A Dose of Happy

A Fresh Take on Faux for the Holidays

With a touch of love, the ordinary becomes extraordinary

By Cassie Bustamante     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Shortly after moving into her Oak Ridge home, Tasha Agruso got an idea. An awesome idea. A wonderful, awesome idea — to create what looked like apartment entries out of her daughters’ side-by-side doors. Armed with door knockers, mailboxes, wreaths, doormats — even a lantern Tasha rigged with a battery-operated puck light — Attley and Avery each received a treatment that suited their individual tastes. The kicker? Tasha added address numbers that feature the time each was born, just a minute apart: Avery at 2:57 and Attley at 2:58.

And so began a new adventure in renovating, which was not at all what they had in mind. When Tasha and her husband, Joe, decided to move to the country, they had hoped their new chapter would unfold in a new build. After all, they’d just spent eight years transforming their previous home. “I love renovating, but I was tired,” says Tasha. After bidding unsuccessfully on two newly constructed homes, the couple settled for an eight-year-old home on a quiet Oak Ridge street.

“It ticked every box and, so I thought, we can do the same thing,” says Tasha. “We’ll do it slowly.” In October of 2020, the Agrusos moved out of their contemporary Starmount Forest dwelling and began their journey creating a colorful country oasis for themselves and their 12-year-old twin daughters.

In just three years, Tasha and Joe, a firefighter, have made tremendous strides. Tasha documents the DIY projects and makeovers on her website, Kaleidoscope Living. Her skills have earned her an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show as well as features in several digital and print publications such as Better Homes & Gardens. Through her site (kaleidoscopeliving.com) and on instagram (@tasha.kaleidoscope), where she boasts a formidable fan base of over 100,000 followers, “I educate people about how to decorate their homes in a way that makes them happy,” she says.

And she should know. It’s something she’s perfected in the many years spent making over their new house as well as their former home, the one that she says “changed everything.” During their time spent living in Starmount Forest, her daughters grew from toddlerhood into tween-age; the couple honed their DIY skills; Tasha left her career as a lawyer to forge a path in the digital world through her website’s educational tools and print shop (read about that journey in our 2018 summer issue of Seasons: seasonsmagazinenc.com/designer-profile); and, finally, it “was the house where we finally really understood our style.” And that style? A blend of Joe’s more reserved approach, Tasha’s love of color and pattern, and functionality for all four.

Three years after selling it, Tasha still misses their Greensboro home fiercely. “If I could have lifted that home and moved it, I would have,” she muses. As for the current home, will she ever love it as much? If you’d asked her when they first bought it, “Absolutely not possible.” But now? “If I am here for eight years like I was there and we continue to slowly change everything that we want to change, yeah. I could even love it more.”

Location is the one aspect of a house that cannot be changed and the family knew what they needed. “We’re all just such homebodies.” While she’s sure homebodies can exist in bustling areas, she says there are those “who crave quiet and stillness. That’s the kind we are.”

In their current home, the couple has applied what they’ve learned, chipping away with project after project since moving over the last three years. The makeover that has had the biggest impact on Tasha? Probably not what you’d expect: the stairwell.

“People ask, ‘Why would you take out iron balusters and put in wood ones?’” Tasha says, then answers. “Because we didn’t like the other ones.”

Once the more traditional wooden balusters were put in place, she got to work painting the stair risers and bordering walls in Sherwin-Williams’ Refuge, and the balusters and handrails were coated in Seaworthy. But the crowning touch? “We could have made all the structural and paint color changes to the stairs and it wouldn’t be my favorite if it weren’t for the colorful stair runner,” says Tasha.

Now, the colorful random-rainbow stair runner, she says, “is like a dose of happy every time you walk up and down.” Used every day, visible from the entry, primary bedroom hallway and living room, it serves as the heart of the home.

And did Joe get a say? “I have always said we both have the power of veto,” says Tasha. In fact, it’s something they have resorted to from time to time. After all, she says, “we both live here.” Together, they’ll narrow down choices, eliminating those — such as a very bold, colorful, plaid stair runner — that take Joe beyond his comfort zone. “His little bit of restraint is probably one of the things that makes things not cross the line into too chaotic,” Tasha admits.

That yin and yang of their blended aesthetic is visibly at work in their primary bedroom. White walls pair with white furnishings and a gray upholstered bed, but color comes through in lush, green velvet textiles, and patterned and abstract art. The result? A serene yet far-from-boring sanctuary for a busy couple.

For Tasha, it was important that her daughters each have their own personal havens as well. Avery, a swimmer who favors neutrals like her father, sleeps in a cozy room blanketed in whites and warm woods. Small doses of earthy colors show up here and there in the holiday-green textiles, and artwork such as the Christmas village canvas on her wall, created by Tasha.

As for that canvas and many of the prints throughout her house, well, Tasha took a note from the Grinch, who could not find a reindeer and made one instead. “Sometimes when you can picture what you want and you know what the space needs, you can’t find it,” she says. So, she makes it. She has both painted with watercolors and created with graphics editing apps, first using Illustrator, but is excited to try her hand at Procreate with digital brushes she just ordered. “We’ll see how that journey goes,” she quips.

Attley, a dancer who craves bright colors like her mother, has the same Pure White paint by Sherwin-Williams on her walls, accented by a vibrant floral wallpaper in aqua, pink, green and golden yellow behind her bed. Her furniture is painted in saturated hues of coral, peony and mustard, all playing off the whimsical large-scale paper. And, of course, the artwork in her room was also designed by mom.

Just as Tasha teaches readers of her website to decorate in a way that makes them happy, she wanted her girls to get the memo.

“It just felt almost like a subliminal message to send to them: You’re your own people, you have your own identities, you have your own spaces and I love them both so much.”

That individualism spills out into the hallway where she created those apartment-style doors. And while the mailboxes are mostly a fun decorative detail at this point, Tasha anticipates using them in the upcoming teen years. With Attley and Avery turning 13 later this month, Tasha says, “We might be entering that phase of life where it’s hard for them to say things directly to us and vice versa,” she says. “Sometimes it’s easier just to communicate things in writing.”

Tasha sites these doorway makeovers as a prime example of what she believes. “The whole reason I chose the name Kaleidoscope Living . . . is because I have always believed and hope to have proven that you can take very ordinary objects and make them extraordinary.” It’s just like when you look through a kaleidoscope: “The most basic thing can become incredible.”

Just outside their doorways in the upstairs hall is a nod to both Joe and his father, a volunteer firefighter who passed away a few years ago. A vintage “Fire Dept.” sign that once belonged to Joe’s dad hangs above two antique fire extinguishers Tasha surprised Joe with several years ago. Until now, she says, they hadn’t found the right home.

Back on the main floor, the balance between Joe and Tasha’s aesthetics can be seen at play. In their living room, Tasha sits on a lush, comfortable sectional, her feet propped up on a warm leather ottoman. Behind her, a picture ledge featuring large-scale art, a patterned accent wall and textiles provide her favorite details. “I am always led by color and texture and pattern,” she says. Next to her, a stitched color-block pillow exemplifies those elements.

