Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TSNS--CHAPTER TWO: The Tourist Boom Years

"Tourists started coming down, and one of the early . . . nicknames of Statesboro was the Tourist City," remembers Dr. Del Presley, director of the Georgia Southern University museum. "Statesboro saw itself as a tourist hub," he continued, "a logical place for people to stop on their way from the north to Florida. That's what this [area of Eastern Georgia] was, the Florida corridor, the Florida trail, the Florida road. I think [Highway] 301 was extremely important in that regard because it allowed Statesboro to develop a new kind of industry, a serviced [sic] industry to care care of the tourists."[1] During the 1950s, Statesboro experienced the height of its tourist boom via U.S. Highway 301. Americans were enthusiastically taking to the road, testing out Detroit's newest automobile creations and seeing America through their windshields during the postwar ecocnomic expansion. A great many of those travelers living on the Eastern seaboard headed south to the balmy, semi-tropical climate of Florida, passing through Georgia on their way (on on their return trip north). Highway 301 was the popular travel artery in those pre-Interstate days and Statesboro was a favorable second day stop south of the nation's capital.

Many business leaders and citizens of Statesboro recognized the importance of tourist traffic and the potential money that was generated from vacationers who migrated primarily during the spring and summer months. An impact study conducted as Interstate 95 neared completion summarized the past importance of Highway 301 in this way: "Along the routh have clustered hundreds of businesses which now depend upon the highway for their economic support and life. . . . A significant portion of the private investments made in the region during the past [twenty] years [1950-1973] were made in businesses along the highway."[2]

Statesboro newspapers often featured news stories and letters that targeted the impact of tourism along Highway 301. For instance, a gentleman from Massachusetts was passing through Georgia on his way home from Florida and experienced car trouble in Statesboro. He wrote to the Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, detailing his experiences in town. He described Statesboro citizens as "co-operative and willing to help others."[3] His car was quickly repaired at a fair price and he was back on his way again. It would have been easy for a local mechanic to take advantage of a stranger from so far away, obviously without another option and anxious to get back on the road. However, many citizens of Statesboro recognized the value of a good reputation for a town situated on a major tourist route. This sort of word-of-mouth public relations was a valuable resource for a town encouraging strangers to pause a while en route to a distant destination.

There were, nevertheless, some townsfolk who questioned the precise value that tourists passing through—with thoughts of other locales in the minds—actually had in Statesboro. D.B. Turner, long-time editor of the Bulloch Times, addressed that question after looking out his downtown office window one spring day and observing the great traffic lines caused by tourists passing by the courthouse. A Times article suggested providing more space downtown for local citizens shopping, believing that, "Statesboro's greatest obligation is to providing street space—parking space, if you please, for the neighbors who everyday in the year are prospective patrons of our [downtown] business concerns." Of course, additional parking downtown would further slow Main Street's [301's route through town] traffic flow. So the Times editorial continued, "If anybody must be shunted off, let swift passage be provided to those who only want to pass. They will like those speedings-up." The article closed with an observation that was not often heard in the heady days of the 1950s tourist boom: "[T]he cash benefits from passing tourists are extremely small as compared to the public agitation of the tourist traffic."[4] Nevertheless, this cautionary view was surprisingly rare in Statesboro, whcich frequently experienced traffic backups near the courthouse area, then the main shopping area.[5]

Another editorial featured in the Bulloch Times spotlighted additional pressures and problems of heavy traffic through the small Georgia town. The story recounts a trip to nearby Claxton, where "seventy-odd" cars were counted within a ten-mile strip of Highway 301. When the observer returned to Statesboro, "not one car had stopped for even a postage stamp, so far as was apparent on the streets—they had shot straight through with merely, 'Thanks! Goodbye!'" This concerned citizen, however, did see some economic benefits to the citizens of Statesboro—albeit an unfortunate side effect:

The ambulance whizzes out Savannah Avenue at more or less frequent invervals and the story comes that somebody has been carried to the hospital or the undertaker's parlor. The County hospital gets some important 'cash'; the good doctors rake in a few coins for pills; the blood bank calls for replenishment, and then the people hear about the need. The taxis and the departing buses get their small rake-off and the automobile repairman smile—all because tourists are able to come and go.[6]

Yet much more often, local entrepreneurs worked to further develop the tourist presence in Statesboro in any way possible. The most obvious avenues of success were developing tourist-oriented businesses like motels, motor courts, restaurants, and auto service centers. While the former were aimed at mobile visitors, the latter two enterprises were also beneficial to the local townspeople—even though some of these establishments gained a fair degree of fame from visitors outside of Bulloch County.

