KIRBY: That’s not the smell of Christmas in the air

About this time of day each Christmas Eve, the editor mulls the past over in his mind.

 

— Chronicle editorial, 1947

 

There’s often little news on Christmas Day, as crooks stay home, good folks go to church and politicians rush back to their districts.

Christmas Eve, however, can be busy, as we reported in Augusta 70 years ago.

Christmas was in the air that day, but so was something else: “Richmond Courthouse ‘Deskunked,’” the headline said.

For weeks the old courthouse on Greene Street had been “permeated” by a skunk odor. Efforts to find the perpetrator had failed and so had efforts to kill it, including sealing the courthouse and pumping it full of gas.

Finally, Reliable Exterminator Co. sent in workers wearing gas masks. They found the skunk hiding in an old records closet. Reliable’s W.E. Morris said he planned to have it stuffed.

There was also the smell of politics as Georgia Gov. M.E. Thompson threatened to sue Augusta’s Roy Harris.

Harris, a longtime legislator and former speaker of the Georgia House, had accused the governor of funneling payments to lawyer pals when the state purchased Jekyll Island. When reached by phone at his Augusta home, Harris said, “I am ready to make good on what I said.”

Santa Claus was also making good that Christmas Eve. Newspaper photographs show him at three different Augusta locations. He visited children at Oliver General Hospital for a Red Cross party. He also visited children at University Hospital. The big event, however, seems to be when he showed up at the Augusta Fire Department Headquarters banquet. It was the first time in history, the newspaper said, that the entire fire department had been so gathered for the holiday.

But everything wasn’t so jolly. Augusta police reported Edgar Johnson and stepson Mose Davis had been arrested on charges of trying to kill each other that Christmas Eve.

A family argument on Wrightsboro Road escalated and Johnson fired at Davis with a 12-gauge shotgun … and missed. Davis responded by stabbing his stepfather several times with an ice pick, but didn’t really hurt him.

A Christmas miracle, perhaps, but there was also a Christmas Eve tragedy when a wreck killed a 20- year-old groom on his way to a Dearing church for his wedding.

The Chronicle reported that John Robin Edwards was fatally injured when thrown from his car on U.S. 78, 90 minutes before he was to be married. Edwards had gone to Augusta to get wedding candles.

It was a sad way to end Christmas Eve in Augusta 70 years ago, a day that featured a courthouse stink, a family feud, three early visits from Santa Claus and a poignant holiday tragedy.

May your Christmas Day be quiet … and skunk-free.

 

Reach Bill Kirby at bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com

 

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