While selecting art used to intimidate Tasha, who felt herself unqualified, over time she learned to trust her instincts. “Finally, I realized I should probably just pick what I like,” she says.

Opening to the spacious living room, the kitchen serves as visual eye candy, featuring an island Tasha painted in the same vivid teal as its cabinets, Fusion mineral paint in Seaside. While the island is lined with four large and comfortable leather-woven counter stools, the family still opts to use their dining room regularly. “I just have a pet peeve of rooms not being used, so we don’t treat our dining room like it’s precious or special,” says Tasha.

Her years of learning to do what she loves have led to what she’s sure will be a highly controversial dining room decision. “By God, we’re putting a TV in there!” she says. These days with the juggling of their active kids’ schedules, Tasha and Joe eat dinner with Attley most nights while keeping Avery’s warm for her return, which generally coincides with when the family sits down to watch a show together. Current stream? Modern Family.

While a TV in a dining room is far from conventional, so is this modern family. Tasha leans into what works for them. “I know a lot of people have what you would call a traditional Christmas meal that looks a lot like Thanksgiving would look,” she says. But the Agrusos? They keep it simple with a Christmas meal of spaghetti and meatballs, a nod to Joe’s Italian heritage.

Because Joe works as a firefighter, there are times when he can’t be home for the holidays. Another unique Agruso family tradition? Tasha and the girls bake “something yummy” to bring to the station. “That’s a weird part of our tradition, but it’s part of our reality.”

One thing they always make time to do together is decorate the Christmas tree, usually before Thanksgiving so that they can enjoy its glow for a longer time. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, Tasha follows her heart, staying true to what she loves, “which is probably why I have things that I bought 20 years ago that I still love.” Avocado-green and dusty-red ornaments — nontraditional traditionals — purchased from Crate & Barrel during Tasha and Joe’s first Christmas together still, to this day, adorn their tree and fit the existing aesthetic.

After all, when you decorate by choosing what you really love, you’re sure to be happy with the outcome. “It’s like what bra and underwear you pick. Is it comfortable to you?” asks Tasha as she takes in the home she’s been personalizing for the last three years. She laughs and adds, “I have literally never thought of the undergarment analogy, but it’s actually a really good one.”  OH


Burlington Industries Celebrates a Centennial (1923–2023)

Burlington Industries Celebrates a Centennial (1923–2023)

Following the thread of a financial genius

By Ross Howell Jr.


Featured Photo: J. Spencer Love (1896-1962) parlayed used equipment from his grandfather’s cotton mill into the largest textile manufacturing company in the world.


Workers commenced production at Burlington Mills Corp. in 1924, before construction of the building was even finished. Only half of the weave room had a floor, while the rest was earthen. Entrepreneur J. Spencer Love had chartered the company on November 6, 1923, naming it in tribute to the town where it would be located. The plant in Burlington would eventually employ some 200 workers.

Burlington Mills first produced all-cotton textiles, including flag cloth, bunting, curtain and dress fabrics, plus diaper cloth. But sales of cotton goods were declining. Spencer Love decided to experiment with a fiber called rayon — relatively unknown to American households. Rayon is made from purified cellulose, harvested primarily from wood pulp, which is then chemically converted. Right out of the gate, Burlington’s rayon bedspreads were a runaway success, facilitated by Love’s commitment to a world-class truck fleet for delivering products.

In 1935, Love (standing under the portico, wearing a light-colored overcoat) decided to move the company from its Burlington headquarters to Greensboro — primarily to take advantage of better rail transportation to New York City, where the company had opened a sales office in 1929, the year of the stock market crash. As America sank into the Great Depression, Burlington Mills kept growing, buying and reopening many of its competitors’ shuttered mills. Love’s strategy of growth through acquisition continued after the Depression and made the company an industry giant. Fred Rogers, Friendly Acres, remembers: “For a decade starting about 1990, I worked in the Burlington House division of Burlington Industries. That division had offices at 1345 Avenue of the Americas in New York City and in the town of Burlington, just down the street from the pioneer plant, where Spencer Love had built his first mill in a cornfield. A lot of people think of Love as a manufacturing man, but he was, in fact, a financial man. I’d say he was one of the earliest and best financiers in America, because he grew his company by acquisition. He was a financial genius.”

Men in skivvies? Burlington operations took a sharp turn in 1941, when the U.S. entered World War II. Burlington shifted to wartime production of more than 50 products for the armed forces, while the company’s research laboratories developed parachute cloth woven with a new fiber — nylon, a thermoplastic usually made from petroleum. Postwar, Burlington developed an array of clothing and home goods. Magazine ads featuring GIs gave way to TV ads with a “dancing man” wearing Burlington socks or stars such as singer Petula Clark and actor Robert Morley as spokespersons for the brand — along with a new corporate name, Burlington Industries.

Founder J. Spencer Love directed bold innovations during his nearly 40 years as president, but died unexpectedly at the age of 65 in 1962, the year Burlington Industries surpassed $1 billion in annual sales and became the first textile company in history to achieve that goal. In the 1960s, Burlington was the parent corporation for 17 constituent companies comprising more than 100 plants that manufactured products ranging from ribbon and suit fabrics to hosiery and carpets.

Retired schoolteacher Jane Gallimore, Fisher Park, remembers: “My family was living upstairs in the funeral home in Burlington my father owned. I was 10 years old. We’d driven over to Kirkwood to visit my aunt. Spencer Love’s death was in all the newspapers and my aunt suggested we drive by the house, just to see what was going on. I remember the house being on Sunset Drive. It had a circular driveway and we watched cars enter, dropping people off. I remember seeing butlers wearing white coats and white gloves meeting the cars and escorting guests inside. That sight has stayed with me all these years.”

In 1971, Burlington Industries built a new headquarters in Greensboro. The six-story structure featured an award-winning architectural design and was located on an expansive campus on Friendly Avenue. Its massive, crisscrossing steel trusses were said to represent the warp and weft of the fabric that created Burlington Industries’ great wealth. But for many people, they were a huge eyesore. The building was demolished in 2005 to make way for Friendly Center Shopping Center. Delores Sides, Summerfield, remembers: “Twenty-nine years ago I began work at Burlington Industries in the Rockingham plant. During the boom years, the company built a modern, glass-and-steel headquarters on Friendly Avenue. The structure won architectural awards, though everyone seemed to have an opinion about it, not always favorable. When the building was imploded in 2005, we watched from our new headquarters on Green Valley Road. We could glimpse the top of the building from our windows. There was a vibration, and then the top of the building was gone. It was the end of an era.”

