Flying saucers in McDonough
By Jeff Reeves
The summer of 1967 had finally arrived. We had all been looking forward to the lazy days of summer - playing tennis, swimming in the lake, riding horses and, of course, little league baseball.
In our age groups, McDonough had only two teams that I remember back then - so you would be on either the Braves of the Giants. I was always on the Giants for some reason with that grey and orange uniform. All the games would be played at the city park on Hwy. 42 North where the swimming pool was located. We called it the city park before it was named Alexander Park after Mr. George Alexander, who donated the land to the city. The library was also one of his passions for helping people. McDonough had a small library on Covington Street when I was growing up which was donated by Mr. Alexander and Planters Warehouse. Talitha Smith was the librarian for many years in that one-room library.
That building is still with us at Heritage Park. You should go visit it to get a feel for what it was like back in the 1940’s-1960’s.
One day I was looking at our local paper that Bobby Lynch ran and owned and noticed an advertisement that said, “watch out for flying saucers over McDonough on August 15.” We were all curious what that meant and started looking forward to that date to see what this was all about.
Well, August 15 finally arrived and we all set that day aside just to go looking for those flying saucers. Our first thought was to look up at the sky, because if you were looking to find some flying saucers, that would be your best bet to see one.
All of a sudden we heard a small airplane flying near our neighborhood and lo and behold, all at once these white, round objects started to fall out of the airplane.
We had no idea who was behind this or what they were up to. As they started to fall, we took off running and chased them as fast as we could. I remember quite well the very first ones that hit the ground.
The plane was diving pretty low to release the flying saucers over Bon Aire Drive, but by the time they hit the ground, some of them had been blown over to Mr. and Mrs. Ben Carmichael’s property. Mr. Carmichael was a tall man with white hair who typically wore a navy blue suit. He owned D.T. Carmichael and Son’s Funeral Home and he and his wife owned a good bit of property next to where we lived. They let all of us kids play on their place anytime we wanted to and I have never forgotten their kindness and have many memories on that property.
Back to the flying saucers. A good many of them had been blown down to the Carmichael’s lake in the middle of the pasture.
A group of us stared in that direction - Marlin Miller, Andy Walker, Roger Hawkins, Bill Pipkin, Mark Miller, Barr Jenkins, Joe Rainer, Chris and Lloyd Hand, my younger brother, Scott, myself and others.
We wanted to be the first ones to get to the lake to retrieve the saucers that had landed there. The mystery was coming unraveled all at once. We looked on the little flying saucers and they had strange numbers stamped on each one like #09743. One dollar bills had been taped to the back of some of them. On the front it clearly said to bring them to Zack’s Foodtown on Covington Street to redeem for free groceries. The mystery had been solved and we needed to start picking up as many as we possibly could. The only problem was the older kids could outrun us and I needed to come up with a plan and fast.
I was walking back from the Carmichael’s lake on Hwy. 20 and I saw Lindsey McGarity driving down the road. I flagged him down and told him what we were doing. Lindsey was 17 at the time and he had two things that I didn’t - a car and a drivers license! I cut a deal with him to drive me around and follow the airplane! I would get out of the car and run to pick up flying saucers before any other kids could get them. Lindsey and I teamed up and split the saucers 50-50. By the end of the day we had picked up more than anyone else, and we were not nearly as tired as the other kids.
Now Zack was a genius when it came to promotions. This whole thing was his idea. I recently talked to Zack’s wife, Laura, and she told me about the airplane. I asked her who piloted the plane because I thought of Zip being a natural for that job but figured that he was only 10 years old at the time and too young to fly. She told me that it was Gene Hudson’s plane and he was flying it. Zack’s job was to pitch out the paper plates. Mr. Gene had been a former principle at Henry County High School. Laura also told me that Zack got sick from Gene flying the plane up and down all afternoon.
Zack was also smart about what you could redeem the flying saucers for. The strange number I told you about earlier dictated the prize. It could be for a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs or a quart of milk. You could not get a bag of cookies, or a Coke Cola or ice cream. This way, our mothers seemed to profit from the deal.
Now the funniest thing happened. There was one kid on our street who went home with two bags of groceries and gave them to his mother. She asked how he got the groceries because she knew he didn’t have any money.
Well, he told her that these tiny flying saucers were falling out of the sky and the kids ran to pick them up. She didn’t believe him and made him take the groceries back to Zack’s. In fact she drove and tried to return them until Melvin Carmichael explained to her that they were free, and nobody had stolen the groceries!
Zack had pulled off another great promotion and succeeded in filling his store with customers that would buy other things while they were already there.
Go get em Zack!
Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough. He and his wife, Betsy, have one son.