On my father’s side of the family I’m the youngest of nine grandchildren. The next oldest grandchild is my sister and a couple of others. The age difference between us is six years. The oldest segment of grandchildren was in their late teens or early 20s when I was born. It was this segment of our grandchild population that passed along to me their own childhood lore of The Place---the one-time farm in Cherokee County where my father lives today.
If we all got together today and walked The Place we would share some of the same memories regarding particular trees, trails, and other spots. Some memories would be specific to each person, and some memories would be more relevant to each of the three generational groups.
One such memory would be the love seat which was a large, rectangular quartz rock that jutted out at the base of a very large, old tree in front of my great-grandmother’s home. The rock formed a ledge that could support the derriere of two slender people. As a child I played in an around the tree, and I never went to my grandparents without sitting on the “love seat.”
Today, if I mentioned a love seat to my students they would instantly picture a small sofa that could seat two to three people, but in the 1800s, however, a love seat was a place to date much like the movies or the mall might be today though the word “date” would have been largely unknown.
A young man might escort a girl to a dance, church, supper, or party, but that was about it. Most of the interaction occurred at the young ladies home in her parlor or on the front porch. In a USA Today article Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin defines traditional courtship: "It was a process where parents and others kept watch while young people found a spouse. It had rules, steps carried out in view of everyone. It meant sitting in a parlor and chatting with parents.”
Often times a courting couch or loveseat was placed in the parlor or living room for the courting couple to sit close to each other. A loveseat was basically a sofa created from two chairs facing in opposite directions. In this way the man and woman could sit together, but there was a boundary between them….the shared arm of the chairs.
Dating [finally] began at the beginning of the 20th century, implemented by upper class women who were moving into academic and professional circles. They demanded the right to be able to dine out with a man and not damage their reputation. They also craved the freedom that going out on a date gave them, away from the prying eyes of their parents. They would sneak out to the dancehalls to meet who they wanted [per this article].
While Georgia girls might have snuck out to the dancehalls or various shops to meet a beau, girls attending the State Normal School in Athens, Georgia would head out to the Kissing Rocks. These “normal” girls were teachers in training, and the “normal” comes from the fact that they were being taught the standards or “norms” of education.
Per the New Georgia Encyclopedia the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts used the campus until 1891, when it was purchased to establish the State Normal School. In 1932 the University of Georgia’s Department of Education assumed teachers’ training for the state. The normal school was taken over by the university and became known as Coordinate College but was used only as dormitories for freshmen and sophomore women.
Later the Naval Supply Corps School was housed in the buildings including Winnie Davis Hall, built with funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and named after Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s daughter. Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis sent a letter to be read at the laying of the building’s cornerstone. You can see it here. The Navy controlled the property until very recently which resulted in the property being turned back over to UGA.
This report, produced due to the anticipated closing of the Naval Supply Corps School, discusses the buildings and the property in general including the Kissing Rocks, a group of boulders along Prince Avenue. The story goes that students at the Normal School would gather at the Kissing Rocks to steal a few kisses with their beaus. The site is also newsworthy for the prehistoric artifacts found at the location during a 1951 excavation.
While I did find some interesting online links about the State Normal School I was a little disappointed I couldn’t find an image of the Kissing Rocks. If anyone out that way would like to help, please send an image to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post it with your credit.
A bit of the school’s history can be found at Rootsweb while pages of The Crystal, the yearbook for the State Normal School, can be found here.
The picture with this post was snagged from OnlineAthens.com