After expending $2 billion over a 10-year period on a modernization initiative in the 1970s, Burlington Industries fended off a hostile takeover attempt in 1987 with a leveraged buyout, but was forced to file for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy protection in 2001. While diminished from its heyday, Burlington Industries has been recapitalized and now manufactures high-tech fabrics at facilities in the Southeastern U.S., Mexico and China. Its offices were recently moved from Green Valley Road to — fittingly enough — beautiful, renovated facilities at Revolution Mill.  OH

Freelance writer Ross Howell Jr. is grateful to Elevate Textiles, Inc., for its help with this article. For more information on Burlington Industries, visit www.elevatetextiles.com. On YouTube, you can find examples of vintage Burlington Industries TV ads, including the dancing man.

It Slices. It Dices.

It Slices. It Dices.

Get up! Get up! Get up, up, up!” my mother blurted.

It was at 6:30 a.m., the first day of Christmas break, and as always she felt compelled to rouse her children at the most ungodly hour. I lifted my head from the pillow and stared bleary-eyed at her figure in the bedroom doorway. Wrapped to her chin in a blue terrycloth robe, her fists were planted firmly on her hips. She meant business. “You’re to march yourself down to the Safeway and ask Mr. Short if he’ll give you a job for the holidays,” she ordered. “You can earn enough money to pay for your books next semester. And next time I see Mr. Short, I’ll find out if you asked him for a job.”

“Can’t you even say, ‘Welcome home’?” I asked.

“Sure. Welcome home, Mr. Big Shot College Guy. Now get out of that bed and get yourself down to the Safeway.”

I was suffering from severe sleep deprivation. I’d caught an all-night ride home from North Carolina and had dragged into the house on Janice Drive at 3:15 a.m. But my mother was not to be denied, so I managed to pull on the wrinkled clothes I’d worn the day before and stumbled downstairs to eat a bowl of my brother’s Froot Loops. At 8:30 a.m. I scuffled up Bayridge Avenue to the Eastport Shopping Center, where I found Mr. Short on the dock, supervising the unloading of pallets of dog food from a tractor-trailer. He shook my hand and asked how college was going.

“It’s fine,” I answered. “I was hoping you might have an opening for a cashier during the holidays. I’m not looking to work eight hours a day, but, you know, something part time.”

“If I had an opening, I’d hire you,” he said. “But right now I have all the cashiers I need. I’d have to cut someone else’s hours, and that wouldn’t be fair, especially at Christmas.” My spirits soared. If he didn’t have an opening, I could pass the holidays stretched out on my bed reading P.G. Wodehouse.

“I’ll tell you what,” he continued, “I’ve got a friend who’s the manager at the Drug Fair in Parole. Go see him and tell him I sent you. He’s looking for holiday help.”

A job at Drug Fair was the last thing I wanted, but I had to make an inquiry. My mother was as good as her word, and I knew she’d buttonhole Mr. Short the next time she visited the Safeway. If she found out I hadn’t applied for the Drug Fair job, she’d make my Christmas break miserable, which she had already begun to do by wakening me before sunup.

Among cashiers, there existed a hierarchy, and working a register at Safeway carried with it a degree of status and a wage that was at least $1.75 an hour. Drug Fair was a discount pharmacy, emporium and grocery store, a low-rent warehouse for plastic crap and wilted vegetables, where the discount prices were clearly marked on each item — work for the dimwitted — and the pay was $1.25 an hour.

I caught the bus to Parole and found the Drug Fair manager, a rumpled, balding, ectomorphic fellow with thick wire spectacles and a long pointy nose, puzzling over paperwork in an elevated office that overlooked a line of disheveled employees who were pounding away at their cash registers. He appeared to be in emotional distress, his mouth screwed into a grotesque snarl.

“Excuse me,” I said. He looked up, snatched the glasses from his face and tossed them on the countertop in a display of frustration. “Mr. Short over at Safeway said I should talk with you about working as a cashier for the holidays. I don’t need a full-time job, just some part-time work if you’ve got it.”

Sweet relief swept over his face, his lips stretching into a half smile. “Mr. Short sent you?” he asked.

“He said you might need an experienced cashier.”

“You used to work at the Safeway?”

“For two years, until I went off to college.”

He grinned fully. I was apparently the man he’d been waiting for. He stepped out of his office, planted both feet flat on the linoleum and looked me up and down. “Can you work a register?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“And you’ve worked stock?”

“Yes, sir.”

My God, he was going to hire me! I was going to pass the next two weeks checking out Christmas junk at the Drug Fair for minimum wage! This was not good.

The manager handed me a pen and an application clamped to a clipboard, and I took a couple of minutes to fill in the information.

“Follow me,” he said, and we walked quickly down aisle four toward the back of the crowded store. “I can use you to relieve my regular cashiers for their lunch and supper breaks, and you can help keep the shelves stocked, especially this display. We’re selling the hell out of these things.” He pointed to a chest-high pyramid of black, orange and beige boxes crowned with an unboxed white plastic kitchen device known to every American who owned a TV. “We’ve had to restock this display three times this morning. You know anything about Veg-O-Matics?” he asked.

What happened next was probably brought on by fatigue — or maybe I needed an excuse to get fired before I got hired. Whatever the cause, a synaptic misfire propelled me into the past. I picked up the display device, held it out in front of me and began to deliver the requisite spiel:

“Imagine slicing a whole potato into uniform slices with one motion. Bulk cheese costs less. Look how easy Veg-O-Matic makes many slices at once. Imagine slicing all these radishes in seconds. This is the only appliance in the world that slices whole firm tomatoes in one stroke with every seed in place. Hamburger lovers, feed whole onions into Veg-O-Matic and make these tempting thin slices. Simply turn the dial and change from thin to thick slices. You can slice a whole can of prepared meat at one time. Isn’t that amazing? Like magic, change from slicing to dicing. That’s right, it slices, it dices, it juliennes, perfect every time!”

By the time I’d finished yammering, the manager’s eyes were wide and his jaw slack.

“How’d you learn that?” he asked.

“I used to watch the commercial on TV, and it just sort of stuck in my head.”

My fascination with the Veg-O-Matic stretched back to my junior year in high school. Strung out on testosterone and teenage angst, I suffered insomnia for about six months. On those long, restless nights, I’d roll out of bed after everyone else in the house was asleep, slink down to the “rec” room and turn on the black-and-white TV. WJZ, the local CBS affiliate, was the only station out of Baltimore that aired anything other than an Indian Chief test pattern in the early a.m., so I’d tune in channel 13 in time to catch Father Callahan of St. Francis Xavier House of Prayer bestowing his benediction. Then I’d settle in for a three-hour run of continuous raise-your-own-chinchillas commercials.

My clandestine obsession with Father Callahan and chinchillas continued for two or three months — until the fateful night when the good Father delivered his usual homily and the chinchilla commercials failed to materialize. Instead, a plastic guillotine-like device appeared on the TV screen, contrasted against a background map of the world, below which were printed the words “World Famous Veg-O-Matic.” Then a disembodied voice said: “Imagine slicing a whole potato into uniform slices with one motion. Bulk cheese costs less. Look how easy Veg-O-Matic makes many slices at once. . . . ”

I’d spent my Father Callahan/chinchilla nights dozing fitfully on the couch and sneaking back to my room before the rest of the family awakened, but on that memorable evening — I’ve come to think of it as Night of the Veg-O-Matic — I sat there stupefied, watching the commercial over and over. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, and by morning I had the narration memorized — every nuance, modulation and inflection — to which I could add hand gestures, including the graceful, upturned palm that beckoned, “Buy me, buy me, buy me. . . .”

