Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Of peaches and hardware and pitchers of something cold

Nothing quite like a birthday nearing the end of my seventh decade to remind me of how quickly things change -- and how some of the landmark institutions I once took for granted have already passed from reality into the realm of memory.  I thought about this last week when I was in Slaughter's market in Floyd, and saw the first really good-looking peaches of the year.  More are likely to be in this week, the produce manager told me, and we made a mental note to drop by and buy a box when they arrive.

We're particular about peaches, and when we lived in North Carolina, we always watched out for the coming of peaches from the Auman family orchard down in the Sandhills.  I had worked with Bob Auman at the Greensboro Daily News shortly after the crust of the earth cooled many years ago, and covered his dad, Rep. T. Clyde Auman, in his latter years in the General Assembly. But mostly I recall the occasional interview when National Public Radio's Bob Edwards would call Watts Auman, who ran the orchard during those years, and talked about the incoming peach crop in North Carolina and how that late freeze or the prolonged drought or the fine spring weather might affect the crop.

Alas, the Auman family decided to get out of the peach business last year, and this is the first year that many customers heard of it. I read in one news story that customers were driving up to the orchard only to find trees removed and packing houses empty.  For many families it would be the first summer season in their lives without Auman peaches on the table.

Thus is goes.  Cellar Anton's, a favorite Greensboro haunt of my early dating days in the 1960s, and an eatery that we teenagers thought both sophisticated and cosmopolitan, has closed.  I gave a girl a ring there one evening in 1965 over a dish of moussaka and a pitcher of something cold, and three years later we married. 

Briggs Hardware in Raleigh -- virtually a daily stop for me when it was downtown for more than a century on Fayetteville Street, and later an easily-accessed morning stop on my way to work at its North Raleigh location, has closed its doors. When I first started going in to the squeaky-floored store just down from the Capital in the 1970s, old Mr. Jimmy Briggs used to ring me up as he crooned a little ditty he had sung for Greensboro Daily News correspondents for 40-some years, he claimed: "The Daily News/Is mostly used/For wrapping fish/And worn-out shoes."   You don't get that at Lowes or Home Depot, you know.

These were wonderful places and I'm sorry to see them go, but there's also a world of new places to haunt and things to find and craft beers to sample -- more than I'll be able to get to, I expect, but I'm going to give it a try.  We're off today to hunt for a good bike shop, and a new restaurant down in the western Piedmont.  We'll toast the Aumans and Antons and Briggses of the world with a new IPA somewhere, and look forward to their successors.   Cheers!