My family moved to Alpharetta in 1983. At that time, my parents’ friends thought they were crazy to move “way out into the boonies!”
My elementary school, Northwestern Elementary School, opened its doors in September 1933, and it was a perfect small school in the country. I still have close friends from those days and many memories from that time. The class sizes were small, the food was delicious in the cafeteria, and the teachers, principals, secretaries and staff were like family.
You want to know how different things were in those days? Each year, before Thanksgiving, Northwestern Elementary would hold a turkey shoot, where you could win raffle prizes, such as a Butterball turkey. I remember my brother actually won a turkey! These turkey shoots featured real rifles, targets and ammunition.
In middle school, we were bused from Landrum Road, off of Freemanville Road, to Haynes Bridge Middle School. At that time, Haynes Bridge was a wooded two-lane road. North Point Mall? No. Shopping centers? Nope. Traffic jams? Nada. Trees and trees – yes!
On the nearly hour-long bus ride to and from school each day, we’d have imaginative conversations, and would discuss our theories about what was going down on “Devil Worship Road,” a little dirt road just east of Ga. 400.
What was there to do in Alpharetta during the 1980s and early 1990s? Not much, but it was a fantastic place to grow up. The town was small, the land was beautiful, and the people were kind and neighborly. It was an idyllic time to grow up in this area. As kids, we spent 99 percent of our waking hours outside. We played baseball. We built forts. We played make believe war games and explored the woods in the area. We walked everywhere, or rode our bikes to “Crabapple Corners” to meet Richard Petty. We camped out in a field or in the woods, and we told tall tales until dawn.
“Did you hear about Old Man Rucker?”
“I saw him walking down the middle of the road at 2 in the morning!”
“I heard he’s really a ghost.”
“Did you know there are secret tunnels and cities underneath this field?”
We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have tablets or any other variety of devices, but we had each other. We had nature, and we had a sense of adventure, community, and we had each other’s backs. There isn’t much goodness coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing I am noticing in my neighborhood, and with my children, is a simplification, and a return of sorts to my time growing up here during the 1980s.
Upon hearing of a neighbor struggling with making rent money because their personal training business is closed, another neighbor started paying the trainer for personal training sessions at home (from a distance of course). Another neighbor owns a restaurant downtown, so we’ve been ordering to-go from their restaurant.
Everywhere I look, I see children riding bikes, families on walks around the neighborhood, dogs leading humans on leashes for adventurous treks around the block, and parents playing sports with their children in the yard.
The past three days, my kids, and my neighbor’s kids, have spent at least four hours a day playing in and around a nearby creek. They are building bridges made of sticks and stones. They are creating fortresses. They are being creative in what they do, and they are building up worlds in their minds.
Witnessing this brings me back to the Alpharetta of old, and it is refreshing to see the simplistic joy in the children’s eyes.
Times are extremely tough right now, but if we all walk away with one gift after all is said and done, I hope it is a gratitude and appreciation for the simple things in life – family, friends, love, adventure, creativity, altruism and a sense of togetherness. In the end I think Alpharetta, Milton and north Fulton County is built on a foundation of these elements.
That is why this area will continue to thrive and grow. Hopefully, we grow in a way where we embrace the aforementioned elements, and we don’t lose sight of this solid foundation.