An Interview with Charles Mayes Hamby, Mayor of Smyrna, 1942-44, conduced by Mary Rodgers , a Campbell High School Student in 1975
Transcribed and Edited by Bill Marchione, 2019
Mary Rodgers: Where did you live in Cobb County?
Mays Hamby: We lived on Love Street, corner of Concord Road in the old house that was torn down last year.
MR: When was the house built?
MH: About 1909.
MR: When did you first live there?
MH: I was about 15 or 16 years old when we moved there.
MR: What was your job before you retired?
MH: I worked for the L&N Railroad.
MR: What was your very first job? Did you work in a store or anything like that?
MH: My very first job was at Norris Candy Company down on Peachtree Street. I was making 25 cents an hour.
A circa 1925 ad for Norris Candies, the Atlanta firm where Mayes Hamby held his first job for 25 cents an hour
MR: What were some of the things that teenagers did for entertainment in your youth?
MH: We’d just get out in the woods and ramble around and play. We didn’t have the recreational facilities that we have now. In fact, Cobb County didn’t have any.
MR: How did the Great Depression influence the area?
MH: Oh, tremendously. My dad said that about 75 percent of the people were without work. The population mostly consisted of farmers. In the cities, Marietta and Smyrna, we had quite a few who worked in Atlanta.
MR: Where did you go to school?
MH: The old Smyrna Elementary School.
The Old Smyrna Academy building where Mayes Hamby attended school. After 1919 this ancient building, dating from the 1850s, accommodated both lower grades and Smyrna High School. It stood on the south side of West Spring Street, in what is now Market Village.
MR: Where was that located?
MH: It was located at the end of Spring Street where the post office that was recently vacated stood, on that site.
MR: Was it a one-room schoolhouse? Were all the grades in one room?
MH: Oh no. It was a two-story building and it went through the ninth grade. That’s as far as the school went to my knowledge. The only high school in Cobb County was Marietta High School. People who could afford it send their children there, and they would pay tuition, would send their children there to graduate from high school. There was another school, an A & M, the Macland School, that was run by the state, and there were a few that graduated from there.
The Macland A&M (Agriculural & Mechanical) School, located in Powder Springs
MR: What were some of the differences between kids now and then?
MH: That’s a hard question because kids will always be kids. It’s hard to compare. The kids these days —not all of them, but a lot of them, seem to get their kicks out of things we never dreamed of. Children are mischievous. I think that the great majority are basically the same.
MR: Where did you go to church?
MH: The first Baptist Church here in Smyrna. That was the only Baptist Church in Smyrna. It was located where the Second Baptist Church is now. And sometimes I went to the Methodist Church.The Smyrna Baptist Church, dating from 1886, stood at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Road.
MR: Can you describe the church?
MH: It was only a one-room structure, with a sanctuary and a Sunday School and we’d just get around in various corners in various groups for Sunday School classes. But what the enrollment was I don’t know. I’d say 1200 to 1500 people lived in Smyrna then.
MR: How did World War I and World War II influence Smyrna?
MH: World War II especially made a great impact on Smyrna. It helped our economy a great deal and led to some real growth. Now World War I didn’t have much of an impact. We were aware that it was going on and a lot of the young boys from Smyrna had to go to war. That was the biggest impact it had, on the young people who had to go and fight.
The following photographs dramatically illustrate the impact that the coming of the Bell Bomber Plant had upon the landscape of Cobb County.
The site of the Bell Bomber Plant when it was still a cotton field
The completed Bell Bomber complex, 1942-43
MR: Did you ever go to Kennesaw Mountain? If so, how did you get up there?
MH: We used the old roadway that went up on it. The first I can remember of it was that we used to go up and gather chestnuts up there. It wasn’t the tourist attraction that it is now. I remember driving up myself with another boy when we were teenagers on the old, rutted washed-out roadway in a Model T Ford on a Sunday. It was quite an experience, but we made it.
MR: Did you ever go out to the Covered Bridge?