Later that day, I was eating lunch in the high school cafeteria with my regular buds when freckle-faced Ronnie Wheeler produced a sliced tomato his mother had wrapped in wax paper to keep it from saturating the white bread he needed to construct his BLT. I jumped up, grabbed the tomato slices and ran through the entire Veg-O-Matic routine, spreading the segments across the Formica tabletop and finishing with the obligatory “. . . perfect every time!” 

My friends were speechless, especially Ronnie, whose sandwich was ruined. They stared blankly before bursting into hysterics. The vice-principal, Mr. Wetherhold, a stern disciplinarian who abhorred any form of frivolity, hurried over to our table to discern the source of the disturbance. “What’s going on here?” he asked sternly.

“Do it!” my friends begged. “Do the Veg-O-Matic thing!” They didn’t have to ask twice. When I finished my second run-through, it was Mr. Wetherhold who was howling with laughter. Suffice it to say I spent a good deal of my time in high school doing “the Veg-O-Matic thing” for my friends. They never tired of it.

Now the Drug Fair manager’s face glowed with approval, and I could see that he’d suffered an epiphany. He rushed into the stockroom and reappeared with a folding table. He extended the legs, positioned the table in front of the pyramid of boxes and covered the top with a square of red cheesecloth. He grabbed an onion from the produce aisle, peeled away the skin, and ordered me to deliver my recitation again, this time with the unboxed Veg-O-Matic at my fingertips.

Despite my long and intimate history with the kitchen device, this was the first time I’d worked with one. But I muddled through the presentation by recalling the images I’d watched hundreds of times on TV, each motion transmitted from memory to physical articulation. I made quick work of the onion, repeating the entire monologue. My demonstration, although clumsy, went well enough to instantly earn me the title: 1965 Parole Drug Fair Veg-O-Matic Man.

“You’re hired!” the manager said. “I want you to do a demonstration at the top of every hour. Use all the tomatoes and onions you want, but stay away from the cheese and Spam. That stuff costs money.”

“Yes, sir,” I said dutifully. 

“The rest of the time you can restock these Veg-O-Matics and relieve the cashiers who are going on break. Can you start tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I guess.”

“Be here at 8 o’clock, and wear a white shirt.”

Crestfallen, I dragged myself into the parking lot and caught the bus back to Eastport. When I stumbled into our living room, it was 11:30 a.m., and I was whipped.

“Did Mr. Short hire you?” my mother yelled from the kitchen.

“He didn’t have any openings, but I got a job at Drug Fair in Parole.”

“Excellent,” she said.

When I turned up at Drug Fair on Saturday morning ready to begin my new career, the manager had anticipated my every need. The folding table was set up in aisle four, which was stocked with kitchen junk — Melmac dishes, spatulas, plastic forks, spoons and knives, etc. — and beside the table waited a freshly replenished pyramid of multicolored boxes containing the Veg-O-Matics. The tabletop was covered with the red cheesecloth from the day before, and a white apron of the style that loops around the neck and ties in the back was folded neatly on the table. An unopened can of Spam and a brick of Kraft Velveeta cheese were stacked beside the gleaming white Veg-O-Matic display model I’d used in my earlier demonstration, and a bag of assorted vegetables — tomatoes, onions, carrots and potatoes — awaited their fate. As a touch of class, the manager had placed a roll of paper towels on the table, and a beige commercial dome-topped trash can sat directly behind my workspace.

“Here, wear this,” he said, handing me a handsome black clip-on bowtie. I donned my apron and attached the bowtie to the wrinkled collar of my white shirt. “Now show me your stuff. Just use vegetables. The Spam and cheese are for show.”

I launched into my Veg-O-Matic dance at a measured pace, slicing up a small potato and allowing my hands to gracefully execute a lilting swirl at the conclusion of the shtick.

“That was even better than yesterday,” the manager beamed, “although I’d take it a little slower if I were you.” He looked up and down aisle four. “I’ll make an announcement at the top of every hour. You get yourself set up. Sell the hell out of these Veg-O-Matics. If you don’t, you’ll be in a checkout stand all day.” And he left me on my own.

I peeled an onion, and trimmed it to the proper size and shape. I was ready. Or as ready as I was ever going to be.

“We are pleased to direct your attention to aisle four,” I heard the manager announce over the PA system, “where you can view a demonstration of the miracle Veg-O-Matic, the 20th century’s greatest kitchen appliance. It makes an economical and useful Christmas gift! Do all your Christmas shopping in five minutes and have your Veg-O-Matics gift wrapped right here in the store. Christmas cards are available on aisle six.”

After my first two demonstrations, I discovered that operating the Veg-O-Matic wasn’t quite the effortless exercise I’d observed on TV. I directed my attention to the tomato, which I positioned perfectly between the upper and lower blades. “This is the only appliance in the world that slices whole firm tomatoes in one stroke with every seed in place,” I said, as I slammed down the top of the Veg-O-Matic. The tomato exploded like a water balloon, splattering juice and seeds all over my apron and the tabletop. The two customers who had gathered for my demonstration jumped back and bolted for the exit.

I’d created a huge mess. I mopped the tomato slop off my hands with a paper towel and brushed the seeds from my apron, but pulp continued to dribble from the bottom of the Veg-O-Matic, and I had to retreat to the stockroom to wash the blades. So tomatoes were out. Ripe ones, at least. After mopping the splatter from the tabletop, I attempted to slice an onion I’d peeled earlier. I gave a forceful downward thrust and the device worked perfectly, sending a cascade of onion slivers onto the cheesecloth. Still, it was a messy business; pieces of onion got stuck in the blades and had to be pried out. I had the same experience with carrots, stubborn chunks of which had to be worked free with my fingertips.

I settled, finally, on a peeled Idaho Russet potato. I cut the spud into four pieces, which I fed individually into the chopper. And the device worked as intended — neat and clean. The Veg-O-Matic was, after all, meant to transform a time-consuming, chaotic operation into a simple, wholesome procedure. And that’s what it did.

The secret, as with many physical actions, was in the wrist. It was all finesse. I’d place a piece of potato on the bottom blades and apply a sharp downward whack with the top. And voila! the potato was julienned, perfect for hash browns. If I spoke slowly, worked methodically and was meticulous with my cleanup, I could kill the better part of a half hour on each demonstration, thus allowing for only 30 minutes of working at a cash register before my next demonstration.

