Letter to the Editor
Editor’s note: The following letter came attached with a brief and interesting note from the author, which I have also chosen to share.
I am a very recent transplant to Rockmart. One of the first noted sights was Coots Lake. After reading your delightful column on vacations, I just had to share my story of my years (0-10) at beloved Sun Valley (not to be confused with Sun Valley in Powder Springs.) I say year “zero,” because my mother was teaching senior lifesaving and went into labor… hence my birth literally in the lake!
Somewhere among the many moving boxes is a picture post card of Sun Valley. Until I find it, I wanted to share my “vacation life” with you.
Remembering Sun Valley Park
The ritual usually began about five days before school let out in late spring. My brother and I would secretly be anticipating our smug valediction of the warm and mugg classroom as we ventured upon another summer at Sun Valley Park. As the fun began, we were in absolute paradise until Labor Day.
Sun Valley was owned by Joe and May Mansell and managed by our father, Terry Martin. The park basically comprised of sixty-two glorious acres of swimming and fishing. But that’s just the beginning. There was a go-cart track, outdoor roller skating, and even horseback riding with an annual rodeo. For a quarter one could ride the Ole 97. This flashy orange, open car train encompassed the swimming late and traveled the one-mile course through lush thickets and shady brooks of welcome relief from the often blazing sun.
Mr. Mansell had an ingenious flair with gardening and had the entire park landscaped in flames of color and symmetry. He enhanced the natural order of one lake by transforming it and its gently sloping bank into a deer ranch. Peacocks, wild turkey and deer abided together with his pair of pet spider monkeys, Pete and Gladys.
Then there was the bathhouse. My stars, what a creation! It was designed by Bill Cunningham and Jim Baker who specialized in church architecture. Having the rustic color of seasonsed telephone poles, it was not difficult to note the resemblance of the vaulted structure to that of a cathedral. The décor held an array of trophies, stuffed rattlers, a host of Brumby rockers for grandma, an arcade of pinball and of course the ever blaring jukebox.
Mrs. Whitmire ran the snack bar and the aroma of her fare hung delicately in the air and beckoned famished swimmers.
On Saturday nights a band would set up on the sand for a beach hop. Johnny Rivers played once and for a few stolen hours we regressed into the idolized “teenager.”
An antique show arrived every summer and the proud owners would dot the hills with their treasured relics of the past.
As summer came to an end there was one more trip to Sun Valley to look forward to. Every winter the swimming lake had to be drained to endure the hard freeze as the poliomyelitis virus thrives in lakes and ponds. The polio vaccine, athought invented, was not by law administered extensively. This yearly event brought forth all the long lost coins, jewelry and keys from days gone by.
Sun Valley still stands in bits and pieces among vast overgrowth of kudzu and thorns just south of Alpharetta on Highway 9. A wood carved sign still hangs. Only now its intentions are for the small industrial park serving as a façade for the summer wonderland beyond. - Dree Henninger Rockmart, Ga.