Fourth of July in Old Atlanta

Girl Scout CampsThe Fourth of July was all about sports in 1913 Atlanta. Despite a swelteringly humid heat in the 90s without any relief from air conditioning, citizens swarmed to outdoor spaces to run, swim, dance and play sports.
All the park and public spaces overflowed with Atlantans “on the move.” Most offices and stores closed for at least half a day but there were no parades or speeches scheduled and even those who stayed at home rushed out to their front lawns to wave flags, eat picnics and set off illegal fireworks with a “wink and a nod” from the city’s police force.


Most of the buildings in town were elaborately decorated with bunting and flags as were many pri-vate homes but few people were stayed there. The local parks, springs and private “resorts” were quickly filled. Those of Scottish descent gathered at the Burns Cottage for music, food, and a full schedule of races for all types. There was a race for tots under six and also “married ladies,” with egg and ladle races for older kids and even a “Smoker’s Race” which involved running a course while puff-ing on a pipe.


At Germania Park, the German-Americans met for music and dancing. African Americans filled the City Auditorium-Armory for the Black Music Festival. Everywhere there were barbecues and picnic hampers with a seemingly standard array of “literally melt in your mouth” fried chicken, “pie, cake, pick-les, sandwiches, deviled eggs — everything!” All made at home and carried in those overflowing bas-kets.


For more formal entertainment or participatory sports, there was the “Tango Evening” at the new Ansley Hotel and full schedules of performances at the theaters and vaudeville houses. Motorcycle races were popular at the brand new Motordrome and Piedmont Park was the site for a huge track and field meet featuring amateurs and semi-professional athletes. There was also a full schedule of swim-ming races in the lake with many women participants. Local golf courses were also filled with both men and women.


For many, there wouldn’t be a Fourth without baseball at the old Ponce de Leon Park. The Atlanta Crackers hosted the New Orleans Pelicans for a double header. Unfortunately, it was probably the worst double header of all time. The first game was interrupted by thunderstorms and finally declared a tie so the second game could start. That game also ended in a tie because of darkness.


-Dick Funderburke

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