|Atlanta Prison Farm history|
< on 8/18/2010 5:08 AM >
|The Atlanta Prison Farm is probably one of the more popular spots in town for exploring. |
I recently got to correspond with a nice older lady who worked at the farm from 1950-1956. She send me a long letter with a lot of her memories of the time. Since I'm sure a ton of photos have been posted of the prison, I'll only post the one above. Below is a rather long and minimally edited version of what she sent me. It's a bit different than the normal stuff you find here, but I'm just as interested as the past as the present for this site.
You could not get there from here now - It is mostly gone - A thing of the past. The City of Atlanta Prison and Farms. It was June, 1950, college graduates on the GI bill were flooding the job market - an ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution resulted in a job and the move to an apartment in East Atlanta until a new house on the prison grounds could be built for the new position of Assistant Superintendent and Deptartment Head.
Because of the abundance of labor - electricians, bricklayers, painters, etc. incarcerated, the 2 bedroom house was finished in a very short time. The kitchen cabinets were saved till my father, the carpenter, came down to do them per my specifications. was a very neat little house on a hill adjacent to the prison and notably overlooking the grave of Maude, a favorite Atlanta Zoo elephant.
The prison compound south of Atlanta on Key Rd consisted of over 300 acres of terraced farm and pasture land. The main building housed a peak of approximately 1000 prisoners. There was a large dairy barn, a canning plant, boiler room, old VD hospital, hog houses, Superintendents House, Dairy Foreman house and the new Assistant Superintendents House. Down the road on South Creek was a City Sewage Disposal Plant that produced gas and electricity that furnished power to run the prison.
All able-bodied prisoners worked: in the fields, on the streets, expanding the Atlanta airport, and in the kitchen. Meals for all Fulton County Prisoners were prepared at the farm and delivered three times a day to downtown jails. Atlanta and suburbs of apprx. 500,000 population was a clean city - Homeless, vagrants, prostitutes, [and] wineos were not allowed to just stay in the streets and doorways. They were picked up and sentenced to from 2 weeks to 6 weeks at the City Prison Farm. Many of them were found in a very different than now [version of] Underground Atlanta.
Upon arrival, prisoners were required to shower, shave and were issued clean uniforms, sheets, towels, haircuts and toiletries. A doctor came every morning and administered whatever was needed for the health of the prisoner. This could be anything from an aspirin to narcotics (I had this key) for DT's to de-fleeing, or scrubbing maggots from neglected dirty bodies. The "Paddy-Wagon" with prisoners ran three times everyday. Some starting their sentence and others leaving - having served their time usually with some "good-time" off. The recidivism rate was very high, however it was considered to be of some benefit just to sober them, feed them, get them off of whatever and keep them out of the weather. Punishment for breaking rules: A small cement windowless box, sometimes on bread and water for "X" many days as the law at that time allowed. This was a rare event -most felony charged were "bound over" to County, State or Federal Court. We did frequently have people who had served "hard time" for murder, etc in their past: e.g. Fannie P. , a black middle aged woman worked at my house ( Our second son was born during those years) She had in her past served an eight year sentence for murder when she was a young girl. It seems she and a friend were in Baxley, GA, (where Ed. coincidentally, had graduated high school,) during "tobacco season" when the warehouses were busy and everyone, including 'hired-hands', were being paid for the seasons work and all had cash money. They lured a man into an alley, hit him on the head took his money and caught a bus to Savannah. The man died They did the time. Later in life she was in and out of our prison. That was the story she related to me.
Dairy: The prison developed and maintained a large herd of dairy cows with all-modern of the times equipment. The Prison Superintendent, a Mr. H.H. G.. insisted on a purebred Jersey herd. Not the best quantity producing but good and the richest milk. Hundreds of gallons of milk was fed the main line every day. They also raised some calves for beef a very large white-faced Hereford bull was kept. Every day a prisoner was detailed to walk him at least five miles. I remember getting a call in the office one day from an East Atlanta residential area asking if we knew a prisoner had stolen our bull. He really hadn't - he just knew it was five miles to East Atlanta - so he walked the bull over there.
Canning Plant: Besides improved pastures and corn for the dairy and a large hog operation, several vegetables were produced on the farm. Yield was fantastic. Several ponds were built for irrigation so the vegetable crops were bountiful. An old rock building, built during the depression in the 30's either by the WPA or the CCC was the canning plant. It was equipped to can in gallon cans. Every season 10,000 gallons of five different vegetables was canned and lesser amounts of a few other items. Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Field Peas, and Collard Greens and the lesser amounts of Corn, Summer Squash, English Peas and other kinds that varied from year to year. All of this labor from preparing the fields with tractors, caterpillars and mules was done by the prisoners. Planting, weeding, irrigating, fertilizing, picking/harvesting and then on to the canning plant or to the kitchen for using fresh in season. The washing, shelling, peeling, etc was done by colored women in the canning plant and the cooking in the main kitchen. Several hogs were killed each week and cooked for the main line. In the kitchen was always huge pans rendering out pork rinds. A sure sign we all gained weight - you couldn't pass without a taste.
