Old memories may fade with time but they don’t completely disappear. Thanks to the Georgia Tech team’s prodding I’ve been digging around in my memory garden; some of the nuggets I’ve uncovered may be helpful to the team with conceptualizing and designing a brand identity for the Hunter Hills community.
I would like to share what I remember of life in Hunter Hills during the 1950’s. This was a time of major physical changes within the community, transforming it into what we see today.
Based on what I’ve read the land area known as Hunter Hills took shape in the 1930’s and grew slowly as a rural outpost into the early to mid-1940’s.
My family moved into our house when I was 7 years old, on December 31, 1949. We had running water and electricity from the beginning and telephone service shortly afterwards, albeit a party line. Otherwise, living in Hunter Hills was like living in the country. But not everyone in the community had these “luxuries.” One of my adult relatives who lived on Andrews Drive got water from a well on their property and took baths in a large tin tub. I saw this with my own eyes at around age 9 in 1951.
I believe some older residents who moved to the area in the early 1940’s may not have had electricity. I say this because many people had kerosene lamps and I heard one elderly lady say she was afraid of electricity and had never had it in her house. Many people who moved to Hunter Hills came from the country and brought rural customs and traditions with them. People like Mrs. Dunlap who lived next door. She used to make lye soap, which she cooked outdoors in a black kettle pot; soap she shared with neighbors, soap that could be used for washing clothes and dishes.
We didn’t have home mail delivery when we first moved in. Back in the days prior to around 1953 our mailbox was on Chappell Road, along with those of other people who lived on our street, Scott Street.
In the absence of sewer lines Hunter Hills residents had to use outhouses for sanitation. At bed time a large white bucket called a “slop jar” was used if nature called in the middle of the night.
Many Hunter Hills residents raised chickens to eat; a few even raised hogs. One man on my street, Mr. Willis, had hogs as well as a mule he used for plowing. Yes, people had gardens that needed plowing every spring. Mr. Willis was old, maybe in his 70’s, when I met him. I’m guessing his age, because he died in the 1960’s.
I was in second grade in 1950. My school was on Edwards Street: Hunter Hills Elementary, where Mrs. Warbington was the principal. The school was operated by Fulton County and its toilets were not flushable. I don’t know what type of sanitary system was used but the toilets were inside the building. When recess period was over Mrs. Warbington came to the outside door and rang a hand held bell. I had a picture of both her and the school at one time but I’ve since lost the pictures.
During the early 1950’s the area around Hunter Hills was annexed by the City of Atlanta. After that happened the streets were paved and sewer lines were installed. Next, the city bus, #3 West Hunter, started serving Hunter Hills. The line was extended to Sharon Street at Chappell Road. Prior to that time the #3 bus line ended at the railroad bridge (now the beltline) on Hunter St., meaning Hunter Hills residents had to walk a mile or more to get home.
Hunter Hills has two churches that originated in the 1940’s: Hunter Hills Baptist Church and Hunter Hills AME Church. Churches can offer insight into the history, nature and soul of a community. The Baptist church was the more prominent of the two. I was not a member and cannot offer any historical information but since the congregation is still in the community I suggest searching out some legacy members for input. This church grew its membership significantly in the 1970’s. A new building was erected and a TV ministry established. The church draws people from many different parts of the city who worship here but don’t live in Hunter Hills.
I joined Hunter Hills African Methodist Episcopal Church at age 8. Its membership was always small, just a few families like the Mapps who lived on Eason Street. They had 7 children. Mr. Mapp was the organist. Church membership was stagnant until Reverend E. Earl McCloud became pastor in the 1980’s. He proved to be a dynamic church leader and grew the church membership significantly. His wife, Patricia Russell-McCloud, is a nationally recognized motivational speaker. They did not live in Hunter Hills. The Hunter Hills AME church congregation migrated to Decatur in 1997 under a new name: First African Methodist Episcopal Church. A new congregation came to occupy the edifice of the former Hunter Hills AME Church: Rehoboth Baptist Church.
During the Jim Crow era blacks in Atlanta had limited housing choices. As a result, in areas where housing was available to them, Blacks from all socio-economic levels lived in the same community. This was true in Hunter Hills. Some residents had money and built nice brick homes, mostly on Chappell and Ezra Church. Others lived in what were little more than shanty type houses. One man, (Ben), lived in an old street car that was parked on his lot. Residents of modest means built small houses using asbestos shingles for siding or cement blocks for frames. Some of these are still standing today.
A few families that moved to Hunter Hills during the 40’s and 50’s prospered over the years and they were able to sell and move to more affluent neighborhoods in the 1970’s as the housing market for blacks in Atlanta grew. The Driskells on Scott St is one example. Mr. Driskell worked for Lockheed. His family moved to Boulder Park Dr. The Pitts family on Eason Street is another example.
Back in the 1950’s people from many crafts, professions and occupations lived in Hunter Hills. They included school teachers, ministers, laborers, domestics, business owners, mechanics, Pullman porters, factory workers, postal employees, nurses and a chemist.
Here are a few notable people I remember from my childhood:
Mr. John Warrior – Owner of Warrior’s Grocery Store on Scott St. He also owned 3 or 4 “shot gun” houses on Scott St as rental property, in addition to a barbeque joint on Simpson Rd (now Boone Blvd). Warrior’s Grocery was vital to the food needs of the community during a time when most people did not own cars. They sold meat, canned goods, bread, eggs. They even extended credit, using a hand written ledger. The store functioned as a community gathering spot, right out in the front. It was a square, 2 story building with the store at street level and living quarters for Mr. and Mrs. Warrior on the upper level. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture before it was torn down about 10 years ago.
