Monday, September 24, 2007

Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson

It makes me a little sad to go through Ball Ground, GA these days. No more Oscar "Rock Man" and his red truck. No more chance meetings with the old man that many were afraid to even speak to. I've been going to this quaint little town in North GA for the past 15 or 20 years. The first time I drove through with friends from college, I absolutely had to stop and check it out. They thought I was crazy, maybe I was.

Building after building full of wonderful treasures - rocks, gemstones, geodes, crystals, minerals, beads, glass, wooden sculptures, and I can't tell you how many other things all displayed with the utmost of care. Nothing marked with prices that I could see. Not one thing.

The streets were lined with slabs of marble propped up against the old buildings. Every piece deliberately placed. Some behind old chain link fences in parking lots and others in areas cordoned off with rusty cables and yellow caution tape. All weathered over time but still sending a clear message to keep out.

Each of the eight storefronts had "No Admittance" and "Employees Only" signs hanging inside the windows and on the doors. Much of the contents seemed to be pleading to be let out while others seemed perfectly content with their destiny. Perhaps they were just waiting patiently for someone to liberate them from behind the picture windows.

The first dozen or so times I was there, the windows were lined with clipboards of mostly handwritten and photocopied manifestos. Everything from his official Honorable Discharge military documents to his flat tax resolutions. These papers have come to be known as "The Oscar Manifestos". Rock Man made no qualms about sharing his thoughts with anyone who cared to take interest and even some who didn't.

I don't even remember when it was that I first met Oscar but I do remember it was a very unusual and somewhat intense meeting. I was stopped along the road looking in the windows and up drove a big red truck. Then out stepped Rock Man. I can't even tell you what we talked about that first time but I do remember looking at his huge red nose and noticing how it looked like Jimmy Durante's nose. I bought a couple of things from him that day, a string of colorful glass beads and a hematite necklace.

Another time I stopped and got to talk with him, we talked about marble. I wanted some to build an outdoor patio. I asked him how much the slabs of marble were and he told me $20 a piece. I looked at him like he was crazy (which many thought he was) and told him that I couldn't afford to pay that price. Then he asked how much I wanted and when I told him that I didn't know for sure but I was guessing a truckload, he told me to bring my truck and we'd make a deal.

When I tell people about Ball Ground and Rock Man, someone always asks me how I know what the prices of everything are if nothing is marked. I tell them something along the lines of the prices being directly related to how well he likes your stories.

The last few times I went up to Ball Ground I didn't see Oscar and his red truck. I had a friend of mine from Colorado so scared of this old man that he later told me he was relieved he didn't show up when we were there together. Sadly enough, I later learned that Rock Man died in October of 2005. I was just in Ball Ground this past Saturday with another friend and everything is just as I remember it with the exception of all of his manifestos removed from the windows.

Thankfully, there are others who have taken the time to document some of the stories of this interesting little southern town and the colorful old man who made it was it is today. My stories are all first hand but you can find more information on Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson of Ball Ground, GA in Trent Cluley's very well written post titled Farewell to Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson. Linked from his blog, I also found photographs of "The Oscar Manifestos". Thanks to Slashplat for making that a public gallery. Check them both out when you have the time. You'll find much more detail than my accounts in this post.


More information on Rock Man and Ball Ground from another blogger called "The Dyer Consequences Blog". Thanks for finding me!


Dyer Consequences said...

Hi, I just found your blog and enjoy it very much. We also are fans (more or less) of Oscar Robertson and have had a few interesting encounters with him over the years. What a character! He will be missed in Ball Ground. If you want to check our out blog and entries on Oscar, go to Dyer Consequences Blog. Entries on him are on the dates of Aug. 4th, 2006 / Aug. 17th, 2006 / and May 25th, 2007.

Jamie said...

Thanks for your comment, J. I found your posts about Oscar quite interesting. I searched for "Oscar Robertson" and it put all posts about him on one page for me.

I sure would hate to see all of those stores plowed down one day. I'd love to see a revitalization of Ball Ground with businesses along the lines of Mustard Seed Cafe and Packrat's Daughter that are already there.

Bart said...


I remember that trip! I would love to know what will happen to all that stuff now. Great to hear from you.