Lavinia Strickland recalled a time when her parent's restaurant, "Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen," had achieved a far-flung reputation due to visitors traveling through Statesboro:

Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen gained such a reputation for being a good place to eat [that] I laughing[ly] say were were known all over the world. . . . When [my parents and I] were in California we stopped in some restaurant and somehow the conversation came up and some said, 'Oh yes, I know where Statesboro is, that's where Mrs. Bryant has her restaurant.' You stopped in New Orleans it was the same thing. Just about everywhere we went, someone had heard of Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen.[7]

On another occasion, Mrs. Strickland was living in London with her husband and struck up a conversation with some fellow Americans shopping in a department store. When asked where she lived in the States, Mrs. Strickland answered Statesboro, Georgia and was surprised to hear the couple exclaim, 'Oh! Statesboro, Georgia! That's where Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen is!' Mrs. Strickland, who also claims that the Reverend Billy Graham responded in similar fashion when he heard the name of Statesboro, mused that "[the restaurant] probably had more people that knew about it than anyone in Statesboro itself will ever realize."[8]

U.S. District Court Judge B. Avant Edenfield certainly agreed with Mrs. Strickland's assessment of the restaurant. Recalling trips h made in the eastern U.S. as a young lawyer, Edenfield declared that Mrs. Bryant's "enjoyed an unequaled reputation" among 301 tourists. When speaking to others, his accent identified him as a southerner and when people discovered he was a Georgian, they often remarked of traveling Highway 301 to Florida. "Just as frequently, they would only remember one town, that being Ludowici, and one restaurant, Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen," he recalled. "They were universally complementary of the latter and critical of the former, because of its notorious speed trap]."[9]

Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen formally opened in February of 1950 (see Figure 5). Its normal seating capacity of fifty could be quickly expanded to one hundred if business warranted. The marble composition flooring, oak-paneled walls, easily-cleaned removable kitchen flooring, and thirty-square-foot kitchen freezer, with separate section for fruits and vegetables earned it (in a moment of unabashed local boosterism) the appellation of "one of the most modern [restaurants] along the entire length of U.S. 301."[10] Over the following years, Mrs. Bryant's would not only provide food for hungry travelers and local residents, but would also open its doors to Statesboro citizen meetings such as the 301 Association (of which Mr. Charles Bryant was an active member), the Kiwanis Club, and other local service groups.

Business entrepreneurs took advantage of the tourism boom, building several new tourist facilities and improving existing tourist-oriented businesses. In 1950, a new guest facility boasting over thirty units was built on South Main (301 South), just beyond the existing city limits, across the street from the already busy Stiles Motel. The following year, two additional tourist resorts were opened on Main Street. The Aldred Motel was constructed downtown beside the First Methodist church and the Parkwood Tourist Court, which sat just south of town on Highway 301, offered “a dozen modern cabins, elaborately furnished.”[11] As local newspapers stressed, Statesboro’s goal was caring for tourists—a far cry from the early days of autocamping.

Leodel Coleman, the editor of the other local newspaper—the Bulloch Herald—was an enthusiastic supporter of the tourist business in Statesboro and believed wholeheartedly that the travelers up and down Highway 301 had significant positive impact on the economy and the citizens of Statesboro. Coleman even went so far as to place on the front page of his newspaper a weekly column with the typically grandiose title of “Who Says Tourists Don’t Spend Money in Statesboro as They Follow the Sun?” Coleman used this column to demonstrate to the people of Bulloch County that tourists did indeed impact the town positively, so therefore he encouraged proper treatment by the local citizens.

Coleman divided tourists into two distinct categories—based on two methods of travel that were exchanging positions during this time of increased auto reliability and improving road surfaces. First, there was the “piddling” [sic] tourist, one who had a destination but no overarching timetable for arrival. The trip might frequently change course along the way as long as fun was the major objective of the journey. On the other hand, and later with the coming of the limited-access Interstate system the more dominant of the two, was the “scat” tourist who “travel[led] from where he started to where he is going along the shortest possible route, in the quickest possible time.”[12] Certainly, Statesboro hoped to cater to the more piddling type of tourists, as these were more likely to stop for more than basic supplies, thus increasing the local chances for economic gain.

