Growing Up In Acworth, GA in the 1950s
by Walter E. Flanaganr
I was born on October 1, 1944 at Kennestone hospital in Marietta. My first memories are of living in the home my dad and mom, Wade and Ruby Flanagan, purchased from Zack O'Daniel that was located at 606 Fowler Street. There was a dirt road in front of the home and we were four homes away from the railroad tracks. I guess you could say that I grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks", but I would beg to differ. Our neighbors were the Harts, Robinsons, Kennedys, Williams, Deans, Odoms, Vaughns, Johnson's and Gaytons. My sister Wilma and I used to walk over to Lance's Store which was up Fowler Street and across the railroad crossing (which has since been closed). We would walk over to get our mail as our mailbox was located across Highway 41 from Lance's store. Mr. Lance later sold the store to Mr. Harrison. We boarded the school bus that stopped there from the time I was in elementary school all the way through high school.
My first day of school at Acworth School in 1950 was an adventure. Bobby Odom and I walked to school together that day. As we crossed the road that went to the Little Dam, my dad was on his way to work and they stopped the car and told us not to tarry but to walk on to school. We arrived, found our way to the first grade class, met our teacher, Miss Parker, and took our seats. That was the first day of eight years I attended Acworth School. After the eighth grade, Acworth High School and Kennesaw High School students moved to the new school, North Cobb High. We voted for our name, the Warriors, and our school colors, orange and white. My graduating class of 1962 was the first class to attend all four years at North Cobb.
Our Fowler Street neighborhood was filled with kids, so we played softball, hide and seek, kick the can, and many other games. During the summer, I remember several of us would look for Coke bottles along the roads and turn them in for a deposit. We would also search for scrap iron and, once gathered, we would take it in a wagon up to the junk yard which was located on Highway 41 just North of Acme Lumber Company. We didn't make a fortune, but the amount of candy you could buy for that small amount of money was amazing. With an eclipse of the moon in the summer, many of the neighborhood kids would stay outside to watch the celestial event. Most of us would leave and go to bed before actually seeing the eclipse.
I remember the downtown area in the early fifties, the Legion movie theater owned by Red Hudson, Chandler's Barber Shop, Ragsdale's Coal and Ice Company, the Silver Trolley, Lanier's Jewelry Store, Donahoo's Appliance Store. Eaton's Department Store and Green's 5 & 10 cent Store both had wooden floors that squeaked when you walked around. Doctor Cauble's office was located on Main Street just South of Donahoo's Store. Doctor McCall's office was around the corner. Rabbit's Q Room was on the corner. At the North end of town was Sam Pepper's Furniture Store. The Western Auto was on Main Street next to the railroad crossing on Cherokee street (crossing now moved South). I seem to recall a bowling alley on the other side of the street, though I never went there. Across the railroad tracks at the intersection of Cherokee Street and Southside Drive was Jack Fowler's Feed Store. One block behind Main Street was the Fire Department, City Hall, and, a little later, Parker's Hardware. North of Sam Pepper's Furniture Store on Main Street was a little building that housed Tow's Shoe Shop, operated by Bill Tow's father. Resoling and repairing shoes seems to be a lost art these days.
Chandler's Barber Shop was a place I visited about every six weeks for a haircut. The first chair was Aubrey Chandler, who owned the shop. The next chair was Oscar Hunt, and the third chair was Cebe Chandler. You could sit and wait for the next opening or you could wait for the barber you wanted to cut your hair. I also recall, in the very early fifties, the barber shop had a bath tub and shower in the back. You could pay to use the facility. We had indoor plumbing at our Fowler Street home, but many people didn't in those days.
My dad bought me a bicycle from the Western Auto in the very early fifties. He got a discount as it was scratched, and he rode it home because our family didn't have a car. We either walked to town on Saturdays, which was just under one mile, or, if the weather was bad, called the taxi which was driven by Henry Guess. Many times, we would get a ride to Acworth with neighbors who had cars. The bicycle was my best friend as I could explore more and distant territory. Bobby Odom and I rode our bicycles to the theater in Acworth every Saturday morning to spend our 25 cent weekly allowance. We were always the first to arrive, and we left our bicycles on a steep bank located between the Silver Trolly and Sam Pepper's Furniture Store. No one ever bothered our bikes. Can't imagine you would do that today. We were the first ones in line every Saturday because, on the second row from the screen, in the middle of the row, were two padded seats. Those were OUR seats. It cost 14 cents to get in, five cents for a bag of popcorn, five cents for a large coke, and one cent for a Charms sucker. We were set for the day. The movies shown on Saturday were normally two westerns starring Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Johnny Mack Brown, Lash LaRue, Whip Wilson or Allen Rocky Lane. Occasionally, there would be a Tarzan or Bomba, The Jungle Boy movie. There was always a cartoon first, maybe a Three Stooges or Leon Erroll short, a serial like Flash Gordon, Tim Tyler's Luck or Ace Drummond. Then previews of coming attractions and finally, the movies. Sometimes, we would sit through them twice. I was fascinated by the movies!
