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Remembering the ‘Rec

By Linda Dorsey Anderson How many Baby Boomers across the country remember where they were 50 years ago? In 1963 a very unique place from our teenage years was born out of a tragic event. A car accident on Highway 341 South took the lives of several teenagers and seriously injured several others in the winter of 1962. This deeply affected Buck and Eloise Dorsey. They decided they had to do something to keep teens safe and give them somewhere they could go to have fun. A member of the local American Legion Post 25, Buck approached them about using the basement of their building and Eloise called on the local Barnesville Women’s Club for help. The American Legion building was located at the corner of Gordon College’s parking lot near the sports complex. The city golf course sat there then along with the city pool and ball fields. It was an ideal location because it was within walking distance of Gordon Military High School and College and Summer’s Field. Initially local teens dropped by during the week to help clean up the basement and give it a fresh coat of paint. This was the beginning of ‘˜the Rec’. Buck and Eloise found a ping pong table and a pool table, but they knew they needed music to pull all of this together. It was of course the 60’s and music was very much a part of a young teenager’s life. On Friday and Saturday nights my mom and dad would load us kids and our personal hi-fi record player in the car and off to the Rec we would go. I remember my parents borrowing my 45 records to play. I also remember writing my name on them so I would get them back at the end of the evening. I still have those records. Eloise once said that the dances started slow. Not many teens showed up in the beginning, but soon word spread and the Rec Center became a very popular place for young people from all around the area. Buck soon replaced the record player with a jukebox donated by Louis Graham. More and more teens were showing up every weekend. Soon a group of young men approached Buck about using The Rec as a place for their bands to practice. Dances with live music was now a weekly event. Bands from Barnesville and surrounding areas started calling. Who remembers Steel Water, The Condemned Souls, The Paragons, The Premiers, The Mini Bruts, James Boyt and the Soul Seekers, The Vagrants, The Saints, and many more? These young teens now had a place to hone their skills and their teenage dreams of becoming rock stars. Danny Smith, founding member of Steel Water was quoted in the 2007 Gordon College annual magazine saying, ‘I’m sure we were pretty bad, but because Buck provided a place for us to perform and practice, we actually got better. Buck was a fine man, always trusting and nonjudgmental of us nutty kids.’ During Gordon’s football season students would walk from Summer’s Field to the Rec. The crowds would be so large it could take up to 30 minutes to pay a dollar, get your hand stamped by Eloise and get in the door. No one was ever turned away. If you did not have a dollar, the Dorseys let you in anyway because the whole purpose of the Rec from the beginning was to keep teens safe and provide a fun place to hang out. As the crowds grew Buck called in help from two other outstanding American Legion members to help chaperone. Louis Lashley and Albert McGaha were more than happy to step up. They gave up their weekends as well looking out for Barnesville teens. Another young man in the area at the time was Bobby Blackman. He was the founding member the band, The Saints. He was quoted in Gordon magazine saying, ‘Buck always welcomed us with open arms and with such warmth that it is hard to put into words. You knew that this was a man who loved young people. He never gave us negative criticism no matter how bad we sounded. He always had a positive word for us.’ At one point there were so many bands wanting to play at the Rec Friday and Saturday nights that Buck started hosting a battle of the bands. This was a regular event with professional judges and cash prizes. Ben Sandifer from Macon played in a band called The Paragons. He was only 14 when they approached Buck and Eloise about playing at the Rec. He said that his father would not allow him to play here until he checked to see if it was an appropriate environment. A quote in Gordon magazine said, ‘One night of watching Buck and Eloise Dorsey in action was proof enough to my dad that the Rec was a good place for a 14-year-old boy. I remember how impressed my dad was with the way Buck ran the place and earned the respect of the teenagers at the same time.’ My parents spent their lives making our small town a better place to live. They gave us the Rec and were also co-founders of Buggy Days. They were both Scout leaders, Buck served as Recreation Director, Civil Defense Director and was a Ground Corp. Observer. Both were members of various organizations and held full-time jobs. Buck was the local Postmaster and Eloise worked for Southern Bell. The most important and meaningful thing they did with their lives was starting the Rec Center. They gave up every weekend for over a decade to give the young people a safe and fun place to hang out in the 60’s. My parents loved working with young people. I grew up at the Rec as did all my friends. Many of the teens from this time fondly remember Buck and Eloise Dorsey as great models who gave us all wonderful memories from our teenage years. A footnote to this story is the tie-in to the song ‘Last Kiss’. It will forever be associated with the beginning of the Rec. The following is reprinted by permission from Gordon State College: ’Last Kiss was a song about two young lovers out on a date. The young man was driving his daddy’s car, and swerving to miss a stalled car, he crashed. In the aftermath, his girlfriend dies in his arms, and he remembers, ‘˜I held her close, I kissed her our last kiss.” ‘The inspiration for this song was the very same inspiration the Dorseys had for creating the Rec, the accident on Highway 341 on the outskirts of Barnesvile on Dec. 22, 1962. Like the Dorseys, Wayne Cochran had a personal connection to the tragedy – his drummer’s girlfriend was the sister of one of those killed in the wreck. An aspiring musician and writer living in Thomaston, Cochran had been working on a song about a dangerous highway, but until that night it was incomplete. Inspired by the proximity of the tragedy, Cochran wrote ‘Last Kiss’ with its memorable chorus.’ On where, oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven, so I’ve got to be good, So I can see my baby when I leave this world. The song was not an immediate hit as recorded by Cochran and his band, but when the Cavaliers recorded it, the song made it to number 2 on the Top 40 Pop Charts in 1964. It was only fitting that this was a popular tune at the Rec.

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