GAINESVILLE – There are some who would suggest that rocks found in the north Georgia soil are several hundred-million years old; others would argue, “Not so.” There is, however, one rock whose age everyone agrees on: “The Rock” that sits just north of the Gainesville High School campus is about to turn 50 years old.
Scores of people surrounded “The Rock” Sunday afternoon as current Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, and John Cromartie, Jr., son of the Gainesville mayor who, in 1967, officially placed “The Rock” under the guardianship of Gainesville High School, each received a copy of a celebratory resolution approved by the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education.
According to that resolution, contractors unearthed the giant boulder as the West Bypass was under construction. Too enormous to remove, according to one account the monolith was pushed to the side as far as possible and the path of the Bypass altered slightly.
It wasn’t long, however, before students at GHS found the giant piece of granite fascinating and started painting and adorning the rock, using it as a pre-internet form of social media and as a way to express school pride.
Kristy Crenshaw Nix was a cheerleader at GHS in 1967 and she said at Sunday afternoon's celebration, “The first thing we painted was GHS with exclamation marks and class of ’68.”
Nix is pictured in the photo attached to this story (taken during the official proclamation on October 27, 1967, naming GHS as guardian) and said of the old black and white picture, “I was pushing on the rock…and Mr. Cromartie, how he got up to the top I don’t remember.”
Nix’s twin brother, Ken Crenshaw added, “They painted the rock first and then asked for forgiveness.”
Nix says that much to her surprise the rock quickly became a place of school rivalry.
Nix said shortly after painting their first message, “I do remember one Sunday morning…we rode by here and what we had painted on it had been replaced with something from Riverside (Military Academy). “
Crenshaw said before the rock became the easel used to show school spirit, “They used to paint the front of the school, the windows in the school, and this diverted it over here.”
John Cromartie, Jr. said his father found great pride and joy in being the one who turned the rock over to the school. “He just loved it and was tickled to death when they took his picture up there.”
Cromartie said part of the reasoning behind the 1967 proclamation was to remove any legal complications as the GHS students were painting on a rock unearthed by a private contractor and sitting on U.S. Army Corp of Engineer property leased to the City of Gainesville.
“It sort of became a community-spirit thing after that,” Cromartie recalled. “It’s an example of what government could have done wrong but did right, and we’re all still blessed by it.”