LaGrange Revisited II

The memories poured back recently when I spent a couple of days in LaGrange.  Downtown  has changed since I was there,  but a lot is just like it was in 1950 when I was a 19-year-old radio announcer at WLAG.  My first major assignment at WLAG was to play Santa Claus and read letters to him. I faked a big deep voice and did a lot of ho,ho, hoing.  In my regular voice,  I also did  newscasts, disc-jockey work,  and commercials. 

WLAG, LAGrange

WLAG, LAGrange

WLAG is still on the air.  It’s an all-sports ESPN affiliate.  When I was there, it was a Mutual network affiliate.   It’s still on Broome Street,  but it’s across the street from where it was in 1950.  Standing where the old studio was located is the relatively new Promenade Parking garage that serves the downtown area.

Promanade Parking garage, downtown LaGrange, GA

Promanade Parking garage, downtown LaGrange, GA

 That parking garage and the rest of the downtown revitalization program has been made possible, in large part, by donations from the Callaway Foundation.   That foundation was established by Fuller Callaway, Jr.  in 1942 with a $1.5 million donation.  That $1.5 million, the only contribution ever made to the foundation,  has grown,  totally though investments,  to almost $200,000,000.

Main Street, LaGrange, GA

Main Street, LaGrange, GA

When we went over to Main Street, where more Callaway Foundation money has funded extensive renovations,  making historic old building viable for use today,  it looked a lot like it did in 1950.  There is a vast difference though.  Main Street now sports some fine restaurants. We tried Tulla’s Cajun Bar and Grill.  Outstanding food and ambiance.  

Another dining experience I would recommend is the Lemmon Tree, where we had lunch.  Best vegetables I have ever tasted,  and the corn bread is like “Mama use to make.”   

LaGrange 10 movie multiplex, LaGrange, GA

LaGrange 10 movie multiplex, LaGrange, GA

When I worked at WLAG,  I spent a lot of time at the LaGrange Theater, which was about a 20-second walk from the station. Among the great movies I saw there was “Twelve O’clock High,”  with Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger.  Jagger won the 1949 best supporting actor Oscar for his role in that one.     There is still a LaGrange theater at that location,  but it’s a lot bigger, sporting 10 screens.  Carmike Cinemas,  whose national headquarters is in Columbus, operates the multiplex, but even this was made possible by Callaway Foundation downtown revitalization money.  The city used the money to build it and leases it to Carmike. 

Callaway Mills are long gone from LaGrange – the late Fuller Callaway, Jr. sold the mills in 1968 –  but the legacy of mill profits that went into the Callaway Foundation lives on.  You see it everywhere in improvements that make LaGrange a nice place to live.  The latest beneficiary of that money is LaGrange College.  I’ll tell about that on a future post.

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