"Growing up in this old urbanism – this old, wonderful neighborhood, with the grid blocks – that gave me, I think, the impetus and the foundation for the work I do today. My specialty is the new urbanism – traditional town planning… I meet people and I’ll talk about my beginnings in Grant Park and in every group, somebody will say, ‘Well, I grew up there, too!’"

Eve Yarbrough, current resident and member of the GPNA Historical Committee, interviews former resident, Paul Muldawer.

House & Neighborhood

Paul’s family lived at 148 Atlanta Avenue, at the corner of Atlanta Avenue and Greenfield Street. This was a few blocks west of the current boundaries of Grant Park, but it was considered Grant Park when he lived there. He was there from 1932 to 1947. His was a Jewish immigrant family. Both parents came from Russia. They landed in Philadelphia and then came to Atlanta. There were four children in Paul’s family, and although there was only one bathroom, they got along very well.

The house had a large back yard along Greenfield Street and during WW II, it was plowed up and turned into a Victory garden. They grew radishes, carrots, scallions, watermelons, beets and tomatoes. His parents paid $5,000 cash for the house in 1920. It was a diverse neighborhood. There were a lot of Jews, some Italians and some Greeks. Paralleling the corridor of Atlanta Avenue and Ormond, were predominately black neighborhoods. The Muldawers visited Paul’s mother’s family in Philadelphia and Paul said his dad liked their house in Atlanta, but he liked the neighbors in Philadelphia. The compactness and the high density of the row house lends itself to sociability, even though the houses on Atlanta Avenue were quite dense, there wasn’t as much sociability or interaction.

"We had sidewalks, front porches and there were fruit trees." Paul is almost certain that his house was designed by Leila Ross Wilburn, a famous female architect, who designed house plan books, and Paul thinks, a lot of the houses in Grant Park may have come from this plan book. She didn’t sign anything, but it’s an absolute match – the floor plan and the front. Paul says there’s a book out on her now. He says this woman was a marvelous residential architect. There were hardly any female architects back then and she made her living and her fame by plan books.

Occupations

Paul’s father went to work at Vick’s Delicatessen on Broad Street, downtown. He became a partner; and ultimately owned it, which lasted for fifty to fifty-five years. It was a family business. They all worked there, except for the younger sister, Marion. His uncle was a peddler who migrated to Atlanta and opened M & M Clothing store on Mitchell Street and became very successful. Living near the Muldawers were, Mr. Hamit and his sons who were railroad engineers; Harry Kruger, who later became assistant conductor of the Boston Pops and then conductor of the Columbus, GA symphony; Arthur Bartell, whose dad owned an army store downtown; Phillip Sunshine, who owned Sunshine’s Department Store; The Cerniglias owned Tommy Toe Tomato Products. The Cerniglias were extremely wealthy and had incredible fruit trees, a swimming pool and peacocks in the back yard; Mr. Teplis had a poolroom downtown near Five Points. His son, Paul is a retired physician. The other son, Nathan Teplis was at the opening of Gone With the Wind, when he was a teenager. And when they had the cameras on Clark Gabel, Nathan dashed up and shook hands with Mr. Gabel, which was all captured in movies. Nathan later became a respected and outstanding bookie, and moved to Las Vegas, where booking is legal. Evidently Frank Sinatra and some of that gang were his clients and he made a lot of money, came back to Atlanta, married a beautiful British woman and became respectable and opened a travel agency, which started out doing junkets to Las Vegas. Teplis Travel Agency is now the largest privately owned travel agency in Atlanta. The Bregmans lived up the street. Petty Bregman married an Orkin daughter and for a while, was vice president of that company and later, became a developer. Larry Bregman became a very successful doctor.

