Boy's Life . . .
Bill Breen reminisces about
Bill Breen remembers . . .
Seminary apartment complex between Kirk and Inman was instead the site of woods
and "the most beautiful little lake." . . . When
was unpaved and was a favorite spot of exploration for young boys with its
"caves" and the "best blackberry picking places." . . . When
a young Scotty Candler kept a horse in the backyard of his
South Candler Street
home (on S. Candler, presently the home of a City Commissioner). . . . When the
playground was all dust ≠(or mud if it rained) and had no grass.
Bill Breen, who was born in
1926 in one of the county's oldest houses, has lived most of the last
three-quarters of a century in
. He was the guest speaker at the May 2006
meeting of the Winnona Park Neighborhood Association. Breen was born and lived
his earliest years in his grandparents' home, the Fulton-Avary House on
. The house was built in 1868 by the James Avary family and purchased by the
family in 1888. It is now the home of Breen's uncle, Tom Fulton Jr.
At one time, there was a
small lake on the property, said Breen, but it was drained by Avary after his
first wife died of malaria that he believed was contracted from the pond.
At age six, young Billy's
family moved to a house on the southeast corner of Winnona and Avery, near his
present home on
. Then, in 1936, the family moved to
, where his mother, Henrietta Fulton Breen, operated a small nursery school for
more than 20 years, until about 1972, on the bottom floor. As an adult, Breen,
who grew up to be an architect and still has offices in
, designed an addition to the
He remembers his years at
Winnona Elementary as a combination of work and play, strict teachers and
"sweet, pretty" ones. The YMCA operated recreational programs at the
playground, which had no grass in those days; "it was all dust or mud,
depending on the weather." In eighth grade, he went to the high school
"which proved to be a good training ground for me... About 95 percent of
the students went on to college." When he wasn't attending school, Breen
and his friends were likely to be exploring the woods and "caves" and
creeks in the neighborhood. Avery, or Avary as it was originally known, was
paved with sidewalks, and it was quite a venture for young Billy to walk through
the woods (lots of mimosa trees) and across the creek from the Fulton-Avary
Shadowmoor Drive, which Breen
recalls as having no houses at the time, was "paved" with crushed
stones and oiled to keep the dust down between Columbia and Hilldale but
impassable to Inman. "On the far side of Shadowmoor were steep banks with
what we boys called caves that we played in and dug for miniť balls."
Summertime meant good blackberry picking in the bushes along Shadowmoor.
When young Bill and his
friends wanted to go camping, they didn't have to look beyond their
neighborhood. A favorite spot was the woods and lake where the Columbia Seminary
apartments now stand. The catch, Breens says, was that his mother made him call
up the president of the Columbia Seminary, a Dr. Richardson, and ask permission
to camp on the property.
A community club with pool
was located behind Avery and Winnona "next door to my current house,"
says Breen. "I would crawl out the window at the break of day and go
swimming... all the kids had chronic earaches all summer." The brick pool,
opened as the Decatur Athletic Club in 1913, was deteriorating even during his
childhood, says Breen, and was later demolished, though the remains of the old
tennis courts are now in his current backyard.
"Pinky" English, lived with his aunt and uncle in the Milledge house,
a large house off Kirk near Mimosa that was demolished later to make way for the
Candler Oaks development. Another classmate was Martha Feemster of Avery, whose
father owned a grocery and butcher shop on
where the Georgia Power substation is now. Martha later married Henry Hagee,
who owned the Decatur Floral Company greenhouses that stood where the Kirk
Crossing development is now.
was built from South Candler through to Avery, but the area further east was
woods on the south side and the greenhouse business on the north.
Scott Candler, former Decatur
City Commissioner and mayor, was also a classmate of Breen's. His yard at South
Candler ran all the way back to Avery and included a formal garden, servants'
quarters and a stable that housed young Scotty's pony. Breen remembers riding
the pony and falling off: "I've never liked horses since then."
Breen and his friends often
walked, as Winnona residents do today, to the businesses at
and South Candler. Back then, he said, there was a pharmacy, a garage, a hot
dog stand, a barber, plus a service station. Neighbors shopped for food at a
grocery store where Smith Hardware is now.
By the 1960s, when Bill and
Betty Breen were raising their own family of four children in the house on
, the South Candler/East College business area had two drugstores and the garage
As an adult, Bill Breen has
always been an active part of the
community. He was active in the Boy Scouts and served on the Decatur City
Commission. It was while serving as mayor of
during the era of racial desegregation that Breen fought and won a battle to
keep the city schools from being turned over to
Editor's note: Special thanks
to Randy Tyndall, Avery Street resident and Columbia Seminary staffer, for
videotaping the talk by Bill Breen.