Posted by: wrmcnutt | June 4, 2009

There Are Only Two Places In Georgia

Old Fulton County Stadium

Old Fulton County Stadium

 Okay – here’s a quick lesson in Georgia geography for people who’ve never lived there.  Mind you, I’ve never lived there either.  But my Momma was born in Fulton County, in the shadow of old Fulton County Stadium, alas now destroyed, replaced with the Disney-eqsue “Turner Field.”   If she cut herself, she bled peach juice.  And her momma lived in Atlanta for all of her life.  So I’ve spent plenty of time tooling around Georgia.

Now, there are only two places in Georgia.  And we’ll start with The Beltway.  I know that it comes as a surprise to folks from Los Angeles and Washington DC, but there is, in fact, only one Beltway, and it’s formed by I-285.  The Beltway separates Atlanta’s urban core from its suburbs.  Locally, it’s called The Perimeter, and inside it reside the cool, the hip, the informed, the socially aware.  On occasion, I have heard it said by Inside The Perimeter (ITP) types, that they only go Outside the Perimeter when they go outside of the country.Just ask them.  On second thought, don’t ask.  If someone lives inside The Perimeter, they’ll tell you.   If they don’t, don’t embarrass them by asking.  Outside The Perimeter live the commuters and that most detested of Americans, the Suburbanites.  You know, people with SUVs.  People who want yards for children to play in.  That sort of thing.  So, to the ITP, there are only two places in Georgia:  Inside the Perimeter, and Outside The Perimeter.

North Georgia

North Georgia

Then, there’s North Georgia and South Georgia.  Essentially, North Georgia is Atlanta, and everything to the north of it.  South Georgia is everything to the south of Atlanta. A quick look at a map of Georgia will be a little disorienting when you’re aware of this definition.   Atlanta, you see, is about four-fifths of the way up the state. So there’s a whole lot more of South Georgia than there is North Georgia.  But there’s actually method to this antebellum madness.  Just south of Atlanta, the geography changes sharply.  North Georgia is defined by the locals as the “hilly or mountainous region of the state.” Now, as a Tennessean, I’m always surprised at this.  There are “hills” in Georgia?  Mountains?  Really.  Where? (I mean no disrespect to my fellow Southerners in Georgia.  I’ve had Coloradans say the same thing about Tennessee.)  But, south of Atlanta is mostly a wooded plain, flat and covered with pine forests.  It is from this region that you get the images of Georgia including the “red clay earth of Tara” that Scarlett O’Hara so dearly loved.  It’s thought that the term was originally introduced by entrepreneurs trying to lure Georgians up into the foothills during the days before air conditioning became widespread.  The higher elevations are as much as 20 degrees cooler than down on the plain, and during the summer, South Georgia becomes a soul-searing frying pan.  A young child told to play outside in a South Georgia August can lose his fear of hell.

Powell, TN

Powell, TN

The Old Brown Derby

The Old Brown Derby

And finally, we have the last two great demarcation points in Georgia: East of the Big Chicken, and West of the Big Chicken.  The Big Chicken in in Marietta, Georgia.  The Big Chicken is a classic example of American Novelty Architecture, in which buildings are made to look like other objects. Other well known examples include the old Brown Derby in Hollywood, and the Airplane Gas Station in Powell, TN.

The Big Chicken

The Big Chicken

The Big Chicken was the result of a problem for the Johnny Reb diner, in Marietta Georgia.  With changes in traffic patterns due to highway development, the owner, Tubby Davis, was facing increased competition, and a subsequent fall off in business.  Accordingly, in 1963, he had a superstructure for the constructed for the diner.  Over 50 feet tall, it featured a stylized chicken head, complete with moving eye, beak, and comb.  At last, in 1993, the end of the Big Chicken was nigh.  Damaged in an unnamed but powerful storm, it was slated to be demolished.  When the news was leaked to the public, there was an epic uproar.  You would have thought that Sherman was headed back to Atlanta.  Pepsico, in return for a logo halfway up the bird, chipped in some cash, and that, together with local fund raising, saved the Big Chicken.

So there you have it:  there are only two places in Georgia.  Which two depend on who you are talking to.

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  1. you forgot Atlanta vs the rural voting districts.

  2. I was very upset the last time I drove through Powell and the airplane was gone. That was one my land marks on the path to and from Knoxville in the middle of the night back in high school.

    • It’s GONE? Somebody was gonna restore it. There’s still a web site!

      • When I drove by a couple of months ago there was a big random pile of sheet metal there. I suppose it could have been under or behind the pile. Now I have to drive by there and check.

  3. Many years ago the demographics of Georgia were acknowledged by politicians and teachers of Georgia History professors officially. It was the legend of the two Georgia’s as demarcation of the Georgia Fall Line. This “line” runs from Augusta to Columbus and was once the sea line and may one day be again if the caps keep melting. (

    It was reported last month by the feds the metro Atlanta as Bill describes was 5.4 million people. In July 200 the official number of people in Georgia was 9,685,744; that means more than 60% of the population of Georgia resides within the boundaries of a water starved “desert” and the battles between states over water rights rival that of the “Battle Between the States” circa 1860.
    Now imagine if (oh wait no imagination required) if 85% or more of all revenues, taxes and otherwise were spent on the 28 counties of ‘metro Atlanta.”
    Yes, there are two Georgia’s, not unlike two people in a marriage who bare the same last name.

    “Georgia”, once the leader in the south of all states, is now a shining example of greed, discourse, and soon to be bankruptcy. Georgia holds the second highest bankruptcy and third highest foreclosure rate in the Untitled States; Oh and did I mention that this Georgia is “beltway” Georgia.

    Nicely written Bill.

  4. All directions in Atlanta start with, “From the Big Chicken.” People will take you out of the way to get you to the Big Chicken, because they only know how to get there from that one landmark.

  5. As of less than two weeks ago, it was still there. Certainly not looking like the picture above, but still there.

  6. Sorry that reply didn’t show up as the appropriate response. I was referring to the Powell airplane.

  7. After living in its shadow most of my life (at least in the shadow it casts very late in the afternoon), I finally went *inside* the Big Chicken a few years ago. On the down side, the food served there is no different from any other KFC. However, only by going inside can you behold the Chicken’s Giant Yellow Legs.

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