There was 100 years of stories to tell, memories to rekindle and friendships to reclaim. Approximately 275 people attended Dearing's Centennial Celebration in the old Dearing Gymnasium last Friday night.
"It's neat to see all the people who have history of Dearing in their blood, and they know it," said Richard Adams, Jr. "It's hard to get them all together at one time, but they're here. ... This is my life. Many of these people helped raise me. And, I've known them, or heard of them, and now, I'm seeing them. I'm trying to listen as much as I can, so I don't miss anything. It's overwhelming."
Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley read a proclamation declaring the town's centennial anniversary. The charter revealed the town was incorporated August 13, 1910.
State Rep. Sistie Hudson (D-Sparta) and State Sen. Bill Jackson (R-Appling) presented a copy of a resolution that was read in the Senate recognizing the Town of Dearing and its "distinguished history."
"I'm proud of y'all and this beautiful building," Sen. Jackson said, referring to the renovated historical gymnasium. "A lot of times, they tear them down and put a parking lot over them. So, this says a lot about y'all."
As a PowerPoint Presentation displayed pictures of old houses and businesses, a historical presentation emceed by Mary Wells included stories told by Jan McTier, Bill Howard and Darrell Wells.
"Isn't this fun?" Mrs. McTier said. "I'm supposed to be real serious. But frankly, I'm having fun. This story happened long ago, and after I heard it, I wished I'd been there."
Her story was of an accident in the 1920s involving a truck loaded with 700 gallons of liquor in large metal cans. Sheriff Lynn J. Norris had the truck moved off the roadway and next to a creek, where he called for volunteers to empty the cans.
"After a little while, the sheriff left. Very little whiskey was poured after the sheriff left," Mrs. McTier said as laughter erupted from the audience. "It was said the cows and hogs drank the creek water, but it was whiskey mixed. And, the cows ran into trees and the hogs were laying belly up, grunting."
Mr. Howard told of a Justice of the Peace in the area who was well known for eating nothing but corn flakes three meals a day.
Mr. Wells, who was principal of Dearing Elementary School for 26 years, told how education in Dearing reflected that in the rest of the nation, and continued to progress. Mr. Wells recognized Mary McGahee, who was at the celebration and served as his secretary when he first became principal. He also shared a sad story of three students who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while their family traveled on Christmas vacation.
"It took place right after we moved into the new elementary school, and we had their funeral in our school," Mr. Wells said soberly.
Mrs. Wells reminisced about "gas was 28 cents a gallon and water bills were three dollars." Throughout the historical presentation, Mrs. Wells promoted a video that will be available in late October, featuring 100 minutes of pictures, interviews and stories from the town's beginning to the Centennial Celebration.
"We rejoice in the new technology that allows us to preserve everything on these little discs," Mrs. Wells said.
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton and Dearing's attorney Bob Knox spoke briefly about their positive experiences working with the town's leaders.
"You've got good things going on here," Mr. Knox said. "And your future is bright."
Former Mayor Ralph Menees quipped about the headaches of his eight-year tenure, which was when sewer lines were being installed in the town. "I received a lot of phone calls from irate people because somebody was digging up their front yards," he said with a laugh.
Mr. Menees and his wife, Myra, were celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary the same day as the town's celebration. Also, Billy and Gladys Rodgers, who own Hillcrest Dairy Farm, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary that day.
Mrs. Rodgers told of her first experience in Dearing, which was a date with Mr. Rodgers to roller skate at the Dearing gym.
"This is the community I love with my whole heart and I'm proud to live here," Mrs. Rodgers said.
The celebration ceremony and reception was funded by the Dearing Mayfest Committee. The committee hosts an annual festival the first Saturday of May, which originally was created to benefit renovating the gymnasium. Now that the renovations are complete, this year's proceeds were given to the Good Samaritan House. A $10,000 check was presented during the ceremony. The Good Samaritan House is a medical clinic that provides free or reduced-care medical services to those living in the Dearing area. Practitioner Sandy Turner said this is the clinic's 10th year to operate, and they serve 20-40 patients every Monday.
A reception after the ceremony allowed everyone to look at historical displays and swap memories. Several former residents traveled from North Carolina, Florida and Alpharetta, Ga.
"It was a huge success," Mayor Kelley said. "The turnout was outstanding and the program went incredibly well."