There was a "Guards" dinning room that operated 24/7 for the three work shifts. Needless to say it was a step-up menu wise, from the main line. Atlanta police, sheriffs dept., state patrol, and politicians all frequently came by at dinner time. Five or Six holidays during the year a big holiday meal was fed the main line. Bar-B-Que, Brunswick Stew, all kinds of vegetables, breads and desserts were cooked for days ahead. Guard Foremen Ellis and Tant who ran the kitchen would send word up to the office for me to come down and taste and see what the Brunswick Stew needed. There would be huge deep vats of this wonderful stew. As you may have guessed -we had a lot of "drop-ins" including the mayor and councilmen. After all part of their jobs were to be sure budgeted moneys were being used efficiently - so they were doing their jobs Oh! And when the Grand Jury paid a surprise visit -the menu was enhanced and a lot of white wash paint, fresh gravel walkways (well used by a detail of prisoners tramping on them the day before) and everything made clean and spic and span. Actually the prison was kept very clean at all times.
Commissary: a small store and barber shop was maintained for the prisoners and a Mr. P., also the backdoor guard, was in charge, He was not real popular with the prisoners so I suspect they thought he was overcharging them for everything. He did do a good job at the back entrance. It was a circular driveway with a covered unloading area circling a large gold fish pond. Landscaped with canna lilies and perennials, The gold fish evidently were old as they were the biggest I had ever or since seen. Adjacent to the entrance was an extensive rose garden Probably at least a half acre during the seasons some one would always have roses on my desk
My job at the prison was Secretary to the Supt and Asst. Supt. I was told to call Ed, Mr. Brannen always. I kept financial records and every month a report on numbers of prisoners, meals fed, days labor furnished other city departments, cost per day per prisoner, employee payroll ( checks were issued from Atlanta City Hall). I had to go downtown to City Hall to reproduce these reports then distribute and mail same. We did not have a mimeograph machine at the prison. I also kept inventory of operation material and supplies, One unpleasant incident occurred when one Guard Foreman's gas use records never balanced and over just a short period of time it amounted to a lot of gallons. These figures were in my reports and finally somebody noticed. Mr. G.. had a session with me and I proved my figures were correct and so he fired the employee. I hated that it resulted in a otherwise good employee having to leave.. Later as other similar things happened I knew it had been going on and never resolved as the Supt also was involved in even bigger infractions.
Even some 30 plus years later on a drive by visit -the prison not in use -I saw a very large herd of Angus beef cattle in the pasture and was told belonged to the city but not who benefited. Years later a city (or county) employee related part of his job was to continue maintaining some hogs - that due to regulations could not be sold or given away for food - may still continue today? Our house was being used for training Atlanta police. A wing had been added on for class rooms. There was a high fence around the prison compound and signs warning to keep out, but I risked it and parked at the house and went to the door. Classes were being held but a friendly desk woman. After explaining my interest [she] gave me a tour and the short history she knew about the house and prison. She seemed to enjoy the time-block of history I related.
The prison association stayed with us from time to time for years later. Visiting back in Atlanta on more than one occasion - off the street someone would rush up and hug or shake hands with "boss-man Mr Brannen" and living in South Georgia almost annually in the Fall "snow birds" would stop and sell us apples on their way to warmer Florida.
There are many, many more tales I remember -most that needed a well developed sense of humor. Although there was not a structured program for rehabilitation, I like to believe they were being afforded a clean, warm place to BE; fed and worked allowing them to feel , though incarcerated, contributing something thus earning a small sense of self-worth.
|Re: Atlanta Prison Farm history|
<Reply # 1 on 8/18/2010 10:14 PM >
|At first I thought,,"oh no, a wall of text.....", but upon actually reading it, I found it very interesting.|
Thanks for sharing it.
Keying up @ KJ4ZNR
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|Re: Atlanta Prison Farm history|
<Reply # 2 on 8/22/2010 7:07 PM >
|Great Write-up, Thanks for sharing it.|
The Prison far though way overdone was always a great place to go and shoot, I actually enjoy some of the Graffiti there.
Keying up at KJ4ZNR
Seattle (formerly ATL)
|Re: Atlanta Prison Farm history|
<Reply # 3 on 8/23/2010 5:39 PM >
|Great story! |
SPECTRE - Repariamus Urbes Occultas
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