The Gatlinburg firestorm of last November took out so much of my hometown, but so much was already gone.
|Parkway of Gatlinburg, circa late 1940s|
There were two full service gas stations in the center of town: Texaco on the right and Esso on the left just up the street from Denton's Drug Store and Dr. Ralph Shilling's office, the town's resident doctor who treated us original Gatlinburgians. The Texaco was were we kids took our bikes to inflate the tires because "you can trust the man who wears the star."
And folks have to eat, generally three meals per day.
The dictionary defines café as a "restaurant usually small and unpretentious." The origin is from 1780 to '90 and the French word for coffee, so the original French cafés were coffeehouses, tearooms, bistros and lunchrooms or small informal places to get a cup of coffee and a quick meal. You didn't have to dress up, dining was casual.
|Pearl Bales & grumpy author|
|Homer Bales at cafe|
|Uncle Alvin Latham|
She served "homemade meals in mountain fashion." The menu included traditional favorites like hot biscuits with mountain honey, eggs, bacon, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes, cornbread, fried chicken, fresh trout, chicken 'n dumplings, country ham, creamed corn, apple pie à la Mode and the best blackberry dumplings I've ever tasted. Five decades later the memory lingers. The cafe only had about a dozen tables, all covered with white tablecloths, and could serve roughly 40 people at capacity. The tables at the back looked down on to the Little Pigeon River.
|Pearl & Homer Bales with grand-kids, 1956|
|Ma & Pa Kettle|
It's a long and winding road.
But Pearl did own a café and folks just liked stopping by for a cup of coffee and chat. It was that kind of place...where everybody knows your name.
And today, all these years later, all that I have left of Bales Cafe is a single chair that was once in her dining room. Every now and then, I like to sit in the red bottomed, ladder back and eat a cornbread muffin in remembrance of things past. And is that a bowl of mountain honey sitting on every table? Sweet!
©2017—From the upcoming book,
The Transformation of a Small Timber Town to a Mountain Resort
Family Remembrances 1899-1969"
by University of Tennessee Press author and native son
Stephen Lyn Bales