Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Roadside Culture

Over the past two summers Russell Library intern Kaylynn Washnock assisted in curating the new exhibit, “Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the Modern South” opening September 18th in the Russell Library’s Harrison Feature Gallery. The exhibit investigates how the state transformed itself from a way station along the route to Florida into a tourist destination during the twentieth century. It addition to highlighting six popular destinations in Georgia the exhibit considers questions of access, preservation, and economics – who could go, how they got there, and what motivated them to visit different attractions. The exhibit also explores the professionalization of the tourism industry and the roles of modern amenities in shaping the modern tourist experience. This post is one in a series where Kaylynn offers a preview of the exhibition.   

Roadside stand in Georgia, ca. 1960s.
Williamson S. Stuckey Papers, Russell Library.
Auto tourism took hold in the United States in the early 1900s. As long-distance road vacations became more common, entrepreneurs in towns along the route also developed offerings to capture tourist dollars along the way. Some took in boarders, while others started roadside stands selling produce. In 1937, Williamson S. Stuckey Sr. opened the first Stuckey’s roadside convenience store along Georgia Route 23 in Eastman, Georgia, offering cold drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and pecan candy. In a 2008 interview with Bob Short, Williamson S. “Bill” Stuckey Jr. reflected on the family business noting “my mother got the idea; well if they are buying pecans why not make some pralines, fudge and log rolls? So it all sorta started from there and grew to where we were in 44 states.” By the 1960s, there were more than 350 Stuckey’s locations across the country.

Letter from Lamartine HardmanPapers,
Russell Library
Not all roadside attractions received positive reviews from tourists though. In 1930, Henderson Hallman, President of the Georgia State Automobile Association, wrote to Georgia Governor Lamartine Hardman concerned that “mysterious holdups and search under the guise of the law” had been frightening women and children “nearly to death” along the Georgia-Florida line near Jacksonville. In the 1950s and 1960s the American Automobile Association (AAA) threatened to place Georgia on the travel black list, citing the infamous speed traps and clip joints in the town of Ludowici, designed to cheat travelers out of their money.

Want to find out more about Georgia Tourism? Visit Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the New South on display in the Harrison Feature Gallery in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries from September 18, 2015 through July 30, 2016. The Russell Library gallery is free and open to the public weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. For more information, email russlib@uga.edu or call 706-542-5788

Roadside peach stand, ca. 1960s.
Ann E. Lewis Papers, Hargrett Library

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