The Town Crier: Directory detective part one | Lifestyles

I like to read those old private eye detective books. The ones where the Philip Marlowe type is hired by a dangerous dame to scope out her rich hubby’s indiscretions and it’s not long before the bodies are piling up like rolls of old shag carpet and the politicians are in deeper than a bullet dropped in loop-pile berber.

I always admire how the detective skirts the law to get the info he needs: paying off informants, putting the stiff arm on cops with something to hide and calling in on pay phones imitating officers so he can get license plate numbers, addresses and business connections.

Those detectives seem resourceful on a superhuman level when they dig down in the dirt to dig up the dish. And then I was in the library the other day in the reference room and spotted a couple of shelves of thick books numbered by year and titles, “Dalton City Directory.” I started flipping through this series that seemed to date from 1940 to 1999. The information on people and businesses was amazing. Slap me hard and call me a shamus — those old private eyes got nothing on me!

An amazing annual source

At first glance I thought a city directory was just a nicely bound phone book. It seemed your basic yellow pages and white pages mix of bought ads and public phone records. But on closer glance I realized these things were way more thorough in detail and cross-referencing. This was an amazing annual source for cross matrixing the community and taking a snapshot of the changes our area was going through in almost every area.

Starting in the 1950 edition, R.L. Polk Co. from Richmond, Va., put out the directory and stated that the information was from actual canvassing. The book states they provided over 1,000 different directories around the country and that a copy is kept at the chamber of commerce for anybody to use for free…

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