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Growing up in Albany

Lamar and Evelyn Clifton grew up in downtown Albany in the 1930s and ’40s, two blocks from each other on Flint Avenue.

Lamar and Evelyn Clifton grew up in downtown Albany in the 1930s and ’40s, two blocks from each other on Flint Avenue.

ALBANY -- Living downtown, or nearby, was common at one time in Albany, as is evident from interviews with 11 Albanians who give their insight into life in Albany in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. The Depression and war years, along with the times shortly thereafter, saw life change very little in the South.

In some ways it was a comparatively innocent and carefree period and most kids were allowed to roam neighborhoods with ease. Parents felt a sense of comfort. Everyone knew everyone else and kids played out of doors constantly. Doors were often left unlocked, and many families had only one car, or none at all.

Childhood addresses are listed with each interview.

Lamar Clifton (1930s-'40s)

230 Flint Ave.

Evelyn Butler Clifton (1930s-'40s)

415 Flint Ave.

Can you picture our former Mr. Chamber of Commerce (executive director) Lamar Clifton walking barefoot east across the river railroad trestle downtown, going to the sand dunes to play with friends? He did, and then would retrace his route to Hubble's Restaurant in Sandy Bottom on North Washington Street for a hot dog and Coke, all for 15 cents.

Downtown was the hangout for Lamar and friends. No cars, so they rode bikes or maybe hitchhiked to Radium in the summertime. Going to the picture show meant strolling two blocks and, for 10 cents, he could spend all Saturday watching Flash Gordon, Tarzan and cowboy movies. His family came to Albany in the 1920s and in 1936, at age 7, he had his first job -- hawking newspapers downtown by yelling "Allbeny Heralldd," a sound that still resonates for many.

A short distance west on Flint Avenue, Evelyn was also a downtowner. She grew up in a house built in the 1870s by her uncle. She remembers backyard carnivals with costumes, pony rides and taffy pulls.

"The front porch, with rocking chairs and swings, let my parents visit with friends, while we kids played in the yard," she said.

Julian "JuJu" Pace Jones (1930s-'40s)

520 N. Jefferson St.

Since the Duggan family has been in Albany since 1939, I'm proud to be a native. But Juju's family, the Paces, were here about 100 years earlier, coming to Albany in 1838, only two years after our founding.

"I so enjoyed living at 520 N. Jefferson St., which is still standing," said Jones. "A large front porch was the favored perch, where we could people watch everyone going to town on the busy thoroughfare.

"Three generations were under one roof, and all schools were within easy walking distance, as was everything -- shopping, library, church, movies, YMCA and the the Municipal Auditorium."

Other fun times she recalled:

-- Fireworks sales booths in the 100 block of North Washington at Christmas;

-- Driving at age 13 downtown and going around and around the block;

-- Circus elephants being driven down North Jefferson Street from the train station;

-- Not enjoying the downtown library, because you had to be really quiet;

-- Going to the movies, and then opening the exit door so friends could slip inside'

-- Having a wonderful childhood.

Jim Hall (1940s)

401 S. Madison St.

Jim lived downtown for just seven years, but he packed a lot into it and remembers scenes vividly.

'We lived in a big old house that was heated by coal," Hall said. "A truck would deliver it into a chute to under the house, and carrying coal inside become one of my jobs."

In the kitchen, an ice box was centerpiece, and the iceman delivered several times a week. Running to the truck in summer and begging for pieces on which to crunch was common for Jim and his buddies.

As to friends, he said that one block further south was a large vacant lot with a giant Mimosa tree. Kids used to climb it for hours and hours of entertainment.

Hall's dad kept chickens and turkeys in the back yard. One summer, some neighbors brought by a cow. Jim learned to feed and milk the cow and to churn the milk for butter and buttermilk.

Like many of us, Jim's Saturdays were spent at the Liberty or Clain Theaters, blowing a 25-cent allowance on the ticket, popcorn, drink and candy, and then walking home.

