Harry Goggins

    I remember the streetcar line that ran from Atlanta, through Smyrna, to Marietta, mostly because my father was a driver on one of those streetcars.  He worked for Georgia Power Company for the amazing rate of seventy-five cents an hour.  His children always knew his schedule, because we could ride with him by dropping a few pennies in the coin box.  He would quickly press the bottom release so that no one else could see what was paid.  We even rode when we were very small, and sometimes we would ride a car driven by another driver, and we were told to always tell the driver to let us off at the big Pine Tree.  Everyone knew where that Pine Tree was, at the RR crossing of Davis Road on Atlanta Highway.  My uncle,   Glen, lived across the street, next door to Richard Parris and his family.  An old farm wagon road ran from Glen’s house to our house on Pat Mell Road.  My Grandpa and two other uncles all lived near us. Yes, there was a Mr. Patrick Mell and I don’t remember him, but his house was next door to us, and it is still there..

     The streetcar ran next to the train tracks for most of the route, and on the highway for parts of the route. When a coal burning locomotive came up the train track, all the women would go to running across the highway, because the soot from the engine smoke would get all over their clothes.  It seemed that every streetcar stop had one of those green sheds to keep patrons out of the rain. Those green sheds slowly passed away over time.  The last one I remember seeing was at Ponce De Leon and East Lake Drive near Decatur.  I wonder if it still stands.  It should have been preserved.

     The streetcars would sometimes hook together and run with one driver during rush hour, and my father told many tales of things that took place in that almost empty car in the rear.  The streetcars were electric, and I believe they ran on Direct current, as opposed to Alternating current.  I believe there was a building in downtown Smyrna, painted white, across from the Jonquil Theatre, that was a substation to convert the current. They had to have those buildings every few miles.  There was another in the Fair Oaks community, and it may have been in the very building that was later to become the Burruss Egg Company. Gerald or Buddy Burruss can probably confirm or deny that.  I think that I remember another one near where I-285 crosses the old highway south of Oakdale.  When the streetcar line crossed the Chattahoochee River, it went on the highway over a one lane river bridge.  There was a red light on each end of the bridge that controlled one way traffic.  The street that is now Marietta Blvd was the streetcar track in those days, and it was considered quite a short cut when the streetcars quit running and it was converted to an automobile street.  

     I think the streetcars had a spur line just north of Fair Oaks that ran over to the Bell Bomber Plant.  I think they only ran that spur during shift changes.  Just north of there the line crossed the Access Highway.  That was the only name I ever knew for the Highway that is now South Cobb Drive.  I don’t know when the name was changed or if it was always named South Cobb Drive.  It was called Access Highway because it provided access to the bomber plant.  During WWII, unless you had official business, you couldn’t drive past the point where the streetcar crossed.  There were guards posted at that point and one fairly good sized building that became a teenage hangout after the war.  The streetcar tracks again merged with the highway at Butler’s Crossing  before entering Marietta, and I think I remember a water container over the train tracks near the Confederate Cemetery similar to the one we all saw on the TV show called Petticoat Junction.  The Marietta Streetcar Barn was on Church Street just north of the Marietta Square.  Written by Harry Goggins - 2009

   Charles Gustafson wrote “who can forget the Fair Oaks Drive In ?”    I can’t, because it was literally in my back yard.  It is now a maintenance facility for The City of Smyrna, but I remember when it was a sweet potato farm.  When I was not much bigger than the potato plants, my mother warned me sternly to stay out of that field because there was an old well out there that was never covered properly.   I don’t know how I missed it because the fringe of that field was prime blackberry picking ground.  My Grandpa, B. G. “Buck” Goggins sold his sweet potato field to The Martin Theatre Company from Columbus, Georgia.

   The bulldozers moved in, and a few months later we had a fine drive-in theatre.  At first, it was not paved.  They brought in truckloads of crushed, light colored, sand and stone to cover the red clay, and it never got muddy after a rain.  Not many of the county roads were paved either, and they were always muddy after a rain.  The old folks would say that it would always rain right after the county road scrapers came down Pat Mell Road.  Once a convict driving a road scraper let me ride with him.  What a thrill, and no harm was done.  Can you imagine that happening today?

   I well remember the night that the drive-in showed the first movie.  It was a Roy Rogers feature, in Technicolor.  My entire family, and a couple of neighbors, sat on the trunk of a large oak tree that had been pushed aside during construction.    I sat on that tree many times before I realized how easy it was to sneak in without paying.  I could even lie in my bed at night and hear every word through open windows.  That is, until the Korean War.  It was about that time that the B-47 was being built at the bomber plant.  Many people have forgotten the tremendous noise that continued nightly while the Air Force kept those jets running constantly.  They could be heard at least ten miles, and no one that I knew complained.  It meant jobs and to complain would have been unpatriotic.

