HAWKINSVILLE -- Once upon a time, most every place had a lovers lane.
They were dirt roads at the edge of town, where cars were parked and passion rarely hit the brakes. They could be found on tucked-away streets and at the end of cul-de-sacs, when starry nights and steamy windows came together in the back seat of a Chevy.
A lovers lane would never show up on a map. Or a GPS, had it been invented. There was no such thing as road rage on lovers lanes, either. Raging hormones, maybe, but not road rage.
There has been a Lovers Lane in Hawkinsville since the beginning of dirt. Or at least since a certain dirt road earned that amorous designation years ago.
Unlike lanes that are lovers in nickname only, this one stuck like mud on the tires. (There might have even a sinkhole or two.) Years later, when the road was paved and houses started going up, the smoochers scattered like quail in a covey.
Lovers Lane Road has remained a cut-through north of town, from the Perry Highway (U.S. 341) to the Columbus-Montezuma Highway (Ga. 26). It’s a tight spiral from Red Devil Drive, where the local high school football team scored enough to win the state championship last fall.
The narrow road is less than a mile stretch between the pine trees and past the old golf course. It crosses Town Creek, with a scenic view of Lake Magnolia.
The late Franklin Jones developed this land in 1950s. He owned Hawkinsville Motor Sales, the local Ford dealership, and was advised not to build the surrounding neighborhoods, lake and golf course.
“His father told him it would never be good for anything but pasture,” said his widow, Frances Jones. “He went against that advice. Everybody was used to the name, so they didn’t make anything of it when he didn’t change it. It has always been Lovers Lane and always will be.’’
Sam Way built the first house on Lovers Lane in 1960 and lived there for 34 years. He is now 88 and one of the community’s most respected citizens.
“It was the first road leaving town where you could pull off and park with your girl,’’ he said.
Over the years, the blue street signs have tickled funny bones and stirred curiosity. Even the mailman will see the humor in delivering Valentine’s Day cards to addresses on Lovers Lane on Saturday.
Roger Newman built his home on Lovers Lane more than 30 years ago. He rode horses down it as a boy, but he can’t ever remember taking a date there when he was older. “It was always too busy,” he said, laughing.
I have a history with Lovers Lane, even though I never stole a single kiss there. In those days, the only girl I had ever kissed was my mama.
My grandparents taught school in Hawkinsville for 25 years. When we went to visit them, we would turn off the highway and take the shortcut to their house.
I don’t recall seeing any parked cars, unless they had a flat tire. What I do remember was the lake used to have stumps in it. As children, we imagined they were alligators and called it Alligator Lake.
Dr. Rence Cheek Jr., a local dentist, has the only business on Lovers Lane. He moved his practice there from South Jackson Street in 2002.
“We get a lot of curious responses from suppliers and venders and from new patients when we give them the address,’’ he said. “It has never bothered me at all. It’s kind of a talking point.’’
It is not lost on some folks that he is a dentist named Cheek on Lovers Lane.
Hawkinsville isn’t the only town in Georgia with an official Lovers Lane. A spur between Ga. 22 and Ga. 24 north of Milledgeville goes by that name. (Someone was clever to name a side street Valentine Road.)
There are other lanes for lovers in Albany, Covington, Calhoun, Leesburg, Monroe and Toccoa.
There is a Lovers Lane in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that goes to the hospital. And one in Dallas, Texas, that appropriately enough leads to Love Field. There is a Lovers Lane in Princeton, New Jersey, home of Albert Einstein and T.S. Eliot, who wrote a famous love poem.
Young folks rarely make references to lovers lanes. I guess it is now considered an old-fashioned word. It is not in their vocabulary or trending on Twitter.
Romance rides the interstates, the HOV lane for lovers, and left the rest of us behind.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.