In 1949, a huge cross section of the community came together to pitch Dalton and its area as a "Champion City." This was a contest held annually by Georgia Power. That year Dalton put together a scrapbook that gave a comprehensive view of what was going on here at the time and why Dalton should be considered a Champion City.
It's an impressive work in the days before computers, Photoshop and word processors. It was basically hand assembled and put together by a team of committed citizens who were proud of their hometown. The scrapbook has now been digitized and put online where it can be viewed in its entirety (dlg.galileo.usg.edu/zgk/text/pdfs/csb.pdf). It is quite an eye-opener on just how great our community was doing at the time. I've been going through it and have come across all types of interesting information in a variety of areas of the community. Let's take a look at just how booming the place was just before carpet became king.
The title on the cover of the presentation was actually chenille/tufted on it and read: "Dalton, Ga. Bedspread Center of the World." It would about two decades before the tufted bedspreads gave way to our carpet making us "The Carpet Capital of the World." The "Dalton, Ga." is in blue and the "Bedspread Center of the World" in a pink shade. It's a clever and striking way to present a centerpiece of the community's strength.
Throughout the scrapbook there are original drawings illustrating the opening page of each section. Artist Neil Edwards put a personal touch on the piece. The first artwork to appear as a type of intro to the work has a poem to start things off. The picture is of a lady tufting a bedspread on a hoop frame. The poem is written on the bedspread and reads: "Nimble fingers make bright patterns; Stamped in symmetry and line; So our dreams of better Dalton; Grow from plans of our design." I'm not sure who wrote that but it's kind of catchy and to the point.
Next, an introduction to the piece gives a brief outline of the town's history and pictures it in the surrounding nature of the north Georgia mountains. It's pointed out the community started as Cherokee territory and still has some of the lyrical Indian names for places in the area. It highlights the Civil War and presents some of the famous people from Dalton like poet Robert Loveman, songwriter A.J. Showalter and writer Will Harbin who took inspiration for his Southern writing from our area.
There is a strong focus on the natural surroundings here. A visual description is given of the seasons and a beguiling image of Thornton Avenue and the great oaks that used to spread overhead back then, creating a natural tunnel of foliage. The opening line of the introduction says: "As the intricate patterns of a bedspread take shape under the skillful fingers of an operator, so the City of Dalton has emerged from a small Cherokee village … to a fast growing, progressive, industrial city of today." I think that's as true now as it was then. The closing line to the intro reads: "Always mindful of its romantic historical development, the people of Dalton welcome each year as an opportunity for achievement -- an opportunity for making Dalton a Better Home Town." That's something that we should strive for each year.
How it came about
There was talk of taking part in the Champion City contest, but no organization took the lead. There were evidently Better Home Town materials the power company distributed pointing out ways to improve localities. Dalton citizens and organizations had already used these materials to move forward as a town.
The question came up as to why the town hadn't actually entered the contest. As people and groups discussed the possibility of entering Dalton, the Lions Club stepped forward as the official sponsoring organization. Once the decision had been made, different individuals, city officials, community organizations, the newspaper, schools and companies came together to make a case or Dalton being the hometown champ. So many people were interested in pitching in that the steering committee had 75 members! The committee had at least one member from every club and community organization in town. The article points out that "Churches, schools, civic clubs, city and county officials, businesses, farming groups and 'the man in the street' worked cooperatively in developing a program to make Dalton a BETTER HOME TOWN."
Dalton was one of 266 Georgia towns that entered the contest. The period the contest looked at was from November 1948 to November 1949. As the team started forming and focusing on what needed to be included in the presentation, a meeting was at the Dalton High School library on July 13. There was a form created for the meeting that had a variety of focus areas and each area had three spaces under it for assignments. In many cases, more than three groups or individuals volunteered to work on these areas so it's obvious there was a lot of excitement about being part of this effort. The areas included were health and sanitation; education; municipal development; housing and civic improvement; agriculture; business and industry; tourist and recreation; advertising and publicity; and transportation.
In some cases, organizations volunteered to work on more than one area. For example, the Civitans signed up to work on health and sanitation as well as business and industry. Women's clubs, the school systems and businesses all signed on to participate in the push. The goal was to have things ready to start putting together on Oct. 15.
Other tasks outlined for the group was that there would be a prominent window downtown with a display featuring Dalton as a Champion City and evidence of why that is so, that artwork would be generated to illustrate the introductions to the different sections, and that photographs would be taken throughout the area showing "every sign and hint of progress" that occurred over the time frame of the contest.
The contest was also a reason to move ahead on many programs in the community that may not have had the impetus if not for the focused effort to win. For example, there were projects put forth such as a cleanup campaign, beautification projects, improvement of public restrooms and the restoration of the Vann House, even though that was in Spring Place in Murray County. Dalton was swinging for the fence in its attempt at showcasing its progress, including all of Whitfield County and even shared attractions in Murray County as part of the greater "Hometown" area. It was about inclusion of the different sections into the overall community that was their focus.
Spreading the word
The next section featured the publicity the entry into the contest garnered and to galvanize them into action. Newspaper clippings showed numerous articles about the contest, how 1949 had more entries statewide than ever before and how individuals and organizations could pitch in to help. One headline said the plans were starting for an "Old-School-Try" in the contest. Another column said the slogan "We Are In It To Win!" had been adopted to bolster enthusiasm.
Another article pointed out that Clifford G. Hale, superintendent of the Dalton Public Schools, was named as contest chairman. It told that Dalton was in the population range of 1,000 to 20,000 category and that prize money for winning included $1,000 for first prize, $750 for second and $500 for third. But you can tell that enthusiasm for winning had nothing to do with the money and everything to do with the pride of the community and the bragging rights we would have in the event of victory.
As an example of just how many people would be involved, for the category of education, all Dalton teachers and the Parent Teacher Association organization would take part. As part of kicking off the project, a window display was created and placed in a window of Carter's Gift Shop on North Hamilton Street. In the window artwork, paper cut-out art illustrated a community on a hill featuring a school, homes, church, industry and construction. There were nine different roads leading up the hill, each road representing one of the contest categories such as transportation or health. At the bottom of the hill looking upwards were cutouts of people representing a cross section of the community.
On a card at the bottom was the challenge: "To a better home town, all these roads lead. To reach our destination, your full support we need." On the other side of the window was the cover for the scrapbook where all the materials would be collected which featured the tufted/chenille title "Dalton, Ga., Bedspread Center of the World" which had been made by Cabin Crafts. In another humorous window display, two dolls are decked out as boxers in a boxing ring. The doll named "Dalton" stands victorious in the corner, while the doll named "Defeatville" is down for the count. Above them is written "In the right hand corner we have here the Champion Home Town of the Year!"
Next week we'll see just the types of progress Dalton was making and what they would feature in their presentation.
Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.