Synagogue & School

Paul’s family’s synagogue was a house, converted into small synagogue on Capital Avenue. He went to Sunday school at the Shearith Israel Synagogue on Washington Street, which was a two or three mile walk. He says that growing up in this kind of neighborhood, they had freedom to walk or ride their bicycles, wherever they wanted to go without fear of anything. He walked to James L. Key Elementary School, at Ormond Street and Capital Avenue. He remembers Mrs. Ludie P. Head, who was a kind of skinny, bitchy teacher and Ms. Mobley who was a sports teacher – a big woman. When they played dodge ball, she would throw the ball so hard she would “just knock the s - - t out of everybody” and they loved it. Ms. Lefkoff was another teacher. Paul went to Hoke Smith Jr. High School – walked there, liked everybody.


Recreation

On Atlanta Avenue, they played on the street. On the next street down from Greenfield, a little street without traffic, they played football, baseball, softball, on asphalt. Once a year, on Hill Street, there was the soapbox derby, which Paul and his friends would attend, but never participated in. They played in the woods, probably south of Atlanta Avenue. They played sports every day, without organization. Paul says it was such a rich life. He had freedom of movement. They walked, rode bicycles and caught the streetcar. There were places to play.

Shopping

Paul doesn’t remember shopping in the neighborhood except Lefkoff’s Pharmacy, which had a drinking fountain, and which was diagonally across from James L. Key School. Next to that was the candy store. And then up Georgia at Capital Avenue, was the library, which they walked to and loved. At the Empire Theater, in the same complex, they went to the movies on Saturdays, which cost a dime. They bought little candies that stuck to your teeth, but that lasted a long time. It was a whole shopping complex.

Grant Park

In the summer, Paul and his sisters walked to Grant Park on a regular basis, which was about a mile. He remembers swimming in the big old swimming pool there. And later, when they emptied the pool, it got filled with trash and was just disgusting. Paul said it was very upsetting to see that pool empty. They played at Fort Walker, on the cannons. And there was a picnic pavilion, which he thinks had been a skating rink before. He doesn’t remember if it was square or oval but, there were some kind of organizational picnics there, and, especially during the war, they had dancing and they had jitterbug contests there. He remembers the paths and the swings like yesterday. He remembers the cyclorama and the zoo -- and can still smell the elephants and some disgusting animal cages, but he found it interesting for that time. According to Paul, Grant Park was the place to visit, occasionally, and the place to play was the streets.


Heat & Refrigeration

At first, they had a coal furnace. The coal was delivered, and Paul remembers shoveling coal every night and every morning. Then, they graduated to a stoker, which would be filled it up every other day or so. They didn’t have enough hot water, for some reason, and before a bath in the one bathroom; Paul’s mother would heat water in a kettle for a hot bath. They had a refrigerator.

Doctor

They were pretty healthy, but their family doctor was Dr. Roberts. Paul thinks he had an office on Ponce de Leon, but he made house calls. Paul says all the Jewish families went to Dr. Roberts. He was professional and meticulous. You had to have clean towels in the house when he came in. And, of course, he delivered Paul’s sister, Marion, in the house. They worshipped Dr. Roberts.

Reflecting Back

Paul concludes with “Growing up in this old urbanism – this old, wonderful neighborhood, with the grid blocks – that gave me, I think, the impetus and the foundation for the work I do today. My specialty is the new urbanism – traditional town planning… I meet people and I’ll talk about my beginnings in Grant Park and in every group, somebody will say, ‘Well, I grew up there, too!’ Or sometimes, maybe West End, a community like that, and there’s a lot of support for going back to these values. One other thing, of course, it was a very innocent time, before WW II. There were family values. That was just very solid community values and then during the war, this patriotism. And, again, it was a rich, wholesome, wonderful life. I don’t remember much crime. Off the record, the worst crime was white kids perpetuating crime against black kids – a lot of rock throwing and a lot of harassment during Halloween and a lot of that sort of thing. In my dad’s store, there was a lot of pilferage and some alcoholism. In fact, I don’t remember any family disturbances. I don’t remember any crime in our neighborhood. In fact, I hardly ever remember seeing any police.”