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Historic Plaque Unveiled in Downtown Ceremony

Historic plaque unveiled in downtown ceremony

By Amy H. Mullis – The Union-Recorder
As Oliver Hardy, a.k.a. Dr. Thomas Toney, peeked under the drape covering the new historic marker, he giggled and called it wonderful.

The corner of Greene and Wayne streets was crowded with fans of the late comedian as a historical marker was placed at the location where Hardy and his mother Emily lived, and where she ran Hotel Milledgeville, which later became Hotel Baldwin.

Festivities on Friday began with the Georgia Military College band playing and marching from the school that Hardy once attended. The band was followed by Hardy\’s impersonator in a 1909 Ford-T driven by Forrest Giles.

In keeping with his character, Toney smiled, giggled and fiddled with his tie throughout the ride down Greene Street to the marker site.

Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin Jr. opened the ceremony by sharing the importance of celebrating the city\’s history with such markers. He later presented a proclamation to the president of the Newcomers Club, Jackie Resinger, proclaiming the day Oliver Hardy Day in Milledgeville.

\”This is a great day to be a citizen of Milledgeville and Baldwin County,\” he said. \”Any time that we take the opportunity to do something as important as (this) in our community is extremely great for our community.\”

Dr. Bob Wilson, local historian and professor of history at Georgia College & State University, said he has been asked recently about the significance of the Oliver Hardy Historic Marker.

\”It was in Milledgeville that he first became interested in film and developed, by looking at all the denizens (residents) of Milledgeville, some of his comic persona,\” he said.

Wilson then introduced the man of the hour, Hardy, who until then had been waiting patiently in the 1909 Ford. Hearing his introduction, Hardy clumsily stepped out of the car and nearly lost his hat. But he quickly regrouped and joined the crowd.

\”It\’s a wonderful honor to be here with you folks today,\” he said. \”I have so many pleasant memories of Milledgeville.\”

Then Wilson helped the stumbling actor up to the marker where Hardy (Toney) removed the blue cover from the marker placed in his honor.

\”Thank you all for coming out,\” he said afterward. \”It\’s wonderful to have this memory here at last of one of the great, great people of Milledgeville – me!\”

Joining the crowd to watch the unveiling were several people who had connections with Hardy beyond watching his films and other productions.

Although Alfie Geeson\’s connection was more to Stan Laurel than Hardy, it was important to him to be a part of the event. He said he met Laurel\’s sister, Beatrice Langford, in the Black Bull pub she owned in Bottesford, Leicestershire in England.

\”I\’ve been a fan of Laurel and Hardy all of my life, and knowing (Laurel\’s) sister makes it even more of an occasion that I\’ve got to attend,\” said Geeson, who is originally from England.

Amelia Tennille, who also attended the ceremony, actually had a connection to the man being honored.

\”(My mother) walked to school with him everyday and carried his books for him so he could dance and sing,\” she said.

Tennille and her sister, Trudy Trawick, recalled their mother, Althea Miller Horne, traveling to California to be a special guest on \”This is Your Life\” with Laurel and Hardy. They said Hardy wanted Horne to stay for a while but because of work she had to return home.

Trudy said their other sister, Edith, still has a letter written by Hardy to their mother asking about the people in Milledgeville and requesting that she make sure to get him a subscription to The Union-Recorder. The ladies said they are pleased to see Hardy honored with a historic marker.

Ann Vinson, a member of the Georgia Historical Society and the State Historical Marker Committee, said each year the committee approves the placement of 20 historic signs in Georgia, and since 1998, Milledgeville has erected two. She said the first was placed at the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House on Hancock Street.

Amy H. Mullis can be reached at (478) 453-1458 or by e-mail at newsroom@unionrecorder.com