Stuckey’s: A Beacon of Familiarity on the Highway toward the Unknown
by Carol L. Gee
Reaching for the “cow” pepper shaker with its rosy painted cheeks, as always, made me smile. With its cow twin forlornly looking on, as I struggle to avoid salt, I glance around my sunny kitchen with its small collection of plates with State flowers decorating them, and my mind wanders back to the years my husband and I spent in the Air Force.
Three miles to Pecan Paradise! Riding shotgun while my husband drove, we headed south where mile markers indicating “gas, food, and sparkling clean restrooms could be found at the next three exits” beckoned us to stop and stretch our legs. From the highway, Stuckey’s familiar red/white and yellow façade came into view. While my husband pumped gas, I went inside.
Inside, rubber snakes, salt and pepper shakers shaped like cows (the same ones mentioned above) and other items lined both sides of the aisles. Plates representing the states we sped through solved the mystery of where my mother-in-law most likely obtained the plate collection that covered one entire wall of her dining room, as nearly all of my in-laws had once served in the military. I bought her one hoping that she didn’t already have that particular one.
After a hamburger with everything, and a Pecan Roll to go, we got back on the road. As our car gobbled up the miles, my emotions ran the gamut from feeling anxious, to excitement about the possibilities ahead. For instance, would we experience an incident similar to the time that I once got too close for comfort to buffalo on the roam in the southern plains? Where I prayed fervently that we’d find our way out of the state park before dark and the deer and antelope also decided to come out and play? (Incidentally, I recently learned the existence of place called Buffalo South in Charleston. Billed as a place where only the locals run wild, it’s different from my earlier buffalo experience.)
“Pecan Heaven two miles more” read the sign as we neared the first of two South Carolina bases, first Myrtle Beach, and years later, Charleston. Would we be assigned base quarters as soon as we arrived, I pondered? Married -with cat — we’d be assigned two-bedroom quarters. From past experience, I knew that those usually took longer than those built for larger families. If not, we’d have to rent something off base like we did the one year we were stationed at Myrtle Beach.
Charleston, as I recalled, was where I opened the box marked “kitchen items” to discover my Mr. Coffee pot still contained coffee grinds now covered with a fuzzy, gray mold, courtesy of military movers known to pack everything in sight, if owners weren’t vigilant. In my mind’s eye, I can still see Rainbow Row, those magnificent houses painted in the blue, pink and yellow colors of the Caribbean that stood majestically overlooking the harbor filled with numerous sailboats of corresponding colors.
Alas, it’s been twenty and sixteen years respectively, since my husband and I both retired from the military, however, Stuckey’s will forever hold a place in my heart. Not only for the Pecan Log that I nibbled on slowly in order to savor every morsel. Not for the Carolina “bird” plates, purchased near Myrtle Beach and another in Charleston, to add to Big Mama’s collection.
Not even for the rooster toothpicks that I felt no self-respecting household should be without. But for what it represents to military families and others who bravely choose roads less traveled from Kansas to Louisiana and other points southward: a beacon of familiarity as they cruised down the highway toward the unknown.
Carol L. Gee lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and is the author of two books, “The Venus Chronicles” and “Diary Of A Flygirl Wannabe.” Her work has also appeared in Balance Magazine, Atlanta Woman Magazine and a number of scholastic and business magazines, as well as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find out more at her website www.venuschronicles.net.
Stuckey’s got its start in 1937 when W.S. Stuckey Sr. opened his Georgia pecan stand, selling the now world famous Pecan Log Roll along with gifts and souvenirs. Today, Stuckey’s spans 19 states and has over 200 locations, and its Pecan Roll is available online at stuckeys.com.