--downtown 1962; notice the electric trolley and trolley wires strung over the street

--Broad Street downtown; electric trolley, 1962

My first time ever in Atlanta (other than passing through on the way to New Orleans as a kid in 1953) was in late Summer 1962.  My parents and I were spending a couple of days there as a mini-vacation before I enrolled as a freshman at Emory University's
, a junior college (which was also Emory's original campus before it moved in 1922) located 35 miles east of the city.  The trip from Greensboro was not a particularly easy one:  there were few interstates at the time, and Georgia roads were in terrible condition.  I can recall entering the city on Ponce de Leon Avenue (US 29); the street not only had a very rough surface, but the crown was so high in the middle that the pavement sloped off at steep angles on either side.  This slope made steering difficult (especially on curves), and the right side of the car slanted a good bit lower than the driver's side.  Add to this the heavy traffic which included buses and trucks, and you maybe get the picture.  Atlanta also has always had a penchant for putting utility poles as close to the curb as possible (actually, they probably ended up there as a result of widening the streets from time to time).  All over town there were signs posted which read:  "Speeders Lose Licenses".  Those signs were always a joke, and they have long since been removed; no one pays attention anymore to speed limits.  Georgia roads went from bad to good in fairly short time thanks to the administration of Carl Sanders, our "Good Roads Governor".  Still, it would be several years before the interstates would be near-complete through the state.  At the time, the freeways through downtown Atlanta ("the Downtown Connector") weren't finished, and all thru traffic was routed over surface streets on the edge of the business district.  Four-lane "freeways" built in the 50's did enter the city from the Northwest (later, I-75), the Northeast (later, I-85), and the South (later I-75) before reaching dead-ends downtown.  The new Southeast Freeway (later, I-20) had just opened and was a concrete marvel.  I-20 West and I-85 South would be a while in coming.

In 1962, the famous "population sign" in front of the Darlington Apartments out Peachtree Street a ways had just turned over to reflect 1 million people in the then-metro area of 7 counties.  (Today, the same sign reads between 3 and 4 million). Outsiders had begun to move in, and the area was growing like a weed, all the while trying to come out of the dark ages.  The "new" airport had just recently opened, and it was truly a showplace, a beautiful terminal building and approach (not the same Hartsfield facility as today).  The tallest building at the time was the Bank of Georgia at 34 stories, complete with its rotating beacon.  The Merchandise Mart and the Georgia Power buildings were the other tall ones, each about 20-plus stories.  The next big boom for "skyscrapers" wouldn't happen till later on in the 60's.  The first of the new hotels downtown was the Marriott about 1965 or so, but it wasn't big by today's terms.  Until it and the Hyatt Regency opened (a little later), the older hotels sufficed:  The Atlantan, The Peachtree on Peactree, and the Dinkler Plaza.  There also were a handful of "motor hotels" downtown:  The Heart of Atlanta was probably the most popular.  There was also The Riviera near Pershing Point a couple of miles north of downtown. 

The Braves began playing ball in the new Fulton County Stadium long about 1965 (that stadium was bulldozed in the mid-90's to be replaced with a new one which would be used during the Olympics in 1996).
--the famous Coke sign at the Peachtree/Forsyth intersection, 1962.  The sign disappeared in the 80's or early 90's.  Many, including myself, were very upset to find it gone.  Speaking of "gone", notice the Loew's Grand Theatre on the left where "Gone With the Wind" premiered in 1936.

--Forsyth Street, looking south from a vantage point just behind the Coke sign shown in above photo.  The Fulton National Bank Building is in the distance; I worked there for the entire year of 1967.

--Inside the Top of the Mart, a 22nd floor restaurant on top of the Merchandise Mart, complete with an outside roof terrace.  Here, I had my first drink in 1962 at the age of 17.  Atlanta was an "open" city, serving liquor in the non-pouring state of Georgia.  A child accompanied with an adult could have alcohol.  Ironically, I ended up working in and from the Merchandise Mart for many, many years and would eat in this Stouffer's-run restaurant on numerous occasions.
--Mammy's Shanty, one of Atlanta's fine restaurants at the time, near Pershing Point where Peachtree and West Peachtree merge.  Included inside the restaurant was Pappy's Plantation Lounge; The Pickaninny Coffee Shop was in a separate structure to the right of the main building.  Racial overtones are still very much in evidence in Atlanta in 1962.  The restaurant is long gone.
--a cocktail napkin I saved from Mammy's Shanty, 1962
--All black/white photos on this page are courtesy of Paul Allen.


created 12 August 2000
modified 28 August 2000
redesigned 22 April 2002