Saturday, December 13, 2003

Guin and Gu-Win

Back when I was in college at the University of Georgia, I used to drive home to Arkansas by taking Highway 78 through most of Alabama and Mississippi. One of the things that always puzzled me is that in the northeast corner of Alabama, I would pass by two small, little towns right in a row -- Guin and Gu-Win. (View them on Mapquest here.) I always wondered how it was that two neighboring towns came to have those names. I figured that perhaps they used to be one town, but then they split because of a feud over how to spell the name.

This long-running mystery is now solved. Michael DeBow at Southern Appeal links to this story, which describes the town of Gu-Win's yearly practice of giving a gift certificate to all of its 200 residents. (DeBow asks what the point of this exercise is, but that's neither here nor there.) Towards the end of the story, we see the explanation for how Guin and Gu-Win came to be:
In addition to Gu-Win's hyphenated name, its gift certificate program is one of the things that sets it apart from most other U.S. cities and towns. It sits along the Bankhead Highway, U.S. 78, halfway between the larger Marion municipalities of Guin and Winfield, has no police or fire department and no traffic lights. But it does have a drive-in theater that operates during warm weather.

In its pre-incorporation days, it was known as Ear Gap.

Incorporation came in 1956. That's when Guin seemed keen on annexing Ear Gap. In response, Brandon Webster's grandfather, Oather Webster, and the owner of the local drive-in theater, George Thornton, led a drive to form a new town. Brandon Webster said the new town got the name Gu-Win from Thornton's drive-in because he did not want to spend any money to change his sign.
I love it. That's even funnier than I could have imagined.

UPDATE: Here's a page with some funny photos of highway signs in the Guin/Gu-Win area. For example:

I've seen that one myself. The only thing missing is a North.


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