Other individuals in Statesboro and Bulloch County also did their part to leave visitors with a favorable impression of the community. Chief of Police Henry Anderson was instrumental in such tourist-friendly activities. The police could have easily generated negative feelings toward tourists. After all, these cars from other parts of the country slowed traffic around the courthouse, jammed up the main shopping district and generally made local life more stressful. When tourists did stop to make small purchases or get a bite to eat, they took the limited parking spaces away from individuals who worked at the courthouse or department stores, or from local citizens, who spent significant amonts of money downtown.

Unlike nearby Ludowici, which was notorious for taking advantage of travelers by ensnaring them in speed traps on the edge of town and at rigged traffic lights, Statesboro, under Chief Anderson, initiated a welcome card campaign targeted at visitors who might have been ticketed elsewhere. A traveling businessman from Poughkiepsie, New York related his encounter with the Statesboro police in a letter sent to the Herald. Ormon Minton stopped for breakfast on North Main and while he was eating, his parking meter’s time expired. When Mr. Minton returned to his car and discovered his mistake, rather than a ticket demanding payment, he found instead one of Chief Anderson’s cards. It welcomed him to Statesboro, explained his violation and politely asked him to keep traffic moving. He was not fined for the expired meter and encouraged to enjoy his visit! The surprised New Yorker reflected in his letter that “he did not usually find such considerations on his travels.” In gratitude, he included a two-dollar donation that he insisted was not to be used to pay the fine but for the benefit of Statesboro youth. Editor Coleman concluded by rightly observing, “This man will pass the word along to the effect that Statesboro is a fine community, that it’s on U.S. 301 and is one of the communities that makes 301 a desirable route to use.”[13]

Even citizens with no direct business ties to the tourist traffic worked diligently to promote a good image of Statesboro. One community booster who gained local repute and constant newspaper coverage was Joe Zetterower, who in early 1951 began a campaign to plant flowering trees alongside Highway 301’s right-of-way in an effort to beautify the local landscape and provide tourists with a pleasing first impression. His grandiose scheme was to plant three- to five-year-old trees every three hundred feet along 301 from “Bangor, Maine to Miami, Florida,” and Mr. Zetterower earned the affectionate nickname of “Dogwood Joe” for his particular use of dogwoods in this scheme. He asked for the support of the local 301 Association and was willing to plant one mile of trees with his own money. In March, Dogwood Joe made good on his vision, planting two miles of trees while receiving an additional fifty dollars from motel owner Olin Stubbs of the Tobacco Trail Court to plant an additional mile. The local Girl Scout troop of Screven County planted a fourth mile of trees on U.S. 301 and a second sum of one hundred dollars was donated by another citizen. The next month, the Savannah Morning News, reported of the desire of the Gardenia Club of Savannah to form a Dogwood Society, with Joe Zetterower as the president.[14] Mr. Zetterower died in October of 1957, long before his grandiose dreams of tree-lined highways would ever be realized. He would be pleased at the great progress of Statesboro, but more than likely dismayed at the decline of his beloved Highway 301.

Between 1950 and 1952, a mini-boom in new restaurant ventured occurred in Statesboro. At the turn of the decade, only three restaurants existed along the section of Highway 301 that passed through the city limits—Bill Strickland’s “Friendly Restaurant,” “The Dinner Bell,” and the “301 Grill” situated in the newly annexed section of Andersonville. Other local favorites such as the “Nic Nac Grill” and the historic Jaeckel Hotel’s dining room were nearby but in need of refurbishment. Both of these restaurants invested their profits in these needed improvements, as did other local places such as Vandy Boyd’s barbecue restaurant. When the “Friendly Restaurant” was eventually absorbed by the “Dinner Bell,” such amenities as air conditioning and a soda fountain were added. Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen was built soon thereafter and the 301 Grill came under new management and was renamed the “Chicago Grill,” which also received new air conditioning, furnishings, and wall redecoration. Joe Franklin also opened his well-known establishment, then called “Franklin Drive In-Restaurant,” (See Figure 6) on the corner of Highways 301 and 80, and he was soon joined by the “Town House Restaurant,” located on South Main Street. All of these new ventures were calculated responses to the economic benefits of traveling tourists. The local citizens of Statesboro or Bulloch County could not support such a variety of eateries alone.

