Having preceded the computer era — when I reflect back, I have to say the days of the typewriter weren’t so bad — it took a long time before the habit of reaching for the dictionary to look up the spelling of a word was broken.
I must confess that it is quite efficient to hit that box at the bottom of the computer screen and let Monsieur Google connect you with spellings, definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, antonyms, order you a pizza or book you a flight to Kathmandu.
The computer is downright remarkable, but I have reference books which I refer to frequently, and I prefer to thumb through the pages and enjoy the smile that exercise brings about.
Several years ago, I discovered a book “Georgia Place Names,” written by one Kenneth Krakow. It has been a favorite for many years. Krakow drove around the 159 counties in our state and researched the origin of the names of every town and many communities in Georgia.
Not even the internet is as good as what Mr. Krakow set forth in this delightful reference book, published in 1975. The internet is all business. Krakow researched with feeling and passion and chronicled insightful factoids and vignettes.
Yes, there is a Chitlin Switch in Georgia. Also, a Santa Claus, Bethlehem, Rising Fawn, Loco, Summit-Graymont, Sasser, Pooler, Pocataligo, Climax, Attapulgus and Roopville.
I keep this book handy, and nearby is Larry Dendy’s fine book on all the buildings on the University of Georgia campus. He’s a longtime editor-writer with the UGA News Bureau. Dendy’s book, “Through the Arch,” an illustrated guide to the University of Georgia campus, is overflowing with cogent details and illuminating history. This is a book I often reach for — sometimes just to feel good about the campus.
Now I am adding a third one, bringing about a “Big Three” in my reference nook.
Gary Doster, who is a native of Athens, has come out with another book, “Athens Streets and Neighborhoods.” Even those who are not residents of the Classic City can enjoy the information he has compiled.
After all, if any city belongs to the state of Georgia at large it would be Athens, since the entire state is connected to the University of Georgia in one fashion or other.
If you spend time here on football Saturdays, you may have found a side street between two major routes with which longtime residents lack familiarity.
Doster’s indefatigable research has led to an insightful journey into Athens’ illustrious past. It is laced with amusing factoids as well as documenting the history of the Classic City.
As he discloses, there are some streets that are no more than a block long. Some streets no longer exist. And some reflect lore that makes you commit to the notion of taking a picnic basket to a few of them, spending some time and allowing your mind to imagine what yesteryear was truly like.
Many streets, such as Lumpkin and Milledge, got their names from some of the state’s most accomplished and notable citizens. Some streets are named for former UGA presidents. One former football coach has a street named in his honor, Dr. Charles Herty. Perhaps the fact that he was a scientist first brought him that honor as much as being the father of football at UGA.
There are two names connected with men who could have become president of the United States. Crawford Avenue is a one-block dead end street that may have been named for William Harris Crawford from nearby Oglethorpe County.
Crawford was a U. S. senator, minister to France, secretary of war and secretary of the treasury. He was considered to be a formidable candidate in 1824, running against Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams when he was stricken with a stroke.
Tilden Street, which no longer exists, was named for Samuel Jones Tilden, Democratic candidate for president in 1876. He won the election, but the office went to Rutherford B. Hayes by the Electoral College “because of a supposed discrepancy in the vote count.”
Gary Doster’s book is a reminder that a place becomes special when its people are special. Athens gets the highest of marks with that good fortune.