Larry Allen

Everybody knows his name.

And they're always glad he came.

Larry Allen might be the most well-known man in Milledgeville.

He's as popular as Santa Claus. In fact, he was Santa Claus at the Culver Kidd drug store in the '60s and '70s, and in the annual Milledgeville Christmas parade for 42 years. 

You go out to lunch with Larry. Before he can sit down, he shakes hands or says hello to every man in the restaurant, and he hugs or kisses every woman.

When you are a local legend, it can be hard to eat lunch.

"Larry Allen is one of Milledgeville's treasures," said Georgia Military College Prep basketball coach James Lunsford. "He doesn't do a whole lot just for Larry Allen, but he does do a whole lot for other people."

Allen recently was honored by GMC with its Service Award for the 30 years he has spent volunteering there. 

He has been president of GMC's Bulldog Club at least three times, helped with the annual GMC Barbecue, been in charge of the concession stands, and sold ads and wrote the copy for sports programs. 

"If he turned in a bill for all the time he has put in volunteering at GMC and was paid minimum wage, we'd have to get a loan," said Randy New, chairman of the GMC Board of Trustees. "It might bankrupt the school."

A Larry Allen scholarship was started by the Bulldog Club in 1987 and over $36,000 has been awarded to GMC high school students who plan to attend GMC junior college. A graduate of Baldwin High, Allen was named an honorary alumnus of GMC in 1998. 

Allen said the scholarships awarded in his name give him "a great sense of pride."

"It humbled him greatly," New said. 

WORKING MAN

Allen has been a banker, a teacher and a member of the Georgia Army National Guard. He also has been an umpire and a coach for recreation department teams.

"Larry was somebody we looked up to," said Charles Middlebrooks, who spent summers of his teen years helping out at Bonner Park along with Buster Brown, Danny Rogers and others. "He was our role model."

Allen is perhaps best known for his job as sports editor at the Union Recorder for over 10 years in the '60s and '70s. 

He covered Baldwin, GMC, John Milledge and recreational sports, and he always tried to be fair to all the teams.

"I put as many names as I could in the paper," he said. "The more names you mention, the happier the grandmothers are. And it gives the students a little pride in themselves. I was able to do that because we were a weekly then. It's harder to do in a daily paper." 

Allen wore two other hats at the Union Recorder -- Advertising Director and photographer. He had a rigorous schedule, but he loved it.

His week revolved around Friday night football games. He would cover a game and shoot action photos. He'd call Rev. Doyle Middlebrooks, an accomplished photographer, and get him to take photos at a different game. 

"Then I'd call the other coaches and get statistics and quotes in order to write the stories for the next Thursday's paper," Allen said. 

On Saturday mornings, Allen would write his stories while sitting at The Varsity in Athens before the Georgia Bulldogs played in the afternoon.

After church on Sunday, he was back at it, finishing up his stories. On Monday, he had to hit the road early, picking up ads and making sure his copy was ready to be set in type.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays were equally busy, but on Thursday he could kick back, go have a cup of coffee at the old Grant's Restaurant and get fired up for another Friday night under the lights.

On some Saturdays, Allen would do freelance work for the Macon Telegraph and sports editor Harley Bowers. He remembers going to the Georgia Tech at Clemson game one Saturday afternoon and driving back to Athens for the South Carolina at Georgia game that night.

The games and the names — players and coaches — from the past come easily for Allen.

He remembers when the Baldwin football team traveled to play Terry Parker High in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1969. Allen, Joe Boone and Garland Overstreet decided to fly down for the game in a four-seat plane. It was his first flight.

"It was the thrill of my life," Allen said. "I remember flying over the Oconee River and thinking it was the most beautiful view I had ever seen."

He rattled off names such as Sid Oakley, Bobby Brown, David Rogers and Jim Harper as memorable Baldwin football players.

He mentioned Ronald "Skunk" Gordon and J.T. Wall at John Milledge Academy.

And there were Ronnie Simpson, Jimmy Hardie and Mike Puckett at GMC, to name a few.

"Ohhhhh, those were the good old days, " Allen said. "I have so many memories. I thank the good Lord."

PERFECT PERSONALITY

Today, Allen is an integral part of the GMC basketball program, Coach Lunsford said. 

"He runs the clock, keeps the scorebook and even helps me do a little scouting," Lunsford said. "Larry's been great."

Allen said Lunsford, who coached basketball at Baldwin for more than 30 years and at Twiggs County before coming to GMC, has led a rebirth of the Bulldogs basketball program in his 10 years there.

Lunsford, who won his 800th career game this past season, credits Allen with helping to convince him to take the GMC job. 

"I knew Larry when I was at Baldwin and he was writing for The Union-Recorder,” Lunsford said, "so I talked with him about GMC. He was so excited that he made me excited, too."

Allen has been excited about most things for all of his 75 years.

"When I see him, I still call him Santa Claus," said Rusty Kidd, the late Culver Kidd's son. "He's got the perfect personality — smiling, friendly, outgoing, caring — to let kids sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. And, it's the perfect personality for dealing with adults, too.

"He's a big, big advocate for GMC and for the city of Milledgeville. He's just a walking advertisement for all of Milledgeville."

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