Honestly. All I wanted to do was get home.
I had been to Stone Mountain for the afternoon and somehow got spit out by the traffic pattern around the park to the wrong side of the mountain. I headed west on the Stone Mountain Freeway and then south on 285.
Apparently, according to the guys that fly the traffic copter, a tractor-trailer crash had turned the perimeter into a parking lot.
Right. What else is new?
Luckily for me, I was in my old stomping grounds. I coached at Clarkston High School for three years in a previous life and knew how to get around in that neck of the woods. I inched my way up toward East Ponce, jumped off the expressway and wound my way down Indian Creek to Memorial Drive.
Memorial Drive! Now that used to be the place to go if you lived out here in our neck of the woods. We're talking 25 or 30 years ago, of course, and it might have been that long since I had driven down that astute avenue.
It ain't the street you probably remember from Friday nights gone by.
I'm serious, y'all. Back before chain restaurants found their way to Newton and Rockdale counties, everybody and his brother - and sister - used to drive up to Memorial Drive to eat supper on the weekend.
Remember all the places?
Red Lobster was one of my favorites. The fried shrimp platter was my standard order. It came with a baked potato and coleslaw for $6.99. Sweet tea and a tip might push the total all the way up to nine dollars. Two could eat and you'd still get change back from a 20. Occasionally, I would splurge for the Mariner's Platter, which might have been $8.50. And the service was always quick and the servers friendly.
There was a Rio Vista a little further down, on the left. All-you-can-eat catfish and those skinny little hand-cut French fries. Hmmm, hmmm. You talk about good eatin'!
How many of you remember Jilly's? It was the place for ribs - with the emphasis on "the."
I loved Jilly's. The ribs were so good they'd make a puppy pull a freight train and the waitresses all looked like Marilyn Monroe. Dressed like her, too - with sort skirts and little white ruffled pantaloons. They had live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. I would have eaten there if the waitresses were ugly old hags in croaker sack dresses down to their ankles because the ribs were falling-off-the-bone good, the troubadours and the scantily-clad servers notwithstanding.
How 'bout the Old Hickory House, down on the Stone Mountain end of the strip? I have a confession to make. I was never partial to their barbecue, even though I ate there often with my future in-laws. They liked it and I wasn't about to voice my displeasure with any dining decisions they might make. I did get over that, by the way.
But the Hickory House served great breakfast - with great big cat-head biscuits and country ham that would bring tears to your eyes - and I ate there every Friday morning for years.
There was a Shakey's Pizza on Memorial Drive, too - this back before they would bring pizza right to your front door. The legendary Tom Wortman, who used to coach the Newton High Lady Rams basketball team, had the people at Shakey's convinced that I was Pat Sullivan - the Auburn quarterback who had a drink of water with the Falcons - and that he was the Falcon offensive coordinator. We ate free there for months and if any of you have "autographed pictures" of the former Heisman Trophy winner that were handed out at Shakey's with a large deluxe pizaa - well, I guess I owe you an apology.
There were tons of other places on Memorial Drive. Johnny Harris's, Steak and Ale, and the first Chili's that I knew anything about.
It was a sad trip I took down Memory Lane on Tuesday afternoon, however, because nothing is the same as it used to be. Memorial Drive, quite frankly, does not look like a place I'd like to be in the daytime, and I know I would not venture there after dark. All of my old haunts are long gone - replaced by pawn shops and check cashing places and way too many empty buildings. The only two places I recognized were St. Timothy United Methodist Church and the Wendy's on the corner of Memorial and Hambrick.
Big John's, where I used to buy Christmas trees, is a liquor store. Like I said, it was a sad trip down Memory Lane. I finally made it down Memorial to Hairston Drive and from there over to Covington Highway and to Panola Road and, finally, to I-20. I got off I-20 on the 138 exit and headed home, and as I drove down 138 and reflected on what I had just seen on Memorial Drive, one thought stuck in my mind - It won't be long, y'all. It won't be long.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.