Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Would You Mind Sharing a Table?"

It was Saturday, July 12th, the final day of The Smoke on the Mountain barbecue competition in Galax and time for lunch. There was a line at the Smokehouse, but it was barbecue, so we waited. Soon we were asked, “We have a table for four. Would you mind sharing it with another couple?” We quickly accepted the opportunity to meet some other barbecue people.

Accepting that invitation led to an extended discussion about the barbecue competition with Don and Joyce Fulks of Mount Airy, NC. Conversations about various locations for jam sessions, Paula Deen’s restaurant, and the current activities of each couple followed.

After going our separate ways to catch up on the progress of the competition, we re-joined the Fulks later that evening at the Blue Ridge Music Center for the reunion concert of Willard Gayheart and three of the groups with whom he had performed. We learned about some of the individual musicians that the Fulks knew.

In the course of these conversations, Don and Joyce invited us to their home in Mt. Airy, and today was the day we visited the hometown of the Fulks . . . and Andy Griffith. This town of 10,000 served as the inspiration for Mayberry. The Wanderers met up with Andy and Opie for a walk into town.

The town seems to have capitalized on the Mayberry theme with a half dozen stores on Main Street having "Mayberry" or "Opie" in their names. But the effect of this theme and the efforts of the businessmen to maintain the character of their stores have resulted in a thriving downtown. Personally, I believe it is Holcomb Hardware with its well-worn floors and essential inventory that anchors the downtown.

The Historic Downtown Cinema Theater is a beauty. On Saturdays it is the site of a 90-minute jam session beginning at 9:00 am. Then the WPAQ "Saturday Morning Merry-Go-Round" is broadcast, as it has been since 1948, from 11:00 - 1:30 pm, making it the third longest-running live music radio program in the country.

The Good Life Cafe and Market has maintained the character of the old store while bringing in a modern coffee house interior. Don recalled climbing up and down those ladders taking stock from the shelves of this store as part of his job in the store's earlier life.

At the Mayberry Soda Fountain, it seemed as though a request for any type of milk shake would be granted. Once again, the old merged effectively with the new.

Lunch at Snappy Lunch was a treat. We all ordered the pork chop sandwich "all the way," that is, a breaded (probably with an egg batter) pork chop with chili, slaw, tomato, mustard, and onion. It was a six-napkin sandwich. All the ingredients went together very well. I will have to order another because I devoured this first one so quickly that the taste memory was fleeting.

After our server leaned where we were from, she talked about traveling to Pennsylvania by motorcycle, current events in town, and some family anecdotes since Don knew some of her family. She had a bubbly personality and seemed genuinely inerested in the people she was serving. When she left our table, she said, "I could talk like y'all, but my jaw would be sore."
We enjoyed meeting and talking with the Fulks. They were gracious hosts, and we felt as though we had known them for years. Joyce was kind enough to send us back to our kitchen with one jar each of her strawberry preserves, homemade vegetable soup, apple butter, pickles, pickle relish, and chow chow.

As we drove away from the Fulks' beautiful home with the tranquil, well-landscaped backyard, we said in unison, "What a delightful/wonderful day."

All this enjoyment from saying, "Yes, we'll be happy to share a table."

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