DARRELL HUCKABY: Change ain't easy for a man of tradition

Say it ain’t so!

I have gotten used to change. People tell me that change is good. Some is. Some isn’t. I’m not a big fan of most change. I am still mad that they put lights in Sanford Stadium and that all football games don’t start at 2 p.m. and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they moved the dimmer switch in automobiles from the floorboard to the steering column. Doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.

I am a man of tradition. That’s another way to say that I am old and set in my ways, I suppose. If it was good enough for my parents it should be good enough for me. I still buy Dixie Crystals sugar and I still reach for the coffee jar with the stars on top. I worship at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning and prefer hymns to 7/11 praise songs where we sing the same seven words 11 times. I attend Sunday school and not a small group and insist that my family opens presents on Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve. That’s just the way I am.

When I travel I tell people that I am from Porterdale, not Atlanta — even though I live in Conyers. I do that for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it creates an opportunity for conversation. For another, I have been to Atlanta and would never claim it for my home.

Oh, there are a few good things about the city. The Fox is still fabulous. I went there Tuesday night and had just as good a time as I did the first time I was there in the 1950s. I had to step over half a dozen panhandlers to get to the front door, but I had a good time. I will stop by the Varsity, from time to time, for a greasy chili dog and Mary Mac’s is still a wonderful and nostalgic place for a meal. But most of Atlanta’s charm and grace disappeared with the downtown Rich’s.

And now the city has taken another blow to the gut as yet another Atlanta tradition is gone with the wind. I learned this week that Macy’s has abandoned the search for the Great Tree this year and will attempt to ring in the Atlanta holiday shopping season with a 28-foot artificial tree that will be placed in the parking lot at Lenox Square instead of atop the store.

Say it ain’t so.

For years and years and years the Great Tree has been an Atlanta tradition. It used to be sponsored by the now defunct Rich’s department store and sit atop the crystal bridge downtown. Rich’s was the place to shop in Atlanta back in the day. It was such an iconic place that Celestine Sibley wrote a book about it, entitled “Dear Store.”

One of the highlights of my childhood was bundling up in my winter coat and toboggan cap and standing outside, listening to the choirs sing the first Christmas carols of the season — waiting for the giant tree to burst into light. That was one of the highlights of millions of children who lived in and around Atlanta.

The search for the Great Tree was also a big deal and people who had never been inside Rich’s followed the story of each year’s search in the newspaper and on the television news. Every year there was footage of the tree being cut down and a story about how honored the people who owned the tree were to have their tree selected.

Eventually downtown Atlanta fell victim to urban blight and change. Rich’s and Davidson’s, another iconic store, became Macy’s and a new generation of Atlantans has become accustomed to watching the tree lighting from Lenox Sqaure. I haven’t been in person in years but it is a big deal for my family to gather in front of the television, nibbling on turkey sandwiches, listening to the musical acts gathered to usher in the season. We are always exited to learn who will be singing “O Holy Night” and can’t wait to hear them hit the high note that will signal the lighting of the tree — which is now accompanied by fireworks.

This week there has been a nip of fall in the air. The leaves have turned red and yellow and orange and are glorious in their autumn colors. Just last week I commented that it was time to see a story on the news about the Rich’s tree being cut down. (I still call it the Rich’s tree. I told you I don’t like change.)

We saw the story, OK, but it was about a fake tree in a parking lot. The Macy’s people claim they did it to “go green.” Mustard and custard.

I also heard that they are moving the time up an hour so they can open the store afterward for shopping. I don’t know if that is true, but it sounds about right.

Oh, well. Time marches on. Sometimes I just wish that I didn’t have to march on with it.