The Quiet Years
Helen Slows Down
When the mill left the town in 1931, many of the residents associated with the lumber business were also forced to leave Helen to find work elsewhere. The Depression had begun, and Helen went into a slow decline.
The railroad was abandoned after the lumbermill closed, but tourists still made the trek to the mountains, now by automobile. Those who remember this difficult period also recall the remarkable sense of community that helped neighbors persevere. When someone needed help, everyone pitched in. It drew people closer.
Primarily falling back on farming and small service businesses, Helen struggled through the 50s and 60s. Georgia Tech graduate, Jim Wilkins operated a hosiery mill first and then an apparel manufacturing business that provided much needed jobs. But as textile manufacturing shifted to overseas labor, these businesses eventually faded from the Helen landscape.