Sara's Texture Crafts said...

What a great place you found - thankyou for sharing. Sara x

Carol Emma said...

Loved this post!
The photos, the story, and Oscar.
Thanks for taking us there.
(And thanks also for the visit to my blog. I left an answer there to your question about the gold/silver.)
Nice to meet you, Jamie!

Katie said...

Wonderful post! And the pictures are amazing. I wish I could have met him~

Dyer Consequences said...

What a coincidence! Just the other day, the AJC carried a piece on plans for Ball Ground now that Oscar is gone. A rock and mineral museum is being discussed. Here's the link:

Dyer Consequences

Jamie said...

Thanks so much for the link to the AJC article on Rock Man and Ball Ground. I am so very pleased to learn that there are plans in the works for a rock museum.

You know, he called one of those buildings across the road his "Rock Museum" and actually let my husband and me wander around over the cable tie markers. We weren't sure why he called that part the museum because it didn't look any different than his other buildings.

I have more photos from a trip I made last weekend with an old friend. I'll have to update my blog again when I have a few extra minutes.

mike30101 said...

I moved to georgia about 15 years ago and being a rockhound my self I ended up in Ball Ground looking for a place to do some collecting. As I drove through the town I stopped to look in the stores and was very dissapointed I wasn't able to get in. Just then, Oscar came up to me and asked if I needed anything and I explained that I was looking for some place to collect.He told me for $25 I could collect Staurolite on a piece of his property. Although I thought the price was a little steep, I jumped at the opportunity.
He disappeared into on of his stores and after a few minutes came out with a bunch of pamphlets about his collecting sites and sent me on my way. I did find some nice crystals that day but never made the time to go back.
I did drive through the town yesterday and not much has changed. I was dissapointed to see the collecting site he sent me to was all covered with many years of growth. I do hope his family opens up some of these areas to collecting again. Not only would it help Ball ground keep it's small town charm, I believe it would be a great opportunity for future rockhounds to enjoy the outdoors and history of this wonderful little town.

Jamie said...

Mike, if you ever read this again, thanks for the comment. I never knew about the dig sites. Please let me know if you hear any more news of Ball Ground or other places to dig.

I've been hooked on that show on The Travel Channel called "Cash and Treasures". Have you been to the Rose Quartz mine near LaGrange, GA?

Feel free to post here or email me directly.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to give you a update, the stores are now for sale, but one will remain that eventually will open as a rock shop, and a memorial of Oscar Robertson! If anyone is interested I sale his rocks straight from the shop! Just stop by and ask to see the collection, I am on main street (The Bus Stop Coffee Shop) His daughters have been ever so generous to allow me to sale these wonderful treasures! God Bless

Anonymous said...

Don't you have a facebook account for The Bus Stop Coffee Shop? I was there recently and was told that you do, or atleast the daughter/mother did have a facebook account. I was there recently and would like to become a fan, friend or Liker. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I understand, and I hope correctly, that on Sat. 10/30/10, there will be a huge sale of these rocks. If so I want to come, but am not sure of the best time, or even if it's true.

Mister Ghost said...

Hello and Merry Christmas,
Oscar and Ball Ground are mentioned in the cult book, Weird America: A Guide to Places of Mystery in the United States by Jim Brandon.

Brandon noted that if you wanted to find "fairy crosses', aka staurolites, to get in touch with Oscar. Lol, "he'll hand you a shovel and point you toward his the rock yard..."

Fairy crosses are considered to be "good luck talismans" and look how much luck Oscar had? )))

Keep up the good work, Jamie.

Mister Ghost is the Editor of
The Fashion Time Magazine, where he works with United Nations Award winning journalist Kamola Atazhanova of Uzbekistan

Kimberly said...

After the completion of the paved sidewalks in Ball Ground the adorable city has begun to blossom. The Ball Ground Art Gallery is now the only place to purchase Oscar's rocks. They also have "a little bit of everything", from around thirty different artists. Ball Ground is also now home to several new businesses such as a German butcher, J.J.'s a pizza and sandwich shop, a karate gym, a gift shop called A Price of Time, an embroidery store and even an old mill turned into an antique store. On the weekends several merchants have sidewalk sales which make a fun family outing.