It’s where my family went for school supplies, groceries, medicine and books for most of our youth. The strip shopping center is still there, of course, but it is more widely known by its proper name, the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center.
I don’t know where the term “The Hole” came from. A few people have said it dates back to a photo in the Peachtree Battle Barber Shop which shows Fred’s Fruit Emporium on Peachtree Road across the street from E. Rivers Elementary School. Fred’s was a one-story ramshackle building adorned with advertising, selling fresh fruit from a glorified roadside stand.
From what I have been told, behind Fred’s was what many believed was a hole in the ground covered in weeds and kudzu. Homes lined Peachtree Road all the way out to Buckhead except in this spot, where the drop-off from the road and the floodplain in relation to Peachtree Creek made building unfeasible, if not impossible. The Peachtree Hills community wrapped around it.
As it happens a developer found a way. Driving across Peachtree Road from Peachtree Battle Avenue, you went down the small hill into a strip shopping center with the A&P grocery store, which was about where the Ace Hardware is now; Kings Drugstore, which is now Rite-Aid; and the iconic and never-to-be-replicated Oxford Bookstore in the corner, the single greatest bookstore ever conceived. I trace my great love of literature back to spending countless hours in Oxford, lying on the floor flipping through books as a child.
Many of the businesses that were there in the late 1970s remain. Jalisco’s still has an hour wait for the best cheese dip this side of the Rio Grande, the Baskin-Robbins is still the place for an ice cream cake and Wayne King and the old Peachtree Battle Barber Shop still offer a great haircut in a place completely trapped in time, right down to the old television set in the corner.
When we were little, Kings had the toy selection to end all toy selections. While our mother Mary Kennedy was over buying who knows what, we were all looking for new items and pining for the G.I. Joe tank we’d had our eyes on for weeks. It also had all our back-to-school supplies, from notebooks and Trapper Keepers to No. 2 pencils and plastic notecard containers.
More importantly Kings was currency-free. When we were old enough to ride our bikes to The Hole, we didn’t need money. We simple grabbed a Coke and a candy bar, walked up the register, told the clerk our last name and left.
The Hole seems to have survived the passage of time just fine. It has been remade several times over, the soon-to-be Publix moved into the corner. Turtles Records and Tapes and Blockbuster came and went. Parking spaces are always at a premium and the stores and the clientele have moved to higher brackets in terms of incomes and wares, which is a good thing.
I don’t imagine the owners would appreciate their prime shopping destination being known as “The Hole.”
But it is and always will be, as far as I’m concerned.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at email@example.com.