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Canton Elementary

Joe and the Christmas Chicks 🐥

Below is a story my cousin Joe tells every now and then. Joe is actually my mom’s first cousin; my grandmother and his mom were sisters.

Joe is a memory keeper and a story teller. And he’s a good man.

My written words won’t allow you to hear the warm southern comfort of his voice, nor will they reveal the mischievous twinkle of his eyes as he retells this story of a time gone by. But I hope you see the heart of a little boy, a poor boy… who was pained by the great sadness and mourning he witnessed all around him. He asked himself what he could do to bring cheer to his friends. He figured it out, the answer to his own question, and set out to make it happen.

The world needs more Joes.

Merry Christmas 🎄

“On November 22 1963, I was 10 years old and went to Canton Elementary School (Canton, Georgia). I was in Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston’s 3rd grade class.

On that day, I walked home for lunch, for I lived on Hill Street in downtown Canton, about 300 feet from school.

When I got home there was a news bulletin on the TV that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas,Texas. I ran back to the school and told Mrs. Johnston. She went to the other teachers and found out that it was true. All of the teachers were crying in the hallway. The following days, through the time of the funeral, and even into December, there was so much sadness. And I wanted to cheer everyone up. So I thought to myself, “what would make me happy?”

The answer was “a baby chicken”!

I lived just up the hill from Gold Kist Poultry. So I went to work collecting every Coca Cola bottle I could find around the “chicken plant” (Gold Kist), and sold them at Mr. Frongberger’s store, which was down the hill from the school as well. Not far from Gold Kist. I went strait to the hatchery with my bottle money, and knocked on the big door of the plant. The door opened and there stood two men. One of the men asked, “can I help you son?”.

I said, “I want to buy some baby chicks!” One of the men said, “we don’t sell to the public!”

I lowered my head, and when I did, the other man asked, “what are you going to do with the chicks?”

I told him that I wanted to give everyone in my class a present for Christmas.

He turned to the other man and said, “get the chicks for him”. When they give them to me, I handed the money to him. But he said, “keep the money, those chicks are free”.

The next day at school was our class Christmas party. And when I brought those baby chicks into the room, I saw that I was right, they liked baby chicks just as much as I did!

Jenny Holbrook put me in the school paper and titled her article, Joe and The Christmas Chicks.

I found out that day, how special giving is.

PS … by 6pm that same day, I got most of the chicks returned back to me.”🐥

Joe Daniel

Joe

Joe’s other Christmas Chicks, his beautiful daughters.

Be True to Your School

Three years ago, I woke up to a post, made by a friend from my childhood. It was a simple line from a song, a song made famous by Joni Mitchell, back when this friend and I were in elementary school. Her post read, “They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” Along with that ominous sentence, she shared a link to our hometown newspaper. If the article in the Cherokee Tribune was true, and I had no reason to doubt that it was, we were about to lose a big piece of our childhood history. Our town was about to lose two beautiful works of architectural art. Our wonderful old school building, (most of us called it “the school house” back then, because that’s what our parents and grandparents called it…) had a date with a demolition ball. That graceful lady of a building, was sitting square in the eye of a sniper’s scope. The old Canton Textile Mill Office building (built by the family of our hometown golfer, Bobby Jones… you know him, the one of Augusta National fame), was also going to see the wrecking ball. The two buildings would be replaced, according to the artist’s depiction in the Tribune article, with a parking lot, and a blocked-style, modern building. The replacement building looked very similar to a large CVS or a Walgreen’s Pharmacy.

Privately, I contacted my school friend and inquired of the details. She shared with me some of what she couldn’t share publicly. Yes, it was true, the building was going. The fate was almost certain. She knew, because she was an employee of the Cherokee County School System, and they were the entity responsible for the future paving of Paradise. It was all but a “done deal”.

The news hit me hard. It was akin to knowing in advance, that a loved one was going to be in a fatal fight, but unable to reach them. Incapable of stopping the oncoming slaughter.