Another restaurant opened in 1967, but it was not located along the borders of Highway 301. “Mrs. Lee’s Restaurant” was built about two miles west of U.S. 301 on West Jones Avenue. Operated by Mrs. Odella Lee, it catered to all tourists, but received much valuable patronage from African-American tourists who traveled to Florida along the same roads as their Caucasian counterparts—but with pressures unique to that historic time period. Mrs. Lee recalls that African-American tourists were unable to stop anywhere they wished and get something to eat during the segregated 1950s and 1960s.[15] Her restaurant, though located off of Highway 301 because she was unable to afford building the restaurant directly along the highway, erected a large sign at the intersection of College Avenue and Main Street. Even without frontage on the highway, her business apparently did not suffer. Her restaurant ran three shifts, the night shift being the busiest because tourists were “looking for something to eat before going to bed.”[16]

Mrs. Lee’s Restaurant offered similar types of homemade food available at other local restaurants and felt the same crush of travelers as every other eating establishment. “During that time I was selling hamburgers made from scratch and actually I couldn’t make them fast enough,” remembers Mrs. Lee. She also served fish and chicken sandwiches, plus full dinners, and recalled that “it was nothing to make thirty dollars in an hour [with hamburgers selling for thirty-five cents apiece].”[17] Nevertheless, even if African-American tourists could find a place to eat in Statesboro, a place to stay for the night was a bit more difficult.

“Ella’s Diner,” run by Eloise Williams, offered accommodations to African-Americans, remembered Odella Lee. Again, not located along the edge of Highway 301 but on Elm Street, it provided clean rooms and southern food to its patrons. If African-American tourists chose not to patronize Ella’s, however, there were other ways to find a place to stay. Mrs. Lee remembered that her relatives from New York often stayed with relatives in Statesboro when traveling down to Florida for conventions or vacations. Thus, the social pressures and prejudices of the times forced African-Americans to be more creative when traveling the coast, overcoming hardships and inconveniences not commonly encountered by white travelers.

It is difficult in this day of generic, mass-produced food to appreciate the effort and quality assurance that such local establishments as Mrs. Lee’s and Mrs. Bryant’s required. These restaurants were designed to emulate the style of meals cooked at home. Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen, for example, had several different cooks, each assigned a different part of the menu from meats to vegetables, breads to pastries. Also, the menu provided a surprisingly large array of meats—from veal to roast duck to seafood—as well as fresh produce and many, many desserts such as coconut and caramel cakes and fresh fruit cakes and pies. The Bryants had some advantages over other local restaurants, in that they also operated a fruit and produce operation that surely came in handy when stocking their kitchen in later years.[18] But whatever the difficulties, success and word-of-mouth advertising certainly seemed to pay off. Apparently, Mrs. Bryant’s was a favorite place to eat, no matter how difficult the trip. One Statesboro citizen who worked at the adjacent Bryant’s Motel (See Figure 7) reminisced about “hundreds who drove up to Bryant’s Motel, got out of their car, [took] a big stretch and [said] ‘We’ve drove ten straight hours to get to Statesboro just so we could eat at Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen—the best food anywhere.’” Another traveler agreed with this assessment wholeheartedly, declaring that all along their East Coast vacation—from New York to Philadelphia, Toronto, Chicago, and Washington, nothing rivaled one small restaurant in Statesboro Georgia: “ . . . on all our future trips, we are routing ourselves at all times to place us in Statesboro around dinnertime.”[19]

Statesboro reaped the benefits of tourism with these added businesses. However, this improvement was only within a narrow sector of the community as a whole. When tourists traveled through town, their extremely limited experience with Statesboro centered around that small corridor of land that bordered Highway 301 on either side. Dr. Del Presley recalled an instance of this tourist myopia.

