Several weeks ago, I shared memories of summers at Jackson Lake. In that post, I mentioned Davis Grocery so this week I thought I would share a few more of my childhood memories from growing up on Macon Drive in Atlanta. I’d like to thank my Mama and sisters Jennifer and Bonita for sharing some of their memories as well.
Michael, Vanessa, and Jennifer standing in our front yard. The Davis home/grocery
store is in the background. If you look carefully, you can see the sign hanging from the front of the store.
The Davis family—Mrs. Davis, her adult daughter Elaine, and adult son Baxter—lived in the house to the right of ours. It wasn’t just a home though. It was also their business—Davis Grocery, a small mom and pop store serving the neighborhood.
Mrs. Davis will always be “Mrs. Davis” to me. Heck, I didn’t even know what her first name was until I started writing this post and did a little research. It turns out, her name was Lucretia. She was married to John A. Davis who died in 1950 so I never knew him. The grocery store was apparently the family business. Mrs. Davis’ father-in-law was John Assad Daihpess, born 1887 in Beyrouth, Syria and emigrated to the United States in 1906. He changed his last name to Davis during the naturalization process. When John Assad Davis filled out a Declaration of Intention form in Atlanta, he listed his occupation as proprietor, grocery and restaurant. In 1940, his son Ellis listed his employer as J. A. Davis and Son Grocery Store on his World War II registration card. Obviously, father and son were running the family business. At some point after their marriage, John A. and Lucretia Davis moved to 2407 Macon Drive and opened Davis Grocery. When we moved to 2405 Macon Drive in 1957 and became her neighbor. Mrs. Davis, now widowed, was running the store. At the time, it was just Mrs. Davis and Elaine living in the house. Eventually, Baxter moved in and the three of them ran the store together.
Ellis Davis' World War II registration card
I have no real first memory of Mrs. Davis, Elaine, Baxter, or the store. They were just always there. Mrs. Davis was short and stout. She always wore dresses (and I want to say a bibbed apron) and old lady lace up shoes. She was friendly but didn’t want kids hanging around—get what you want and go on home. But she was always kind to us. Mrs. Davis worked the store during the day, Baxter helped in the afternoons and weekends, and Elaine helped out at night and on weekends. Baxter worked for Atlanta Gas Light Company and Elaine worked at a bank in downtown Atlanta.
Michael, Vanessa, Jennifer, and me. You can see the Davis house in the background.
As you stood in front of the house, you looked at the store—a room with three aisles. Outside a sign hung down that read “Davis Grocery.” One side had a large window in front of the cash register. There was a large ice freezer on the other side, probably with another large window behind it. When you walked inside the store, the cash register sat on a counter to your left. The aisle that was behind the cash register contained cigarettes, penny candy, and canned goods. If you were smart, you would always be on the lookout for bottles along the side of the road to cash in and buy penny candy (that actually cost a penny). I remember how hard it was to decide which candy you wanted. Jennifer said she always loved the Tootsie Rolls. The middle aisle held bread, chips, and snacks. The aisle on the right side of the store contained a big red refrigerated Coca-Cola cooler, filled with drinks in the tall green, returnable bottles. I bought a lot of Cokes from that store over the years. Bonita remembers Cokes were five cents when we first moved to Macon Drive. Later they went up to six cents, then a dime. And you had to return an empty bottle or it cost more. Jennifer remembers the name of the city where the Coke was bottled in was stamped on the bottom of the bottle. Baxter let us guess the city for the bottle we pulled out of the cooler and if we guessed correctly, we didn’t have to pay for the Coke. If I remember correctly, there was a second freezer box filled with individual ice creams beside the Coke cooler. The back wall held the dairy product cooler.
