Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

DIRTY DANCING, GHOST AND MEN IN BLACK



No, this is not a move review.  Despite the headline, I am not going to write about Patrick Swayze, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  I am going to tell you a few stories about our forgotten past.  I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

It was one hundred and five years ago when the editors of a newspaper saluted "one of the most pleasant social events the young people of the city have enjoyed in some time."  Fifteen couples danced in the dance hall of the Henry Building until their self-imposed curfew sent them home after their Friday evening fete.  But, times change.

It was in the months following the end of World War I, called by victorious politicians and generals as "the war to end all wars."  Young men were jubilant and wanted to celebrate, especially in the company of the city's most attractive young women.  These men formed a club and called themselves "The Stags."  No, it wasn't the first instance of a gang in the Emerald City, but it was an association of young men seeking to have a good time by ignoring their inhibitions and dancing until, well until their dates had to go home.

The Stags did not just want to have a dance once a month.  They wanted to dance with the young ladies on every Friday evening.  They even had the audacity to stage a street dance as the finale of "Dollar Days," a downtown wide mercantile event.  The leader of the Stags secured permission to stage a dance in front of the courthouse on a Wednesday night.  It didn't take long for word to reach the pastors of the local churches.

Dr. R.L. Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church, warned his congregation that any member caught dancing in public would be subject to banishment from the church.   Rev. L.A. Hill of First Methodist Church was more blunt on the subject.  Rev. Hill called the event a "public hugging game, which would be a blot on the fair name of the city."  He asked the men if they would allow their wives or daughters to dance with hoodlums, ragtags, and bobtails from all over the county.  He denounced the houses of ill fame located just across the river in East Dublin.  Rev. Hill believed that the women of Dublin would enter into a public dance with all innocence.  However, according to statistics in his possession, nine out of ten fallen women began their fall by dancing in public.  Rev. Hill was not directly opposed to dancing in public, as long as the men danced with men and women danced with women.  It's funny how things change. 

John A. Harvill and his wife had just sat down by the fire on a cold December evening in 1882.  The newly wed couple were distracted when they heard a noise which sounded like a squeaking old wagon.  They ignored the discord as a mere passerby.  After a moment, Harvill thinking the continuing commotion to be strange, sprang to his feet and opened his front door.  

To his utter dismay Harvill observed what appeared to be a very large dog with a torch or lamp attached  to the top of its head.  He called out thinking that he must have been the brunt of some of a candid camera joke, of course, television cameras wouldn't be around for more than five decades.  When no reply was received, Harvill did what most terrified men of his day would do, he picked up his gun and shot at it.  He shot. He shot again. The dog didn't move.  In the words of a writer of the Dublin Gazette, "there stood the specter as steadfast as the rock of Gibraltar."    Harvill couldn't believe his eyes.  Was he seeing things?

It didn't take long for the neighbors to come rushing to the scene of the skirmish.  Harvill pointed out the apparition to friends, hoping that they would see it as well. Reportedly, they did.  The brave generals in the crowd consulted each other and devised a plan of attack.  Everyone who could, grabbed a torch and began their advance.  As the first wave of the assault reached the ghostly canine, the pooch resumed his squeaking stride into the oblivion of the night.  While the reporter for the Gazette was covering the calamity, a neighbor came up to him and confirmed that he had also seen the dog, without the squeak.  

Minnie Howell and Charles Jones were deeply in love.  They couldn't wait to get married.  They rode into Dublin on a Sunday morning in February 1914.  As they drove their buggy through the streets of Dublin, they desperately looked around for a "man in black," either a minister or judge, both of whom traditionally were donned in a black suit or wearing a black robe.  They wanted someone to marry them and quickly.  It was then when they spotted the newly elected Judge K.H. Hawkins, judge of the superior court of the Dublin circuit, walking to the First Methodist Church for its morning service.  The startled judge honored the anxious couple's request and legally joined their hands in marriage as they sat on the seat of their buggy.  Had Minnie and Charles been able to wait until January of the following year, they may have spotted one W.H. Brunson on his way to church. Brunson, who had only been practicing law for three months, easily outpaced a field of older and more well known candidates to win an election to fill the vacancy in the office of Justice of the Peace of the Dublin militia district following the death of Judge Chapman.  Brunson, a twenty-two-year-old attorney, was the youngest Justice of the Peace in the State of Georgia.

It was a quiet day at the Park-N-Shop in the Shamrock Shopping Center on the last day of January 1974.  City Alderman Glen Harden was manning the cash register at his store as he usually did.  A trio of customers came through the door.  Harden didn't pay too much attention.  He thought he recognized them, or at least one of them.  But that wasn't unusual  because Harden knew a lot of folks.  

But there was something strangely familiar about the man.  Glen knew he recognized him.  He asked the man if he was who he thought he was.    He had seen the tall dark stranger on television before. He had listened to his voice on records.  The man acknowledged his identity and introduced his wife and mother-in-law to Harden.  The trio were on their way to Savannah for a concert that night.  In today's day of interstate highways, we tend to forget that most people traveling to Savannah from anywhere west of the port city had to come through Dublin to get there.

The customers purchased some groceries and had a good time talking with Harden, so much so that they promised to stop back by on their return to their home in Nashville.  Oh, they also bought a pair of scissors, a pack of needles and a few spools of thread, possibly black thread.  For you see the trio who stopped in one of the city's first modern convenience stores was June and her mother Maybelle.  The man, of course, was the world's most famous "man in black," the iconic legend, Johnny Cash.  

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