I had spent all my elementary years at Canton Elementary School. I was a Canton Greenie to the bone. We all were. We didn’t really know what a Greenie was, but we knew it was us. The What of a Greenie just didn’t matter. We wore the Green & Gold proudly, even as, often enough, kids from other schools, those with tougher sounding mascots, poked fun at us. Sometimes they were kinder, genuinely curious, and phrased a conversation starter with the inevitable question: “So, what is a Greenie, anyway?” The CES girls usually responded with a shoulder shrug. The boys generally had a different answer, “That’s for us to know and you to find out!”

One year, probably in an attempt to stall the “what is a Greenie” question, the cheerleaders dressed six-year-old Patrick Bishop in a Greenie get-up, and called him Canton’s Mascot. He looked like an Irish Leprechaun in the costume. But he put a brave and adorable face to the Greenie. To this day, he is the Greenie I see in my memory.
We were the Canton Greenies.

All the others were the…

  • Woodstock Wildcats
  • Holly Springs Wildcats
  • Macedonia Wildcats
  • Hickory Flat Devils (Green Devils)
  • Buffington Blue Devils
  • Clayton Rebels
  • Free Home Rockets
  • Ball Ground Indians/Braves
  • North Canton Tigers
  • R.M. Moore Braves
  • Ralph Bunche

And in that old Canton Gym, our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, at one time or another, showed all the others, what it meant to be a Greenie. Even if we couldn’t tell them.

Once we made it to Cherokee High School though, we were all Warriors. Everyone of us. Until the late 1970’s, Cherokee was the only 9th-12th grade school in the county. And at some time in their lives, almost every CHS Warrior had walked the grounds of Canton Elementary. They may have attended one of the other schools, but they had sat on the iron and wood Merry-Go-Round, eating ice-cream, or drinking a Lime Freeze from Landers or Canton Drug, while their mama shopped downtown. They had played, cheered, and attended a basketball game or a Fall Carnival, in the old gymnasium. They had eaten fund-raiser chicken dinner plates, and the best Yeast Rolls in the world, all made by “the lunchroom ladies”, in the school’s cafeteria.
Without doubt, the old Canton Elementary building, and her red clay grounds, held memories for most of us.

And so it was, that Greenies and Tigers, Blue Devils and Wildcats, Rockets and more…. all Warriors, took to the streets of Social Media in a March to Save Our School, save our history….our cotton mill, poultry grower, foothills history…. our childhood school home. Our Classic, Southern, Neoclassical Beauty of a building.

Randy Saxon talked to everyone about our fight. I wrote a blog article and called news agencies. Others shared the story of our impending loss. Soon, Canton Alum, locally and from other parts of the world, began joining our fight. Historians took notice. Meetings were called. Words were spoken. Prayers were said.

Outwardly, the situation appeared hopeless. My son, usually optimistic in his support of my endeavors, attempted to prepare me for the worst. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to save it, Mom. But you can say you’ve tried. You’ve all tried. You’ve done your best.”

We didn’t give up. We came together as a community, even though many of us no longer live in Cherokee County. Randy Saxon was not about to give in without a battle. His mother had led a fight to save the old Canton High School (Building #2, or the Big Building, as we called it when we were elementary students), and he was determined to carry the legacy.

To be clear, our group’s effort wasn’t simply to save our school building. We wished to preserve the historical integrity of downtown Canton. And we did.

Soon enough, you, and we, will be able to shop and dine where little feet used to scurry about. The memory triggering fragrance of old books won’t be there, the dust of chalk will not be visible. But I hope to see some remnants hanging about, in honor of the educators and students who loved their time there.

Principal Shault Coker’s wooden paddle, though it terrified me when I was a first grader…. I would love to see it on display in the hallway, near where his old office was located.

Recently, I commented to Randy, “and to think we could have had a modern building and a parking lot there instead.” He replied, “Yes, I guess we’ll have to put up with this old thing for another hundred years or so”.
Yes, we will Randy. Because of your hard work and love for your hometown, we will. Thank you for your diligent work and outstanding progress. You’ve been the force behind the preservation.