I was in Virginia . . . and my son ran into some people who were staying at the same inn. When he told them we were from Statesboro they clicked off . . . Carroll Blankenship’s restaurant, Franklin’s Restaurant, the Crossroads Motel, Bryant’s Kitchen. These were people from a northern state who happened to be staying in Virginia that night, but they, when they heard the name Statesboro they thought only of the restaurants and motels. To them that was Statesboro. They didn’t mention Georgia Southern . . . or the courthouse . . . or Vandy’s Barbeque. So they saw Statesboro in terms of its facilities for travelers.[20]

Merchants who were not involved in the tourist service business rarely felt the traveler’s economic presence at all. This was not an industry that an entire community could base itself upon, but neither could it be ignored. Tourists, by the very nature of their limited experience in a community, are driven by first impressions, and therefore the tourist industry must be nurtured to ensure a steady harvest of visitors every year.

This became the duty of the Statesboro Highway 301 Association when it organized in June 1953. One of its first actions was to encourage surrounding counties affected by 301 to form their own chapters. The organization’s goal was to formulate strategies to nurture tourists all along the Georgia 301 corrridor, ensuring that visitors enjoyed their trip, thus creating good memories that encouraged a return trip the following year. The Association had no time to waste, according to Statesboro chapter president Alfred Dorman. He believed that Highway 301 was already a year behind as compared to efforts along other regional highways in the United States. “Other cities and communities . . . are making strong bids for the tourist traffic,” Dorman warned. “They are spending thousands and thousands of dollars in promoting new surfaces on their routes, in promoting the communities along the routes. . . . [I]f we don’t get on the ball Statesboro, and the other towns along 301 are going to start wondering what happened to [the tourists].”[21]

The 301 Association vigorously promoted communities along its route. While working throughout the 1950s to promote community cooperation with its tourist goals, as the threat of the new Interstate 95 increadingly became a reality in the late 1960s, the Association quickly began lobbying with the State Department of Transportation for improvements along the Georgia corridor, enabling the older federal highway to better compete with the massive Interstate system. The Association wanted the entire route of 301 four-laned to eliminate traffic bottlenecks that slowed drivers’ progress, emphasizing the disadvantages of regional highways when compared to the speedy Interstates. Nevertheless, during the years of the tourist boom, the Association concerned itself more with the image travelers took away from their 301 tour.

The need for each county to work in concert with one another was expressed with Long County particularly in mind. Ludowici, the county seat, developed quite a sordid reputation in Georgia due to its law enforcement practices. Many travelers over the years recounted the various ways that Ludowici took advantage of out-of-town visitors. The stories boiled down to one general pattern that goes as follows.

A car was pulled over for speeding (and often another lengthy list of minor violations that quickly added up) and the driver was given a ticket by a local officer. This officer may or may not have worn a full dress uniform. Some reports indicated that arresting officers did not wear a hat or cap, which in some states is an official part of the uniform. The driver was given the option of paying the fine at the scene or in town at the police station.[22] Occasionally the driver accompanied the officer to an impromptu court session at the local judge’s yard-side courthouse or in a small shed built on the edge of the highway nearby just for such an eventuality. When alerted by the arresting officer, the judge arrived in his truck.[23] Others caught in speed traps might well wish for such quick court justice. One crucial aspect of the system was that court was held only once a month and since travelers were on a schedule, they were not able to attend in order to defend their position. So, they were often forced by circumstances to pay the fines, no matter how large or inflated with fees, and head off down the road a little lighter in the wallet.[24]

One unfortunate facet of these speed traps that remained constant throughout individual cases was the reports of belligerence of the arresting officers. A traveler in Florida described how he was ticketed for driving at seventy miles-per-hour and given the option to pay $200 or wait for a week in jail for the next available court date. The driver had only $113, so to jail he went. He had to stand, as there were not chairs available for “foreigners.” He might well have remained in that situation indefinitely, however, save that the judge was contacted at four o’clock and settled the case for $100.[25]

R.D. McArthur of Cleveland, Ohio, recounted another incident that demonstrated the hostility shown to peole ensnared in Ludowici’s motorist trap. When a suspicious blue Ford suddenly veered out from behind a trailing car, the visitor slowed quickly to fifty miles-per-hour. He claimed that his vehicle was incapable of exceeding sixty-five miles-per-hour due to a loose front end that vibrated badly and therefore was positive that he had not broken the speed limit. When the Ford sounded its siren and pulled the tourist over, the driver was forced to walk back to the arresting officer’s car. The officer’s first words were, “You can’t come down here and push us around!” He then quickly rattled off a series of violations that totaled almost $120. Mr. McArthur asked the officer to repeat the list of offenses more slowly, but was quickly rebuked as being “pushy.” The officer gave McArthur the option of paying there or downtown. He decided to pay downtown, hoping to speak with someone a little more reasonable.