The Conley family – They lived on Chappell Rd and owned Quick Service Taxi. This was the first and only black taxi company serving all of west Atlanta, located on Ashby St (now Jos E Lowery Blvd)
James Tuggle – owned a building construction company. Lived on Eason St
Mr. Woods – once owned a movie theatre (it was defunct and I never where it was). He lived on Eason St along with his wife who taught home economics at Turner High School.
The Smith family – lived on Eason St and owned a dry cleaners and alteration shop on the north side of Simpson
Mr. Lomax was a chemist who worked for Puritan Chemicals on Ashby St. He lived on Chappell.
The Butts family – once owned a grocery store in the Atlanta University area
Rev. Hughes – a high ranking official in the AME church, lived on Chappell
Mr. Nunnally lived on Chappell with wife and son. He was a letter carrier.
Two men who didn’t live in Hunter Hills owned service stations on the south side of Simpson: Mr. Arthur Wilson had a Texaco station where City of Refuge is located today and Mr. Few owned a filling station at the corner of Chappell and Simpson.
The Wingo family lived on Andrews St and owned a filling station / garage on Simpson at the corner of Mason-Turner and Burbank. This location is technically not a part of Hunter Hills, but the section of Simpson (now Jos Boone) between Burbank and Chappell is de facto Hunter Hills because it was the north face of the community and contained many black owned businesses including Smith dry cleaners, the Tasty Dog diner, the Sanabella restaurant and lounge and American Legion night club.
The property at 1360 Joseph Boone Blvd (Simpson) was owned by the Rogers family who built and sold burial vaults on the property. They also had a floral shop next to their house.
Mr. Callaway – lived on Chappell and owned a real estate company, Callaway Realty
Rev. J.T. Alexander – lived on Scott St and pastored a church in College Park, which continues to this day and is on a street named after him – J.T. Alexander Ave.
Mr. Cotton lived on Scott St and “ran on the road” – a term used to describe men who worked on passenger trains as porters.
What’s in a name?
Is it Hunter Hills or Hunter Hill? These terms have been used interchangeably by residents over time. Most older folks called the community Hunter Hill when I was a child. What is the “official” name?
Hunter Hills denotes beautiful homes sitting on rolling, tree covered hills. For comparison, think Beverly Hills.
Hunter Hill denotes a landmark, high in elevation, with a unique history. Think Bunker Hill, or Battle Hill for that matter.
The neighborhood church is named “Hunter Hill First Missionary Baptist Church.”
The community has several actual, discernable hills:
Rome Drive is a really tall, steep hill with a great view of downtown.
Ezra Church Drive is on a hill as well.
Norris Place is another example.
Bernard St has a San Francisco-like hill
The hill motif might be a way to brand the community:
Welcome To The Hills
The Hills Are Alive And Thriving
Hunter Hills is named after Hunter Street, which is now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The original Hunter Street started downtown at Capitol Avenue and ended at Westlake Ave.
What is unique about Hunter Hills other than the fact it has a railroad and a creek (Proctor) running through it?
We don't have a park but we have a lot of history and we've been the home of some interesting people and places.
I'm not a Civil War buff so I can't quote any details but a major Civil War battle happened in the area of a church named Ezra Chapel, in the vicinity of what's now Hunter Hills. Hence the street names Ezra Church Dr and Chappell Road. In fact, when I was a child of about 10, I dug up bullets in a relative's yard on Andrews St, bullets that were fired during the Civil War.
We once had a hospital in Hunter Hills, the McLendon Clinic, located at Chicamauga and Sharon. Gladys Knight delivered a baby at that hospital.
One of my favorite houses is at the corner of Childs Dr and Hawkins St. I discovered it when I was in my teens. It's been there at least 60 years. I like it because its style is that of the Bauhaus school of architecture which is a favorite of mine. It's unusual to have something like this on this side of town in the 1950's. I don't know who built it.
Notable people who once lived on the north side of MLK (Hunter Street), the section between Burbank and Westlake: T.M. Alexander (real estate tycoon who obtained car insurance for car pools used to transport people during the Montgomery bus boycott); Hank Aaron; funeral directors Sellers and Ivey; a dentist whose name escapes me; Mr. Yates, one of Atlanta's first black pharmacy owners (Yates & Milton); Alley Pat Patterson, one of the first black Atlanta radio DJ's.
Dr. Harrison Anderson MD lived at the corner of Westlake and Simpson (Boone) in the 50's. There's a park there now.
Dr. Cooper owned a pharmacy (Cooper Drug Store) in the shopping strip on Boone at Westlake.
I can't recall the lady's name but the 2 story house on Boone between Chappell and the railroad track was also a business. The lady had a florist shop in front and built burial vaults in the back (for real!)
Then there's the Walehaje, an upscale apartment house on Westlake Ave, which became a job corps center in later years and was recently sold, future plans unknown. The Walehaje was black Atlanta's equivalent of the Waldorf Astoria back in the 1950's. My high school senior prom was held in its ballroom. Built and owned by W.A. "Chief" Aiken, black millionaire real estate developer.
Georgia Allen lived on Ezra Church Drive. She was my high school English teacher and an actress. She had roles in TV commercials and movies. She had a small part in the movie "Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil" and played the matriarch in Tyler Perry's "Madea's Family Reunion".
There are other business owners, school teachers and professionals who once called Hunter Hills home. I won't try to name them all. Hunter Hills has 3 churches and once had a gas station. We even had an Atlanta public school on Holly Road, E.C. Clement Elementary School.
Hunter Hills is a compact community with a colorful past and a diverse population. Now we're ready for the next chapter.