For those unfamiliar, below is a link to the article I wrote in 2015.
I’m also including photos I’ve snagged from Randy’s Facebook page. And a video he posted today, it shows the progress being made on the school.

I’m also including a couple of photos of that Greenie I mentioned.

Go Greenies!
Sincerely,

Danita

Bully in the School Yard

https://wordpress.com/post/redclayponderings.com/450

Bully in the School Yard

Canton Elem

Canton Elem2

Did you know the old Canton Elementary on Academy Street and the Jones’ Textile Offices in downtown Canton, Georgia are on the National Register of Historic Places as being in the historic section of Canton? And did you know Dr. Frank Petruzielo, of superintendent fame, plans to demolish the school building and or the Jones Canton Textile building? He does. And very soon.

Because he needs a new office, you know. And a better place to park his car.

Canton and Cherokee County, do we have to allow another piece of our history to fall victim to the wrecking ball? I really don’t believe we do…or should. But….if some backbones, some green paper and a few history lovers don’t come together, within the next few months, we’re going to lose another piece of our history. Or as Ms. Joplin sang, we’ll lose Another Piece of My (our) Heart(s).

If we don’t act, Dr. Frank P will have his way with a building we love. He’ll replace it with another modern eyesore. Canton has too many of those already.

I’ve been told Dr. P has withdrawn all but bare-bones maintenance of the school building…allowing decline. To anyone watching from afar, it would appear his plan is for Canton Elementary to fall into such a state of disrepair, it will be non-salvageable. I’m sure by now the building is in terrible shape, it’s over 100 years old, after all. And when the county “remodeled” it in the mid 1970s, they didn’t bother with sustaining the integrity of the building or the original interior character. They replaced the windows, installed a drop ceiling, covered the hardwoods with cheap carpet and called it remodeled. What an insult to that beautiful, genteel Southern Lady.

I no longer live in Canton, but it will always be my hometown. My parents are still there, my cousins and their children and a spattering of aunts and uncles are still around town. They’ll be there until their last breath. Your family is probably very similar. Dr. P, most likely, will not. He’ll rip down a 100-year-old building, and for a couple of years, he’ll settle himself into a big comfy chair within that building…and then he’ll move on. Canton will be a faded memory to Dr. P. But we’ll remember him. Every time we drive downtown and see what is no longer there, we’ll remember. And we’ll say to our grandchildren what we’ve had to say to our children about other significant buildings around town: “There used to be the best old school building standing right over there. You should have seen the architecture, Neoclassical Style. Nothing else like it around here….”

We have given up so much of this cotton mill town. We gave things up without a fight. We let the hotel go, the magnificent Sequoyah Library where my love of reading began as a five-year old, the train depot (what other town destroys its depot?), the elegant homes on Marietta Street (replaced by a couple of architecturally unattractive brick boxes). We’ve lost enough.

The Historical Society doesn’t want to lose these buildings either. Below is a link to an article on their page. Surely we can come together and help them save a bit of history for the future citizens of Cherokee County.
https://www.facebook.com/CherokeeCountyHistoricalSociety

Thank you,
Danita Clark Able

Canton Elem3

If you want to be a part of preserving the character of Downtown Canton. Please sign this petition created by the Cherokee County Historical Society. https://www.change.org/p/cherokee-county-board-of-education-integrate-downtown-historic-building-into-new-design

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Saving Canton

Canton DepotCanton34 Canton First MethodistCanton46

Canton31 Canton Elementary 1913

In March 2012, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution published an article by Bill Torpy and titled it, Trove of Artifacts in Canton tell story of Indians. The article was a great, educational piece. An education on a very interesting bit of Cherokee County history that we can only read about now…thanks, in part, to greed disguised as progress.