At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t sell enough Veg-O-Matics to keep my new job, but the pile of boxes diminished at an ever-increasing rate as Christmas approached and the manager was a happy man. I’d sold six to eight Veg-O-Matics with each demonstration, and I noticed that many customers who didn’t make an immediate purchase returned later to snatch up two or three Veg-O-Matics, having chosen convenience over thoughtful reflection. Usually these return customers felt compelled to offer an explanation for their delayed purchase. “You know,” they’d say, “I was thinking about your demonstration, and you’re right, this will make an excellent gift for my mother.”

Every day I’d work straight through until 10 p.m., taking an hour each for lunch and dinner, and then I’d catch the bus home in the dark. I’d shower and collapse into my bed to read for a few seconds in Pigs Have Wings, my latest Wodehouse novel, before falling asleep.

And that’s how it went for seven straight days. I’d turn up at Drug Fair at 8 a.m., an hour before the store opened, to prepare the potatoes for my demonstration. I’d restock the Veg-O-Matic display, piling the boxes high in an ergonomically conical construct of my own contrivance, and check out a register tray so that I could relieve cashiers who went on break.

If my schedule was exhausting, it also had its advantages. I slept like a stone, and the days flew by. At home, I didn’t have a conversation with my mother, father or sister that lasted more than 10 seconds. “Hi, how ya doing?” was as intimate as it got, which suited me. My father was asleep when I left in the morning and when I came in at night, I didn’t have to listen to my mother and sister bicker. Only my brother Mike, with whom I shared a room, was around when I staggered in whacked out from 12 hours of working with the public. He’d fill me in on the day’s drama with my sister, which made me glad I’d be headed back to college soon.

When the store closed at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I used my humongous 5 percent employee discount to purchase gifts for the family — a cheap cotton bathrobe for my mother, which turned out to fit her like a circus tent, a simulated leather wallet for my father, a 45 of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” for my brother, and the Beatles’ Help! for my sister. I was headed out the door with my packages when the manager stopped me.

“You’ve done a good job,” he said, a genuine smile on his pasty face. “And I’m hoping you’ll consider coming back to work through New Year’s Eve. You won’t be selling Veg-O-Matics, but I need experienced help to run the registers and handle returns. I could use you for at least 12 hours a day.”

Normally I would have responded with an emphatic “No,” but fresh in my memory were the money problems I’d experienced during my first four months at college and the hours I spent in McEwen Dining Hall scraping greasy dishes and scrubbing pots. With my paltry allowance, there was no hope of establishing a relationship with any of the girls I found myself drooling over as they roamed the campus. It was essential I screw up my courage and get myself an on-campus date. I’d have to double with an upperclassman who had a car, and to make that happen, I needed enough money to cover my share of the gas.

“All right,” I answered. “Can I get some overtime?”

“I’ll give you all the overtime you want. You can work 14 hours a day if you skip lunch and dinner.”

“All right,” I answered, “I’ll be glad to help out.”

So on December 27, I was standing behind a cash register refunding money for the Veg-O-Matics I’d sold the week before. “I’d like to get the money back for this thing,” the customer would say, handing me the orange and black box. They occasionally offered excuses such as “I already have one of these” or “I have no use for this piece of junk,” but what they wanted was cash. In almost every case the customer returning the Veg-O-Matic was not the person who’d bought it, so I didn’t consider the returns a criticism of my performance. I handed them the money and stuck the boxes and signed receipts under the register. At the end of the day, I toted the returned Veg-O-Matics to the storeroom and piled them up in the same space they’d occupied when they were new.

To compound this irony, the manager handed me a hammer at closing time on my first post-Christmas day as a cashier and sent me to the stockroom to smash the Veg-O-Matics the store had taken back. “Just bash those veggie things into little bits and put them back in the boxes,” he directed. “And while you’re at it, smash up these toys that didn’t get sold.” The manager didn’t explain why I needed to destroy so much perfectly good merchandise, and I didn’t ask. But I laid into my new task with gusto, obliterating hundreds of Veg-O-Matics along with Chatty Cathy dolls, Etch-A-Sketches, tin airliners, space guns, trains, battery-powered James Bond Aston Martin cars, Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, Easy-Bake Ovens, electric football games, G.I. Joes, and the occasional Barbie doll, perfectly good toys that might have gone to poor children who’d suffered a sad Christmas. But it was exhilarating work — and strangely gratifying — an anti-capitalistic binge that assuaged the guilt I’d suffered from selling plastic crap to poor people.

But the days were long, and there was no time to hang out with my friends. When I got off work at 9 p.m., I was too worn out to go to parties or ride around with high school buds. I’d catch the bus back to Eastport and fall into bed. The following morning, I’d get up and do it again.

On my last day of work, a Friday, the manager shook my hand. “You’re a lifesaver,” he said, pumping my weary arm. “If you need a job next Christmas, just let me know.”

I smiled, gave him my college post office box number and asked him to send my check there rather than to my home address.

“You should get it before the 10th,” he said.

During the two-and-a-half weeks I’d toiled at Drug Fair, my parents hardly noticed my absence. I was a shadow who flitted in and out at odd hours. And I wanted it that way. I didn’t have to listen to them argue, which was their habitual method of communication during any holiday season when they were forced to remain in each other’s company for more than five continuous minutes. And if my parents didn’t realize the hours I was working, they’d have no idea how much money I was making. Had they an inkling of the cash I was likely to pocket, they would have given me that much less for tuition, room and board, and the endless hours I’d spent slaving at Drug Fair would have been for naught.

On the evening before my return to Elon, in honor of my having been invisible during the holiday season, my mother prepared lasagna, my favorite dish. 

“You headed back tomorrow?” my father asked.

“First thing in the morning,” I answered, “I’m going to catch the bus.”

My mother looked puzzled. “It seems like you just got here,” she said.

“I’ve been working the whole time.”

“Good,” she said. “How much money did you make?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t gotten paid yet — and the wage at Drug Fair isn’t as much as it is at the Safeway. I’ll let you know when the check arrives.” I was lying, of course. I had no intention of telling anyone how much money I’d earned. It was nobody’s business but mine.  OH

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of eight books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press Awards. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book The Year We Danced: A Memoir.

A Fresh Take on Faux for the Holidays

A Fresh Take on Faux for the Holidays

Elevating favorite collections with greens

By Cynthia Adams

Photographs by Bert VanderVeen


Pre-holiday, Sharon James invited Todd Nabors to give her Whitsett home his signature faux-mixed-with-fresh ideas a go. Nabors, a long-time friend, consults on occasion with avid collectors — like James — seeking to elevate their favorite things. For Nabors, Mother Nature lends all the inspiration needed.

He favors natural touches like running cedar and garden greenery, even on gift wrapping.   

Though she admired how Nabors relied upon natural elements, James had a quandary. During work absences, evergreen embellishments simply wouldn’t last.

Nabors had a solution. It’s perfectly fine to cheat a little, tucking faux greenery in with fresh.

“Consider where greenery and color are needed, and invest in the best faux foliage and blooms for your seasonal decorating budget,” Nabors advises. “Remember that, while realistic garlands, wreaths, trees, fruit and blooms are expensive, they last for many seasons.”

