By Marci White - July 2011
When Bradford Allgood was a boy growing up in the Boulevard neighborhood, he rode downtown with his father in a horse and buggy to the barn where his dad owned a livery business on Clayton Street. Few people had cars. His parents kept a full menagerie of farm animals in their backyard along with a large garden. On Sundays, he and his friends would ride their horses all afternoon on paths in the woods, and then stop by a natural spring off Barber Street, where they could picnic and get fresh water.
Mr. Allgood was born in July of 1921, in the big white house at 225 Beulah Avenue. He was the youngest of six siblings and a third-generation Athenian. His mother, Neva Allgood, was a housewife and his dad, Alvin, ran his livery business — first downtown and then behind their house. He sold mules and horses and also leased out teams of work horses and wagons. Bradford lived on Beulah Avenue for his entire 89 years, with the exception of four years in the military during World War II, which he spent mainly in Africa. Mr. Allgood died on January 23, 2011.
His wife Polly still lives in the stone house on Beulah, where they lived together for the last 59 years. They have one son, Carlas. Bradford and Polly’s grandchildren, Matthew and Christy, now live in the white house that their great-grandfather bought in 1917. Bradford’s brother Carl also lived on Beulah Avenue for most of his life, until he passed away in 2001.
Mr. Allgood worked for 45 years as a machinist at Keller Machine Company. His wife Polly worked at Athens Housing Authority for 21 years. They were both active in their church, The First Christian Church of Athens.
In 2008 I was fortunate to get to talk to Mr. Allgood, who was my neighbor, about his life and some of the changes he witnessed in our neighborhood over a span of nearly 90 years.
Marci White: Did you raise a lot of your own food back then, or buy it?
Bradford Allgood: My mother bought a lot of it. But we had a barn. We had horses, chickens, a pig pen; we had cows — not just one; we had five or six cows all the time. We raised chickens to gather the eggs. Had everything you’d have in the country. We always had a big garden. She spent a lot of time cooking – she had to, with so many of us. Mr. Daily owned that store that’s on the east side of Beulah. He ran a store out of his front porch. It was just a little old store, a general store. People used to walk there to get their groceries — they didn’t have to go to town.
MW: Did a lot of people in the neighborhood have livestock like your family did?
BA: Those who had the space did. Carolyn Reynolds’ family had a cow. My dad bought the big white house with the land going all the way to the last house on the street, and the land went almost down to the creek. Our family built the three smaller houses. ... My brother Carl is the one who built the stone house. He hauled the granite from Elberton.
Polly Allgood: Their family had the most animals of anyone because they had a lot of space. His dad also had a barn downtown for the livery business (it was located where Chick Piano is now), and the farm in Jackson County. It was 80 acres and he had some people who lived there ... It was 7 miles from here.
BA: Yeah, we used to visit them on the farm in a horse and buggy. We’d sit on the back side of the buggy.
MW: Do you remember when they outlawed farm animals in town?
BA: I think it was after the war. It had to be after the war, because we kept horses for people after the war. Of course we had a pony then.
PA: Nobody ever complained about us having a pony.
BA: Well, it was grandfathered in. There was nothing they could do about it. I didn’t want any more after he died; that was enough.
MW: Did you have hired help at your house?
BA: Yes, we always had someone. There was one old black man who was with us. His name was Frank Cooley and he stayed here at the house with Mama. He worked for her; he washed dishes and everything else. He lived in a room in our basement for a long time. Then he lived over on Lyndon Avenue. He was bad about drinking and that was the reason we finally had to let him go. My dad talked about taking him downtown to work at the barn, but he said, “Uh-unh, I’m staying here with Miss Neva.” He felt like one of the family.
There was Aunt Beely…when my mom needed help she’d call her and she would come. And she came to visit my mother when my mom got too old and couldn’t work. She’d come to visit. There was another man who was deaf and dumb. He couldn’t speak or hear but he was a good worker. He worked with my brother a lot and he helped to build the stone house.
MW: Did your family have a car when you were growing up?
BA: We had a car when I was a teenage boy. But there weren’t a lot of them; very few people had them. ... I remember going with my dad in a buggy to feed his livestock in town. My mother used to take me to the doctor in town on the streetcar. That’s the way we went to town, on the streetcar.
MW: Did you like riding the streetcar?
BA: Oh yeah, I enjoyed it. A lot of people used to ride ‘em on Sunday just to have something to do. When the streetcars weren’t in operation they were kept up where Georgia Power is on Boulevard. The streetcars used to go on Boulevard, then to Barber Street, then Prince and on around downtown. It used to go down the Dougherty Street hill and I remember it felt like I was going to fall over on the hill there, coming down. They went to Milledge Avenue and all the way to Five Points.
They did away with the streetcars a long time ago, I don’t know when. During the War they took the streetcar tracks for metal, to use for the military.
MW: Did people walk a lot more back then?
BA: Yeah, and roller skate. I used to skate to town all the time. I used to go up to the corner of Beulah and Boulevard where Carolyn Reynolds lives, sit on their steps and put on my skates. I’d skate up to Chase Street and all around Chase Street School.