MH: Oh, yes. That was quite an attraction around here. We didn’t have any parks or places to go to picnic and that used to be one of the main places that various groups and Sunday school classes would go to. They used to operate the old mill back then and the beautiful mill pond with a race coming across Concord Road to the old mill. I used to take corn down there in an ox cart to get it ground.
The Concord Covered Bridge
MR: Did you ever go down to Vinings?
MH: Now and then. But it’s still a small place. They used to have a pavilion down at Vinings. We used to walk down there and walk around to have something to do.
The old Vinings Pavilion
MR: Did you visit Marietta Square?
MH: Yes, we used to go to the Square. They had the first radio that I ever remember. I believe that Mr. Daniel put the radio there in the park to broadcast various attractions like the Dempsey-Jack Sharkey prize fight [fought in 1927]. Cobb County was very rural and you used to go to Marietta. The square would be lined up with wagons and buggies. We used to carry our cotton up there and sell it there in the square. And you’d have a string of wagons come in right there where the Dallas Road comes into the square. That was about the only paved street there on Dixie Avenue to Marietta and around the square. All the highways from Chattanooga to Atlanta were all dirt roadways back then.
The Dempsey-Sharkey Fight, July 21, 1927
MR: Did you go to the stores in Marietta?
MH: No, we went to stores here in Smyrna. There were several stores here. John Petty ran a store here and Bud Whitfield. Then later on there were others who put up stores. When we first moved to Smyrna there were only those two grocery stores. They weren’t supermarkets either; just little country stores.
J. F. Petty Store and Warehouse at the corner of Atlanta Road and East Spring Street in downtown Smyrna
MR: What did people in Smyrna do for a living? Were they mostly farmers?
MH: Mostly farmers.
MR: Do you remember G.B.’s?
MH: Yes, I read an article about it in last night’s paper. It wasn’t the oldest building standing in the downtown section. My first recollection was that a man named Cheney ran a restaurant there. It almost always used to be a restaurant. A lot of railroad men ate there. For a period of time though it was the Smyrna post office. We used to go down (teenagers would) and meet the afternoon train, which came through about six o’clock bringing the mail, and get the mail from sweethearts and friends.
G.B.’s Place, adjacent to the Tracks, corner of East Spring and Roswell Streets, opened in 1937. The name Williams Park derives from the owner/ operator of this popular eatery, G. B. Williams
MR: You know that big green building beside the railroad tracks. Did that used to be the train station?
MH: We had a depot directly across the street from G.B.’s. They tore it down 15 to 20 years ago. If you go out Spring Road and after you pass Emory Parish’s house, you’ll see a sign that came down off that depot. It was a shame that they tore that old depot down.
MR: Do you remember anything about Aunt Fanny’s Cabin?
MH: It wasn’t always Aunt Fanny’s Cabin. Back then there was an old Negro woman that worked for Neil McKenna’s grandfather. And about 30 years ago, they opened a restaurant there and called it Aunt Fanny’s Cabin.
MR: Do you remember when the first automobiles came to Smyrna and whether they disturbed the horses?
MH: When we first moved to Smyrna my knowledge there was only one automobile in the town and that was owned by a fellow named Johnson who lived out by the Shell filling station diagonally across Concord Road from the current location of the Dickson shopping Center. And we used to hear him when he cranked that thing up. We’d take off out to the street to watch him come by.
MR: What kind of a car was it?
MH: A Baby Maxwell. It was a great attraction in the neighborhood.
MR: Did he have a lot of trouble with horses?
MH: Not a lot. Once in awhile there’d be horses that would get scared, but I don’t know of any that got scared by him. Once in awhile when someone would come through a horse would get scared and run away.
MR: When did you get your first car; your first family-owned vehicle?
A 1922 Model T Ford
MH: My first one was about 1925. It was a second hand 1922 Model T Ford. My dad never did own a car until later years. He bought one for my half brother who was quite a few years younger than I was and that was our family car. There were quite a few others in Smyrna by then.