The Albany Cardinals baseball team was popular in the summer and, happily, Jim got to hang with some of the players, as his Mom rented rooms to several.

Bobby Strickland (1940-'50s)

704 N. Washington St.

An Albany High School classmate of mine, Bobby and I share high school memories, but childhood was something else. He happily recalls growing up in a big rambling house a few blocks from downtown. Along with several brothers, they played in the shadow of the still-present ice plant.

Between ages 8-12 (1948-52), he would walk to Tift Park's otter pool for swimming and then go to its Wigwam building for arts and crafts. Back home, he could easily hear the lion roar from the park zoo.

Often times, he and friends walked to the Liberty Theater on Saturdays for cowboy movies. Another favorite boy-time activity was visiting the nearby city abattoir to watch cows and hogs being slaughtered. Afterwards, they would gather up the entrails for fish bait and head straight for the Flint River, which, of course, was within walking distance.

"My parents would've recoiled in horror had they known that my brothers and I slipped out of bed at night on several occasions to work at the nearby circus on North Jefferson Street," Strickland said.

"But, we'd be back in bed by daylight," Strickland said as he grinned.

Ida Frances English Fowler (1930s-'50s)

305 W. Oglethorpe Ave.

Looming large in Ida's memory is Grandmother Royal's boarding house, across from the bus station downtown. With three family generations and boarders always being fed, there was never a dull moment.

"It had big rooms that made it cold in the winter," she recalls, "so it was heated by fireplaces. But it did have a big front porch where we could sit and watch passers-by in warm weather."

Moving here in the '30s, her family located in the heart of Albany. Everything was within walking distance -- retail, church, library, courthouse, school and Tift Park for swimming. Jimmie's Hot Dogs was across the street. Big Star Grocery was out the back door, and Rucker's Bakery with its hot doughnuts was a mere stroll away.

"Saturdays, we went to the Liberty Theater, and for 9 cents we could attend double-feature westerns," Fowler recalls.

She said it was basically a residential neighborhood, so there was always someone with whom to play. Names that are familiar today were playmates -- Ann Oxford Hattaway, Nancy Castleberry Garrison, Fred Sumter and Bill Landau.

Kay Chandler Hornick (1940s-'50s)

506 and 510 Pine Ave.

With family arriving here in the 1920s and grandparents building on Pine in the '30s, Hornick spent all of her formative years just two and a half blocks from central Albany, where she lived with her five siblings.

"Barefoot, we played kick the can, hide and seek and even had a fort under the Masonic Lodge (now Theatre Albany) next door," she said, "and it was like a dungeon."

One of her earliest memories was attending Mrs. Doty's Kindergarten on Tift Street just a few blocks away.

A special time for the Chandlers was family night on Fridays at the YMCA, which was, naturally, only a block and a half away. They hoofed to the park, church, drugstore and to Kinnett's on Flint Street, where Sunday afternoon ice cream cones were a tradition for many in Albany.

We all know that girls learn to shop early on, so it's no surprise that Kay would traipse to Churchwell's on North Washington Street, where she was allowed to take a dress home on approval -- no problem.

Not to be forgotten is one of her funniest memories -- hearing Albany's downtown fire engines pulling out and blaring, with all the kids running to the door to watch.

Wilhelmina Dye Hall (1930s-'40s)

422 Lincoln Ave.

"Iceman, Iceman" being announced through the neighborhood is one of her most vivid memories of childhood.

As he rode the sandy streets in his mule-drawn wagon almost daily, housewives would exit homes and place orders. Then, ice would be wrapped in newspapers and placed in the homes' wooden ice boxes.

Reared in a genteel neighborhood that included nurses, teachers, florists, entrepreneurs, doctors and contractors, Wilhelmina and her sister were encouraged to read by teacher parents. Assuredly, this led to her own education career.

