We have been doing some traveling. Monday we set out for Gainesville, Ga. It used to be a quiet, red brick little town at the foot of the mountains. In the Victorian period, wealthy people from Atlanta used to ride the train up to Gainesville and stay in their summer houses, where it was cooler and quieter. Some of those mansions are preserved on Green Street, although they are now all business offices.
In 1988, there were strikes in the chicken plants in Hall county, of which Gainesville is the seat. Not for unionization, which is unpopular here in the South, but for better wages and working conditions. The big chicken producers like ConAgra, Fieldale, and Tysons spread some money around down in Atlanta, and got temporary work permits for thousands of Mexicans to come up here. Of course, temporary turned into forever. The black and white people who had been working in the plants were replaced with Hispanics. Gainesville became a "Little Mexico" replete with spanish store fronts, spanish speaking taxi services, and the obligatory Hispanic gangs, like the Latin Kings.
The 2016 Census showed Hall County at 28% Hispanic, but the actual numbers are well over 60%. Getting illegals to participate in the census is not easy, particularly when the census takers are not anxious to draw attention to certain demographic trends.
But, we went anyway. The nearest book store to where we live is at the mall in Hall County.
When we got there, after an absence of about a year and a half, a lot had changed. First, the mall is largely abandoned. Most of the store fronts were empty. The book store was still there, and a few shops like Belks. The last time we were there, most of the people in the mall were Hispanic. This time, it was primarily Moslems. The women working in the kiosks down the central aisle of the mall were wearing burkhas. The women in the hair stylists shop were wearing burkhas. One of the women shopping in Victoria's Secret was wearing a Burkha.
Maybe they are selling these outfits in Victoria's Secret now, but I doubt they are that multicultural, yet.
These women were wearing the "Abaya" outfits that don't cover the face, but I still thought it felt pretty strange. The resting areas, little places in the main aisle with chairs , water fountains, and plants were full of Arabic men, drinking coffee from the coffee bar and chattering in Arabic. The air reeked of cologne. Anybody who has spent time in the middle east will know exactly what I mean. Gainesville boasts an Islamic Cultural Center, and you can go to the web page "Best Ten Mosques in Gainesville" if you want to get down with Allah.
We decided to leave, but what to do next? We went to Cleveland, Georgia where they have a big new Walmart. Unfortunately, it was pretty much stocked with what we have in our Walmart, though I did find some good emergency lanterns for a decent price.
Then on to Helen, Ga. Helen is a big tourist area, and the town is made up to look like a Bavarian town. Helen used to be a small sawmill town, but a veteran coming back from World War II had the idea to dress it up for the tourists, modeling it on Bavaria. They did a good job.
In the 1980's and half way through the 1990's, it was a nice place. Good restaurants, nice hotels, a river flowing through, mountains all around. Lots of very nice little shops that sold tourist knickknacks. Then, in the mid nineties, the Pakistanis starting buying everything up. Now , they run the place. The shops sell vulgar t-shirts emblazoned with trashy slogans and images. Every other shop is a liquor store or a tattoo parlor. We weren't going to see any of this. Unicoi State Park is located outside Helen, and the lodge there has a great buffet.
But when we got there, the cupboard was bare. The restaurant was closed. I've been going to the Lodge at Unicoi for a long time, for decades, and never ran into that before. According to a young woman we spoke to, business has fallen off at the park and they are only open on Friday and Saturday until June.
So, in the pouring rain, we drove over a nasty set of switchbacks to Hiawassee, Georgia. Hiawassee has a big lake and is largely populated by octogenarian halfway backs with A LOT of money.
Hiawassee was a quiet , summer town kind of place in the eighties. Now the mountains are covered with expensive homes, the lake is ringed with condominiums, and the funeral homes and hospitals are doing a land office business as the elderly population croaks. They do have a good steak house up there, though, and that's where we had a late lunch or early supper.
Then, in the thundering rain , on down through the little college town of Young Harris, which is just a wide spot in the road. Other than a Methodist college, the only other thing there is a big state park. It has a great restaurant, and that was going to be our fall back position if the place in Hiawassee hadn't been open.
After Young Harris, through Blairsville, Ga. Blairsville was a nice quiet place once upon a time, but now it's all fast food joints and chain "big box" stores. The old town square , which was a charming place, has been "renovated" and now looks like some "pueblo' in Mexico.
Then on down the road, through the wind and rain, and back home. We didn't set out to go anywhere but Gainesville, just wound up on the "loop" more by accident than anything else. It was a nice outing, and we were really amazed at the changes in some of the places we hadn't been to in awhile.