Plus, “these ‘almost real’ elements facilitate decoration schedules early or late in the season. They require no refreshing, replacement or clean up.”

Nabors favors a realistic, classic mix, using “faux spruce, pine, magnolia with forced amaryllis, narcissus and Christmas roses [hellebores].” For more oomph, place faux cyclamen and orchids in a fool-the-eye container, such as “a crusty terra-cotta pot, tole or porcelain cache pot, or woven basket.” Faux Osage oranges, lemons, kumquats, pears and figs “beautify holiday garlands, wreaths and bowls.”  

Fresh or faux, James and Nabors go all out. Yet, simplicity is lovely, too. An orchid nestled inside a beautiful wreath may be all that a holiday table requires, Nabors insists.

The Moravian star, a touching reminder of the Moravians’ long presence here in the Triad, was purchased at the Moravian Book & Gift Shop in Old Salem store (Although it closed earlier this year, it can still be shopped online). The wreath features various faux citrus styled by Nabors.

Covered boxes in marbleized paper (turquoise and jade) are tied with brown and orange satin ribbon. The faux cinnamon studded oranges were found at Randy McManus Designs in Greensboro.Covered boxes in marbleized paper (turquoise and jade) are tied with brown and orange satin ribbon. The faux cinnamon studded oranges were found at Randy McManus Designs in Greensboro.

Don’t forget the importance of a good entrance. Even a pair of antique stone balls from the English Cotswold are decorated for the holidays.

The stone fire pit overlooks the Stoney Creek golf course, where even a tall ornamental urn (one of a pair) is decorated with traditional greenery and ribbon.

A simple Christmas nutcracker and crèche figures provide another festive touch in a house overflowing with holiday spirit.

A treasured crèche is displayed with a white reindeer and an antique knife urn. “The little figures are from Lima, Peru,” says James. “The deer is from Gump’s catalog. And the feathers are actually little white owls made of feathers. Todd and I placed my collection of feathered owls all throughout the house.” 

James has collected crèches since the late 1990s. “All the fabrics on the figures are traditional French fabrics,” and the figures were ordered from a defunct French catalog.

Among the tree ornaments are French papier mâché rabbits that James has owned for 30 years. Others are from travels in the Philippines. The blue-and-white chinoiserie porcelain ornaments were found on Etsy.

A 19th century French jardinière containing the tree is from White Hall in Chapel Hill.

The 15th century icon (made of metal) is the saint for metal workers.

A holiday-ready tableau —  tray of fruit, paper whites with a faux bird, and pierced compote dishes — is decorated with evergreen balls. A spray of greenery and citrus dress up antique knife boxes. Feathers embellish an 1860 Louis Phillipe mirror flanked by buffet lights from Plants & Answers.

Dig in! Spiced sweet potato cake is served on a Mottahedeh reproduction plate, with an antique mother-of-pearl dessert fork.


Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Brown Sugar Icing


4 8-ounce red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pierce sweet potatoes with fork. Microwave on high until very tender, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, peel and mash sweet potatoes.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325° F. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray, then generously butter pan. Sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Measure enough mashed sweet potatoes to equal 2 cups. Transfer to large bowl. Add sugar and oil to sweet potatoes; using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add eggs 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Beat in vanilla. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Using small knife, cut around sides of pan and center tube to loosen cake. Turn out onto rack; cool completely.

Sift powdered sugar into medium bowl. Stir brown sugar, whipping cream and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes, occasionally stirring and swirling pan. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour brown sugar mixture over powdered sugar. Whisk icing until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Cool icing until lukewarm and icing falls in heavy ribbon from spoon, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Spoon icing thickly over top of cake, allowing icing to drip down sides of cake. Let stand until icing is firm, at least 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.)

Source:  Epicurious.com

Poem December 2023

Poem December 2023


The Latin teacher finally did retire. Her balcony now bends toward the sea. She is in a high-rise looking down at birds. Gulls scream and fly north to the next resort. All that’s left now are pigeons on the patio. They scavenge through the purpling decorative cabbage. She hasn’t seen a pelican yet, just the same birds she came here to get away from. They look like feathered cataracts in a kale eyeball. She sees a buried Titan with umbrella pectorals. It struggles to emerge from beneath the sodden November sand, beaten down by so many tenacious dog walkers. He has his eye on her.

              — Maura Way

Maura Way’s second collection of poetry, Mummery, was published by Press 53.

A Tug to the Tar Heel State

A Tug to the Tar Heel State

Inside the collected and colorful Casa Carlisle

By Cassie Bustamante  
Photographs by Amy Freeman

I f you want to date me, you have to promise we can live in North Carolina one day,” Jason Carlisle recalls his wife, Crystal, saying presciently to him early into their 20-year relationship.

“I don’t remember saying it like that!” she counters, but confirms it was part of the deal. North Carolina, Crystal says, “was woven in my heart long before I knew why.” While she felt an inexplicable pull, Jason, who says he’d follow Crystal to China or the moon, had always loved the Tar Heel State. He recalls fond childhood memories of trips from Florida, where his family had a farm, to Maggie Valley and Cherokee in the ’80s, as well as traveling with youth groups to leadership conferences in Appalachia.

And so it was that in the summer of 2018, the couple and their three boys — Lucas, now 15, Grayson, 14, and Micah, 9 — took a leap of faith. They sold their farm in Florida — “Cows, chickens, I mean the whole farm!” says Crystal. With no new employment prospects in sight, Jason, a teddy-bear type who now works for GFL Environmental in High Point, quit his job and said goodbye to his tractors and truck when the family made the move.

Why? Crystal discovered that her little sister, Karissa, who had been adopted as an infant years earlier by a family in California, was now living in North Carolina. It’s a long story that begins with Crystal’s mother: “My mom had my brother and myself and was a single young mom and found herself pregnant again and gave that baby up for adoption.” It turns out that when Karissa was only 2, her adoptive mother died of ovarian cancer. Her adoptive father moved to North Carolina for familial support. So when Karissa, at 18, reached out to her birth family, Crystal finally understood that tug she’d felt to North Carolina

So, with as many of their belongings as they could fit in a 26-foot U-Haul, the Carlisle family headed north. Awaiting them was a 1971 home (more than double in size of their farmhouse) abutting Forest Oaks Country Club’s golf course.

Just months earlier, Crystal had taken a six-day house-hunting trip to the Greensboro area — selected for its proximity to Thomasville, where Karissa lives with her two children —  looking at over 20 houses. By day five, she recalls resolving to live in a camper for the summer because nothing felt right and she “was not going to settle.” Finally, on day six of her trip, a Friday, her agent brought her to Forest Oaks.

“I can live here,” she thought, satisfied that the neighborhood was close enough to town, but with a bit of the rural feel her family was used to. The house itself was structurally sound and the kitchen had been updated a couple years earlier by the previous owner, but Crystal — who calls herself “The Thrifty Designer” on Instagram — was excited to wave her creative wand, especially with so much more space to serve as her canvas.

