Monday, July 16, 2012

The Dam

Out on the Tallasee Road, there was/is a dam. We called it the "hole in the wall" dam. Everybody did. I was a great place to picnic, as it was a flat rock shoals for a mile down the Oconee River. It was a favorite hangout for area residents, especially the UGA students.

I have a lot of memories of that place.I remember it was one of the first long bike rides that brother Bob and I ever took. We started at about eight one morning and ended up at the dam about an hour and a half later.  It felt like we'd been gone for a day. We went through the " hole" down onto the rocks and swam for an hour or so and rode back...uphill most of the way. Tallasee Hill is a killer on ten year old legs on a 40 pound Firestone bike. Poor planning.
 As far as I know, the dam was built by the Georgia Power Company to supply electricity to Athens and surrounding area. It was one of two on the river. The other was down at the Athens YMCA camp. Both were decommissioned years before I knew them.

The "hole in the wall", at one time, had a wooden gate the could be raised by a manual crank to divert water around the dam, for what purpose, I don't know. The door  was gone, leaving a 12x12 foot hole in the near side of the dam that was easily accessible from the dirt service road. Walk down a small path, through the hole in the wall, drop about four feet to a concrete slab and take the path on down to the river.

Mama took us there many times with her friend, Betty Paris, and her kids. We kids had a large time, picnicking, catching snakes, body surfing rapids and jumping from rock to rock to the other side of the river, which we deemed a foreign country for imaginative purposes. Mama and 'nem mostly had a glass of wine and talked about whatever women talked about in 1952.

The stupidest thing I ever did was to climb the "hole in wall" dam. It was built of native field stone, a beautiful structure. The dam was some 35 feet high, maybe more.

Danny Connell, Pat Nicholson and I went down to the dam in mid summer to "hang out". Connell sat looking at the dam, and said he thought he could climb it...there wasn't any water coming over it. My first thought was the sun done got to his head...but he walked over, grabbed a rock, found a foot hold and up the started. I looked dead easy. I followed, ascending along a similar route, and last up, came Nicholson.

The top of the dam was about three feet wide, and slicker that deer guts on a door knob. We sorta' had to crawl back to the portal wall, and climb it to get back to the bank. As I was crawling across the dam, I looked down. There, below us lay a flat slab of "live"granite rock about 20 X 50 that would have splatter us with one misstep.

I made a note to delete dam climbing from future adventures! Connell was a risk taker. He flew carrier based Navy jets and clomb dams. I did clomb a dam once. That was enough. No jets for me, I wouldn't have fit anyway.

A teacher at Athens High School, did fall from the dam and broke his back. He lay there for hours before anyone found him. He lived to walk and teach, but wore a back brace for years. That's not in my vocabulary, either.

Georgia Power blew both dams out in the early 60's, which was a good thing, I suppose.Frfeed the river to be itself, again. Oglethorpe Power rebuilt the "hole in the wall" dam with a new concrete structure that produced power for a few years in the 80's, I think. so government ititiantive to localize power. The problem with dams on rivers like the Oconee, is the silt and sand build up behind the dams in just a few years. The other dam at the old YMCA camp is now a park.

There is an old family story connected with the dam I will not relate, as I was not there, more's the pity. It would take forever to tell. Maybe some winter's night I'll tell it to you. It'll be a real rip snorter. Don't you just love suspense?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the story. Thought you might like to know that there is actually a small hydropower outfit producing power these days at the Tallassee dam. I'm not sure when they got it from Oglethorpe. Also I seem to recall a UGA prof telling me that several years ago the owners dredged the sand and silt out from the pool upstream of the dam - I'm sure there was a ton of it. Not sure why they don't do that at more of the hydro dams on the rivers around here.

    At any rate it is a beautiful spot - almost looks like the mountains with the wooded bluffs and the river shoals.

    Glad you survived climbing the dam!