When Ronnie Fortner opened his Wagon Wheel restaurant in 1976, he might not have necessarily foreseen a group of older men meeting together for breakfast every single morning at his restaurant. But after 43 years of meetings, Fortner himself has joined the Liar’s Club.
Every morning at this southern food restaurant in Dahlonega, Georgia, a combination of older men meet to catch up, have a few cups of coffee, and generally enjoy each other’s company. Several of the men who eat together have been coming since the restaurant first opened, sharing stories, and lies, about what has been happening to them and the people they know around Dahlonega.
Jeff Whidbey, 73, has been coming to Wagon Wheel since they first opened. Whidbey doesn’t sing or dance. He isn’t internationally recognized for doing anything extraordinary. Whidbey is a farmer in Lumpkin County who also runs a machine shop for many years on his property. He also recently had a tree cut down in his yard. Most of the men that come in to eat aren’t remarkable or famous, they’re working-class men who want a good meal with fellowship.
“I got a man coming by about 9 o’clock to take down a big tree,” said Whidbey. “I think I’m gonna head home ‘bout 7:30 so I can clear up some of the limbs and get my excavator ready.”
Jerry Lomax, 67, used to be a photographer when he was in the navy. His passion carried past his service, photographing many weddings, birthdays, and large events in Dahlonega through the years. He has since retired, having never gotten used to the switch to digital cameras.
“At one point I was the only wedding photographer in the whole county. Now with digital cameras, everyone’s a wedding photographer.” said Lomax.
Tommy Tanner, 67, is a retired long-haul truck driver. Starting with chickens, Tanner shipped chickens across the east coast for several years. He then moved onto long-haul trucking with various cargo after that. He’s happily retired, able to relax and spend more time with the people he cares about.
Tristen Webb is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. This story was produced during the 14th Annual Woodall Weekend Workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia.
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