For many years lake residents held church services (of many denominations) in homes and on top of boathouses. In 1972, after lots of coffee klatch conversations at Guy Hall’s, Boat Church was started in cooperation with Clayton First United Methodist Church. Rev. Hal Brady was the first Boat Church pastor. Guy Hall’s boathouse and a pontoon boat donated by Tom McNeely provided the first site.
LRA members began to get into the swing of creating new traditions. In 1980, Vice President Ray Warren, at the suggestion of Jud Laws and Jack Stroud, implemented a July 4th Wooden Boat Regatta. Jud and Jack organized and led the first Wooden Boat Regatta which has become an annual event showcasing Lake Rabun’s incredible fleet of wooden boats. Later in 2001, a special one day issue Commemorative Post Office Stamp was created by Libby Mathews honoring the Regatta. The John Lundeen Family still owns the oldest original “Woodie” on the lake, a 1936 Triple Cockpit Chris Craft. This boat was delivered by the Tallulah Falls Railroad to the Lakemont Depot for Preston Arkwright, president of Georgia Power, and then transported to the lake.
During this same time, LRA member Gene Cofer found a copy in his Mother’s library of the 1926 Annual Report of the Georgia Railway and Power Company giving the history of the building of the chain of hydroelectric power generating lakes on the Tallulah and Tugalo Rivers. John Lundeen and Ray Warren, working together, had exact duplicates reproduced for all LRA members.
In 1981 LRA identification plaques were first provided to members, the first LRA tee shirts were sold, and Dale Herndon built the LRA bulletin board that was installed at Hall’s Boat House. In addition, two major new traditions were started that year. Winnie Brown chaired the first annual Flea Market which netted $1,692 for the Lakemont-Wiley Fire Department. LRA’s first annual fireworks display was also begun that year as a part of the 4th of July celebration. The LRA budget for fireworks was very small at that time (about $1,500) so the initial displays were done v-e-r-y slowly so they would last for 20 minutes. Membership had grown to 170 plus.
In 1982 and 1983, President Ralph Williams and President Charlie Arp, faced new challenges in the potential encroachment of commercialism on Lake Rabun Road between Whetrock Lane and Appaloosa Lane. The LRA took legal action against a lake property owner desiring to change a personal residence to a multi-unit rental lodge. Besides quality of life issues there were septic tank issues and water quality issues. Even though LRA did not win the case, the property owner dropped his plans, and a message was sent to all that the LRA would oppose any further commercial activity on the lake.
LRA membership continued to grow reaching 200 plus in 1982, as more lake residents recognized the advantages of the LRA sponsored activities and the LRA community protection and preservation efforts. When a further commercial threat occurred in 1983, it was to the marina. Georgia Power stepped in and bought the land to insure that there would be public facilities, including docking and launching facilities. Charlie Arp organized Hall’s Boathouse, Inc., with the help of Stan Ashley and 18 other LRA investors. They leased the land from Georgia Power and then rebuilt and operated the Marina. The rebuilt Marina opened in 1983.
In 1983 the Young Peoples Auxiliary was organized by Dale Herndon to help the young folks on the lake meet each other. The Auxiliary is no longer in existence but it did lead to the beginning of Saturday Night Bingo which continued for a number of years, was dropped for a while, and was revived in 1999 by Thad and Darlene Warren. Bingo Night is currently enjoyed by many families at the Pavilion. Other attempts have been made to provide opportunities for young folks to gather like Youth Night in 1999 that was begun by Nan Troutman and Steve Wright.
In 1984, Brandon Mill Road on the backside of the lake was completed through a joint effort with Rabun County and Georgia Power. More lakefront lots were available and more homes built. LRA membership soon exceeded 250.
Presidents Dale Herndon, Buz Stone and Denny Webb were confronted with a new multifamily commercial rezoning attempt during 1985-86, which required the participation and monetary support of the full LRA membership. The ruling from the initial Rabun County Zoning Commission meeting in December 1985 went against LRA but by the time the County Commission Meeting occurred about a month later, LRA members had all been contacted by phone or letter and the courthouse was packed. The rezoning failed and everyone felt good about it but they were worried about the possibility of a lawsuit. A $50,000 Contingency Fund to provide for future lake protection efforts was established the same year. This event proved again, the continuing need for a strong Association to protect the lake from high density development and emphasized the need to strengthen a positive visible community relationship in Rabun County.
Later in 1986, President Pete Halter realized that the Lake Rabun Association had shown that it had a voice in the community but that it now needed to find a way to bring the community and the association closer together. Pete suggested that a scholarship be given to a Rabun County student and Buz Stone took on the job of establishing the LRA Foundation, known as the Lake Rabun Fund. The first college assistance scholarship was presented in 1987 and efforts to raise funds to give back to Rabun County ensued. The first Annual LRA Golf Tournament benefiting the Lake Rabun Fund was held the same year.
