Dickey Farms website*: Robert L. “Mr. Bob” Dickey was an early pioneer of “multi-tasking”, being a postmaster, undertaker, depot agent and general store manager. However, his heart was in the peach industry, and we are reaping the rewards today.
In the early days of Dickey Farms mules were used to plow the orchards and also for transportation of peaches to the packinghouse. At that time, most of the work was done manually. However, “Mr. Bob” was a forward-thinker, always wanting to introduce labor saving equipment. He installed Georgia’s very first brushing machine to remove the peach fuzz. He was also one of the first producers to include a hydro-cooling system that places peaches in 35-degree water to remove field dust and slow the ripening process, making them perfect when reaching the northern markets.
Today, his grandson, Robert L. Dickey, II and his great-grandson, Robert L. Dickey, III, work together to ensure that a Dickey Farms peach is the freshest, most succulent fruit available. While “Mr. Bob” shipped all his fruit by refrigerated railroad cars, peaches today are shipped by refrigerated trucks, which can reach some markets overnight. Although many changes in the industry have been made over the last 100 years, the Dickey family still continues the tradition of providing the highest quality peach.
* Though the packinghouse dates to 1936, Dickey Farms has been involved in local agriculture since 1897.
The “porch” is filled with old-fashioned rocking chairs and plenty of ceiling fans. Numerous products made with Dickey Farms’ Georgia peaches can be found throughout. I bought pickled peaches, peach preserves, peach gumballs for the kids, and my friend bought some peach bread and syrup. If you love peaches, Dickey Farms will not disappoint.
Fresh local produce is also for sale when available.
The sweet corn looked really good.
And though the peaches are the main attraction here, the grading, sizing and sorting operation is a wonder in itself.
The Autoline Fruit Sizing System, renovated in 2010, begins by maneuvering the peaches into a single layer instead of piled atop each other, then lining them up in single rows so they can be sized.
A computerized optical sizer sorts the peaches and distributes them for packing into awaiting boxes.
Even with mechanization, the peach industry is still quite labor intensive.
It’s amazing to see such a process. So many people only know food as something from the grocery store, but at this packinghouse, everyone gets a lesson of how much work goes into our food supply. I noticed this father and his daughters enjoying the view with some homemade peach ice cream, one of the most popular products at Dickey Farms.
Just don’t forget your peaches! The employees are all very friendly and courteous and can easily answer any questions you might have. This place is a real treasure.
Visit the website for specifics and directions to Musella, as well as information on specific varieties and ripe dates. And if you can’t make it to Musella, you can order directly from Dickey Farms online.
Upon learning that Johnnie’s Drive In would soon be a memory, I immediately felt the need to take my camera and record some of the energy that makes this place so special. It’s important to many people for many reasons. It’s an anchor of my memory, where I’ve spent many evenings with dear friends who worked and socialized here, and where I’ve always felt at home. But it represents more than sentiment. It’s among the last generation of roadside diners and beer joints that rose to popularity during World War II where kids hung out beside juke boxes and car hops came to you and took your order. The car hops at Johnnie’s were gone by the late 1990s but I remember them well. Many thanks to Phillip Joe Luke for sharing this wonderful history. His words are in italics.
Johnnie Rochester Wise and Ollie Mae Roberts Luke Wise (Archival Images Courtesy of Phillip Joe Luke, unless otherwise noted). Johnnie and his family moved to Fitzgerald from Columbus in late 1930s.
The first family restaurant was in the 800 block of North Grant Street and it was called The Silver Moon. (It was opened by Johnnie’s father, John Franklin Wise). About 1943 or so they opened Johnnie’s Drive In. The Johnnie scrambled hamburger (better known as the Johnnie Burger) was his creation. The scrambled dog idea came from the Dinglewood Pharmacy in his native home of Columbus (it has a slightly different recipe).
Silver Moon business card from my collection.
On the same lot of Johnnie’s Drive In was the old motel and the Princess Club. The Princess Club burned down many years ago and the remains of the motel are still there.
The name of the motel has been long forgotten.
Here’s an image of Johnnie’s, in the early 1950s.
Beer was served, along with fried shrimp and fried oysters on the short order menu. The Scramble (not Scrambled, as many call it today) Dog and the Dog Cicle were popular items from the start, but the Dog Cicle, akin to a corn dog, has been gone for many years.
Johnnie died in 1969 and my grandmother carried on the tradition for many years. All of my family members dedicated their lives to Johnnie’s until their health failed and could no longer operate the restaurant. Uncle Coot managed during the day, Uncle Carl at night.
Russell (Coot) Luke, Jr., with Johnnie Wise (right).
Carl Luke manning the register at Johnnies.
Uncle Flop scrubbed that exhaust hood every Monday until it sparkled. Aunt Betty worked there off and on through the years. Even my mother served as a carhop while I was inside in a play pen. Many of you will remember Mary McElroy as one of the finest cooks in the history of Johnnie’s. Mary left us way too soon. We are so thankful that Jimmy and Carolyn Puckett came along to manage the restaurant in the mid 1980s. Restaurant management is not an easy task and Carolyn succeeded and made it look easy. Thank you so much. And thanks to all of the faithful customers for 70+ years of business in Fitzgerald. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Carolyn Chambers has managed Johnnie’s for over 25 years and kept this landmark alive. Customers think of her as family and Johnnie’s a home away from home.
Carolyn’s sister, Estelle Stapleton, has been cooking here for years. People love her as much as they love her food.
Ruby Chambers, Carolyn’s sister-in-law, usually knows your order when you walk in the door. Love this lady!
Denise Jordan helping Carolyn. I’ve known Denise all my life, too.
I want to thank Carolyn for giving me access for these photographs. I know she doesn’t really like to have her picture taken so it means a lot. I love all of you at Johnnie’s, past and present.
These photographs are from a postcard dating to the late 1980s and show Crystal Lake at the height of its popularity.
Cutoff denim shorts were a common sight on the beach at the time.
The lake was always popular, but when features like the Slippery Dip waterslide (below) were added, the park took on a new dimension of popularity.