Road to progress led down dead-end street
by Rebecca Johnston
Columnist
August 10, 2013 11:47 PM | 1334 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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When I was a child, I would stay at my grandmother’s house on Main Street in Canton as much as possible.

One of the attractions was to be able to walk to my friends’ homes and to town. As I grew older, I rode my bike.

Most people who have moved here in the last 40 years would not recognize the Canton from those days, because there were so many large homes that lined the streets, now torn down to make way for “Progress.”

In the 1960s, we wanted to modernize our downtown and embrace any architectural style that would announce to the world that we were a progressive community. Hence, the Jones building façade, Etowah Bank, the Canton Police Department, the Cherokee County voter’s office and the North Georgia bank building, among others.

The Jones building was covered up and the others built where lovely old structures stood. The homes and businesses were torn down to make way for the new progress, including the Hotel Canton where Etowah Bank was built, the old McAfee home where the library was and beautiful old homes, some Victorian, that were part of the beauty of our small town.

We lost a lot of the charm that was our town, and now we are trying to obliterate those very edifices we once held in such great regard.

Of course, not everyone loved the new look, and my grandmother was one of those who lamented the changes until her dying day.

But one structure had fallen so far, that when it was finally torn down, there was mostly a sigh of relief.

At the juncture of East Main Street and what is now Dr. John Pettit T. Street, an old, rambling and by then run-down building stood sentinel. It was Ponder’s Store, and it was also home to Horace G. Atkins, who lived on the top floor of the old building in an apartment.

Horace had suffered a brain injury. He was a veteran, but he could have been hurt in a car wreck, accounts vary. Whatever caused it, he was, as my father would say, not quite right in the head.

He couldn’t get a driver’s license, but he had a riding lawn mower he used to make a living cutting grass and as transportation to ride up and down the roads collecting Coca-Cola bottles.

My husband remembers that by the late 1960s, Horace had such a huge bottle collection, it filled the old four-bay carport behind Ponder’s Store.

Years before that, I loved to walk to Ponder’s Store from my grandmother’s house and buy candy. Money was always tight in those days, especially for my grandmother, who was a widow.

But she would give me a nickel and stand on her porch and watch me walk down the street to the old store where I would buy a little paper bag of fireballs, bubble gum and lollipops.

I loved that penny candy and savored the freedom at age 6 or 7 of going into a store without my mother and making my own choices. Everyone always said my grandmother spoiled me rotten.

When I was a teenager, the store caught fire and partially burned. By then it already looked like something out of the movie “This Property is Condemned,” but after the fire it was a real eyesore and a hazard.

So it came down, probably to sighs of relief, to make way for progress in the form of the first convenience store for Canton.

It might have been planned as a concept known as the Milk Jug, the idea being that if you just needed milk, you could run in and get it easily.

But it turned out to be Canton’s own unique answer to convenience and was called the Midget Market. I think it was to have a drive-in window, again a novel idea.

In fact, Canton was on its way to really being on the map on the road to True Progress. Or at least, so we thought.

Nowadays, Canton is trying to hang on to the few historic buildings we still have and renovate some of the ones that now seem remnants of a time we would just as well forget.

Soon, the former Etowah Bank building will be renovated for the Cherokee Water and Sewerage office, and the façade of the Jones building is expected to be removed and return the building to its former glory.

As for Ponder’s Store, it is long gone and 23½ Hours Locksmith now occupies the old Midget Market that replaced it.

And while I miss the old days, and the road to progress was often paved with only good intentions, I guess some things were for the better.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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