In 1987 upon the death of Antonina Hansell Looker, her large estate of 38.726 acres with over 3000 feet of shoreline containing historical “Bluebird Cottage”, Hillhouse and the White House Lodge became the object of potential unwanted development. LRA officers realized this threat and successfully negotiated with the Looker Estate to sell to a developer, an LRA member, who came up with a low density plan that was the most amenable to all. That plan resulted in the creation of 20 lots that exist today across the lake from Hall’s Marina and Witham Point.
Lake Rabun was not only growing in the 1980s, it was also becoming better known outside of the Lakemont community. Evidence of the growth and the recognition are seen in the following events. The Boat Church Boathouse was completed in 1984, the first fireboat was active on the lake in 1985 and Gay Davidson organized the first ladies Lake Brunch later known as Lunch Bunch in 1988. That same year the Thanksgiving Gathering had grown so large that it moved to Glen–Ella Springs and was hosted by owners Barrie and Bobby Aycock. Winnie Brown, Spring Asher and Tom Asher were instrumental in the publication of the LRA Cookbook entitled Lake Rabun Days in 1988. In the late 1980s a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie, Decoration Day, starring James Garner, was filmed at the lake home of Marilyn McNeely. In addition, Ben Noble, Jr. and Olin Jackson co-authored an article on Lakemont for the North Georgia History magazine and released their book, Take to the Hills: Lakemont, GA: The Early Years in 1989.
Mary Evans was elected the first female President of the Association in 1990. During that year, the LRA persuaded the US Forest Service to put a moratorium on clear cutting of forestlands near the lake. Also, Elaine Hughes and Frank Smith spent hours driving around the lake, both in cars and boats, to update the membership roster for the upgraded LRA map. In 1990, LRA membership exceeded 300 for the first time.
The impact of technology emerges onto the lake scene in the mid-1990s. George and John Pope computerized the list of members to be used for the LRA directory and Betty Moore began the Lake Rabun Waves newsletter in 1995
In 1997, the Lake Rabun Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary Celebration in conjunction with the Glen–Ella Springs 10th Anniversary. Tables with green checked tablecloths and flowers dotted the meadow and a beautiful buffet of food was served on the decks
At the Labor Day General Meeting, Buz Stone was honored for his 25 years of service to the Foundation. Lisa Longino led a group of LRA members in a quiet effort to create a fund to honor him. Thanks to the generous response from hundreds of LRA members $77,000 was raised to endow the annual presentation of THE BUZ STONE “LAKE RABUN CARES” AWARD. The first recipient of the award was Buz, himself, who directed the $2500 award to Foxfire.
In 2012 the LRA fiscal year was changed to a traditional calendar year and Bob Pledger completed the conversion of the financials to a QuickBooks financial structure compliant with the requirements for non-profit tax reporting. Anita Pittman, LRA member and certified CPA, assisted Bob in this transition and then volunteered in 2014 to take on the role of bookkeeper for the association. This “first” for the association insures the on-going accuracy and consistency of the LRA financials and tax reporting .
Other technology transitions also occurred at this time. John King was recognized for the development of LRA’s first website and 15 years of managing the service. Tim and Veanne Smith and their company, SolTech, took the website to the next level by developing, implementing and servicing the new LRA website which came on line in early 2013. More technology advances were realized when Al Battle oversaw the installation of DSL at the Pavilion. This feature allowed people to conveniently charge goods and services at the Pavilion.
Lake residents living in the Narrows were delighted when Rabun Beach Grocery and Marina was acquired by Rabun Boathouse LLC (aka Hall’s Boathouse) in 2013. Plans included building six boat slips, remodeling the store and once again selling gas at that end of the lake.
The Pavilion saw its first Lake Rabun Drama Camp and performance the summer of 2013. This same summer the lake community celebrated a milestone reached when the 100th student from Rabun County was awarded an LRA scholarship. A new program of named scholarships was begun this year, which are fully described on the LRA website
Under the leadership of Bob Voyles the planning for the Centennial Celebration accelerated in 2014. Stories and pictures were collected, inventoried, and formatted to bring to life the history of the lake in a Commemorative Book to be unveiled in 2015. In conjunction with the book, forty people were videoed to record days gone by in the words of people who lived them. A compilation of these stories is being produced in a Centennial DVD. As a salute to the upcoming 2015 centennial celebration, six historic homes were selected for the 2014 Tour of Homes and a teaser preview of the DVD was shown at the kick-off of the tour .
As a result of added activities for the general membership, 2014 dues were increased from $200 to $250. Past history indicates that dues were $125 through 2006 and were increased to $200 in 2007.
In early 2014 a project was started to replace the 16 bottom hinged, steel framed, wooded spillway gates at Mathis Dam with pneumatic operated steel gates. Using temporary bulkheads, so as not to impact lake elevations, each gate was removed and new hinge mechanisms were installed prior to setting large rubber bladders and new steel gates. Work is estimated to be completed by May 2015.
Recent years have allowed the LRA to continue to pursue its purposes to protect the Lake community, to support charitable organizations, to maintain a good relationship with Rabun County and to provide fellowship among the members
Initial LRA Charter Members
Whippoorwill Award Recipients