They sold deli style lunchmeat but no other meat. I don’t remember it, but both Jennifer and Bonita remember Mrs. Davis having a deli slicer. She sold bologna, the kind wrapped in red plastic, and pickle loaf. You could buy as much or little as you wanted, even as little as 50 cents worth. Mrs. Davis sliced the meat then wrapped it up in paper for you to take home. Bonita said Mama would send her next door to buy bologna, telling her how many slices to buy. Mrs. Davis let Mama run a tab and pay at the end of the week when Daddy gave her grocery money. If you kept going down the aisle that held the candy, you ended up in their kitchen and then their living quarters. You could see and smell Mrs. Davis or Elaine cooking dinner in the kitchen late afternoons. There was a screened in porch on the front of the house, opposite the store. Mama worked retail and on nights she closed the store, she didn’t get home until 9:30 or 10 pm. Those nights, we knocked on the porch door and Mrs. Davis brought us a six pack of Cokes. It didn’t dawn on me until years later that drinking a Coke that late at night was probably why I had trouble falling asleep.
Me on the left and Jennifer on the right. The Davis home is in the background.
In March, Mrs. Davis always sold kites. Her house was located at the corner of Macon Drive, Old Hapeville Road, and Meadow Park Lane and had a large flat back yard. They kept Wiggles the dog chained to a dog house in the back yard. The left side of the yard on the Meadow Park Drive side was a hill. We bought our kites and then everyone gathered at the hill to see who could fly their kite the furthest. That hill was also the meeting place to watch the September fireworks. The Lakewood Fairgrounds were just over a mile from our house. Every fall, the Southeastern Fair rolled into town for at least a week, maybe two. They put on a firework show ever night while the fair was there that could be seen from the top of the hill. The entire neighborhood gathered on Meadow Park Drive to watch them every night. That was always a fun time of the year. Bonita remembers that Baxter used to run the Ferris wheel. She remembers one time being there with a friend and Baxter gave them an extra turn on the Ferris wheel. If you saw the Smokey and the Bandit movie, you would have seen the fairgrounds in the opening and closing scenes. In the second Smokey and the Bandit movie they blew up the old wooden roller coaster.
Elaine and Vanessa at Panama City Beach
It’s funny the random things you remember. Elaine gave Mama a bundt pan and a pair of gloves but not for Christmas or a birthday. She just gave them to her. We sometimes went to their church (Lakewood Baptist) with Mrs. Davis and Elaine on Sunday night. One summer, Elaine went to Panama City Beach, Florida with us. Mama, Jennifer, and Elaine went deep sea fishing and Jennifer and Elaine both got seasick. Jennifer locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn’t let anyone else in. Elaine ended up getting sick over the side of the boat. Elaine was with us when Bonita met her husband on the beach at Lake Spivey.
Me in the inner tube at Lake Spivey
We were always picking up discarded candy wrappers or other pieces trash from our yard. That’s about how long it took people walking home from the store to unwrap their purchase and throw the paper on the ground. Jennifer told me when she got a little older, Mrs. Davis taught her how to run the cash register. Once she learned how, Jennifer helped in the store. It wasn’t a job—she didn’t get paid. She just wanted to do it. Davis Grocery was our “go to” spot after school to get a Coke and a snack if we had any money. We used to wash Daddy’s car or give him a manicure to earn money. I’m sure all of that money was spent at Davis Grocery.
As we got older, we hung out in front of the store with our friends and talked to Baxter. He was a funny guy, a cut up, and very nice. He loved when kids came in. He’d pick on us and always made us laugh. I’m sure Mrs. Davis, Elaine, and Baxter all three kept an eye of all the neighborhood kids and they will always be part of my rocking chair memories.
- Atlanta, Georgia, City Directory, 1957.
- Baxter Davis, Fulton High School, Atlanta, Georgia, 1957, U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999.
- Ellis Davis, U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947.
- John A. Davis obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, October 27, 1950.
- John A. Davis Sr. obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, February 23, 1959.
- John Assed Daihpess, Georgia, Naturalization Records, 1893-1991.
- Lakewood Fairgrounds, Atlanta, Ga., Greg Thomas (photos846), Photobucket.com; https://s487.photobucket.com/user/photos846/media/Lakewood01.jpg.html.
- Lakewood Fairgrounds; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakewood_Fairgrounds.
- Personal memories of Denise Murphy, Fay Lankford, Jennifer Craine, and Bonita Streetman.
- Sara A. Barry obituary, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, August 5, 1955.
- U.S. Federal Census, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1940.