Jason and the kids, of course, didn’t see the new family residence until the day they pulled up in the moving truck, and, as he recalls, he said, “Welcome home, boys. We’re home.”

Arriving with limited furnishings and possessions, Crystal quickly got to work slapping a lot of paint on the walls and filling their new abode with vintage treasures found at various secondhand stores. “I try to live sustainably, for sure,” she says.

In fact, much of the home’s decor is thrifted. Crystal, who formerly owned a vintage shop in Florida, spent childhood weekends and summers with her great aunt and uncle, Jimmy, a regular flea market vendor. “They called him ‘Bones,’” she says. “Because he sold actual bones. Alligator skulls and you know.” Growing up in that environment, she became accustomed to thrifting and has carried that into adulthood. “I never knew anything different.”

In the family’s den, just off the kitchen, Crystal waves an arm around the room and says, “Literally everything in here was thrifted.” Even the leather sectional? Yes, even that, which set the family back a whopping $150. And the floral vintage wallpaper? Also thrifted.

The only piece in that space that traveled from Florida with her is a Modern painting of a woman in blue holding cut roses in pinks and reds that sits between two windows. It was a gift to Crystal from her mother on her 18th birthday. Though it appears as if the colors in the artwork inspired the palette of the room, Crystal says, “I am just drawn to those colors and when I put it up there, I thought, oh my gosh, she’s perfect.

With bold strokes and an innate sense for seamlessly mixing antiques with Modern vintage, Crystal continues the flowery patterns and color palette throughout the main floor of the home. Blues, teals, pinks and reds harmoniously repeat, masterfully drawing the eye from one treasure-filled room to the next with ease.

How does Jason feel about the florals and pastels that flow throughout the home? “I trust her so much,” he says, a glint of pride sparkling in his light blue eyes. Then, those eyes twinkling, he says jokingly, “As you can see, I inspired everything in here.”

In the dining room, pink paint blankets the walls, creating a soft and intimate surrounding for a looooong wooden table flanked by a contrasting teal antique church pew and midcentury upholstered dining chairs. On one wall, a pair of long shelves display a rainbow assortment of vintage glassware.

“Did she tell you about this table?” Jason asks. “$100!”

The blonde wood table, it turns out, was handmade, complete with turned legs, by a neighbor and features several leaves to make it even longer. She purchased it when his estate items went to auction. “When we moved, I was like, I want a dining room table that will fit 12–14 people and everybody was like you’re insane,” says Crystal. But, she adds, “I put it out there and it comes to me!”

Dreams come true for Crystal. Now, the dining room hosts regular Sunday family dinners with Karissa, her husband, Travis, her kids and her adoptive father, affectionately known as Uncle Earl to Crystal’s kids. “It’s been so cool to have a family that we never knew we would have,” muses Crystal. “It’s been a really fun surprise.”

In a corner of the dining room, a large vintage chalkboard purchased at a church yard sale and previously used in a Sunday school classroom sits on the wall. On the right side in black Sharpie, presumably written by a Sunday school student, it reads, “God is cool.”

Underneath the chalkboard, clearly not part of her aesthetic, is a box with items spilling out: her donation pile. “I am always gathering and purging, gathering and purging,” she says. While she frequents thrift stores as a shopper, she also replenishes them, happy to keep worthy items out of the landfill.

In fact, friends often inform her when they spy potentially good scores curbside, headed for the dump. One of her favorite finds, which came to her via a friend texting about “a pile of stuff at the curb” by their church, hangs on a wall in their guest room. “It’s a Burwood peacock, complete with its original crown,” says Crystal. “Out of the trash.”

Jason was flabbergasted to discover similar pieces sell for a couple hundred dollars. “And it was just sitting on the side of the road,” he says, shaking his head.

The fireplace in the same room has been painted a soft pink, though Crystal admits trying black first. “I hate black,” she says, adding, “It just doesn’t feel like me.” Above the, wait for it, pink mantel hangs a gilded vintage mirror, a gift from Karissa, who she is now able to spend time with regularly. “She’s a thrifter as well, so we’re always collecting.”

On the built-ins next to the guest room fireplace, rainbow-ordered books hand-selected by Crystal for their color line the shelves, purchased from her one of her favorite thrift stores, Blessingdale’s, a Southwest Greensboro gold mine for deal hunters. “They have books at eight-for-a-dollar!” she exclaims.

While she has filled her home with found treasures, the real gem of the house, according to Crystal, is the sunroom and the backyard.

Outside, several sculptural Moderne Russell Woodard chairs — Crystal’s most prized possessions — surround an aqua outdoor dining table snagged on Facebook marketplace. A pair of matching Woodard chaises with a side table sit just off to the side. “We actually unloaded our leather sofa at the farm because everything wasn’t going to fit,” she says. And she was not about to leave Russell Woodard behind.

The sunroom — also a shade of pink, Sherwin-Williams’ Malted Milk — serves as the family’s breakfast nook and homework hub. Flanking the room’s many windows are 1960s floral panels in shades of — you guessed it — blues, pinks and reds. “All my curtains came from Blessingdales,” says Crystal, who has hung vintage floral curtains in many-a-room.

Jason calls attention to the sturdy, large-scaled vintage classroom chairs, mustard yellow in color and serving as a clean-lined foil to the pastels and florals. “They are perfect for our boys — big boys,” quips Crystal, whose children take after their father.

Adjacent to the sunroom is the space that they’ve made the most changes to, the kitchen. With Jason’s help, Crystal, who has built quite a following on social media because of her keen eye for thrifty and colorful design, participated in a spring 2020 online event entitled “One Room Challenge,” sharing updates each week on her instagram page: @casa_carlisle. The couple removed cabinets from one wall, replacing them with open shelving, painted the lower cabinets and island in a custom shade of teal, painted the uppers white, replaced lighting with more modern fixtures, added wallpaper backsplashes and made it their own with personal details and thrifted touches.

But Jason knows his wife well enough to say, “I am pretty sure at this point she wants to paint these cabinets again.”

With a coy smile, she responds, “I’ve thought about it.”

“There’s nothing off the table,” says Jason, constantly in awe of the changes Crystal makes in their home “because it keeps the house fresh, keeps it new, keeps it different.”

These days, Crystal works full-time as an account executive for a furniture company in High Point and, while she still loves to fluff her nest, she doesn’t see many drastic changes on the horizon. “There are a couple projects I would like to tackle, but we’re right now at the point in our lives where weekends are for sports or for family stuff,” she says. “We just raised fun kids, so I want to hang out with them. We’ve raised our own little best friends.”

Later this month, the Carlisles will gather around their extra-long dining table with their boys, Karissa’s family, Uncle Earl and extended family from afar to give thanks for the most treasured North Carolina find: time spent with family and a house that has exceeded Crystal’s dreams — at least for now.  OH

Fire in His Eyes

Fire in His Eyes

An artist reflects on processing trauma through his canvas

By Cassie Bustamante

Faced with the aftermath of personal trauma, Chase Hanes turned to what helped and healed him in his youth — painting.

