Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Once upon a war, there was a time, well two times.  In order to save daylight at the end of the workday as World War II unfolded, the United States Government implemented new time zones; Eastern War Time, Central War Time, etc.   The process had been used in World War I by Woodrow Wilson.  The first implementation of War Time came on February 9, 1942, just two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

A time of controversy arose in Dublin and around Georgia about  new time zones and which ones would the people of Laurens County observe.  Those men with time on their hands - those who had the money or the power to go to Atlanta to make new laws and change the way that the common folks lived -  ignited a cyclone where time flew in circles, around and around and back again. 

In 1941, Georgia’s legislature voted to establish Eastern Standard Time across the state, replacing the tw0 time zone systems of eastern and western Georgia. 

On January 28, 1943, Georgia’s governor Ellis Arnall signed a bill changing the state from Eastern War Time to Central War Time, effectively repealing President Roosevelt’s nationwide time zones.  Georgia was nearly alone in the change.  Ohio was considering going back to the old time, but only Michigan immediately joined Georgia in the reversal of the Federal time zones. 

The measure drove  the state into a crisis. Confusion of what time it really was nearly paralyzed the state. All railroads and airplane companies remained on Eastern War Time.  Baffled mayors looked to their councils for advice to roll back or leave the hands on their clocks alone.    Across the state, one city after another wrestled with the question at hand.  Savannah, Augusta and Macon immediately decided to keep the status quo, although the Macon council had a time committee to study the measure before a final decision was made.  That decision would change.  Macon’s government accepted the new time for some activities while other people were going about their lives an hour behind their next door neighbors.      
In Atlanta, the state’s and the region’s transportation hub, the measure was also studied while the government conformed to state standards, government agencies and schools matched the Federal time. 

“Atlanta is the hub of all war activities in the South,” said Councilman John White, and “it cannot afford to operate on two times.”

Despite the legislature’s affirmative vote, Gov. Arnall dodged the criticism by saying, “I’m not going to try to make anybody do anything they don’t want to.  Any city that so desires, can go on Rocky Mountain time or Eastern time.” 

In Dublin, the city council voted to leave all city clocks on Eastern War Time.  By ignoring the legislature’s mandate, the city would be in conformance with all trains and buses in the city as well as the majority of the rest of the country.  

Initially the city schools and the Carnegie Library did their civic duty and followed the new law.  After one week, the school and library boards decided to get back in step with the rest of the city. 

The Laurens County Commissioners did not take action immediately although the county schools moved their clocks back to Central time.  The county’s semi-official time piece, the courthouse clock, was left unchanged by order of Superior Court Judge, R. Earl Camp.

There was some minor confusion among the churches of the city and the county.  The Rev. Earl Stirewalt, of the Dublin Ministerial Association, announced that the majority of the churches decided to go back to Eastern time for their services. 

The Georgia Senate went back to work.  Some factions wanted to go back to the pre-war dual system with Atlanta and Columbus being on Central time and Macon, Augusta and Savannah in the Eastern zone.  The State Republic Committee approved a measure to do just that.  That measure would repeal the Central War Time Zone as proposed by State Senator Herschel Lovett of Dublin, who favored returning the state to Eastern time under pressure from his constituents. 

“I favor the new time, but I am up here to represent the wishes of my people,” said  Senator Lovett, who originally voted in favor of the Central Time bill, which was actually the same time as it was before the 1941 bill placed Georgia in the same time zone. 

A feeble compromise was reached accepting the heart of Lovett’s bill, but delaying its implementation until April 1, 1943.  But when David Atkinson, the governor’s floor leader in the Senate, polled his members, the necessary “ayes” were five short of passage.  The measure was dropped.  

For the remainder of the war, Georgians across the state went about their daily lives never knowing what time it really was.  One thing was for sure, they knew when it was time to eat and when it was  time to go to sleep.

Finally on the day after Labor Day in 1945 and two days after the Japanese government signed the surrender agreement aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, the state’s Attorney General, Eugene Cook, of Dublin, announced that Georgia would return to Eastern Standard Time as soon as the Congress of the United States discontinued War Time.  

As the calendars were turned to October, everything was back to normal.  Ironically the change wasn’t noticed in the western part of the state.  But in Dublin and the rest of East Georgia, the clocks were turned back an hour.

So, in a few weeks when we spring the hands of our clocks forward and when we all say “I can’t get used to this new time,” be glad that we will still know really what time it really is.    

