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Portal centennial plays nearly 'sellouts'
Mayor Larry Motes Web
Portal Mayor Larry Motes played a character in the Centennial play. Dressed in period costume, he greets a guest before the production began Saturday. - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
    Where in the world is Portal? It’s “on the map,” citizens say.
    That was a catch phrase in the town’s Centennial celebration play, “Between Hopeulikit and Piddleville: Portal Celebrates 100,” which was performed Saturday at Portal Elementary School before a packed house.
    Portal has seen a whirlwind of recent activity, with the Centennial celebration, a high school basketball team that made it to the Final Four, and a local couple winning $275 million in the MegaMillions lottery.
    That’s just a little more to add to the town’s colorful history. Maybe those events will make it into the next play.
    Citizens had two opportunities to view the play and both were near sellouts, said Portal Mayor Larry Motes, who was a member of the cast of about 80 local citizens.
    No professional actors here, but who could tell? The play went flawlessly and it was obvious the cast had as good a time as those in the audience.
    As the play unfolded, Portal’s history was exposed. Black history and white history melded together as the play told how times affected the town.
    Once located about two miles north of its current location, Portal was created by Effingham County man E.E. Foy, who built a sawmill and later invested in a company dealing in turpentine, lumber, farming, cotton gins, grist mills and a mercantile business. He brought a railroad to the town, but it faded as the original town did.
    But in 1908, the Georgia Realty Company negotiated with Elerbee Daughtry and “Doll” Williams to develop a new town along the Savannah, Augusta and Northern Railroad. The “new” Portal was born.
    The play touched upon the Civil War and how it affected both white citizens and black slaves, who were made free citizens through Emancipation and wondered where to go. Many remained in Portal and are the founders of several local families today.
    Of course, the turpentine industry held a strong part in the play, but many spectators might not have known the turpentine workers made a type of whiskey from the pine sap. And some didn’t realize just how big a business moonshining was in the  town.
    A character portraying Albert “Flukie” Lucas, who passed away at age 101 a couple years ago, told how Lucas kept a moonshine still running until age 85. One still was hidden near the town’s turpentine still, and the character playing Lucas said “I never got caught, never got raided, never got my still tore up.”
    But local ladies didn’t approve of such shenanigans, and one scene showed a handful of men sneaking into town to watch a “hoochie coochie” show that accompanied a carnival.
    That scene showed peeks of feather boas and fishnet stockinged legs, as well as an angry wife who brought in “ the high sheriff and the preacher” to run the show out  of town. She also whopped her husband on the head with a huge carpet bag as she ran him home.
    Another entertaining scene was that of the “goat man,” a fellow who would appear on occasion, with a cart pulled by a team of billy goats and a herd of nannies and kids - both the goat kind and human kind - following behind him. Children loved the goat man, but parents feared he might haul one of their girls off, said one small actress onstage during that scene.
    What might have been the most hilarious scene was the tale of a local woman, “Inez,” who liked her spirits.
    She drank too much and passed out, appearing to not be breathing. Her husband called Emory Melton at Smith Tillman Mortuary, who arrived and pronounced her dead before placing her in a hearse.
     Then she awoke.
    Portal City Council member Jerry Lanigan had the crowd in gales of laughter as she portrayed the elderly lover of alcohol, streaking across the stage in a house dress, imitating the fit witnesses said Inez pitched upon finding herself “dead.”
    The play, directed by Mical Whitaker and written by Dr. Frank Saunders Jr.,  received a standing ovation after each night’s performance.

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