Decatur through the decades

Established in 1912, Decatur High School’s memories never disappear into the walls.


Emmie Berberick


In the early ‘50s, Decatur High School became co-educational.

Prior to blending the school, the stone wall between the main building and Performing Arts Center separated the “North Building,” Boys High, from the “South Building,” Girls High.

Along with the fusion of boys and girls, student were also entering high school at a younger age too.

1958 Decatur High School alumni, Dick Hills, remembers feeling much younger than the seniors because at that time high school began in 8th grade.

Decatur High School also offered vocational classes for students who didn’t plan on attending college.

During this time, the administration hosted school wide functions including the Homecoming dance, Prom and Stunt Nights.

Stunt nights allowed classes to perform parodies about school. These skits could have been parodies of another class or the opposite gender.

“I remember one time the boys dressed up like girls,” Hills said. “You know, cheerleaders.”

Decatur High School also had sororities which served as social clubs for female students that hosted school events and dances just like they do in college today according to Hills. Along with any dance comes music.

“Rock and Roll music was just coming into vogue,” Hills said.

The ‘50s were when performers such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and the Temptations were topping the charts and their music featured at these events.



As the ‘60s rolled in music was impactful among the DHS student body.

1962 alum, Pierre Russell, recalls his time at DHS with memories of Bob Dylan and the Beatles making their debuts.

“It was a real vibrant time for music,” Russell said.

Russell found himself, along with his friends, going to the Royal Peacock, a club that featured major headliners, such as James Brown.

“[Going to the Royal Peacock] was out-of-the-box because it was primarily an African American rock and roll club,” Russell said.

In the early ‘60s, DHS remained segregated despite integration laws. At the time, Russell “thought nothing of it.”

“Nobody thought it was weird,” Russell said. “Now, you say to yourself ‘that’s so weird. How could that have happened?’ It’s so wrong.”

Decatur, like everywhere else in the south, was strictly governed by desegregation laws. DHS student residents were split into Decatur High School, for white students, and Trinity High, for African American students. Decatur High School was located at the same location where it currently is, but Trinity was located at today’s Ebster Recreation Center.

“Decatur was full of a bunch of white faces,” Russell said.

Atlanta served as a major hub for the Civil Rights Movement because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, Decatur was a small town.

“It felt kind of isolated from the surrounding movement,” Russell said.

Despite Decatur’s small town feel it would not be as secluded for long


According to a Decatur High School timeline written by Eddie Fowlkes, CSD began requiring master’s degrees for all teachers in 1970, resulting in the highest percent of  teachers with master’s degrees in Georgia.

1971 alum, Bob Johnson remembers having exceptional teachers that made long lasting memories.

“I got to be a biology lab assistant for Mr. Hodnant,” Johnson said. “He was so fun. One time I was preparing a cat for him to dissect, I just cut it open and filled it up with frogs. He never did find out what happened.”

Johnson, like many other DHS students, struggled transitioning into a desegregated school.

“We butted heads with the blacks,” Johnson said. “If you have spirit, you understand one another.”

Johnson remembered that although the overall demographics showed diversity, people hung out with those they had common interest with.

“It was really separated at Decatur,” Johnson said. “You had your jocks, your smart kids and all the rest.”



During the ‘80s DHS became nationally known for their achievements in boys basketball, according to Fowlkes timeline.

DHS won state in 1980 and 1982, went 72-0 in 1983 and was number two in the entire nation in 1983, and former DHS basketball Coach Reinhardt’s was inducted into the hall of fame.

“It was a lot of fun to go to those games,” Owen said.

According to Jamie Owen, DHS graduate of 1983, it was something the students and the town were very proud of.

“Basketball ruled at that time,” Owen said.

DHS football, on the other hand, was not as successful.

Keith Berry, DHS Alumni of 1986, said. “We practiced a lot. We had fun at practice, but my senior year, the only game we won was [against] Cross Keys. They were not a very good team.”

The football team’s losing season was reflected in the attitudes of DHS students.

“We used to joke that more people came to the football games to see the band play than the football team,” Owen said.

Sports were not the only thing students joked about. Especially with the ‘80s Volkswagen bug as a trend.

“We used to joke that if we had a parking deck it would be 7 floors tall, one for each style of Volkswagen,” Owen said.

Despite all the school activities, students couldn’t dismiss the scare of new weapon technology in the world.

“The Cold War was going on, and we all lived in threat of the nuclear holocaust going on,” Owen said. “I can remember having conversations with friends being like ‘What if it happened tomorrow? What would the day be like? How would we survive?’”



During the ‘90s DHS “wanted to do whatever was not trendy,” Robyn Tibbetts, 1994 graduate, said.

Students wore blue jean skirts, flannel shirts, Doc Martens boots, big gold chains and big hoop earrings.

Hip hop duo, Salt N Pepa served as fashion icons of the time that brought hoop earrings, big tee’s and more into the halls of the DHS student body.

According to Tibbetts, students also began listening to music from other eras.

“We loved ‘70s music at Decatur, the return of Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Guns and Roses,” Tibbetts said.

Students also  enjoyed going off campus for lunch.

Students were given 25 minutes to go off campus for lunch to eat at places such as Hardee’s, now Chick~Fil~A, McDonalds, Taco Bell, or “The Finch.”

“Across the street where the big field is was a gas station, and we called it the finch, where people would get junk [food],” Tibbetts said.

This all ended in 1994. Despite the change in lunch, not all chances for social interaction has changed.

Many parts of previous homecoming events such as, spirit week and football are still prevalent in today’s annual homecoming events.

“Float building was done in the tunnel, an area that was under the field,” Tibbetts said.

Change is evident in the graduating classes compared to those in the past as well as the present.

According to Tibbetts, in 1994 the class graduated with 82 people, 7 whites and the rest African American.

Students would begin to experience bigger things then what went on in their classes

In 1993, students experienced a novelty, when future U.S. President came to DHS.

“Bill Clinton ran for president [my] senior year, and he came and gave a speech at the high school in the middle of the football field,” Tibbetts said. “That was a huge deal.”



As DHS made its way into the new millennium, students began falling into the new trends of roll on glitter, Abercrombie & Fitch crop tops, and boy/girl bands.

Jessica Mayer, DHS alumni of 2005 and current DHS teacher, was immersed in music’s popularity.

“It was still prime boy band, girl band time, so Backstreet Boys [and] Nsync concerts were really popular,” Mayer said.

Skateboarders began to grow with the new pop-punk sensation Avril Lavigne’s hot hit “Sk8er Boi.”

Meanwhile thrifting became a hobby.

“Going to Last Chance thrift store, and wearing clothes from there was really popular,” Mayer said.

According to senior Rachel Kearce, it is still a trend still popular to DHS students today.

As far as sports went DHS experienced ups and downs with football, according to Mayer. They went from limited wins for several years, to a season of 11-0. Football didn’t claim all of the success,but boys soccer ended up winning state.

With all the athletic successes, students wanted to celebrate at school pep rallies, but those did not last long.

“We weren’t allowed to have pep rallies when I was in high school because my freshman year it was really popular to set off stink bombs,” Mayer said. “And at the time, we all thought it was hilarious.”

As DHS was transitioning to what it is today the past was never left behind and still remains to influence the current student body.