Several weeks ago I wrote about the community of Oaky and the Mill Pond of the Wilson family. I found documentation of the dance hall in the 1930s, and some remember hearing of its operation in the 1920s but it is unknown exactly how long it operated. It is remarkable that in the depression the advertisements for admission were as high as 72 cents for men with females admitted for free.
During the Depression, the admission fee there was as much as some men’s weekly wages. Ads varied over the years with couple fees at times from 25 to 35 cents. In its heyday the crowds came from far and near. Mr. Guerry Burns is one of our older citizens who still lives nearby and recalls going there.
Although the Wilson family was wealthy and hired managers to run their establishment, drinking around the dances brought fights and skirmishes with those indulging. At least one man was shot to death over the years there and many bore the bruises of their evenings at Oaky.
Ads such as the one posted stated, "No drunks allowed," but it was difficult for the different managers hired there to maintain order. It is of note that they often mention Dr. Wilson maintains good order at the dances in the weekly announcements.
Hours seem to have been Friday and Saturday nights regularly with other times mentioned, "Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights open for private parties."
It appears there were live bands and music on the "Victrola" (spelled as in ad). The Georgia Play Boys (formerly the Powlin Ramblers) were announced for numerous performances. Ads mention square dancing and round dancing. It appears Dr. Wilson hosted community July 4 activities (see accompanying ad).
The Aug. 13, 1937 business review in The Springfield Herald stated:
Wilson’s Mill Pond
A Popular Rendezvous That is Visited by Hundreds of People who Seek Recreation in Swimming and Dancing
Wilson’s Mill Pond makes a specialty of catering to private dances and parties. Because of its exceptionally fine layout the pavilion has proven an ideal spot in which private dances can be held. Lodges, fraternal orders and other social organizations are urged to get in touch with its management in regard to rental and nominal charges made. If you desire your party or dance to be a social success, why not have it at Wilson’s Mill Pond. Especially during this hot weather you’ll find a cooling and refreshing spot.
Wilson’s Mill Pond offers an excellent place in which to hold parties and no charge is made for the use of the grounds. Bathing is free here, but a small cost of ten cents is made for use of the showers and lockers. Every Friday and Saturday night there is dancing with the Powlin Ramblers of Savannah furnishing the music.
All is quiet now in the area of the Wilson’s Mill Pond except for the rustling of the trees or animals in the area but in days gone by you heard music and laughter along with merriment in this once quite lively spot of high society.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.