Reading Mr. Torpy’s story, I couldn’t help but feel a huge emptiness for what the former land owner destroyed and the loss he allowed the county of my birth, when he sold his land to developers. I didn’t need to ask why he sold this historical land. I knew the why…it had something to do with a few men: George, Thomas, Abraham, Alexander, Benjamin, Andrew, Ulysses, William, Grover, James, Woodrow and Salmon P. Chase (lots of Woodrow’s and Salmon P’s). So now, instead of a museum…a historical, educational, archaeological site…and a memorial to the Native Cherokee families forced off their land….Canton has a Super Wal-Mart. Yay.
I was born and educated in Canton, Georgia. As a young girl, I watched with a feeling of loss as old homes, historical buildings and important land was destroyed to make way for stores, gas stations and post offices. I watched as the architectural integrity of beautiful old buildings was assaulted for ‘modern improvements’. In high school, I tried to start a campaign to save the abandoned Canton Train Depot. I failed…Canton won…and the building was demolished. I believe the structure was replaced with a vacant lot.

When I was a Cherokee County teen in the 1970’s, I thought our town was a million light years away from the cosmopolitan life of Atlanta. And I guess it was. I realized our families needed more opportunities for employment than the cotton mills and poultry plants in town. I knew we needed alternative stores, restaurants, and a few more places for a teenager to have a summer job. But I also knew there was historical bedrock beneath our ball fields and corn fields…and in the clay along the banks of the Etowah; I wanted it preserved. Eh, but what did I know?

Cherokee County has surpassed all expectations for growth and progress. No longer can every high school student in the county boast about being a Cherokee Warrior, all on the same unified team. Present day high school kids have more opportunities for summer employment than we ever could have dreamed possible. But our slow-moving river and the beautiful green hills of Cherokee County are now obscured by big box stores and the gaudy colors of pre-fab fast food spots. These days, Cherokee Countians have the privilege of sitting in traffic on Riverstone Parkway and Highway 20. Just what we wanted. Oh, Progress, how we love thee.

I hope Cherokee County will outgrow the need to play ‘progress catch up’ and gain a sense of responsibility for preserving her history. Somehow, I doubt the change will occur anytime soon. Still, I hope. Yet, every now I then, I hear rumors of demolishing the old Canton Elementary and High School buildings on Academy Street. Many of us spent our elementary years in those red brick buildings. A few still living spent their high school years there as well. Losing those buildings would be a disservice to downtown Canton; a disgrace kin to the one we suffered when the old Canton Hotel was demolished and replaced with an ugly bank building.

That’s my pondering for the day,
Danita

Below is a portion of Mr. Torpy’s AJC article.

For 15 years, hordes of shoppers have streamed into the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Canton.

The hilltop along I-575 is a prime commercial location in Cherokee County, a fast-growing community with one foot in metro Atlanta and another in the North Georgia mountains.

What few customers know is they are walking on land that was a hub for Native American life for 10,000 years. At different times, the patch of high ground overlooking the Etowah River has been a village, a fort, a trading center and, finally, home to a cluster of Cherokee families desperately trying to co-exist with the white man.

During the summer of 1995, a large crew of archaeologists and their assistants unearthed a trove of artifacts that told a story of the land’s ancient inhabitants. The property, known as the Hickory Log Site, yielded 48 graves and thousands of artifacts that filled 120 boxes. The discovery offered one of the most detailed looks ever at the life of Native Americans in North Georgia.

Local officials hope to exhibit the findings — ranging from 10,000-year-old spear tips to a rifle used by the Cherokees — at The Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt University.

“It’s a rare chance to educate people [about] what happened,” said Paul Webb, the archaeologist who headed the 1995 dig and returned to Cherokee County last week to finally speak about his findings and lay the groundwork for the artifacts to return home. “It’s one thing to know this is Cherokee County and another thing to have this tangible evidence of Native American and Cherokee life.

“It remains one of the major projects in North Georgia in size and scope and in what we found. Hickory Log has probably seen 10,000 years of occupation,” he said. “You have high ground overlooking Hickory Log Creek and the Etowah River. It had ample water, rich farmland below. It was a good place to live with access to transportation.”

In essence, what made for a good hub for Cherokee County’s Native Americans later

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