Unfortunately, when they arrived at the station house, McArthur was again treated disdainfully, given no chance to dispute several violations that he maintained were false. After reluctantly handing over the bond money, he asked for directions out of town and back to the highway. The officer replied, “get out of town the best you can” then proceeded to trail the Ohio car’s departure, clearly hoping to catch him in another traffic violation. When none was forthcoming, the officer zoomed on ahead. McArthur reported that on the way back to the highway, not minutes later, he passed the same officer stopping another hapless tourist.[26]

Such practices endangered Georgia’s reputation, made anyone traveling down Highway 301 wary, and gave the local 301 Association obvious headaches. Association members wanted every community along Highway 301 to realize that whatever happened in one section affected the prosperity of the other communities along the corridor. Newspapers described Ludowici’s methods as “high-handed” and “playing havoc with tourists.” They accused Long County officials of being more concerned with collecting revenue than working to safeguard tourists.[27]

Yet this was hardly just a local or a Georgia problem. Due to the popularity of automobile driving, speed traps existed all over the nation, lurking everywhere from Missouri to Florida, Georgia to Kentucky, and Ohio. Any community that supported a large number of out-of-town tourists was prime territory for speed traps. Tourists were the natural targets due to their unfamiliarity with the region, their inability to represent themselves as a distant court date, and the usual possession of some spending cash earmarked for a vacation. Ninety percent of violators caught in one Florida town were out-of-state tourists while in a Kentucky town the total was ninety-five percent visitors.[28]

The fee system was a common element in all of these speed-trap towns. Under this system, local judges’ salaries were tied to the amount of traffic revenue their community collected. These justices-of-the-peace thus had a monetary interest in the policing of their county highways that often superceded mere law enforcement or safety concerns. Local sheriffs and deputies might also receive most of their revenues from traffic violation fees. One victim in Missouri claimed to hear that officer present his case to the judge with this opening, “Well, Judge, here is ham and eggs for breakfast.”[29] The practice became such a common occurrence around the nation that a national magazine offered tips for the informed tourist. Along with the common-sense advice of obeying all traffic laws in each state and always remaining polite, other important tips included stopping at state lines to ask which towns to avoid, and never paying the officer at the roadside but always downtown in the presence of the judge, as they were sometimes inclined to be more lenient. Indeed, some J.P.’s would accept watches or other valuables in lieu of cash, but no prepared traveler should venture onto the highways with less than $50 in cash.[30]

Some towns became justifiably famous for their inventive and lucrative methods of entrapping tourists. Lawtey, Florida became prominent for its shopping center routine. According to a magazine expose, an individual in on the scam continually pulled in and out of a curb-side parking space in the Lawtey shopping center. When successful, the moving car would force unsuspecting motorists to avoid it by crossing over the center dividing line, technically breaking the law and quickly being caught by a nearby policeman. The other famous trap in the Southeast was indisputably the Ludowici traffic light. Called “the most famous stop light in America,” Ludowici’s light worked for thirteen years (since 1947) and netted for the town $50,000 a year.[31]

Ludowici’s light was triggered to a button activated by a policeman stationed upstairs in a nearby building. The red light was held until a sizeable line of traffic backed up along the north-bound lane turning left. A green light allowed cars to turn, but not for long. In as little as sixteen seconds, the traffic light quickly shifted back to red, catching impatient travelers as they rolled on ahead under the red light. Offenders were quickly fined by the town’s three-man police force.[32] Ludowici Mayor J.W. Godfrey explained that the light had been known to “vary four to five seconds in wet weather.” One wit observed that rain was frequent enough in Ludowici for this variance to account for thirty arrests per day, producing one-quarter of the town’s $12,000-$15,000 annual budget![33] It was indeed, as Time dubbed it, “The Light that Never Fails.”

