Over the past two weeks we’ve been looking back 70 years at Dalton’s efforts to be named the "Champion Home Town" for Georgia in a statewide contest sponsored by Georgia Power in 1949. Last week we started looking at the individual categories and what was featured in them covering the areas of business and industry, health and sanitation and education. We’ll continue with the remaining areas that were considered for the contest.
Tourists and recreation was the next department. On the opening page was original artwork showing traffic on Highway 41 with cars traveling from Florida and Ohio as they pass tourist motels. Also featured was a Quonset hut-type building that was going to be the Dalton Youth Center, later known as Teen Town. And at the bottom of the page a couple was featured dancing to the music playing on a jukebox.
Next is an introductory overview of accommodations made for the tourist passing through. First among the things listed is the effort that year to buy, restore and develop the Chief Vann House. It had been going into disrepair and many were concerned since it was considered possibly the best example of a well-to-do Cherokee house, a mansion for the day. It was considered a wonder in its time and was commented on frequently by travelers in the early 1800s. The work the folks did in 1949 has made for a heritage treasure for us today. If you have never been to the Vann House you should definitely visit.
Also included in the overview, tourist accommodations were noted, with remodeling to the Hotel Dalton’s lobby and redone offices. At the Dalton Tourist Court air conditioning was being put in, a real treat in 1949. And construction had begun on the Quinton Motel on the north side of town, with about half of the 16 planned units almost completed.
A Dalton promotion booklet had 24,000 copies printed up and distributed to draw in visitors. Noted was that 16 service stations were repainted and spruced up and their public restrooms were put on an inspection schedule to make sure they were clean and bright. Two drug stores on main highways had added kitchens so they could serve quick meals at their lunch counters to travelers as well as locals. The Exchange Club had stickers advertising Dalton printed up that were put on all out of town cars. I don’t know if that was with or without their permission. That makes me think of the “See Ruby Falls” bumper stickers you used to see all the time. Mr. H.M. Woodard created a map of historic sites in the area. And the chamber of commerce started a training program focused on “courtesy and hospitality to tourists.” The classes were twice weekly and were aimed at merchants, service stations, restaurants, hotels and motels.
Spotlighting more parts of Dalton
For recreation, that year had the first North Georgia Fair which was a hit. The Teen Town project was well covered and the building could seat 500 teens or handle 300 dancing couples. In a precursor to the Dalton Parks & Recreation Center, there was a summer recreation program set up for boys and girls with two directors appointed to conduct the program at parks. There was also a youth mission summer program with indoor and outdoor activities that was sponsored by area churches. And the Dalton Golf & Country Club expanded with a new clubhouse and the construction of the lake on the golf course.
The next area for consideration was agriculture, a major part of the community in 1949. Whitfield County had been a “corn and cotton” area but thanks to growing programs for diversification, crop expansion, chicken farming and cattle raising were all starting to grow. Soil and water conservation practices were underway and 554 farms in the county worked within the program. And wildlife areas were starting to be focused on. On the other hand, kudzu was still being planted as erosion control as 14 acres of kudzu was successfully planted that year.
For the kids, there was the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health) clubs working in the agricultural fields. One thing that looked like fun was when the 4-H Club held a poultry show on the grounds of the courthouse downtown. They were participating in a “poultry chain” where they got baby chickens to raise, agreeing to sell some once grown to pay for the little ones, then the chain would continue. People came to the show to buy the chickens from the kids — all this on the courthouse lawn.
Developing the city
Municipal development was the next area for review. There was a variety of major projects going on in 1949. One of the most noticeable was the new two-million gallon water tank on top of Mount Rachel. It was built on the south side of the old water tank and the two would work in conjunction. Meanwhile, there was a big expansion of the waterworks with new settling basins, mixing basins, pumps and many other water handling facilities that increased the daily water capacity to four million gallons a day. Water service was going to start being extended into the county. Pipes were being laid and fire hydrants were being added. And a sewer system study was being undertaken which hoped to provide Dalton with a system that would handle needs for the next 50 years.
Two other projects included working with state and national authorities. On the state side, a new state patrol barracks was coming to Dalton on South Thornton Avenue. Crown Cotton Mills donated the land and the labor for construction would come from skilled convicts. On the national front, Dalton was up for one of 16 National Guard armories going up throughout the state. The city bought the land, across from Harmon Field, and deeded it to the Dalton unit. This ensured that Dalton got the new armory, which we still have today.
On the city front, a new fire station was built on East Morris Street and a new pumper firetruck was bought. There were 14 full-time firemen in 1949. And prior to ’49 there were no street signs in town! The Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) raised money to start putting street signs up at intersections. They couldn’t do the whole town and made the recommendation that people in each block raise money for their own street signs.
Advertising and publicity followed in the scrapbook. The newspaper was a weekly at that time and it had 6,000 subscribers, one of the highest subscription rates in the state. Articles in the paper were well received elsewhere as one article was reprinted in the New York Times and an editorial won an award from the Georgia Press Association. The city was featured in The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway bulletin for September of ’49. “Dalton Spreads Itself” was the article's title and it covered industry here in text and a series of photos showing the manufacturing processes.
There was also an essay in the scrapbook describing in detail the history and current state of the tufted textile industry. In an issue of the Atlanta Journal Magazine there was a full page aerial photograph of Dalton with a legend to tell where different points of interest were, like the railroad passenger depot and the downtown offices of WBLJ radio. Accompanying the photo was an article about Dalton being the "Bedspread Capital of the World" as well as pointing out organizations like the health department and the regional library as some of the best outside of major cities in the state. Also, 25,000 brochures about Dalton were printed up to help publicize the area. And the Miss Dalton of 1949, Betty Roberts, was viewed as an ambassador for the town.
Transportation was the next category for review. Three new taxi services were added to the fleet already serving Dalton. There was a photograph of one of three bright, new busses for the local bus service we had in town. The Dalton airport was getting an air beacon for the airport, supported by the flying enthusiasts and pilots in town. Two new trucking freight depots were built and air freight arrangements for textiles produced here were improved.
The final section, housing and civic improvement, was one of the largest sections. At least 73 new houses were built over the year and the City Council was working toward securing 600 (400 white, 200 black) low-rent housing units for working class folks in the area. There were 20 snapshots of new houses that had been built giving a good sample of the styles that were popular in post-war Dalton.
After the housing reports there was a big section on the area churches including the news concerning new buildings for Crown View Baptist and Antioch Baptist and additions for Grove Level Baptist and North Dalton Methodist. The news after that dealt with the Dalton library and the new bookmobile. And closing out the scrapbook was page after page showing the different clubs' contributions to the community, which was immense. There was everything from Red Cross to Christmas Seals to Community Chest fundraisers that supported a wide swath of the area.
Looking over the scrapbook from 1949, the thing that struck me as outstanding was the community-wide support for progress everyone seemed to have. There was a pride in Dalton and the variety and number of organizations and individuals that contributed to the betterment of all was a feature we should be proud of and try and emulate.
Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.