For many in Dunwoody, celebrating America’s independence means our annual parade, a day at the neighborhood pool, gatherings of friends and family and possibly local fireworks. How did Dunwoody’s past generations celebrate the Fourth of July?
Sue Kirby Jameson, who grew up in Dunwoody in the 1920’s, wrote a book of her memories titled “As I Recall.” She credits exciting Fourth of July celebrations during her childhood to the “Dunwoody Improvement Club.”
The local organization planned a day of games, including sack races, horse shoes, a greased flagpole to climb and a greased pig to catch. There were also fireworks at the end of the day.
According to Mrs. Jameson, the festivities “took place right in the heart of town between Burnham’s store and the old post office, in front of the public well, near Dr. Puckett’s store and Spruill’s blacksmith shop.” Today, this would be in front of the Cheek/Spruill Farmhouse at the crossroads of Mount Vernon Road and Chamblee Dunwoody Road.
The DeLong family once owned much of the land along Spalding Drive at Hewlett Road. In a recorded oral history, Horace DeLong recalled July 4th as a time for picking blackberries, which also meant blackberry jelly and blackberry pie.
In “The Story of Dunwoody,” Mrs. Kathleen Spruill Miers tells of attending a Dunwoody Methodist Church picnic for the Fourth of July. It took place at a pasture near Peeler Road and Chamblee Dunwoody Road, owned by the Donaldsons.
Climbing in the back of a large truck filled with bales of hay and watermelons and riding to Chastain Park sounds fun. Ken Anderson remembers this fun activity happening around July 4th in the 1940s. The truck belonged to the Kirby family, who had a dairy near where New Hope Cemetery is today on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.
Joan Moore recalls firecrackers set off at the Kirby farm which was the home of her grandparents. Her uncle, Max Kirby, helped set off the fireworks and he drove the truck that Ken Anderson remembers. Joan says the dogs on the farm would run and hide at the sound of firecrackers. Across the road was a vacant lot where men of the Dunwoody Baptist Church set up a stage for community talent shows and outdoor movies (not just for July 4th).
Between 1955 and 1974, Bonnie Smith Nichols’ family owned the house known today as the Donaldson/Bannister Home, at the intersection of Vermack Road and Chamblee Dunwoody Road. Her father, Frank Smith, worked six days a week as an Atlanta nursery owner.
The family spent each July 4th painting their fences white. They started with the fence along Chamblee Dunwoody Road, moving to the pasture fence next. Everyone in the family helped and the highlight of the day was lunch under the large oak tree that once stood in the front yard. Unfortunately, that tree fell in the Dunwoody tornado of 1998.
The Glaze family had family picnics at Grandma’s house, according to Jeff Glaze. Glaze Hardware was a landmark at Peeler Road and Winters Chapel Road for many years.
The underlying theme of making memories while spending time with friends and family remains the same.
Email Valerie at firstname.lastname@example.org.