The reunion was wonderful, and classmate Otis Stone summed it up by telling us what we already knew, that we were and are a special class. Otis lives in south Alabama now, and writes for a corporate newsletter, and he was quick to tell us that we’re famous there because he talks about us a lot. No doubt other groups consider themselves special also, and they probably are. There were reportedly 117 of us, and most of us were together for those four
life-forming years, those years when we were learning all together a zillion facts while molding lifelong friendships. Some of us were only 16 when we graduated, too young to face adulthood, but already too old to be called children.
It was in the fall after our springtime graduation that I first paid attention to the name Mark Pace. You were the editor of Dalton’s only newspaper. I had returned home following four very long weeks in nursing school (where the only thing I learned was that I was not meant to be a nurse). Somehow I lucked into a very neat, but temporary, job. I worked alone in a little room just off the big room where the newspaper presses ran, a noisy, busy, hustling atmosphere.
My job was to operate the Addressograph machine which turned out metal plates on which I had typed names and addresses of new subscribers. Sounds simple, but the machine was tricky. There was no keyboard, and it wasn’t easy to catch the needed letter or number as the wheel turned at its own pace. I got the hang of it soon enough. Every year the paper gave away a new car on Christmas Eve to some lucky subscriber, new or renew, who paid up in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Every day I had a new stack of names to work with. And every day I knew that Mark Pace was somewhere in the building. Your name was synonymous with the paper for decades. Even after we moved away from Dalton, I read the paper at every opportunity and there you were, editorializing. In my subconscious, I think you inspired me. And in the past few years I have felt privileged to get to know you better. You’re no longer in the ivory tower at the old A.J. Showalter location. In fact, you seem to be everywhere, just like Santa Claus.
I want to thank you here for taking my friend Mary and me to lunch while I was in town. I continue to be amazed and encouraged by the fact that, at age 97, you still keep office hours in a position you hold with North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, in addition to writing occasionally for the Daily Citizen. I loved reading your recently published 75th-year history of that company. Your own love of history and your talent in placing people and sites in changing time frames makes history so very meaningful.
Our time together at lunch proved to me how popular you are in your town. Folks were constantly coming up to our table to greet you. While we would have had plenty to talk about during our meal, a tragic fire in Dalton the day after the class reunion seemed to be the main topic of conversation everywhere. It gave opportunity for you to reminisce about other fires and stories from your years with the newspaper. The fire destroyed the old Fraker Hardware building which had been transformed into Peacock Alley, a mini-mall designed and developed initially a few years ago to resemble the Dalton of yesteryear. I remember my first visit there after the renovation and how it brought back many happy memories.
The space was named in acknowledgement of the city’s history as the Bedspread Center of the World, an industry that spawned a chenille culture made very visible along a stretch of U.S. Highway 41 where bedspreads, many featuring a colorful peacock, hung on clotheslines, beckoning Florida-bound tourists who might want to spend a few dollars in Georgia. You and your paper carried your readers through that and on into the carpet industry which followed. Your love for Dalton is apparent in everything you do. How fortunate the city is for having you there and how fortunate I am in knowing you. Here’s hoping for life’s best for you as you keep on keeping on.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.