The 301 Association and the American Automobile Association worked very hard to eliminate this type of corruption and trickery along Highway 301. In the summer of 1960, the 301 Association adopted a twenty-point resolution designed to combat Georgia’s bad tourist image and develop better strategies to regulate traffic control excesses. Among the resolutions passed were pleas to local newspapers along Highway 301 to apprise the citizens of the importance of tourism and “the shocking conditions that affect industry and are prevalent in some sections of the state.” The Association also wished to uncover the annual amount of money paid tout to local law enforcement, how that money was distributed within the local areas, and publish these figures in local newspapers. Also, local law enforcement officers would be required to wear complete uniforms at all times and patrol in marked vehicles.[34] All of these resolutions targeted such controversial practices as those in Ludowici. The Herald praised the bold actions of the Association, declaring that it “lowered the boom on the business of camouflaging the practice of trapping tourists under the canopy of law enforcement.”[35]

Ludowici’s rigged light was finally removed, but only after convincing the Georgia Department of Transportation to erect a new light—two-thirds of the purchase cost being covered by the merchant and motel-owners who were members of the Georgia 301 Association. They also erected large signs outside of the Ludowici city limits warning uninformed tourists of speed traps and clip joints.[36] One of the 301 Association’s biggest headaches was finally eliminated.

But such successes notwithstanding, the time for Highway 301’s decline was approaching. The Interstate Highway system, created by Congress in 1955, was quickly becoming a reality. In 1960, community boosters and the Chamber of Commerce saw a portent of the future when the proposed route of Interstate 16, connecting Savannah and Macon, was moved from being only 3 ½ miles away from Statesboro to a potentially isolating eleven miles away. Rather than take solace in the fact that Highway 301 was still running through the heart of downtown Statesboro, Chamber member R. J. Kennedy warned that this alteration could “seriously affect the future growth and development of Statesboro.”[37] The Interstate provided an exciting new way to travel for a nation now taking the automobile and highway travel for granted. This massive construction project promised to link all of the major centers of population in the United States with limited-access expressways that routed around cities at high speeds. Leodel Coleman would understand that the era of the “scat” tourist was quickly arriving.

The altered route of Interstate 16 was troublesome enough to Statesboro citizens who hoped the expressway would help to introduce more industrial growth to their area. However, for the motel operators, restaurant owners, and other service-oriented businesses, the true problem looming over the horizon was not Interstate 16, but Interstate 95. Interstate16 ran in an east-to-west direction, cutting across the state horizontally. Interstate 95 traveled north-to-south, paralleling the route of Highway 301 all the way down the East Coast and all through the eastern coastal area of Georgia. Therefore, when the Interstate system was completed, I-95 would pose the greatest threat to the future viability of Highway 301 as a tourist road. Furthermore, since I-95 was never slated to come anywhere close to the city limits of Statesboro or to Bulloch County, a loss of tourist traffic from Highway 301 to Interstate 95 would mean a separation of potential tourist cash, far removed from Statesboro. This was a growing concern of Bulloch County in the 1960s and became a grim reality in the early 1970s. The tourist boom years in Statesboro were coming to an end.

***Chapter Two NOTES***

[1] Delma E. Presley, interview by author, tape recording with transcript, 29 October 1996.

[2] Eric Hill Associates, U.S. 301 Regional Development Study (Commissioned by the Altamaha Georgia Southern Area Planning and Development Commission, Atlanta: Eric Hill Associates), i.

[3] Visiting Stranger Expresses Approval," Bulloch Times, 2 March 1950, p. 1.

[4] "What Value Tourists?" Bulloch Times, 20 April 1950, p. 4.

[5] A survey in 1960 demonstrated the amount of money invested in the tourist industry during the past decade. $5,797,000 were invested in seventy-three tourist facilities, including restaurants, motels, and service-stations. Tourism generated a gross income of $6,607,300 annually. From "Tourist Industry is 'Big Industry' Here," Bulloch Herald, 20 October 1960, p. 1.

[6] "Cotton and Tourists," Bulloch Times, 12 April 1951, p. 4.

[7] Lavinia Bryant Strickland, interview by author, 19 February 1995, tape recording, Bulloch County Bicentennial Oral History Project, Statesboro, Georgia, tape nos. BC33DM and BC34DM.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Lavinia B.Strickland, Fifty-fifth wedding anniversary scrapbook presented to Charles and Marguerite Bryant, 15 August 1988, vol. 1.

[10] "'Mrs. Bryant's Kitchen' Restaurant, to Hold Formal Opening Sunday," Bulloch Herald, 9 February 1950, p. 1.

[11] “Enlarged Plans: Care of Tourists,” Bulloch Times, 4 May 1950, p. 1; “Care of Tourist Given High Boost,” Bulloch Times, 22 November 1951, p. 1.