MR: How fast could your car go?
MH: Well, you couldn’t go fast. They were all dirt roads. Back then the only road we had to go to Atlanta was 41, what was called the Dixie Highway. That was the only way you had to get to Atlanta unless you went over by way of Cooper Lake and went via Bankhead. In the late 1930s they built what we called the For Lane Highway [Cobb Parkway] which is now 41.
MR: Did you ever use the trolley cars?
MH: You bet I did! I wish we still had them. That was one of the best rapid transit systems that I know of. There was a streetcar that left Atlanta on the hour and one that left Marietta on the hour. If you were going to Marietta you could get it at a quarter till. If you were going to Atlanta it would be a quarter after. And during the early mornings and late in the evenings they would put on additional cars. It was a forty-five minute schedule from Smyrna to Atlanta.
The last streetcar to operate on the Atlanta to Marietta Streetcar Line, 1947
MR: Where were the tracks located?
MH: They paralleled Atlanta Road until they got up to where Spring Street and Love Street intersect [now Concord and Spring] Atlanta Road and occupied the middle of the street from that point south to Atlanta.
MR: Where was the business center of Smyrna located at that time?
MH: The business section extended from Spring Street—Dr. Pace used to have a drug store at the corner of Atlanta Road and Spring Street and then Mr. Petty had a store right next to it. They were the only stores south of Spring Street. And then the residential section began. We used to have a hotel where the Smyrna Bank stands now. Down where the sub-station stands there was a store directly across Atlanta Road, and that was the extent of the business district.
MR: How did the town celebrate the Fourth of July?
MH: Shooting fire crackers. And we always had a good baseball team back in the old days. Almost all the towns had good baseball teams. We’d usually have a double-header on the fourth of July and the whole town would turn out. Every Saturday afternoon they’d play ball and the stores would close up. Everybody would go to the ball game.
MR: Did you eat watermelons?
MH: Yes, watermelons that we grew ourselves.
MR: How was hair worn differently back then?
MH: Well, the boys wouldn’t wear their hair long like they do now. Mostly they had pompadours. They grow it long and then combed it straight back, but not long hanging down. But fads changed from time to time. I’ve been hoping that the latest fad would change, but it’s been holding on for a long time.
MR: What was the place of women in Cobb County when you were growing up? Did any women have jobs? Were women out in business or did they mostly stay home?
MH: They mostly stayed home. There were a few that worked, but most of them stayed home and raised their children rather than turn them loose. I have always felt that while a lot of women by necessity work, that when a man and a woman get married they shouldn’t do so until they want homes and that the home without the mother in it is no home at all. That’s one of the things (women working) that causes a lot of divorces.
MR: How old were you when you got married?
MH: I was 22.
MR: Did you have a big wedding?
The Methodist Parsonage, adjacent to the old Methodist Church
MH: No, we got married in the Methodist Parsonage, next to the old Methodist Church.
MR: Did you ever ride on the train to Chattanooga or anyplace?
MH: Yes, my dad worked for the railroad and he used to take me with him on occasion. Not too often, but once in awhile he’d take me to Chattanooga. I remember one day on my way to Sunday school his train was standing on the side track heading down to Atlanta and I wanted him to let me go up in the caboose and go with him down to Atlanta and he let me. Parents gave in to their kids back then too!
The Dixie Cloud or Dixie Limited Train in 1946
MR: Did the train stop along the way to pick up passengers?
MH: The Dixie Cloud was one of them that did not make any stops running from Chattanooga to Atlanta, except Marietta, and there were one or two other flag stops, but they also ran local trains. There was one that went up in the morning and one went south in the morning and one went north in the afternoon, and one went south in the afternoon. They stopped at all the stations and picked up passengers. After we got married I worked for the railroad and got passes. My wife and I would go down to Atlanta on paydays. We’d go down in the morning and then in the afternoon we’d catch the northbound train and return, and thus save ourselves the 25 cents carfare. It started at 25 cents and later ran up to 35 cents.