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Dacula's history recorded on DVD and book

DACULA - Dacula commemorated its 100th birthday Aug. 6 with a parade and a daylong party in the old downtown. The most enduring items to come from the celebrations are a 103-minute DVD and a 183-page book that records Dacula's history from 1850.

The DVD, titled "Down Yonder in Dacula," is a collection of interviews with Dacula residents. It was produced with a $5,000 oral history grant from the Georgia Humanities Council.

Centennial volunteers have accomplished what many people wish they had done in their own families. They captured on videotape, for all time, the voices, characteristics and recollections of local people with stories to tell.

Those featured on the DVD include J.W. Benefield, a former Gwinnett County school superintendent whose father ran a downtown store from 1935 to 1942. Benefield remembers his father taking eggs as payment for goods.

J.T. Bradbury recounts playing on the 1938 Dacula state championship basketball team. W.H. Mobley tells about his mother tying a bit of asfidity, a chewing gum-like substance, around his neck to keep away germs. Mary Francis Hutchins recalls her Aunt Ruth Hood, a beloved Dacula teacher. The Hood family donated its beautiful home for Dacula's library.

Dr. Leonard Hinton, former member of the Georgia Baptist Home Mission Board, and his daughter, Teresa Cantrell, represent fourth- and fifth-generation Dacula residents. Cantrell is the great-great-granddaughter of Dr. Sam Freeman, Dacula's first postmaster in 1850.

The late Eula Mahaffey, born the year Dacula was incorporated, was recorded by her grandson before her death and has several cameo appearances on the film.

The film is divided into segments that touch on history, transportation, economics, war service and faith.

A fascinating item relates Dacula's musical history. Roba Mary Stanley, daughter of country-music fiddler Robert Moreland Stanley, is documented as the first recorded female country music artist. Her song, "Single Life," recorded when she was 14 years old, is heard on the DVD. Stanley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The film's title is taken from another facet of Dacula's musical history. In 1922, Gid Tanner recorded the song "Down Yonder," which is today still a favorite at square dances.

Tanner, a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, was reputedly the first person to record string band music. He founded the Skillet Lickers band, that Tanner's grandson, Phil, carries on today.

Two soldiers comment on their war experiences. Benefield's service in World War II inspired him to expand his life.

"It gave me an opportunity to see more of the world and the opportunities available if we take the time to prepare ourselves," Benefield said. "So I went to college and got a degree."

Mike Dasher, recently returned from Iraq, hopes that more information about the Iraq war will be brought to light.

"I just wish that more people knew how much good is being done there and understood the situation," Dasher said.

Anyone who wants to know more about Roba Stanley's later life, know the town's original name or see pictures of Dacula's founders will find it in the book "History of Dacula, Ga.," by Jerri Stanley. She spent about 18 months researching and compiling the richly layered treasury, which she calls "a labor of love."

"I went to the Gwinnett Historical Society every day and looked at newspapers on microfilm," Stanley said of her all-volunteer effort. "They have microfilmed newspapers back to the late 1800s. When I saw an article about Dacula, I printed it out, took it home, typed, then did the same routine the next day. The people of Dacula deserve to have this information all put together."

Stanley said she only regrets she didn't have more time for research. Nevertheless, the book is thick with reproductions of maps, documents and pictures dating back to 1865. The initial printing was paid from the proceeds generated by pre-publication orders. Any additional revenue generated by the book and DVD will go toward the beautification of Dacula or city park upgrades.

Charlie Sorrells, a 28-year Dacula resident, bought three copies of the book for himself and his grown children. He plans to buy the DVD, too, when he gets a DVD player.

"My favorite part of the book is about the Skillet Lickers," Sorrels said. "There's an interesting article about Gid Turner's son, a fiddle player who died, and about how his grandson Phil is continuing on with the band."

The DVD is on sale at Dacula City Hall for $10. The book is priced at $20, or $22.50 if ordered by mail. The raw footage of all the video shot will be available for viewing at the Dacula branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library.