July 19, 2009

Growing up in Newnan


There used to be this little place to eat here in Newnan that never changed. They had the same waitresses and same menu for the entire time they existed. I never saw a written menu, they would just walk up to your table and stare blankly as they recited what they had, which never changed... "We got steak, stewed beef, fried chicken, barbecue.." The people that worked there were nice and the place was a mess. We went there every now and again, I always got the same thing.. A large steak plate, sweet tea, and peach cobbler for dessert.. The brunswick stew and barbecue was pretty good too.

Whether they simply decided not to open up one day or were forced to close down by the health department I don't know.. neither would surprise me. We went there quite a bit when I was young. Like most places in town that we went to my parents would always run into someone they knew and spend a few minutes talking to them. Right after Julie and I were married we went there on Saturdays and enjoyed the food. I always got a kick out of the people that worked there. When you paid for the meal you stood next to the kitchen, which was a step or two down from the main floor. Like the waitresses, the kitchen staff never changed... The same older black women worked there for as long as I can remember, the one with the big smile and the red bandanna always said hello and asked about my parents every time I saw her.

We drove over there one Saturday to get some lunch and it was closed... A few days later some one told us they were out of business. I miss it because of the unchanging nature of the place, and they actually cooked the vegetables.. Regardless of what I'm told about the benefits of crunchy vegetables.. I like mine cooked for a long time.

Before we had any children, there was a little place within a mile of us that we would eat at called Bo's.. The place was open late so we would leave our house at odd hours and go there to get rid of the munchies, there was just nothing better at two a.m. than a Bo's steak burger with mushrooms... They closed down as well.. Every now and again I still drop by Wishbone fried chicken in town and get a box of tri-taters and sit out on the "party deck" to eat them. Wishbone and Dairy Queen are the only two places still in town from my childhood.

When we were little we would occasionally go with my mother to pick up dinner... I still recall those rides in that old station wagon. This was before you had to wear seat belts and spent the time in the car jumping from the middle seat over to the back seat that was revealed when you flipped up the floor of the storage area.. Or you would ride on the tailgate... could you imagine the calls to 911 if you road all over town with a bunch of kids sitting on a lowered tailgate these days? We would go to KFC and stare out of the back window at the huge bucket on top of the sign, imagining it full of enormous pieces of chicken... Or we would sit at the wooden picnic tables at Perry's burger basket on Temple Ave while mom got the burgers and fries, or we would watch the guy stoking the fire at Duncans barbecue at the intersection of Roscoe road and Jackson street... But I always hated to hear the dread words, "Honey.. go me a plenty burger" come from my dad... That meant a trip to the dairy bar.. I never liked the dairy bar... The onion rings were ok, but I never felt too good after a meal from there...

These places come and go... Much like everything in life. I think about how much fun it would be for me to take my kids to Kessler's to the toy department upstairs, or to try on new clothes at Temple Ave department store, or to the Alamo theater to see a movie.. I think that's part of the reason I enjoy taking the kids to Scott's bookstore on the square... Because I went there with my mother and as a kid, I always enjoyed it... Or why I like to just walk into Morgan's jewelers to look around for a bit. You simply can't beat small businesses like these for customer service.. Man.. I wish Dr. Natt was still around...

These days we meet every Saturday morning at the redneck gourmet for breakfast... This morning I was standing out front of the place looking around the square after we ate. I thought back to when I was James age and would have been irritating my dad to head over to the pawnshop, or jumping up and down at moms feet letting her know that I would surely die if we didn't hurry up and get over to Kessler's to see the toys...

Hell, we weren't much older than James back when mom would dump us out on the court square on Saturday morning and yell out of the car window that we had better be right there when the courthouse clock struck a certain time... I shudder at the thought of doing that now..

People and places drift in and out of our lives, recalled when we smell freshly mowed grass, or hear a certain laughter.. Some things you miss, some things you're glad to be rid of..

You look at your kids and think about the things they see and do.. I wonder to myself what aspects of their lives at this point that are they going to remember.. Are they going to carry anything with them the way I have... The things that are so incredibly important to me in my life and memory, they will never know. That makes me sad at times, but it also fills me with an excitement about seeing and hearing from them about the things they recall when they get older..

I was sitting on the tailgate of the kawasaki mule this evening watching James and his cousin digging in the dirt with shovels and said to Julie, as an older James, "We had this huge pile of dirt that was under these gigantic trees that we used to play in with our toys..." I flashed on the enormous slide that was at Elm street elementary school when I was in the first grade.. The one I was afraid to go down because it was like 40 forty feet high & had a hump in the middle so that you would surely be thrown off if you went over it too fast... The last time I was at that playground I marveled that the very same double slide I was so frightened of then... only comes up to my chin....

Friday night football games at Drake stadium, the lunch counter at Lee Kings, the army surplus stuff at the pawn shop, banana splits from dairy queen, the old guys playing checkers at the courthouse, the go carts in the window at Johnson's hardware, red "suckers" from Dr. Natts office, the Christmas lights strung from the top of the court house down to each corner of the square, fourth of July parades, laying coins on the train tracks at the old depot, peeking through the windows at brown steel, Earline Scott asking what book you wanted, swimming at the Elks club, playing basketball and watching church softball at the rec department, playing hide & seek & chasing lightning bugs through the neighborhood...

These were all good things...

7 comments:

Denise Boone said...

Hey, I know this place! Melears. I ate there my entire life. I started off sitting on table in my carseat then sat in the same booster seats they had when they closed. I have so many good memories of that place. When I had Ethan I ate there every day for lunch till I went back to work. I miss it! I also miss going anywhere in Newnan and not seeing folks I know.

John Pender said...

Your walks down Memory Lane never cease to amaze me.

wendy said...

I lived in places like that.. for about two seconds each. Yet, I know exactly what you are talking about. Amazing, isn't it, that a gypsy the likes of me knows the places and things you are referring to. I do believe it was the times; the people; us... we were just plain different back then. The whole lot of us. Shame about progress, huh?

oh, to be 7 years old in the back of a pick up truck on a dirt road...the further back you sit, the higher you come off the bed when your dad hits a pothole...

better hang on.

Just me... said...

Although she will have her own special memories, I regret that riding her bike alone through town at age 8 and riding on the tailgate down dirt roads won't be one that she has.. :)

Junebug said...

I agree with John Pender about walking with you down memory lane.
I remember eating at that restaraunt when we came for a visit.I asked about a menu and you said it was in the waitresses head.That was a very good meal.
Every now and then when I get to Chicago I like to visit what were my old haunts and alas they are all gone.The memories are fresh in my brain.
It's nice to go back and visit every now and then!

Eve said...

I loved growing up in Newnan. I'm glad that downtown is still the heart of my youthful memories- like the Carnegie Library when it was still a library.

C.S. Perry said...

I sudder when I try to imagine what memories my son will have of his little life at this time.
But I'll do my best to make sure that he has some good ones.
Man, I'd love to eat at Melear's right now.