Atiyeh grew up at a home on 443 Holladay Street, and Atiyeh and his brothers attended the local Holladay School. The neighborhood, now known as Portland's Lloyd District, was just beginning to be bought up for development by Ralph Lloyd when Atiyeh was a child; in his oral history, Atiyeh recalls the vacant lots awaiting development where he and his friends would play.
As a student at Portland's Washington High School, Atiyeh was already an elected leader--the president of his senior class, a Hi-Y vice-president, vice president of the Order of "W," and secretary, editor, and sergeant-at-arms of the French club, along with a host of other extracurricular activities. As a result of this involvement, Atiyeh received his school's activity award, the Washington Cup.
When they were younger, all three of the Atiyeh brothers had newspaper routes, for which their father paid them each $5 every three weeks. Atiyeh delivered the News Telegram for a swath of Portland ranging from Burnside and Stark to Seventh and the Willamette River. He later moved into odd jobs for the family carpet business, as well as part-time work at Olds, Wortman and King department store in the Galleria.