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A local legend
Celebrating 80 years of Gordon Pirkle
A-Pirkles party pic1
Friends get a photo of Gordon and Idiline Pirkle during Gordons surprise 80th birthday party last weekend at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

They can't pull one over on Gordon Pirkle.

When the local historian and Dawsonville legend turned 80 years old on Dec. 27, the surprise party orchestrated by his family and friends was in the works.

Since the weekend prior to his birthday was Christmas and the weekend following was New Year's, Jan. 7 was the logical choice.

It needed to be on a weekend to allow out-of-town visitors to travel for the event.

Despite a deep freeze and 2-5 inches of snow across the county, friends, family and racing enthusiasts who know-and all seem to love-Pirkle still made their way to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame to celebrate the man who takes care of everyone.

But was it surprise?

Absolutely not, according to Pirkle.

Pirkle said he knew there was too much work going on for the supposed party that was being hosted for someone else over the weekend. He had even teased organizers about the tablecloths not matching.

On Saturday, when grandson Michael called him to see if he was getting close for the party start time, Pirkle fibbed a bit.

"Michael called me and asked where we were and I told him we were almost out to Ellijay," Pirkle said, laughing.

Upon arrival a few minutes later, Pirkle said he was greeted by Michael in the parking lot.

"'Papa, you better go in there and act surprised' he told me," Pirkle said.

So he did.

Pirkle entered to a room full of guests, laughter and camera flashes.

After he made his way around the room greeting people at every table, Pirkle's daughter Hayley stood on a chair and tearfully told the group how grateful she was for people to come out and help celebrate her dad.

"We hope to have him here for another 20 [years] at least," she said. "And we will have you all back here.

"We have so much to be thankful for."

Before everyone lined up to eat the storied burgers and dogs courtesy of the Dawsonville Pool Room, a few other people took time to share stories of Pirkle's generosity and kindness, including giving jobs to people in need as well as helping to start the organization now known as K.A.R.E. for Kids.

"Thank God I can still fool people," Pirkle said.

Born on Dec. 27, 1936, Pirkle has become an icon in Dawsonville. He and his wife, Idilene, have four children.

For racing fans that flock to the GRHOF or to Pirkle's famous Pool Room, he is always nearby with a racing story or taste of North Georgia history to continue all of its most valued traditions.

From the Great Depression to bootlegging and illegal lotteries to running the family business and sounding the Pool Room siren, Pirkle has seen and experienced more than most.

He will be the first to tell you he has loved his life and considers himself blessed.

Guests were asked to pick up a note card and jot down a memory about or a note to Pirkle so that he would have them.

"He will have that box of memories to read and go back on and read and see how special he is to all of y'all," Hayley said.