The Goodyear Service Pin used in our logo is courtesy Jerry Bell. The pin belonged to his dad, Adolphus. R. Bell.

11 February, 2011

2010 ATCO Reunion

Atco Village reunion means celebrating memories with a fellowship of friends
by Matt Shinall
06.13.10 - 08:07 am
Jean and James Weaver look at photos that Morris Bearden brought to Saturday’s Atco villiage reunion. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune NewsRus and Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt gather limited edition commemorative bricks that came from the original Atco 1903 mill.  Each family attending Saturday’s reunion received a brick. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune NewsJames C. Wehunt Jr.  looks at some of the  old Goodyear
company newspapers that someone brought to the Atco village reunion. Wehunt and his father, James C. Wehunt Sr., worked at Goodyear and lived in the Atco
village. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
"We were poor -- but we didn't know it," were the communal words of an aging populace that once inhabited Atco Village, a community nestled in the shadows of Goodyear Mill, the workplace around which their world revolved.

Past and current residents of the community joined Saturday with former mill workers and their children as they reminisced about growing up in a town dedicated to a sole purpose. That purpose was the plant built and operated for the village's namesake, American Textile Company, who in 1928 sold the property to Goodyear for the manufacture of cloths used in automobile tires.

About 10 years ago, former Atco resident Joy Cline met with some old friends at a home within the village. As word spread and acquaintances reunited, the reunion grew to more than 100 guests. The Atco Clubhouse was home Saturday to an estimated 150 friends having lunch and swapping stories as they took the time to catch up on forgotten years.

"We feel very privileged to have grown up here. I'll be very honest with you, I wouldn't take nothing for it because sometimes you'll hear some of us talking at one of the reunions and we'll say 'You know, we didn't have this, we didn't have that, but we didn't know any better,'" Cline said, adding that mill life was a family affair. Her maternal grandparents, her mother and her uncle worked in the plant.

Memories flooding the large, open room were dominated by locations such as the swimming pool, Atco school, trash pile hill, and the ball fields.

Past residents, many of them "village kids" whose parents worked in the mill, remembered fondly the long and winding line waiting to enter the swimming pool every summer. Field day at Wingfoot Park, dances, plays and the annual Christmas celebration were childhood favorites. Every year, Santa Claus would visit the Atco Clubhouse with a present for each child as well as stockings filled with nuts, fruit and peppermint candies.

For Harry Green, it was Boy Scouts that brought together the community. According to Green, Troop 15 once graduated an Eagle Scout every month for 12 consecutive months. These memories and countless others created a home that still warrants an annual homecoming for many.

"We went to school here and we lived here all our lives. I don't know that anyone ever had a better life than living in this village. We didn't have a lot but it wasn't an issue," said Bobby Nolan, "village kid."

Trying to help reconnect the Atco Village kids is Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt who has built a website and a Facebook page dedicated to preserving the memories of Atco. With online discussions, photos and information, the Facebook page allows those with a connection to interact with others through identifying individuals in pictures and the sharing of stories.

"It's a huge bond and I don't know how that works other than there's something about growing up in that atmosphere," Schmidt said. "It was a paternalistic society and our grandparents of course didn't know that and our parents didn't know that, but I never heard my parents complain about the mill -- never. ... They never complained about the hard work and the heat. They just did their job and did it the best they could."

Hard work and long hours were just a part of mill life, said residents. Gene Cooper worked in the plant's maintenance shop with 37 years of perfect attendance, many of which consisted of seven-day work weeks. He and his wife Evelyn attended the reunion celebrating 58 years of marriage this year, which they attribute largely to Goodyear. Evelyn's father also worked at the plant and one day Gene brought him home due to health problems and the rest, as they say, is history.

Each family present at Saturday's reunion received a commemorative brick from the original 1903 plant. Much of the plant has been destroyed in recent months after a private developer purchased the property. Schmidt has been in contact with the owner to acquire the bricks that were given out at the reunion. According to her, the structural integrity of the building and chemicals used in the plant prevented the prospect of using the building for condominiums and eventually necessitated its demolition, though some of the structure will be saved.

Those attending the reunion were forced to see the rubble positioned directly in front of the clubhouse doors. Guests admitted that the loss of the building was tough even and painful to some.

For more information on Atco Village and the annual reunion, visit www.atcogeorgia.org or search for 'Atco, Georgia, The Village' at www.facebook.com.
© daily-tribune.com 2010

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ATCO, Georgia, The Village by Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt and ATCO Kids, Individually, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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