Recently, while searching through the Vanishing Georgia Collection at The Digital Library of Georgia I came across this photo of Walker Street Elementary School. Unfortunately, the photo depicts a fire that destroyed the building in January 1983. Walker Street became Atlanta’s third public (white) elementary school in February 1872. The building as it stood when I attended was built in 1911. It was converted to an elementary school for Blacks in the 1930′s.
Looking at this photo sadden me, but also brought back memories of my old neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is known as Castleberry Hill; it’s on the west-side of Atlanta, just minutes from downtown. I don’t remember it being called Castleberry Hill when I was a child; I didn’t know it had a name – it was just home. Now the area is being rebuilt with lofts, condos and trendy shops so I guess they had to give it a name or call it something. The famous Pascal’s Restaurant even relocated to Castleberry Hill from its historic location on ML King Drive (formerly Hunter Street). Boy, have things changed!
I attended Walker Street from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Those were by far the best years of my childhood. My friends and I walked back and forth to school every day; no fears, no threat of harm. Most days on the walk home, we stopped at the little corner store for some two for a penny candy or cookies – Mary Jane was my favorite…Sugar Daddy…Bazooka Gum…coconut bars, and those little cookies shaped like a flower with the whole in the middle. I don’t think they had a name – “just give me a nickel worth of those”. We played hopscotch on the sidewalk, jacks and marbles, kick ball and giant step (May I, Yes You May) in the street, and fell asleep on the porch on hot summer nights.
We had a milkman who delivered milk, eggs and butter; a vegetable man yelling- “veg- a-bles, git ya veg-a-bles”, and in the summertime we all waited anxiously, with a nickel or dime, for the ice cream man. There was also the ice man, the junk man, the insurance man, the Watkins man, and the Fuller Brush man. Now that I think about it, seems there was a “man” for just about anything you needed. You could go to the grocery store without any money – “my mama said, put it on her bill.” We were carefree and happy. We were not sick often, but when we were the doctor came to our house. Were we poor? I didn’t think so…at least not through my child’s eyes. I never wanted for any thing. There was always plenty of food, a big warm house, nice clean clothes to wear, and above all, lots of love. This is not to say that all was peaches and cream. We took the trolley to town, but had to sit in the back, and ten minutes away doors were labeled “Colored” and “White”…but, those memories are for another time, another post. Today, I have fond memories of Walker Street Elementary School, and the old neighborhood – Castleberry Hill.
However, there is one ugly memory that I must share, or my recollections of Walker Street Elementary School would be incomplete. As happy as my memories are, I am forever scared by one vivid not so nice memory that haunts me to this very day. I remember it so well….It was the last day of school, a beautiful, sunny day. My friends and I were standing out front in the schoolyard gathering for the walk home, and ready to begin our summer vacation; there was laughter, joking, playing around. All of a sudden out of nowhere this boy runs up to me and plants an awkward kiss smack dab on my cheek. I WAS HORRIFIED!! I won’t say his name, but he will always be remembered by me as the boy who ruined my last day of school – fifth grade.
That summer we moved and I changed schools. It was sad leaving my friends and all the good times we shared. But, you know, it’s a good thing we did move because I was going be another year older, and ready to kick that boy’s butt if he tried something like that with me again!!
[Image Source: The Digital Library of Georgia, Vanishing Georgia Collection . http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/]
[School History-Source: Early School Days In Castleberry Hill. The Chronicle, Winter 2007. Assessed 23 January 2010. http://www.castleberryhill.org/chronicle/winter07.pdf]