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New sign stirs memories of Roper Park’s aviation past


Thanks to combined efforts, a new marble sign has been installed at Roper Park. Pickens County District Commissioner Becky Denney worked with local businesses who donated their time and

services to the project. Materials were provided by Polycorp/Georgia Marble out of Tate, with all labor performed by Matthew and Tammy Morris of Appalachian Monuments in Jasper. Wording on the sign is identical to the old sign, which was erected in 1979 at the park's dedication.

    The land where Roper Park sits looks much different than it did during its dedication in 1979, just after the Roper brothers donated it to the county for use as a youth park.

    That’s because before the soccer fields, before the pool and the basketball courts, Roper Park was a horse farm and airport owned by the Roper brothers, C.J. and E.A., doctors who lived and worked in Pickens before, during and after WWII.  .
    The brothers were Jasper’s only doctors during some of that time, having founded the Roper Hospital, which sat at what is the now vacant corner of Main and E. Spring streets before it was torn down.
    Mary Jane Reid - C.J.’s niece who along with her two sisters lived with the doctor and their aunt after her parents’ death – said the hospital opened in the early 40s before the war, “then it closed for a few year during the war because C.J. went to France,” she said.
    Reid also remembers when her uncle built a runway on what is now the Roper Park property.
    “It was late 40s or 50s and he bought a private plane and I guess he wanted somewhere to land it,” said Reid, who recalls hangars on the property that were used by “a group of mostly doctors that called themselves the Gooneybirds.”
    “From what I understand, my uncle let the county use the land as an airport for a while,” Reid said, “then eventually they made it official and donated it for use as a place for youth. My uncle was 80 at the time.”
    A grainy 8mm video taken by town dentist Dr. Paul VanSant in the early 40s shows members of the Roper family, among others, as they take off and land from a barren field in single-engine aircraft, apparently training for duties as part of the Civil Air Patrol. In this video the Ropers are flying at Pickens’ first airport that was located north of Jasper.
    Jim VanSant – Dr. VanSant’s son - describes the video:   
    “On Dec. 1, 1941, less than a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the country into World War II, the Civil Air Patrol was founded,” VanSant said in an email. “In 1943, the organization came under control and direction of the Army Air Forces. This is a short clip of several members of the Jasper CAP, during World War II. They flew from the original Jasper, Ga. airfield that was north of Jasper. The area is now part of an industrial park. Some of the people in the film are: Dr. C.J. and Mrs. Helen Roper, Mrs. Jane McWhorter, Patricia Turner, and Mrs. Martha Alice VanSant. My father said the film color was because he was not able to get good film during the war.”
    This video can be viewed at

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