It seems odd how little things which may now seem totally insignificant loom large in your memory bank. Often such things date back to your childhood. At least they do in my case. And they take up a lot of space in my memory bank.
Now, some of you probably didn’t know there are mountains nearby. But there are several in DeKalb County, the nearest to Rockdale County being Panola Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Elijah Mountain, which is the focus of this article. Arabia and Panola are not far from Elijah Mountain. If you go to DeKalb on State Highway 212 from Smyrna community, you will go right over Elijah Mountain just after passing into DeKalb in the vicinity of the Klondike community. However, you might not know you have just traveled over a mountain. I’m not sure how a mountain is properly defined. The online dictionaries are of little help, leaving you chasing your tail. The definition of a mountain is, I discovered, a land form or mound of earth “larger than a hill”. This leads to the question of the definition of a hill, which turns out to be, not surprisingly, a land form or mound of earth “smaller than a mountain”.
Everybody locally knew about ‘Lijah’s Mountain, as it was usually called, back in the 30s, 40s and 50s. A beacon atop the mountain revealed its whereabouts at night. In those days airplanes did not enjoy the advantage of the navigational instrumentation used today. They relied on far cruder and more basic means of navigation, such as a compass, a map, dead reckoning and, of course, visual observation. Night flights had far more limitation, being denied much visual help (remember that there was far, far less development outside cities). Planes approaching Atlanta from the east traveled over scarce lights from identifiable structure. A beacon was as significant to planes as a lighthouse was to ships traveling near the coast. It gave the pilot bearings – an identifiable landmark, seen from many miles away. The Elijah Mountain beacon was a rotating light, mounted on a steel tower that swiped a white beam of searchlight brightness across the sky, then a red light flashed. In Conyers, if one looked to the west-southwest at night, one would see the light beam sweep across the sky perhaps at 30 second intervals. There was no red beam. However, if you were in line-of-sight contact with the top of Elijah Mountain, you would see a red flash alternating with the white beam. I don’t have any idea of how far away the beacon might be seen by a pilot on a clear night. I am sure as far as McDonough, and maybe as far as Macon or beyond.
Many were the summer evenings at the Walker house on Green Street when we sat for hours on the back porch, looking to the southwest, and when conversation lulled, simply listening to the katydids and July flies (cicadas) while watching the beacon sweep across the night sky. Being a small child during the early 40s with a fairly active imagination, I fancied that the beacon was a military searchlight looking for German airplanes trying to attack Atlanta, or it’s airport, Candler Field, as it was named at the time.
When visiting at my grandmother’s house on Hwy 138 near Honey Creek, I had line-of-sight view of the beacon source and could fall asleep at night watching the alternating white beam and red flash.
If you are interested in touring Elijah Mountain, the internet description says, “Elijah Mountain is a physical feature (summit) in DeKalb County. Elijah Mountain is located within the Lithonia (CCD) at latitude 33.6284 and longitude 84.1132. The primary coordinates for Elijah Mountain places it within the ZIP Code 30038.
Now you know!