In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

“Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” – Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

Clark Ashton remembers the first time he saw him. There was a man who wore the three-piece white suit; he would hang out on the street corner, swinging a gold chain. To a young Ashton, this man was fascinating. The man who fearlessly stood out in the small town of Augusta, Georgia. He was unique, inimitable.

For a new generation, Ashton has become a similar figure, “that strange man over on Druid Hills road.” Each year, for the past twenty-four years, he has sat on a throne in his front yard, waving at local school children who are trapped in morning traffic. He is trying to show kids that it is okay to be different, that people can prosper in alternative lifestyles. In his view, independent thought and action are increasingly important in a highly regimented society. Most people react favourably, but a few laugh or yell. It doesn’t bother him. Ashton believes in what he is doing. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

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“A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection

“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.” ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

I love perusing through old scrapbooks. An unorthodox hobby, I know, but I find them utterly fascinating. This strange amusement supports commonly held assumptions: that historians and archivists are fundamentally nosy, digging through people’s mail and scrutinizing their written records. Personally, it as an extension of natural curiosity. Most of us are captivated by the past. If we know where we come from, we can forecast where we are headed. Continue reading ““A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection”

Behind the Scenes: The Guy Hayes Collection

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One of the treasures of the Guy Hayes collection. Pictured is a kitsch image of a puppy in a cream pitcher. Though taken earlier, this photo echoes the popular pet images of today (Image courtesy of the DeKalb History Center)

At first glance, the Guy Hayes Collection may look simple but take a second look. The photographs are a delightful look into everyday life in Georgia from the  1950’s to the mid-1960’s. The subjects are ranging: sporting events, gubernatorial races, the civil rights movement, etc. Hayes photographs reveal a changing America, a culture in constant flux.

After World War II, America became an economic and political behemoth, countered only by the Soviet Union. The economy was strong due to a continuation of the wartime industrial build-up. Young men, returning after the war, settled down, and created families; this resulted in the Baby Boomer generation. The landscape changed with suburbs expanding, rapidly becoming the preferred living areas for the rising middle class. The end of the war and new affluence meant that American families had increased leisure time. This created a new consumer culture around the television. More than ever before, Americans were fascinated celebrities. Outdoor recreation and parties, particularly food, became a way to advertise their newly affluent status.

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This photo is a self-portrait of photographer Guy Hayes taken in 1984 (DeKalb History Center)

Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: The Guy Hayes Collection”

‘Second-Hand’ Information

“Time in itself, absolutely, does not exist; it is always relative to some observer or some object. Without a clock I say ‘I do not know the time’. Without matter time itself is unknowable. Time is a function of matter; and matter, therefore, is the clock that makes infinity real. – John Fowles, Áristos

Time is one of those things that we never think about. In a way, we take it for granted. Our lives are paced out according to the dictates of the hour, minute and second hand. What are our days other than a collection of hours? Time elapses, and we live in the seconds in-between. Yet, keeping time has not always so easy. Unlike the easy convenience of digital time, our ancestors had to painstaking wind clocks weekly, taking care to reset the time.

Similarly, in the historic DeKalb County Courthouse, the clock is wound without fail on Saturday. Access to the clock is restricted due to the difficulty of reaching the clock. Visitors rarely think about it, but the clock remains as it was when the courthouse was rebuilt in the early 1900’s. The first picture shows the clock as it is wound, while the bottom images depict the clock mechanism. Symbolically, it connects the past to the present. Time is always passing, advancing our lives forward. If you listen closely, you can hear the next tick coming.

Written by Samantha Mooney

Little England in Georgia: Avondale Estates

 

“There, Clover found the “gardens and great trees and old cottages…so beautiful” that seeing them exhausted her. It was as if, she joked with her husband, “this English world is a huge stage-play got up only to amuse Americans. It is obviously unreal, eccentric, and taken out of novels.” ― Natalie Dykstra, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

Imagine this: you are driving along, baking under the hot sun that never stop s beating down. You feel a trickle of sweat bead your forehead, and you wipe it away, a bit absentmindedly. As you continue, you see all the hallmarks of suburbia: cookie-cutter houses stamped out one after another, interspersed with the occasional business. Yet, suddenly you spot a Tudor building, and then another! Soon a miniature English village surrounds you in the middle of Georgia. What is this place? You have found yourself in Avondale, a quaint town located twenty minutes from the center of Atlanta.

Avondale is a mimicry of an English town, transplanted into the South. George F. Willis, a  pharmaceutical magnate purchased the entire town of Ingleside to create his vision in 1924. Willis had recently travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. This influenced the architectural style and bequeathed the city its name, Avondale. The visual look of the estates was an important aspect, intended to create a harmonious life. One advertisement claimed that “art is a part of the everyday life of Avondale Estates,” and buildings were “graceful,” roads were “symmetrical curves,” and shrubbery was “artistic[ally] arranged.”

 

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Avondale was the first planned community in the Southeastern United States. Avondale had many amenities: paved streets, a lake for fishing, leisure boating, and swimming, a pool, tennis courts, dairies, and a business district. The community sought to bring nature into the community, creating a sense of idyllic peace and “beckon to restful pleasures.” Avondale described itself as “[a] magnificently appointed community… where neighborly friendship reigns.”

Continue reading “Little England in Georgia: Avondale Estates”