By Joel Hall
River's Edge resident, and Morrow native, Cathy Bonner, 42, never intended to be a collector. At the age of 17, she fell in love with the movie, "Gone With the Wind," after viewing it in her English class during her senior year of high school.
"We had 50-minute periods, and it took us all week to watch it," Bonner said. "It was southern, it was talking about Jonesboro, which is a sister city of Morrow, and I just fell in love with it. I just thought a lot of Scarlett [O'Hara, the main character], because she was a very independent woman for the time."
Bonner said, In 1985, for Christmas, her mother bought her two collectible plates from two different sets, featuring scenes from the iconic 1939 film, adopted from Margaret Mitchell's 1936, ante-bellum novel, "Gone With the Wind."
From there, Bonner set out to complete both sets, which started her on a collector's journey that has lasted for 25 years.
Today, she boasts an impressive collection of "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia, featuring more than 900 different items collected from road shows, conventions, auctions, and eBay sales.
The entire second floor of her home is dedicated to the massive assortment of "Gone With the Wind" rarities, which include: books, cookie jars, ornaments, lunch boxes, and teacups; collectors plates from the Bradford Exchange; music boxes from the San Francisco Music Box Company; and rare giclee prints of movie artwork by artist Joe Yakovetic.
The collection also includes: replica Faberge, featuring scenes from the movie; character dolls produced by the Madame Alexander Doll Company; various snow globes and figurines; replica dresses; and even novelty items such as "Gone With the Wind" toilet paper, featuring various movie quotes; and a Carol Burnett doll, featuring the actress wearing the "curtain rod dress" from her famous "Gone With the Wind" comedy sketch.
"It started with two plates ... that's literally how it started," Bonner said. "It's my personality that I have to have the full series, if I get something. It was never my mom's intention to have something like this. I guess as a collector, you are never truly satisfied."
In all, Bonner said her private collection is valued at more than $60,000, and is fully-insured.
In addition to many replica items, the collection also features rare original items, including: a piece of carpet from the Dec. 15, 1939 Atlanta premiere of "Gone Wind with Wind" at the Loew's Grand Theater; original movie programs signed by original cast members; and a May 1936, first-edition print of "Gone With the Wind," the novel considered to be the "Holy Grail" for "Windies," or "Gone With the Wind" aficionados, Bonner said.
She said part of her love for the "Gone With the Wind" franchise is that much of it is set in the Southern Crescent. The book and the movie make direct references to places that exist today in Clayton County.
Clayton also happens to be the home of the Road to Tara Museum, which is operated by the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CCCVB). Megan Drew, director of marketing and communications for the CCCVB, said people like Bonner help keep the tradition of the novel and the movie alive.
"Whenever we are launching a new exhibit or new tour, we let people like Cathy know," Drew said. "She is one our 'Windies.' We are very fortunate to have that fan base ... that core group that supports what we do," she said.
"The love story, it's at the heart of the movie and the novel. Even more than that, it has such a strong feminine character, who did her own thing and didn't make herself a slave to her relationship ... a lot of people can relate to that."
Herb Bridges, a Sharpsburg resident and "Gone With the Wind" historian and collector, was once considered the owner of the world's largest collection of "Gone With the Wind" items. Many of his items are on rotation at the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro.
Bridges, who is 80 years old, said that "Gone With the Wind" was to his generation what the "Star Wars" saga and "Harry Potter" series are to newer generations. He said younger people, like Bonner, help to keep the tradition of "Gone With the Wind" alive.
"Just reading the book inspired me about 40 years ago," Bridges said. "I grew up here and lived here all my life, and to think that this book was written by a woman from Atlanta, 70 years ago, and people are still reading it ... that is great," said Bridges.
"The movie ... it's just a fine-made film. I'm hoping the younger generation will see the movie and appreciate it more."
According to Bonner, collecting "Gone With the Wind" items was a passion of her's and her mother's until 2006, when her mother passed away, after a stroke. The same year, Bonner said, an injury at a "Gone With the Wind" convention left Bonner's foot broken in three places, and left her unable to work.
She said her original goal, as well as her mother's goal, was to open a "Gone With the Wind"-themed bed-and-breakfast inn. While funding is an inhibiting factor, Bonner hopes to, one day, reach that goal, she said.
"If I won the lottery, I would build one just like Tara, with the side kitchen and everything," Bonner said. "It is still a dream."