Posted by: bree1972 | March 22, 2013

Road Trip – with a Little History Added In (Part II) 3/22/2013

wp94d8056f_05_062We ate lunch at Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking Restaurant – where the locals eat and where you walk up the counter, give your order, and watch them ladle up mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made cornbread or biscuits, fresh veggies, fried chicken, cubed steak, beef tips over rice. etc. – and wonder where in the world you will put all that food!  Then you miraculously find a table and join all the other customers who go there day after day for breakfast and lunch.  I mean that literally.  Every time we set foot in Pearly’s we see the same people, and I’m not talking about five or six of the same people.  I’m talking 20-30 of the same people.  Pearly’s is busy and somewhat chaotic – but the food is WORTH IT!

After sopping up the last drop of gravy with the last crumb of biscuit, and good Lord have mercy,  eating dessert on top of that (who turns down homemade banana pudding – tell me who?), we rolled ourselves out the door and headed for Radium Springs on the east side of Albany.

When I was growing up in Sylvester and only came to Albany to occasionally shop, the neighborhood of Radium Springs was the premiere place to live.  That was before the mall was built in the Northwest part of Albany and the city’s growth pattern changed forever.

In my early teens, my parents would sometimes ride over to Radium on a Sunday afternoon, and I’d wade around (I couldn’t then and still can’t swim) in the coldest water I’d ever put my toes in – until many, many years later when I first waded out a few feet into Lake Huron.  Radium Springs (the neighborhood) was named after Radium Springs (the springs) – the 7th Natural Wonder of Georgia, which pours out 70,000 gallons of clear, fresh, 68 degrees year-round water per minute.

ooooo

Radium Springs – once called Blue Springs – was once one of Georgia’s most popular resort spots.  After it was damaged by the floods of 1994 and 1998, it was restored and is preserved now as an ecological and environmental park.  Swimming is no longer allowed.

Radium Springs was well known to both prehistoric and later Creek Indians, who lived and hunted in the surrounding area while fishing in the crystal clear water.  By the time English settlers arrived in South Carolina and Georgia, the area around Albany was controlled by the Lower Creeks, and early accounts mention the springs. Explorers and later settlers marveled at the depth and clarity of the water.  Large fish could be seen swimming far below the surface and a large population of wild animals lived in the area around the spring.

Despite its long history as a local spot for fishing and swimming, it was an unexpected discovery in the early 20th century that made it a prominent resort. Testing revealed that the water flowing from the spring contained traces of radium, a chemical element discovered in 1898 in France by Marie and Pierre Curie.  Radium is 1,000 more times radioactive than uranium. It occurs naturally in certain types of earth and is extremely rare. Uniquely, it is luminescent and glows in a faint blue color.

Bathing in mineral waters was believed in the 19th and early 20th centuries to be a way of improving the health of people suffering a variety of illnesses.  Warm Springs, located 100 miles or so to the north on the slopes of Pine Mountain, was already a popular health resort by the early 1900s. Blue Springs was renamed Radium Springs as the first step in its development as a major resort.

The resort, which included a casino and bathhouses overlooking the spring, a hotel named the Skywater, cottages, riding and walking trails and one of the finest golf courses in the South opened in 1927 and was an instant success.  Guests came by train to Albany from across the country to soak in the waters and enjoy the other amenities.

The Great Depression led to the closure of Radium Springs in 1939 and over the years it opened and closed several times.

The spring was still a popular swimming place for Albany area residents until 1994 when the casino and other historic structures suffered heavy damage in the Tropical Storm Alberto flooding. A second flood inflicted even more damage in 1998. Sadly, the casino was too severely damaged to save.

The spring was still a popular swimming place for Albany area residents until 1994 when the casino and other historic structures suffered heavy damage in the Tropical Storm Alberto flooding. A second flood inflicted even more damage in 1998. Sadly, the casino was too severely damaged to save.  The small, white rectangular sign on the tree on the right side of this photo shows the high water mark of the 1994 flood.

The property and remains of the spring area of the resort, however, were acquired by state and local governments and reopened in 2010 as a historic site and botanical garden.

The property and remains of the spring area of the resort, however, were acquired by state and local governments and reopened in 2010 as a historic site and botanical garden.

The park is located on Radium Springs Road and is open to the public Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday.

There are gardens, walkways, interpretive panels, spectacular natural beauty and the ruins of the historic resort. The park is free to visit.

The walls of the original casino still stand.

The walls shown here were built on the original footprint of the old casino.

The area is surrounded by beautiful trees dripping in Spanish moss.

The area is surrounded by beautiful trees dripping in Spanish moss.

Looking back toward the casino from a man-made island.

Looking back toward the remains of the casino from a man-made island.

I honestly don't remember the Springs looking this beautiful back in the 60's.  And they probably weren't when hundreds and hundreds of people were there swimming, picnicking and sunbathing.  I think I prefer it as it is today.

I honestly don’t remember the Springs looking this beautiful back in the 60’s. And it probably didn’t with hundreds and hundreds of people there swimming, picnicking and sunbathing. I think I prefer it as it is today.

Next up on our road trip was a little plaza downtown named after one of Albany’s most famous sons . . .

Mr. Ray Charles

Mr. Ray Charles, born in Albany on Sept. 23, 1930. The revolving, illuminated bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a baby grand piano is the work of Andy Davis

The life-size sculpture sits on the banks of the Flint River, and as you approach the music of Charles welcomes you to this memorial.

fffffff

Georgia on My Mind was written in the 1930’s by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, but it wasn’t until Charles recorded it in 1960 that it became a mega-hit. Nineteen years later it became the official Georgia State Song.  Although there are many recordings of the song by various performers including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, willie Nelson and Michael Bolton, Georgia legislators stated clearly that it was the Ray Charles version that they were declaring the State Song.  Willie Nelson sang the song at Charles’ funeral in 2004.

