Listen, if you think the downtown Gainesville scene is The Place To Be now, it has apparently always been thus.
Consider Jess Davis’ description of downtown street life on market days back in BC (Before Cars) as recorded in his 1964 book “History of Gainesville.”
“Homemade vehicles of every description propelled by mules; lone cows harnessed by ropes into rudely-constructed shafts of primitive-looking go-carts, and driven maybe by a buxom looking country girl in holiday attire and ornamental accompaniments, designed, no doubt, to enrapture the heart of some susceptible one of the opposite sex…
“Long, vegetable teams, drawn by four or six mules, upon one of which is seated a native Floridian, flourishing his long-lashed, short-handled whip in his peculiarly dexterous manner.
“Long-legged, aged countrymen in white pants, frocked-coat and tall hat, astride of some cadaverous looking donkey, loaded additionally with baskets and bags well filled with rich products hanging each side of the saddle, the whole looking, at first sight, as if the man was endeavoring to steady the donkey and his burden with his feet, which nearly touch the ground.
“Then women and children of every age, size and complexion…from miles around, enjoying their weekly gala day, talking politics and religion on the corners or in groups on the street, lounging on the curb stones or dining at the improvised Saturday eating places, here and there located upon the top of some dry-goods box, and attended by the proprietors in snow-white aprons.
“These and many other sights greeted the eyes upon the streets about the square on Saturday, and are richly enjoyed by visitors who are unused to them.”
Ah, but friends and neighbors, the winds of change were already blowing through Hogtown Creek City, Davis notes.
“Such quaint looking sights, However, are fast dying away by the advent of a new class of people with new ideas and higher ambitions.
“Engendered by the increased wealth of the natives and their neighbors, and freely scattered among the above described ancient-looking turnouts, may be seen the finest styles of northern carriages, drawn by dapper-looking spans, or buggies drawn by sleek well-bred horses, accompanied by prosperous orange or vegetable growers, with fashionable-dressed members of their own family or friends radiant with pleasure recently enjoyed from cantering over the hummock roads from their happy southern roads to the city.”
Aye, and demon rum had already raised it’s ugly head as well….
“Here around the square may be found….as elsewhere where money is freely dispensed, the incommensurables establishments which exemplify the biblical declaration that ‘wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging.’ To the credit of the proprietors they are well-kept and orderly, and minors are not permitted.”
It’s true, even in BC GNV underage students and such were trying to sneak into downtown’s, um, dens of iniquity.
But never fear. Thanks to “the excellent local government and the spirit of morality which pervades the civil and social atmosphere tends to warrant a continuance of peace and quietness even though they may fall into evil hands.”
So what have we learned, boys and girls? Other than the fact that Squire Davis loved to traffic in awkward, run-on-forever sentences?
We learned that downtown GNV is a happening place. Then, now and forever more.