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  • Writer's pictureLeah Dawkins

Growing Up Doraville

Well, the truth is I grew up Chamblee. Georgia that is. I went to school in Doraville. My house was situated on the side of Chamblee-Tucker Road that was allowed to attend Doraville schools. I’m so glad. At the time, it made no difference. I went to school where I was told to go and did what I was supposed to, for the most part. I was a good kid.

I had no idea how special my childhood was until I was trying to find the perfect spot to raise my own children. I was looking for my own childhood neighborhood, schools, church, and softball fields. I was looking for Doraville.

Our neighborhood had two ways in and two ways out, nobody came into the neighborhood that did not need to be there, so the neighborhood kids had free rein over the territory. We had a vacant lot we called “Brown Beauty” where we had tomato wars and rode our bikes crazily down a hill, shooting out the end and barreling into the street. We cut through Brown Beauty to the other side of the neighborhood, and we picked blackberries so Mrs. Bolin could make us cobbler.

Summer evenings were the best. After a day spent at the creek catching crawdads, we would have dinner with the family. After clean-up, we would head back outside for a game of softball in the cul-de-sac while the mom’s pulled out the Raggedy Ann table and set up for a game of Hearts under the streetlight. The men in a swing under the magnolia tree or at home watching TV.

Twice a year the neighborhood Garden Club would organize a block party. On Memorial Day we would have a pig roast and pig pickin’. I loved to play with the pig’s organs. Probably why I became a nurse, and it grossed out my friends. And on July 4th we would spend hours decorating our bikes with red, white, and blue streamers to race around the block in the parade of bikes. We would end up at Brown Beauty, where we would eat hot dogs and gorge on potato salad.

When we were not in the neighborhood, we were at the town pool. We would get dropped off in the morning and picked up in the late afternoon. The Doraville library was across the street and I loved to dry off and go get lost amongst the shelves. Something about the quiet and the smell of books was enchanting to me. And, when we all had enough money, we would walk down the to the sub shop and order a six-inch sub, scarfing it down as the tang from the oil and vinegar hit our tongues. Then it was back to the pool and playing Marco Polo, shark, and spider with our friends.

I now know I was blessed to have parents who remained married, who cultivated neighborhood friendships, and who treated all the neighborhood kids like their own. I haven’t seen many of these neighbors for years, but when I do it is as if the years fall away and we are conversing and interacting the same way we did in our youth. I love them and we share a story that is unique to us. One that we have discovered, as adults, created amazing people.

Some of these amazing women have decided to showcase our town in a documentary, Made in Doraville. They have been working diligently to raise funds for filming with a stretch goal of $30,000. In honor of one of the finest PE teachers and the first African American teacher at our elementary school, the Chuck Singleton Fun Run and 5K race will be happening in Atlanta Assembly on Saturday, June 29 at 6:30. The race is at 7:30 and the movie is at 9:00.

I will be there, in a vendor booth, selling my books. And, my book, Home Cries the Soul, I have attempted the capture the same feelings, experiences, and places I so fondly remember “Growing Up Doraville.”

For more information on the fund-raiser, go to (20+) Chuck Singleton 5K/Night After Party | Facebook

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Jun 18

Leah, as a fellow member of your Ascot Court tribe, I am so touched by this post! I remembered most of the details you included and my memory is jogged by the ones I didn’t so thank you for filling in some holes. I remember a bizillion things about being at your house, but two I’ll mention - eating watermelon (with salt!) on your picnic table, and drawing illustrations in the dirt under your A-frame swing set as we sang America the Beautiful. What a funny thing to do as kids! Though it wasn’t glitzy in any way, we truly lived in a magical place, and I’m so glad I was a kid there when you were! Love from GA…

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