Edwin Thompson, Sr. thought he was signing up for a three-month tour of duty.
"I was working in Milledgeville, and supposedly they were transferring us for three months," he said. "Then seven years later we went back to Milledgeville."
Mr. Thompson and a group of 50 former Georgia Department of Transportation workers gathered at White Columns last Wednesday evening for a reunion of sorts.
The former district engineer said he had a good time reminiscing and catching up with some of his old work buddies, the same ones that helped build Interstate 20 nearly a half-century ago.
"It's fantastic," Mr. Thompson said, "to meet with friends that I haven't seen in, some of them, probably 15 to 20 years."
The DOT is holding special events across the state to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Interstate system, and District Two - which includes McDuffie County - chose to honor the men whose hands erected the highway that has changed this area forever.
"This is everybody that we could locate that we knew of that worked for us and worked on I-20 during that time," said District Two Communications Officer Cissy McNure. "And we've got some that have some nice little stories."
Former Surveyor Bill Bailey spent the early portions of the reunion recounting an instance when he and his fellow workers were mistaken for escaped convicts while waiting for a DOT vehicle to pick them up off the side of the road.
"The police thought they were the ones who had broke out," said Mr. Bailey's wife, Patricia. "They come riding up and screeched on their brakes, got out with their guns and everything. They had a hard time explaining who they were."
Current DOT District Two workers hosted the event that included a buffet meal in the Georgia Room of White Columns. After a brief introduction and the meal, the former workers shared stories about the days they spent working on the highway.
Aside from the reborn camaraderie, some expressed gratitude at being part of such a monumental task in the country's history.
"(Building I-20) caused a lot of us to really excel in our careers," Mr. Thompson said.
"It gives you a feeling of accomplishment," said Eugene T. Chalker, former bridge engineer. "I was glad to be part of a program of that magnitude."