In Charles’ later years, he contributed $3,000,000 to Albany State University.  He was the commencement speaker at the University in 2002 and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy Degree.

Since we were there on the Flint, we walked down to the water's edge to take a pic of the old Broad Street Bridge, which has been almost totally demolished.  Construction on a new bridge will begin soon.

Since we were there on the Flint, we walked down to the water’s edge to take a pic of the old Broad Street Bridge, which has been almost totally demolished. Construction on a new bridge will begin soon.

Looking back toward Ray Charles Plaza from the banks of the river.

Looking back toward Ray Charles Plaza from the banks of the river.

As we climbed back in Ted’s truck one more time, we debated whether we were too tired to make our last planned stop.  But what the heck – it was right on our way home, so why not!

As long as I can remember there has been a Chehaw Wild Animal Park (no relation to Chehaw Village from yesterday’s blog except it’s named after the Chehaw Indians.

Do you remember Jim Fowler from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?  Well, he is also an Albany native, and Chehaw Park was originally laid out by the noted naturalist.  Although I never met Jim, both Ted and I worked for years in education with his brother, Big Bob Fowler.

Chehaw is a great place to spend the afternoon with kids and grandchildren, but what I enjoyed most about our afternoon there was photographing the animals.  My new camera’s BIG lens got quite a workout!

The alligators were enjoying the warm afternoon sun.

The alligators were enjoying the warm afternoon sun.

At first I thought this was a coyote, but it's a Red Wolf, and he was very interested in what we were going to do next.

At first I thought this was a coyote, but it’s a Red Wolf, and he seemed very interested in watching our every move.

A Black Rhinoceros, who refused to move . . . until we walked away.

A Black Rhinoceros, who refused to move . . . until we walked away.

The fastest runner in the animal kingdom - the Cheetah.  Not today though - this one was very sleepy.

The fastest runner in the animal kingdom – the Cheetah. Not that day though – this one was very sleepy.

The Colobus Monkeys were very solemn . . .

The Colobus Monkeys were very solemn . . .

. . . even though Ted and Ed gave it their best shot at loosening them up!

. . . even though Ted and Ed gave it their best shot at loosening them up!

The mighty Bison.

The mighty Bison.

These Servals looked almost like housecats, but I probably wouldn't want them as playmates for Maddie and Bear.

These Servals looked almost like housecats, but I probably wouldn’t want them as playmates for Maddie and Bear.

Several lazy kangeroos  . . .

Several lazy kangeroos . . .

. . . were sharing exhibit space with the haughty emus.

. . . were sharing exhibit space with the haughty emus.

My absolute favorites - the Meerkats . . .

My absolute favorites – the Meerkats . . .

, , , , where there is always one posted sentry (looks like a good idea too)!

, , , , where there is always one posted sentry (looks like a good idea too)!

I’m sure this was way more history than you wanted to absorb on a Friday evening, but I just couldn’t stop once I got going!

One personal note before I close this long road trip:  Ted took me to Chehaw Wild Animal Park on our second date back in 1988.  We spent a Saturday afternoon walking the paths, laughing at the animals, and, if memory serves, eating sno-cones.  Somewhere between the Emu and the Cheetah exhibits, I fell in love with Mr. Horton . . . . and the rest is history.  Hmmmm . . . maybe it was between the Bears and the Tortoises.

Thanks to good friends Sally and Ed Feagin for accepting our invitation to what turned out to be a marathon exploring day!

Thanks to good friends Sally and Ed Feagin for accepting our invitation to what turned out to be a marathon exploring day!

Resource for history on Radium Springs: exploresouthernhistory.com.

 

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Responses

  1. Thanks Brenda! How interesting. I’ve lived in Albany for 37 years and didn’t know all that! However, I did love swimming in Radium Springs when it was allowed. You have motivated me to catch up on the history around here!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Awwww that is so sweet….the date with Ted and the falling in love part. 🙂

  3. Loved reading this post and seeing the pictures. Happy belated anniversary!

  4. What a wonderful day that must have been. I wish I could have been there.

  5. Thank you for bringing back so many memories to me…..it makes me want to come back home and do the same thing….love you both…

  6. When we lived in Radium Springs waiting for an opening of Base Housing on the Marine Corps Base we use to find Arrowheads in the fields. Your story of the Creek Indians explains why we found so many of them. Wish I had them now, one of the casualties of being military is all the moving and sometimes when you get to the next base all of your belongings didn’t always make it there, lost by the movers. Interesting history lessons, thanks, really enjoyed them.

  7. Isn’t amazing the things we drive by every day and never pay attention to? The memorials were very interesting! You showed the rest of us that we should stop and smell the roses or in your case “the zoo animals”! LOL!

  8. Your blog reminded me of being in line to check into a hotel in Indianapolis and turning around and seeing Ray Charles in the line behind me.

  9. I’m a zookeeper at Chehaw and was just browsing the web looking at photos taken of the animals I care for. I truly enjoyed your photos. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Sam! We love Chehaw!

  10. Nice photos but that is not the walls of the old casino at Radium Springs. That was built new to mimic the “footprint” of the casino. Only the steps and the stone walls etc. around the springs are original.

    • Thanks so much, Betty, for this correction. I have updated the blog post to reflect that fact.


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