A window to the past

Footage of the city of Decatur circa 1944-1954

Video courtesy of Doug Adams

A window to the past

Photo illustration courtesy of Doug Adams

With the end of World War II rationing and shortages, “[The city of Decatur] was an ideal small town with the convenience of a large town just a 5-cent streetcar ride away,” according to Doug Adams, a former city of Decatur resident who now lives in North Georgia.

Adams is a graduate of the Decatur class of 1954 and had parts of his childhood filmed by his father from 1944-1954. The videos were taken on a Keystone 8mm home movie film camera.

The Decatur of today differs from the one Adams grew up in in several respects.

“On Saturday mornings there was a double feature of Western movies at the Decatur Theater, the middle school was being built and the buildings where we attended DHS have been replaced,” Adams said, “I’m glad “the wall” is still there. “The wall” was the place that friends would meet on campus. When we were Decatur Girls HS and Decatur Boys HS, this was the “neutral” ground where we could meet after lunch or before school started.”

It has now been 60 years since Adams’ graduation. “Some of the people from the Decatur Class of 1954 are still my good friends. I miss the 65 classmates that are deceased,” Adams said.

As a teenager Adams  delivered newspapers on his 3-wheel Cushman Scooter. Some of his friends served soda, floats, and other drinks as soda jerks in drug stores, while others delivered groceries and worked at the Decatur Theater.

Allison Adams, Doug’s daughter, came up with the idea to share the home films on youtube. She saw the footage about ten years ago.

“My grandfather had passed away and my father had been converting movies to VHS. I remember popping it into my VHS player and suddenly seeing that woman in the trolley,” Allison said, “It stuck in my mind for about a decade and I mentioned to my dad that the tapes were getting worn and asked to get them converted to DVD.”

When she visited for Christmas, Doug had converted the tapes to DVD and shared the footage on youtube.

Some of the footage shows aspects of the city that no longer exist. Before Allison saw the videos for the first time, she did not know where the trolley tracks ran in Decatur or that the YMCA had a local football league.

Doug’s favorite part of watching the films was seeing footage of the 1949 Winnona Park School 7th grade swim party, which he attended.

Though the videos depict the life of only one resident, the landmarks and moments within provide a glimpse into the entire city of Decatur’s postwar past.

Video Guide

0:00: City of Decatur trolley system that was eventually replaced with trackless trolleys and then buses

0:38: Steam engine train going through Decatur

0:54: YMCA football game at Winnona Park

2:51: Christmas in Atlanta

3:48: 7th Grade Swimming Party in Avondale

5:22: Doug Adams and his friend getting ready for the Atlanta Soapbox Derby Race

6:02: Toy train that kids could ride in an Atlanta park