No car until much later, so the family walked everywhere including Bethel AME Church, Gray's Ice Cream Parlor at Jackson and Highland, Mercer and Hazard Schools and to nearby friends' homes.

Fond memories include listening to country music on Saturday morning and Benny Goodman's big band sound that night, plus enjoying Joe Louis fights in the 40s.

"A special memory," she says, "was of a man named Dan employed by the Albany Cardinals baseball team. Just before each summer evening game, he would stroll the blocks, megaphone in hand, announcing the upcoming game along with various player details."

Jack Hall (1930s-'40s)

512 Mercer Avenue

As a child, little did he know that childhood friend Wilhelmina, living two blocks away, would one day be his bride. Neither could he have envisioned moving in 1995 from 512 Mercer Ave., owned by his family since 1915, to which he'd taken his new wife and in which they raised a daughter.

Hall seemed to live on his bike starting soon in life. He delivered groceries to earn spending money. Often, he went into homes with no one present to put up the food, all with permission.

He and his boyhood buddies did love to roam.

"We'd ride north to the Kinchafoonee Creek and swim around the old railroad trestle," he said. "And all we had to do was be home before sundown.

Parents did not fear for their children, especially, boys, to stray far from home.

Special memories for Hall include:

-- Chickens and his grandmother's vegetable garden;

-- Skating on South Madison Street;

-- His dad's 1930s Rickenbacker automobile;

-- Biking by the sinkhole that was to become Mills Stadium;

-- Visiting a nearby traveling minstrel show in the 1930s;

-- Taking dates to dances at Hollywood Hall on South Jackson, always with plenty of mother chaperones.

Ed Landau III (1950s)

511 W. Oglethorpe Ave.

The family occupied the home at 511 W. Oglethorpe in 1856 when the house was constructed. It's gone now, but the Landaus still own the site after 155 years.

Scooter, as he's affectionately called by close friends, grew up living with two older generations. This included a grandmother, who died in the same bed in which she was born, and a great aunt and uncle who lived to the rear of the house.

Attorney father Edmund walked home for lunch from his downtown office, and the family strolled to the nearby temple, movies, library, post office and grocery store. For school, Ed footed to nearby Broad Elementary. The family walked to the New Albany Hotel on Pine Avenue downtown for family meal outings.

The 1950s brought suburban growth to Albany, but the Landaus stayed downtown and Ed continued to play in his neighborhood. But commercial activity eventually proliferated on Oglethorpe, so at age 11 his family moved to North Harding Street. He continues to reside there, but his glimpses into early downtown life are revelatory.

Ed recounts a family story of a once well known young man who had a garage apartment across the alley from the Landau home. Seems the bachelor pad was at the rear of his own parents' house, but the Landaus considered the scene as scandalous in the 1930s-'40s.

"It was reported that the young man entertained women there," Ed says, with a grin.

Mariellen Johnson Bateman

433 Pine Ave.

"A hand-crank doorbell was at the front door, but everybody just walked in," Bateman recollected. "We slept with the window open in the summer, and built fireplace coal fires in the winter."

"One fond summertime morning memory is waking and hearing women walking down the street yelling 'Blackberries,' which were picked and ready for sale.

Her family, now in its sixth generation in Albany, had four generations then living in the house with a big porch. Her grandmother sometimes rented a backyard apartment to Cardinal ball players.

There were up to 12 people on the premises, and they all used the one bathroom.

In the summer, all Cardinal players would exit neighborhood boarding houses and have a morning muster at the YMCA for their ride to the ball park. Being a half block away, Mariellen would marvel at the number of young ladies who would also show up.

McGhee's Grocery was just around the corner on Monroe Street, so orders and deliveries were common. At 10 years of age, she phoned and placed an order for coke and ice cream.

Telephone operator chimed in to say, "Mariellen, you know your Grandfather Warren doesn't approve of that."

Henry Duggan is an Albany native and retired banker.