Saturday, November 22, 2014


Reminiscences of Red Cowart

Red Cowart loved Dublin.  Red did what we all should do and that is to write down  what meant the most to us during our lives.  You don't need any special skills, just write what you remember.  If you do so, the remotest of your descendants and the most avid of  future historians will forever be indebted to you.

D. T. "Red" Cowart  grew up in Dublin on the edge of the city's first industrial complex.  His parents, Andrew A. Cowart and Ida Williams Cowart, lived in a home on the northeast corner of East Madison and South Washington Streets on the corner occupied for many years by Rawls Welding Shop.  Red's father operated a lumber mill further down South Washington Street.  Andrew Cowart dug the first artesian well in Laurens County.  Cowart dug his well in the rear of his home and later constructed an indoor swimming pool, also the first in the county,  to capitalize on the abundant supply of fresh and virtually pure water.   Mr. Cowart came up with a brilliant idea.  The spring water was cold and not ideal for swimming.  Across the street at the ice plant, the plant needed cold water to condense steam into pure water for ice making.   So they struck a deal.  Cowart pumped cold artesian water to the plant and in turn the plant piped steam across the street to his pool and presto, a heated indoor swimming pool.  The Cowarts enjoyed the pool all during the year.  Their friends, both old and new and invited and uninvited, enjoyed visiting the Cowart home.

Red prefaced his memories by saying, "The good old days were just that.  They were good to everyone. Everyone was friendly and neighborly. Living conditions, while a bit uncomfortable at times, were never excessively cruel.  All had just about everything they needed and lived well without being forced, against their wills, to live, act and struggle as they are being forced to today?"

The railroads were the most important aspect of our history around the turn of the 20th Century.  The first trains had to stop on the eastern bank of the river.  Passengers and freight were then hauled to town by buggy, wagon or hack.  Judson Jackson and his family were among the first spectators to witness the arrival of the first passenger train into Dublin.  Jackson's son took the wagon and tied the mules under a tree.   The alarming bells and whistle blows so startled the youngster that he began to flee with the wagon shafts in his hands.  His flight ended in disaster when the he lost control of the wagon, which was a total loss.

Red remembered how much fun everyone had on the excursions to Tybee Island on the Central of Georgia railroad.  As many as eight to nine railcars full of passengers boarded the trains early in the morning to enjoy an afternoon frolic in the surf and sun, which ended as nightfall came.  There were Saturdays when passengers disembarked from the train to shop in the many stores of downtown Dublin.  One of his most fond memories was the day the legendary passenger train, "The Nancy Hanks," detoured from its normal route.  Hundreds of persons gathered along the tracks to see "the last passenger train to pass through Dublin."

Despite the large numbers of shoppers and visitors in the downtown area, there were no parking problems.  There was a large parking lot in the first block of North Jefferson street on the site of the old Piggly Wiggly grocery store.  Situated throughout the town were  stables where a farmer could park his wagon.  While he and his family shopped and tended to their business, the horses were fed and watered.  Some persons brought their purchases back to the wagon for safekeeping, while others picked them up on their way out of town.  In the "good old days," there were never any parking meters and no parking tickets," Red remembered.

One of Red's most favorite stories actually had to deal with Laurens County and World War II.   Cowart was a close friend of Judge Jim Hicks.  One day Jim Hicks took Red out to his farm in the Buckeye District.  The judge showed Red a grove of huge pine trees growing along the banks of the Oconee River.  Red asked Judge Hicks why he didn't cut them down and not take a chance on losing them to fire or disease.  The judge said, "Red, I am saving these trees to help the United States whip Japan."  About eight or so years later, Red noticed a small convoy of trucks passing through town.  Each truck carried a single humongous log, there being not enough room to throw another on the truck bed.  Red asked around and found out that the trees were some of the same trees that the judge had shown him in 1935.  The year was then 1943 and the United States and Japan were in the midst of a horrific war in the Pacific Ocean.  The trees, well they were on their way to the planing mill and then bound for transport to the shipyards where they were fashioned into landing craft for invasion of the islands of the South Pacific.

Red wrote of fond memories of river boats, which were the sole means of transportation of freight before the coming of the railroads and automobiles. He vividly recalled the names of the boats, the Rover, the Katy C, the City of Dublin and the Clyde S.  Many a kid would spend hours watching the boats as they pulled up to the docks and unloaded their freight into elevators which took bales of cotton, lumber and other valuable goods up to the level of the river bank.  Especially exciting were the times when new boats were launched into the mighty Oconee.    All of this came to an end when the Clyde S. was beached on the end of a sandbar about eight hundred to nine hundred yards above the river bridge on the East Dublin side of the river, left there to be washed piece by piece back into the river she served so well. 

Dubliners were most proud of the only brick yards in this section.  Located between the old Georgia Plywood Company (Riverwalk Park and Roche Farm and Garden Center) and the mouth of Hunger and Hardship was L.A. Chapman's brick yard, which supplied Dublin and cities around the southeast with fine bricks.  Once the yard's supply of clay was exhausted, the city of Dublin took over the property and filled the pits with trash and garbage, much to the delight of bottle hunters for many decades.  A second brickyard was located about a mile and a half down river.  Those who remember the hexagonal stones which once lined the sidewalks of Dublin and other cities of the state, might not remember that they were fashioned from sand pits of the Georgia Hydraulic Stone Company in East Dublin along Nathaniel Drive.

Finally, Red remembered the time that a group of sailors were gathered in a pub in a Mediterranean port.  One man got up and dared anyone to name a city he hadn't visited.  Wooten Cowart stood and said, "ever hear of Dublin, Georgia?"  The man laughed loudly and said he formerly lived in Dublin and worked at the Carter Iron Foundry.  "I was once arrested for drunkenness," he boasted.  The man who arrested him was Police Chief Cowart, father of Wooten Cowart.    As they say, it is indeed a "small world."