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An interview with a neighbor: Andras Vinson

Andras Vinson reflects on 30 years of change

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Andras Vinson, 37, attended Tri-Cities High School in East Point and is a longtime employee of Barrow's Printing in downtown College Park. From the print shop's Main Street storefront, Vinson has watched the area change and grow for more than 20 years.

I've been at Barrow's Printing for 23 years. We do business cards, flyers, letterheads, envelopes, anything that's basically got to do with paper. I started workin' here when I was like 14 years old. I'd work part-time during school and then during the summers. It's really the only job I ever had. I don't even know what it's like to work for nobody else. But the family [who owns Barrow's] has been real good to me. They took me in. They had a room at [their] house for me to stay sometimes.

College Park used to be a little sleepy town, not that much activity like it is now. Now that they've got the Chinese food restaurant, the Pecan, and a lot of stuff around here, so there's a lot more traffic.

There's a Latino population right at the College Park/East Point borderline and they got Woodward [Academy] over there, but mostly it's a majority of the people who grew up around here still here. I know just about everybody. Well, I don't know the newcomers, but if you've been here for over five years, then I know you.

[Barrow's] and the hardware store and the dry cleaners are probably the oldest businesses on this strip. More than likely the dry cleaners has been here the longest. They've got little diagrams on the wall of how College Park used to look back in the day when they had the trolleys and all that coming through here. Just about everything else has been replaced with something else.

It's not so fast-paced, but it's picking up quite well and I love that they put that train station over there because it's very convenient. I seen it when they built it, I seen it when they finished it. Behind the train, where the grass is and all those mobile homes, all them used to be nothing but houses. They tore the houses down and, you know, they just started building. I knew just about everybody that lived over there. Those people either found them a new place to go or you found you your own place around here.

I think it's changed for the better, but we got a lot of people that walk around, homeless people. They came with the train station, and a lot of them come out of the projects back there.

Back in the '80s around here used to be real racist. When I was a kid, I remember riding my bike across the street and they chased us back. I never pedaled a bike so fast. They weren't in no pickup trucks, they was on foot running behind us. They was teenagers, we was like 6 or 7. We didn't go to the same school. We had two schools on this side, and I think they had a school down by the park.

I remember they had a Klan rally, like a parade, come right up Main Street. I remember all of that. They had the U.S. Army standing by and everything, making sure don't nothin' go wrong.

Down by where the Noodles is, there used to be a place called Po' Boys, and on the front of it, it had "No niggers allowed." I remember my mom taking us to that restaurant and she had to order from the outside.

But now I like pretty much everything, you know. I see myself living here for the long run. I'm not goin' nowhere. Born and raised. Stayed two blocks up from here, born on John Wesley. Now it's no houses up there whatsoever. When the airport came in 15-20 years ago, they just started buyin' up houses, but they never did nothin' with the property.

I'd like to see them upgrade this whole little strip. It's kind of antique right now. I guess they call it the historical College Park, but they need to do something with these buildings because they're a little ugly. When people ride by and they're new to town and they see these old, old buildings, they're really not going to stop.

We got a lot of leakage from when it rains. The city's been saying they're going to do a lot, but they haven't. They took a lot of the awnings down, but they haven't put 'em back up. So updating and making it modern would make it better. If they can make it look like Buckhead or even the Marketplace on Camp Creek right when you cross over 285 — it's like a whole new development — we'd have a lot more business.

If they can do that, then we'll be all right.

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