I went to kindergarten on the corner of Nantahala and Chase where that plumbing place, Devore and Johnson, is now. There was a big building there that was a community building. Then I went to Chase Street Elementary when it opened; I think it was built in 1920 or 1921. I went to a high school that used to be right where the Captain D’s on Prince Avenue is now. It was the only high school in Athens and was for both boys and girls. The middle school was on Childs Street.
MW: Did you used to ride a horse much?
BA: Yeah, I had a horse all my life. I had my first pony when I was 7 years old. I would ride all around the neighborhood. I was the only one of my siblings to have a pony — my brother Carl said that was because I was the baby. But he never cared about it like I did. When he got older he got his own horse.
MW: What were the roads made out of?
BA: Dirt, except the main road out here, Boulevard. It was cement and later asphalt. There weren’t too many cobblestone streets around here, but those old cobblestones were rough. When I came back from the service they had paved some of the streets and when the bus hit it, it was so smooth — I couldn’t believe how smooth it was.
A few of us would meet here and go out riding on our horses. We’d probably ride for three hours, mostly on Sunday afternoon in the summertime. We’d go out Newton Bridge and out there on them dirt roads about as far as we wanted to go. I was just telling Polly how we went out there in the woods to rest the horses. One time this boy went to get back on his horse but the horse didn’t want him so he just started bucking. That boy had never ridden before, so I gave him my horse and rode that other horse back home.
There used to be a spring called Lyndon Spring. If you go down Barber Street where the chicken place is, it used to be on the left. The spring was about where the by-pass is now. They must have funneled that water into a branch down below it. It was a nice spring. There was a frame building where the spring was, a building for the spring, and there was a picnic ground. They talked at one time about making a park there but it never happened.
MW: Would people get their drinking water there?
BA: They could. They sold the water here in town for a long time. They’d have these big bottles and put them on wagons and go around selling the bottles to different offices.
There weren’t too many cobblestone streets around here, but those old cobblestones were rough. When I came back from the service they had paved some of the streets and when the bus hit it, it was so smooth — I couldn’t believe how smooth it was.
In the late 1920s, Bradford Allgood rode his pony through the Boulevard neighborhood. When he got older, he and his friends would venture out Newton Bridge Road, where they could find dirt roads for riding all day. Above, Allgood as a boy stands at 235 Beulah Avenue, where he was born. Behind him are the railroad tracks and beyond, the old ice and coal factory.
MW: Was the train here when you were a boy?
BA: Yes, I always remember it being here. I remember that ice plant was there and they used to put ice in the ice cars to ship it. During the summertime, especially. They’d work down there all night, making ice. There was a coal factory there, too.
MW: How did your family keep ice?
BA: We had a refrigerator with an ice box. There were wagons that would go around and sell you however much ice you wanted. And if we needed ice we could just go around to the factory to get some. We used to watch them make ice a lot. They had these big cans and a roller thing they’d fill with water and then they’d turn them over and let them set there until they froze. Then they’d run water over the can and ice would come out.
MW: How did it make the water turn to ice?
BA: I have no idea!
MW: You didn’t have air conditioning then, did you?
BA: No, the first air conditioning we had was at theaters. There were only three theaters in Athens. I went every weekend. The Strand Theater would have a cowboy movie and me and a couple other boys went every chance we got. It cost 10 cents; after the war it was 55 cents, which was still cheap.
Polly and I had a window A/C unit at first, and it was so good we got the central put in.
MW: Did you have electricity growing up?
BA: Yes, we always did. But we cooked on a wood stove. I bought my mother the first electric stove she had and my daddy said things never tasted as good as they did on a wood stove.
We heated with coal. We had a big coal heater here in the front room. It was hooked into the fireplace but I don’t remember ever using the fireplace. We heated with coal and cooked with wood. The wood stove also helped to heat the house. To get hot water we had to heat it on the stove and pour it into the bathtub. Finally we got an electric water heater.
MW: Was it a lot of work to take a bath?
BA: Yes, it was. We didn’t take baths that often but we had one on Saturday whether we needed it or not (laughing)! It wasn’t that big a deal … you could heat enough water. And usually in the summertime we didn’t need to heat water – we’d just fill the big washtub with cool water.
MW: How has the social life of the neighborhood changed?
BA: Back then it was everybody. People didn’t worry about crime much; you could leave your door open. There was no television to watch. People sat on their front porch. Kids played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can. There was more activity, really. We used to play ball up there where the church is now at the corner of Nantahala and Seminole. It used to be a big vacant field.
Of course we had our chores to do. Like at Christmastime we’d bring enough stove wood and coal so when Christmas came, we didn’t have to do it. We piled it on the back porch.
For kids today, they wouldn’t make it … you really had to work and they’re not used to it. You didn’t have a car to run around in all the time.
The neighborhood, we used to get together and go to my dad’s farm up there to have picnics and fish fries, barbecues. ... Anyone who wanted to go could come along. And we had square dancing. There were two houses at the farm and in one of them we had the dancing. I used to love to dance.
It was more easy-going then, I think. Everybody wasn’t in a rush.
Like I remember one time my brother Alvin was coming across Nantahala Avenue on his horse. He had eggs in his hand and the horse stumbled out there because there used to be some ruts in the road. He didn’t break an egg… things like that