Facebook is not just a place we go to share current memories, it’s become quite the place to share and garner more details about old memories of days gone by, too.
It was when local muralist Chris Walker decided to post a picture of his dad’s involvement in the Great Ogeechee River Raft Races that a social conversation began amongst local long-timers about the annual event. We got excited about this story and reached out to a few locals about the days of the seemingly legendary black water bliss!
The Great Ogeechee River Raft Race was a popular annual event in the 1970s in this neck of the woods. The race attracted hundreds of participants and spectators each year. Jerry Rogers, the longtime voice of WRHQ 105.3, was the original sponsor of the raft race through his station WSGA. “We were inspired by the Chattahoochee Raft Races in Atlanta. The event grew pretty big, Governor Carter even attended when he was running for President,” recalls Jerry. “The raft races rivaled the size of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at the time, and they just grew too big to continue.”
“The kids nowadays couldn’t handle it,” adds Cindy Gil Horne. “You had to build your raft, not buy it… [these were] fun times.”
Many people participated even if they weren’t floating. “I worked the raft races when I was young selling hot dogs and hamburgers and drinks for my Uncle Fulton,” says Liane Willard. “There were some sights to behold.” Liane’s Uncle Fulton Love is the owner of Love’s Seafood, the raft races finished there depending on the tide. Morgan’s Bridge to King’s Ferry was the course—a “daring” feat according to Claudia Christiansen’s response to Chris’ post on Facebook. Nancy Gerrald echoed shortly after saying, “The most fun ever! Until the tide changed.”
Brynn Grant was the youngest of five. Her brothers and sisters would go; She’d beg to go, too, was but was never allowed, she says. “But one time, my sister took me and it was all I had imagined.”
Gene Wallace entered a couple of the races. “My after school job was at Shearouse Lumber in Pooler. They were our sponsor. We had a 4×8 raft made of plywood, lumber, and dock foam and named it the ‘Chainsaw,’ he laughs. “We had us some drinks and a bushel of boiled peanuts. Took us about nine hours to get down the river, but we had a great time.”
Wallace recalls a group that had a Volkswagen Beetle that stayed afloat with 55 gallon drums that replaced where the wheels once were. The doors had been taken off. “It looked cool,” he says, “but it wasn’t too aerodynamic!”
Do you have memories and pictures you’d like to share of the Great Ogeechee River Raft Races? Email Ryan@ReflectionsMediaCommunications.com, we’d love to hear them. Follow along digitally for more on this story at LivingRichmondHillGA.com.