Friday, April 5, 2019

The Holly Springs City Cafe: Gone but not forgotten

    I was thinking about the Holly Springs City Cafe the other day. It’s said we don’t appreciate things until we don’t have them any more, and that’s certainly true of the City Cafe.
    I’m not sure how old I was when I first remember going to the City Cafe. I would guess 9 or 10. Cokes were served in 6.5 oz. bottles along with a glass of ice. I was always a little frustrated by the small bottle size, but at the same time the Coke from the smaller bottles seemed to taste better. They used to say they put the same amount of syrup in the 6.5- and 10-ounce bottles.
    The City Cafe was owned and operated by Juanita Jones. She either inherited it or owned it jointly with her late husband, who I think might have been named Ed. He was quite a bit older than her, which says something since I don’t remember her being that young. I don’t remember him ever saying anything. He just said at the cash register and took money. I think Mr. Jones died around 1975.
    There aren’t many restaurants that offer fresh vegetables, but the City Cafe did most days. They would buy them from local growers who would drop them off or perhaps off the back of the many pickup trucks that used to park across from the Post Office. I haven’t seen a pickup with produce for sale in quite a while; not sure what happened to the fresh vegetable supply.
    Most of the pies that were offered for dessert were homemade, or restaurant-made anyway. The late attorney John Kennedy would always ask when the pie was made and it was always “Made fresh this morning.” This really wasn’t true as sometimes the pie was a day or two old; it took some detective work and careful interrogation to ferret out which pies were truly just made. I don’t like coconut, but I remember liking Juanita Jones’ coconut pie.
    My junior year in high school I arranged my class schedule so that I could leave school at noon and work at my dad’s office. A few people have engaged in a campaign of lies and innuendos against me by suggesting that perhaps I didn’t expend too much effort on the job. Don’t believe them!
    I do remember that my work day almost always began with lunch at the City Cafe, sitting at the back table with Dad, John Kennedy, Ralph Avent, Hamlet Yarbrough and his cotton buying partner Mr. Allen, along with a host of others who joined in on an irregular basis.

  • Keeping up with the conversation was a bit like trying to follow a game of Ping Pong. Somebody might mention almost hitting a deer on the way to work; another might mention they heard Thus-And-So got in a wreck; etc., etc. with the subject changing every minute. One day Ralph Avent declared “I could have killed two this morning” to everyone’s puzzlement. You see, at the start of the conversation somebody had mentioned almost hitting a deer; the conversation had moved on, but Ralph hadn’t.
  • Ralph had the same order every day: “I’ll have what Sidney got.” One day my dad ordered and Ralph turned to him and said, “Sidney, you know I don’t like turnip greens!”
  • Mrs. Jones was slightly hard of hearing and would repeat everything you said, changing only the pronoun. If you said, “I’d like the pork chop and mashed potatoes,” she would start writing the ticket while saying in a fairly loud voice, “You’d like the pork chop and mashed potatoes.” One day my brother Lanier found a worm in his squash – a hazard when using fresh vegetables – and very quietly pointed out to Mrs. Jones that there was a worm in his squash. Mrs. Jones responded: THERE’S A WORM IN YOUR SQUASH! So much for being discreet.
  • The City Cafe always had French fries that were nice and crunchy and done. They had a great hamburger and a really good club sandwich, which cost $3.50 with fries included. One day my dad lavishly complimented Mrs. Jones on her fine sandwich by telling her that he had paid $6 for a club sandwich at the Cincinnati airport the day before and it wasn’t nearly as good as her club sandwich; he spent quite a bit of verbiage in telling her how fine her sandwich was. The next day the price of the club sandwich was increased from $3.50 to $6.
  • If someone got a dessert that was particularly good, a friend might ask for a taste. My dad never did that. On the other hand, if someone declared that something tasted awful, Dad usually said, “Lemme see.”
  • One day the conversation made me think of a joke I had read in a men’s magazine. It was a clean joke, mind you, so I threw it into the fray. John Kennedy, sitting at the other end of the long table turned and said in a loud voice, “So, you read Hustler, too!" My 15- or 16-year-old face got pretty red after that.

    The City Cafe had a fine breakfast as well and different time slots would draw a different crowd. There was always a big crowd for breakfast, a smaller crowd mid-morning, then a big lunch crowd for about 90 minutes, and then a small crowd around 3 p.m. This was before the day of coffee places on every corner, but the City Cafe had Starbucks beat. And their iced tea was always perfect.
    Perhaps I’ll think of some more stories later on, but I sure do miss that place!

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