In the mid-50s, Red Hudson opened a drive-in theater which was located off Lakewood Drive. My parents took us to the drive-in for several movies. I recall seeing the Five Fighting Sullivans with them. When they didn't want to go, I would ride my bicycle over and sit in some of the outdoor seating. I remember when the movie Thunder Road, starring Robert Mitchum, came out. It was such a hit that Red Hudson said he would show it and another movie every Saturday night until people got tired of it. Let's just say, I saw it more than once.
We started "moving on up" when my dad bought a 1947 Ford Club Coupe in 1954 and my mother purchased a Dumont Television in 1955. Prior to the television, my sister and I would listen to radio after we finished our school homework. We listened to the Lone Ranger, Amos and Andy, The Shadow and others. My mother worked for many years at Unique Knitting Mill. She worked from three pm until eleven pm as did our neighbor, Lucille Williams. They always walked to and from work together. My dad worked for Blair Aluminum Furniture Company in Marietta, and, later, C.W. Mathews Construction, also in Marietta. My sister and I didn't know we were, what would later be called, "latch key kids". We had assigned chores after we arrived home from school, and we took care of those and then played outside with the neighbor kids. My sister would warm up the food my mother had left when my dad arrived home from work. That was our supper (that's what we called it back then). There were no fast food restaurants, no microwaves, and no instant frozen meals in those days.
I also remember our telephone, which we had from the very early fifties. We were on a party line with two of our neighbors. If the phone rang once, you did not answer it. Our calls had two rings. Another neighbor had three rings. Sometimes, you would pick up the phone to make a call and find a neighbor talking on the phone. You politely hung up and waited until they finished their conversation before you could make your call.
The "four lane highway" now called North Cobb Parkway, opened I believe in 1950 and the "Little Dam Road" took you over to the four lane. There you would find a Red Dot Supermarket and Abernathy's Shell Service Station. After we got our car, we purchased groceries at the Red Dot. It's a good thing the four lane was there because I remember Pumpkin Vine Creek flooded and closed old Hwy 41 during the fifties.
In 1958, I began working for Dunn's Supermarket. Ralph Dunn and his brother Clayton had a grocery store in downtown Acworth and my neighbor, James Johnson, drove the delivery truck. I got to ride the delivery truck with him on a couple of occasions and enjoyed it. Later, my neighbor Bobby Odom and I got a job there after Ralph moved the store South of town at the railroad crossing below the old bus station. My job was to bag and carry out groceries. I worked with Bobby, James Johnson, Ronald Abernathy, Lindford Meadows, Jerry Chandler, Junior DuPree and Ham McCall. In 1959, Ralph moved the store further South "down in the hole" on the right side of Main Street. A coin laundry was located next door. While working at Dunns, in addition to the above named people, I worked with Harold Prather, Clyde Dean, Lanier Haynes, Barry Ragsdale, Bill Abbott, Bill Mathews, Larry Miller, Wally Plumley, J. L. Wilbur and his brother Melvin, and several others. I worked Friday afternoons after school until 8 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 8 pm.
Coats and Clark Mill was located South of town as was the Mill Village. The ball field was located near Highway 41. Every year, Coats and Clark would have a huge bar-b-que for their employees and the community could also purchase tickets. Cost for the meal was reasonable, but I had a way to eat for free. Coats and Clark would invite the North Cobb High School Band to play at the event while people went through the serving line. After everyone was served, those of us in the band got to eat for free. I recall the smell of that bar-b-que to this day. They would begin cooking on Friday afternoon. After our Friday night football game at North Cobb, my dad would drive my sister and me through the grounds and by the pit where they were cooking. All the grates were covered with meat and men were moving about turning the meat and applying sauce. I knew what was coming the next day!
Acworth Beach was a place where we used to ride to on our bikes during the summer. We would swing in the swings and go swimming. A few times, on Friday nights, I remember riding over to the Acworth Beach and listening to a band playing in the beach house. The parking lot was covered with cars and we could see the people dancing inside. Occasionally, my dad would take my sister and me over to the beach after dinner so that we could enjoy the swings. When I was in the sixth grade, Miss Helen Hartley was my teacher. We won some contest and got a free afternoon at the beach. It was the first time I ever swam out to the raft. Wow, it was great climbing the ladder and standing on the raft. Later, I would dive off and swim back where I could stand up in the water.
At some point after the mid-fifties I believe, Harrisons opened a grocery store right across the street from the railroad terminal. Bobby Jarrett and his dad worked there. Of course there was competition for customers between Harrisons and Dunns where I worked. In the late fifties, could have been early sixties, there was a challenge issued by some of the employees for a soft ball game at Coats and Clarks field. I remember playing in the "Dunns vs. Harrisons" game, but I don't remember who won!
Every time I visit Acworth, I drive all around town, to the beach, by Acworth School, all around town, and the memories flood back. I point out to my wife what "used to be there", and, of course, there's always a story connected to that location. I go to Liberty Hill Cemetary to visit my parents graves, and I see the old Fowler Street neighbors are there too. There's a feeling you get when you go home, and I have only wonderful memories of growing up in Acworth, GA in the fifties!