Historic preservation is not just about preserving buildings, it is also about preserving a community’s stories. These stories add to a community’s character and can sometimes outlast a building or a physical reminder of the past. This past month, Sugar Hill resident Darrell Pruitt began the difficult but very important task of interviewing and video recording some of Sugar Hill’s most important long-time residents, native sons and daughters. Darrell’s unassuming and gentle nature makes him the ideal leader for this project of the Sugar Hill Historic Preservation Society. His first interview was a big one – a native son and local mover and shaker named Wayne Hill.
The interview was conducted in the History Museum at Sugar Hill City Hall, the back-drop was interesting – a display cabinet that includes memorabilia from Sugar Hill’s former volunteer fire department. Inside that display cabinet are several items donated by Wayne, including his firefighter helmet, lapel pin, and patch. To say that Wayne played an important role in the community’s past is an understatement. In many ways, individuals like Wayne, Maron Buice, Glad Sudderth, and many others made Sugar Hill what it is today. Their legacies are born out in their descendants and, equally important, through their stories. Glad Sudderth passed away recently, but many others from our past are still alive and make Darrell’s story recording project a critical race against time.
It takes a unique skill-set to be able to conduct video interviews. Darrell admits that he was nervous, but he worked hard in advance of the interview to be prepared with questions and background information on Wayne that would be relevant to a modern listener. Any interview with someone that has the life experience and accomplishments of Wayne would be intimidating for even the most seasoned interviewer. Darrell said the interview, once it took place, was easy. He focused on big-picture questions with Wayne, but let him have the freedom to expand. Wayne had a lot to talk about. Darrell noted that sometimes during these interviews, once both parties got comfortable, you really got a feel for the person’s personality. He noticed that Wayne has a gift of connecting with people and making people feel that connection. Darrell learned a lot of relevant information from Wayne – historical information on Sugar Hill and Gwinnett County, as well as glimpses into various leadership styles.
Wayne grew up in Sugar Hill and graduated from North Gwinnett High School. For nearly 2o years, he ran a cabinet company in the city that his father started in 1953. Wayne would later serve as Chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission for 12 years and has a long list of accomplishments that have greatly impacted the county that he has called home for many years. His life is fascinating and full of great stories that are all book-worthy. Wayne remembers the poverty that was prevalent in Sugar Hill, when Lake Lanier was created in the 1950s, rabbit hunting along Georgia Highway 20, and many other things that seem like fiction but happened and are true glimpses into Sugar Hill’s past. These experiences imprinted onto the Sugar Hill and Gwinnett County we all call home.
Darrell beat the hands of time with Wayne Hill and recorded some great stories. Readers of this article can learn more by listening to Darrell’s video interview. The video is being edited, will be made available to the public in the very near future, and all video interviews will be accessible on a future website for the Sugar Hill Historic Preservation Society. Darrell, “Sugar Hill’s Story Recorder”, will be working hard to record and preserve our community’s stories.
— By Brandon Hembree