1962-2013 Summerville: Then & Now

Over the span of half a century, here are several views of Summerville from photographs taken then (Winter 1962) and now (Winter 2013).

The photographs are followed by an essay from Summerville writer Judy Brooks about an amusing trip sponsored by Georgia Rug Mill.

telephone company
The Summerville Telephone Company was located at the intersection of West Washington and Cox Streets.  The original building, constructed in the late 1950s, continues to serve as part of the local phone system.

methodist church
The Summerville First United Methodist Church, also located on West Washington Street, added an access ramp to the back entrance.  The building to the left was used as the church parsonage, but is now office space.

high school
old school
Summerville (later Chattooga) High School was demolished a few years ago, but the school auditorium still stands.  It's a shame these buildings weren't kept by the school board and repurposed.  I'm sure cost was the driving factor.

recreation center
rec center
A sad reminder of what was once the place to spend a summer afternoon, the pool at the Summerville Recreation Center (behind fence left of building) was decommissioned years ago and eventually paved over.  I wish I had been able to find a good photo of the pool and kids for my Chattooga County book.

city hall
city hall
Any builder will tell you that most flat roofs eventually leak.  The folks in charge of Summerville City Hall solved the problem, but ruined the appearance of the building.

first baptist church
baptist church
Thank Heavens the members of the First Baptist Church of Summerville have kept their facility in fine form over the years.  Too bad about the trees.

georgia rug mill
rug mill
Nobody stands guard at the little building to the left anymore at the old Georgia Rug Mill building on Lyerly Street off Highway 48.  Despite the many additions over the years, this facility is no longer useful to its owners and is being demolished.

Several relatives of Summerville writer Judy Brooks worked at Georgia Rug Mill.  In the following essay, she associates one particular amusement park ride with the mill.


A Rug Mill Trip To "Lake Winnie"
by Judy Brooks

Georgia Rug Mill was the employer of many of my family members and was part of our daily lives. However, from my childhood perspective, the rug mill was about two things: the Christmas party and the annual employee outings to Lake Winnepesaukah, the amusement park in Rossville, Georgia. My first memory of a Georgia Rug Mill Christmas party was driving to the new Lyerly location and walking in the back way through the warehouse, our steps echoing on the concrete floor as we gazed up at huge rolls of freshly-dyed carpet stacked to the ceiling. To this day, I associate the smell of new carpet with Christmas.

There was an enormous tree and a Santa Claus. Stockings with fruit and some pretty cool toys were given to every employee's child. Nearby, on tables wrapped in brown paper, sat plates of sliced fruitcake, and bowls of cashews, olives, and Ruffle's potato chips. At the end of each table there was a large punch bowl filled with cold Hawaiian Punch. This menu remained the same for years to come. My brother, two sisters, and I thought the food was wonderful and always looked forward to the celebration, particularly because we couldn't get enough olives and cashews, and this was about the only time they were available to us.

Although the Christmas parties were generous, the rug mill managers really outdid themselves when I was about twelve years old and they began having annual summer outings at Lake Winnepesaukah. This became one of the high points of summer for many an employee's child. Strips of tickets were distributed to all, each ticket good for any of the rides. Also, a lunch of barbecue, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and cold drinks was provided. Our family arrived around ten in the morning, and my older sister Marie and I were allowed to go off by ourselves, with orders to report for lunch at noon.

I had brought a purse, just a small denim bag with a long strap that fit over one shoulder and across my chest. This left my hands free, but provided storage for my change purse and several extra strips of tickets covertly handed off to me and Marie by our Granddaddy Brooks, a wonderful man who spoiled us rotten and took pleasure in it. We rode the Cannonball twice, then the bumper cars, and most of the other rides before heading out to the pavilions to hook up with our family and eat barbecue.

After lunch, we approached a contraption known as “The Spider.” This machine actually looked like a big spider, reminding me of the one in Tarantula, which I had seen on Science Fiction Theater one Saturday afternoon. It had long “legs,” each with a car attached at the end. The legs moved up and down, and the cars whirled around. Marie and I waited in line until one of the legs descended, and the attendant opened the car, pulled down a little step, and closed it up after we were seated. Our car moved and stopped several times as the other riders were loaded into their seats, and we giggled as we made jokes about being sick.

We were suddenly pulled upward and began to slowly spin around. We grabbed onto the bars in front of us. “The Spider” then kicked into another gear, and we were moving quickly up and down, while simultaneously spinning faster. I was having a wonderful time and looked at Marie. She had both hands clamped over her mouth and her body was making heaving motions. “That's great,” I laughed, and cleverly carried the joke to its limit when I held out my open purse and shouted, “Here, vomit in this!”

And she did. Now, both of us had our mouths wide open; mine in stupefaction and poor Marie's because, well, let’s just say there was no way she could keep her mouth closed. I waved my arm at the attendant, but he ignored me. Meanwhile, although Marie was trying to keep her head down, “The Spider's” velocity and motion allowed several of the less fortunate within a certain radius to share our experience.

I gave up trying to flag down the attendant. I was only able to bend over and hold my stomach as I screamed with laughter, tears rolling down my cheeks. Between heaves, my sister was also consumed with laughter.

The ride stopped about the time Marie finished losing her lunch. The attendant approached our car, released the catch, and pulled the step down. Without a word, we stepped out and walked away as quickly as we dared without running.

There are some things that the mind retains involuntarily, and burned upon my brain is that poor attendant's look of confusion immediately after we stepped down and out of the car, and, as I sneaked a look or two over my shoulder, to see that look changing slowly to comprehension, then disgust, and finally outrage as we made our getaway. We walked with heads held high and affected a nonchalance that dissolved as soon as we reached the restrooms, where we worked on cleaning ourselves up between clutching our sides and laughing uncontrollably.

It's been 45 years since this memorable trip to “Lake Winnie” and Marie and I still laugh about this. Although it might not be the most dignified tribute to the rug mill's generosity, it's definitely one of our favorite memories, and one that would have been impossible without it. So, thanks, Georgia Rug Mill and Bigelow-Sanford, on behalf of all the children and grandchildren of employees, for all the good times. I hope everyone else had as much fun as we did. Oh, and thanks to my sister for being such a good sport and allowing me to share this story – love you, Marie!

After graduating with the CHS class of 1973, Judy Brooks attended Berry College before beginning a career that encompassed a number of diverse positions, from bartender and directory assistance operator to assistant grant-writer and office manager. She has lived in Rome, Atlanta, and Paducah, KY, where she spent two years in the Information Technology program at West Kentucky College and Technical School. Judy returned to Summerville in September of 2010, and is quite content to be back among family and friends. She is currently a writer and editor, and is in the process of establishing her own Internet publishing company. She is passionate about movies, books, writing, cooking, jazz, and spending time with her family, and would be thrilled to hear from friends, classmates, and other interested members of the community. Judy can be reached at judybrooks375@windstream.net.

1962 photographs taken by T. Emmett Nunn.  Courtesy of Chattooga Library.

And thanks to Judy Brooks for her "Lake Winnie" memories.

Copyright 2013 Greg W. McCollum.  All rights reserved.