Friday, February 6, 2015


Without a doubt, January is the coldest and the darkest month of the year.  And in most areas around the state it is one of the wettest, closely rivaled only by the tropical storm months of the summer.  We here in Dublin and Laurens County are relatively lucky when it comes to floods.  It was in the bend of the river where the old Indian roads converged at the Oconee River where the county's founders first staked out the town of Dublin, where the flood plain is narrow.  Major floods, before the construction of Lake Sinclair, occurred at a one per decade rate.  After the dam at Sinclair was erected, the number of major floods in the inhabited areas of Dublin and East Dublin has plummeted. 

Speaking of wet months, around the second week of January 1925, ninety years ago it began to rain in Laurens County and all around the South.  The rains poured down, heavily and almost daily. The rivers and creeks began to rise.   It rained some more. And, then some more.  The floods came and came again.  Not since 1887 had so much rain had so much of a profound effect on our area as during that rainy month, ninety winters ago.

As far as rivers went then, there were no dams along the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers to control the water levels down stream.  Torrential winter rains and severe summer freshets left river dwellers to suffer from  the wrath of a frequently unmerciful  mother nature.

Dublin was established as a river port along the Oconee River in 1811.  Although the bulk of the commercial district is situated along a ridge nearly a  hundred feet above the mean level of the river, industries along the lower ends of Gaines, East Jackson and Madison Street frequently fell victim to rising winter waters.  Especially susceptible to flooding was the plywood mill situated on the banks of the river just above the river bridge.  From its earliest days in the early 1900s and even until now, thirty foot levels were always unkind to improvements on the property. 

River levels, as they always do, peaked first at places north and northwest of Dublin.  Locally the first effects of the strong torrents were the washing out of bridges and railroad trestles, the first coming along the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad near Dudley.  In town, there were some places where the river spilled more than 250 feet further out from  its banks than normal.

Wooden bridges, the mainstay of the county's infrastructure, were damaged beyond calculation.  The steel bridge across Hunger and Hardship Creek was six to eight feet under water and totally useless as an entrance or exit along the northern edge of the city. 

The 1920 Oconee River Bridge, somewhat new and modern with improved causeways,  was holding, although the same could not be said of the next bridge downstream at Mt. Vernon, which was beginning to wash completely away.  The railroad bridge at Dublin was still standing, but railroad officials dared not take loaded freight trains over the raging river as it relentlessly pommeled the thirty-five-year-old columns with tons of pressure.   The same could be said all over the central and southern parts of the state, where many substantial bridges were sustaining some degree of damage. 

Days and days of incessant rain brought the Oconee above its flood stage of 22 feet.  "Every branch has turned to a creek and every creek is now a river," wrote a Dublin newspaperman.
With the Oconee still rising, industries along the flood plain began to shut down.  Water backed up into the boilers of the Ice Plant bringing production of the valuable commodity to a halt. 

By the 22nd, county residents had reported that nearly every wooden bridge in the county had been swept away.  Five miles below Dublin on present day Highway 441, the long, wooden bridge over Turkey Creek at Garretta had a twenty-foot-wide fatal, gaping section swept away in the deluge, cutting off the city's main highway to the south. 

People living in northeast Dublin in the Scottsville neighborhoods east of North Decatur had lived with flooding waters for three decades. This time knew they that the flood was for real with the water getting higher and higher every day.

Travel along county roads, made mostly of sand and clay, was nearly impossible.  The trains of The Wrightsville & Tennille and Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroads trains stopped running altogether.   And, when trains stopped, nearly everything else stopped.  Pardon the pun, but there was a flood of mail stacked up in post offices around the county and the state.

On the 21st of January, the river began to crest at 29.6 feet measured at the passenger bridge.  Along the Ocmulgee, the river at Abbeville had risen to 20.1 feet, 11 feet above flood stage, while upriver at Hawkinsville, the water was 36 feet deep, seven feet above flood levels. At Lumber City near the junction of the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers, the waterline stood at 26 feet, nine feet higher than the town's folk wanted to see.

But the water didn't crest in Dublin as predicted on the 21st.  Slight raises were seen during the night bringing the official level on January 22 to 29.84 inches, a measly and insignificant one-sixth of an inch below thirty feet. That crest fell nearly three inches short of the all time record of 32.8 feet established in mid April 1936.

In the Lake Sinclair era, the highest crest of the Oconee River in Dublin came on February 8, 1998.  Depending on the spot where the depth was measured, Don Bryant, the head of Laurens County's Emergency Management Agency, stated that the river crested at 30.54 feet.

As the water levels receded almost as fast as they climbed, all activities began to resume as they normally would.  

In meteorological circles, the year 1925 was quite remarkable.  It was a year when unprecedented and record rainfalls were measured in the winter and the spring.  By the summer, it started getting hot, real hot - a record year to date for temperatures.  By the autumn, the rains stopped and all was dry.  And, mother nature's ever revolving, ever changing cycle began again.