   There was no fence around the drive-in and many grade school boys simply walked through the back and sat down.  I remember once when the manager decided to chase me out of the theatre.  I was so young and small that I ran under a speaker wire that was attached to a speaker on a car window.  The manager hit that wire and broke the car window.  I could hear it, but I never looked back.  That man decided that if he couldn’t stop us, he would use us.  He came up with a scheme that was brilliant.   He gave us all a “job”.  Once a week a circular was printed that showed the movies that were to be featured the next week.  He let it be known that we could all get in the theatre free if we would deliver those circulars house-to-house in all the new subdivisions that were springing up around the area.  We didn’t receive any pay and he, or someone else who worked for the theatre, would drive us to the different subdivisions each week.  He sometimes purchased soft drinks, and gave us day old popcorn. 

   I can’t remember if my first income producing job was at The Fair Oaks Drive-In or as a curb hop for The Pork Chop Restaurant on Atlanta Road.  Either way, they both involved taking food to automobiles.  The back row of the drive-in theatre was for “Colored” and a rest room was built back there, but those customers were not supposed to come to the concession stand.  Martin Theatres gave me a pass good for all their theatres which included the Strand and Cobb theatres in Marietta.  I received tips as I went car to car and took orders for food and sodas. The action could often times be more interesting than the movie.

   As I became older, I was given a paying job at the Fair Oaks.  I sometimes worked in the concession stand but I mostly worked as the ticket boy at the box office.  The pay was $15.00 a week, and from that amount I was able to save enough to pay cash for a brand new Allstate motor scooter at Sears Roebuck in Marietta.  I drove it home without even having a drivers license, but in those days, one could drive a motor scooter at age 15, with the proper license.  One night the Smyrna Police fell in behind me near Belmont Hills, and they said that they had their flashing light on all the way to Pat Mell Road, but they couldn’t pull beside me because of traffic, all because my scooter’s tail light wasn’t working.  The crew at the Kay-O service station was hooting and hollering at them.

   When I made the football team at Campbell, Coach Gerald Gillespie somehow knew that I worked each night, and I would have someone work for me when we had a game.  I never brought it up to him or any coach.  But, I must have given the image that I needed to work, because he came up to me one day and said that he would let me leave practice each day in time to go to work.  In the winter, we would sometimes practice until it became dark, and he might even turn the lights on. 

  Some of my friends knew where I worked and they really took advantage.  I could see them run down an embankment and jump in a car with only one teenage driver (after the vehicle had gone past the box office).  Bobby Sinyard probably was the most blatant.  He would pull up to the box office and have his date crouch down in the floorboard, with another couple in the back floorboard looking up at me like smiling frogs.  He would request one ticket and I would only smile.  Carolyn Byers Hurt was the cashier, and she had to see some of that, but we never said anything.  

   Some of the guys would climb up the back of that tall theatre screen during the movie and wave over the top.  I must admit that I climbed the screen during the daytime, but I never gathered enough courage to do it at night.   Other than pretending to be sick, I only played hooky from school one day in my life.  Several of us boys simply hung around the drive-in and surrounding woods all day and talked and smoked.  I never smoked real cigarettes that day, but I did find some “rabbit tobacco.” I was bored to death, and I realized that school was much more fun.

   One day the Martin Brothers announced that they were going to arrive on a goodwill tour and visit all their local theatres.  Our manager, Floyd Perkins, had us clean up the place as if we were expecting the commanding general from Fort Benning.  I had never seen a rich person before, and I was really impressed when they drove up in a shiny new black Ford Thunderbird.  I think it had a back seat with round portholes to see through, fender skirts, and a continental kit.  I thought that they must own every theatre in America. They didn’t stay long, but shortly thereafter our little drive-in had asphalt paving. 

   My mother told me that she would pay my insurance if I could pay for my own car, and I went to Marietta and found the owner of a car lot who was the father of a young boy.  I talked him into accepting my motor scooter in trade for a beat up 1950 Ford.  I had to give him “boot” and my first stop was at the Sears Roebuck store to purchase artificial white sidewalls to install on those black tires. 

   Sometime after I left, the name of the theatre was changed to the Smyrna Drive-In, and the Fouts Brothers purchased the properties where my Grandpa and two Uncles had lived. My old home place burned.  Things would never be the same again, except in my mind.  

 Written by Harry Goggins     2009