[12] Leodel Coleman, “Editor’s Uneasy Chair,” Bulloch Herald, 8 June 1950, p. 2.

[13] “Two Dollars Was Not to Pay Fine,” Bulloch Herald, 23 November 1950, p. 2.

[14] “Sounds Fantastic, But—“ Bulloch Herald, 22 February 1951, p. 2; “ ‘Dogwood Joe’ Dreams of Trees,” Bulloch Herald, 29 March 1951, p. 2; “ ‘Dogwood Joe’s’ Idea is Getting Around,” Bulloch Herald, 5 April 1951, p. 2.

[15] An illuminating look at the travel difficulties faced by African Americans is Stetson Kennedy’s Jim Crow Guide: The Way it Was (Boca Raton, FL: Florida Atlantic University Press, 1989).

[16] Odella Lee, interview by author, 8 April 1997, tape recording with transcript.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Lavinia Bryant Strickland, interview by author, 11 December 1996, tape recording with transcript.

[19] Strickland, Scrapbook, vol. 2.

[20] Presley, interview.

[21] “Bulloch County Organizes U.S. 301 Association to Promote Highway,” Bulloch Herald, 11 June 1953, p. 1.

[22] “A Tourist Writes a Letter to Governor Vandiver,” Bulloch Herald, 22 March 1962, p. 2.

[23] Carroll Blankenship, interview by author, tape recording, 23 September 1996; Don Murray, “U.S. Speed Traps: Cash register justice,” Coronet 49 (December 1960): 90.

[24] Peter Wyden, “Traffic Traps: Legal rackets on the roads,” Coronet 40 (October 1956): 69-70. Such fees included a “special” tax, recorder’s court tax, law library, witness fees, and fees for a lawyer that might not even be requested or wanted by the accused. Of course, this could only be ascertained if the violator was lucky enough to get a receipt in the first place.

[25] Ibid., 67.

[26] “Letter to Vandiver,” Bulloch Herald, 22 March 1962, p. 2.

[27] "We Can’t be Independent,” Bulloch Herald, 5 April 1951, p. 2.

[28] Wyden, “Traffic Traps,” 69.

[29] Ibid., 70.

[30] Ibid., 71.

[31] Murray, “Speed Traps,” 84. In a November 1959 Time magazine article, members of the local Good Government League agreed with the $50,000 figure.

[32] Blankenship, interview; “The Light that Never Fails,” Time 74 (November 16, 1959): 33.

[33] “Light that Never Fails,” 33. Not surprisingly, the author of the article was not allowed to examine the town’s financial records.

[34] "U.S. 301 Association adopts twenty-point resolution,” Bulloch Herald, 18 August 1960, p. 1.

[35] "U.S. 301 Association takes positive action,” Bulloch Herald, 18 August 1960, p. 2.

[36] Blankenship, interview; Murray, “Speed Traps,” 84.

[37] “Statesboro Chamber of Commerce to support original proposal by state for U.S. Interstate Highway 16,” Bulloch Herald, 16 June 1960, p. 1.



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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Original Horizontality

I think he has rocks in his head.
I know that my eyelids are as heavy as metamorphic gneiss.

But wait, something to write down!
A note I can take.
A bit more knowledge to store, just in case
there is a Geology category on Jeopardy! tonight.

I wish Steno was here to explain his
law of original horizontality.
I would be a good specimen to observe.
Gladly would I demonstrate how layers are deposited.
And then I could rest for a nice, long Period of time--
Geologically speaking, of course!

(written for MISCELLANY, the Georgia Southern Magazine of the Arts, Vol. 35, 1992; Angela C. Whitlock, editor)



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My Answer to the Red Wheelbarrow

You sit there glistening with rain water,
beside the white chickens
and I can't help wondering--why?

Every year you are mentioned
usually as a study in understatement.
Well, I can be as understated as the next guy
but no one would use me as an example.

I just want to know--what is in a name?
I can't even remember the guy who wrote it
but I would like to meet him.
Then I could ask him "How did you get away with it?
People would laugh in my face
if I turned in something like that."

But you are somebody.
You are known.
You are free.

(Written for MISCELLANY, the Georgia Southern Magazine of the Arts; Vol. 36; 1993; Wade Krueger, editor)



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