Asked if he just picked up a brush one day and watched as the paint flowed across the canvas, the self-taught artist lets out a laugh. After a pause, a drawn-out nooooooooo.

As a shy and quiet child growing up in Midway, Hanes, now 31, recalls how in elementary school he was encouraged to tap into his creativity by “a very special teacher.” With her guidance, he discovered that it was “a way to really condense feelings and get them to where I am able to process them,” an important lesson for a young introvert.

Years later, as a high school student, Hanes says, “I was struggling with a lot of depression and identity issues, and painting and drawing and being creative was so healing, so cathartic.” It was during those four years that he developed his identity as an artist. Through studying art books and lots of practice — “countless drawings of people I admired” — Hanes honed his skills. One individual in particular showed up repeatedly during his early practice: his sister, Amber, who is 11 years older and has always been “very maternal” toward her younger brother. “One of the first paintings that I got really applauded for was a portrait of my sister. My mom still has it hanging on our wall at home.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Chapel Hill, he went on to UNCG and completed a master’s in library and information sciences and another in women’s and gender studies.

Following academia, a job that Hanes thought was the right next step on his career journey turned out to be the thing that would once again find him struggling with identity. Working for a “nonprofit where individuals facing severe health issues, food insecurities and/or cyclical poverty could get various resources,” Hanes staffed the day center, “where people would get meals, have recreational activities and participate in support groups.” At the nonprofit, he also guided poetry circles and helped many people who could barely read write poems, describing that process as magical. “In theory,” says Hanes of his work there, “it sounds very beautiful.”

While the work he did in the poetry circles was, in fact, rewarding, the overall workplace was far from it. “I saw how people — staff and clients alike — got taken advantage of repeatedly, which was especially severe and inhumane in the early days of COVID,” he says. Hanes says that he found himself in what he viewed as an “emotionally abusive professional environment.” Once again, he felt adrift, struggling with depression and without an avenue to channel his skills and creativity. Wistfully, he adds, “I kind of just left art behind.”

In July of 2020, Hanes made the decision to leave his job. “When I got away from that situation, it ripped me apart,” he says, his deep, black-brown eyes focused downward. He looks up. “But after a few months . . . I was able to make something from it.”

It’s often been said that great art comes from great pain. And maybe that’s why in the fall of 2020, Hanes found himself reaching once again for his paintbrush. “Prior to October 2020, I had only done one painting,” says Hanes of that life-changing year. “And then, all the sudden, it just came like a storm and I had to keep going. I had to make sense of the trauma that I experienced.”

Once again, someone he greatly admired served as his muse: Taylor Swift. What is it about her that inspires him? He laughs and says, “I could write a whole dissertation!” In addition to being close in age, Hanes, a self-proclaimed Swiftie, sees similarities in the way they approach the world. “She understands that people with similar sensitivities have certain obstacles in life that they have to overcome,” he says, alluding to his own sensitivity. He adds, “Her honesty and her willingness to be vulnerable is so special.”

While Hanes is inspired by Swift’s songs, often written about her own life experiences, he used her as a vehicle for telling his story in a collection of paintings he calls fragile life, take up space. “It was easier — it almost felt like it gave me space,” says Hanes. “It gave me distance from my own experience to tell my story with another character at the very beginning.”

A few of the early paintings in this collection feature images of women being saved or uplifted by a group of women. Hanes, who felt he’d lost his community along with his job, reconnected with a group of female childhood friends who always made him feel safe. “There’s a beautiful sense of clarity that comes along with finding your way back to people who really do love you and care about you.” It’s no surprise that this group, his old — and renewed — community traveled with him to Nashville to see Swift’s Eras Tour, a concert at which he shed tears of joy.

Later in Hanes’ fragile life series, a painting entitled Stolen Lullabies Were/Weren’t Mine to Lose — inspired by the lyrics, “You weren’t mine to lose,” from the song “August” — features a drowning Taylor Swift amidst books and pages bobbing in the ocean around her. Hanes draws another parallel between himself and the singer: “This particular piece deals with Taylor losing the rights to the masters of her precious work, and I had lost a lot of writings and some drawings and some artwork . . .”

Yet, the expression on Swift’s face as she’s drowning isn’t one of suffering. “There’s a certain peace in being able to know you’ve lost something and not fight it,” says Hanes. He pauses and offers one word. “Acceptance.”

After reaching acceptance through his art, Hanes continued to process his feelings on canvas. A later painting in the series, Break Free, draws on Swift’s “Tolerate It” lyrics:

. . . what would you do if I

Break free and leave us in ruins

Took this dagger in me and removed it

Gained the weight of you, then lose it

In this painting, out of a shattering concrete statue, Hanes’ own figure finally emerges, replacing the character he had assumed and then rejected. “It’s about a ripping the self away from following in someone’s footsteps, someone who nobody should follow in their footsteps,” he says. He notes that in this piece, “I am wearing my Taylor swift cardigan and I’m feeling protected and coming into my own person.”

The final work in this collection, completed in December 2022, is a pair of paintings titled Get the Light Back in Your Eyes, Kid, and is inspired by the cover to Taylor’s October 2022 album, “Midnights.” In each painting, Hanes appears, holding a lighter. In the first, he’s looking at the flame, and, in the second, he’s looking up, the glow reflected in his eyes. He explains that he’d been talking to a friend who was familiar with the hardship he’d endured — from leaving his job, the repercussions and finding a new role, his current job, as Forsyth Tech’s acquisitions librarian. “She looked at me one day,” he says, “and she said that I had the light back in my eyes.”

As Hanes reflects on the paintings he’s created from a need to release pain, the light in his eyes sparks from a strengthened sense of self and from friendships he’s rekindled.

What’s next for this Swiftie? While his painting has slowed down due to the work-life balance, he’s thrilled to be finding joy on the job. “I get to decide the new materials that come into our collection and I get to really focus on diversifying . . . and bringing in a lot of marginalized voices and filling in collection gaps.” Then he laughs, adding, “Possibly international travel to see The Eras Tour . . . I may find out tomorrow.”

A few days later, he confirms that he and his childhood friends are, “Drum roll . . . going to Dublin 2024!”  OH

The Crying Game

The Crying Game

My initiation into the Antiques Roadshow

By Cynthia Adams

I still have an antiques hangover of epic proportions, the aftermath of the PBS Antiques Roadshow event last May at Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Art, shot for the program’s 27th season. This was only the second time the show has been filmed in Raleigh — and only the fourth time in its history it has come to North Carolina.

In fan parlance, the show is known as AR and first aired in the United States in 1997, now commanding an audience of 6 million viewers.   

A big deal with big drama.

It is based upon the original British premise: Folks bring cherished valuables for on-screen appraisals. Locations vary, but are typically museums or historic sites. Appraisers evaluate and explain whether they’re junk, bunk or treasure.

My fandom began decades ago, but my saga began early this year. 

With only five scheduled cities on the 2023 AR tour, I jumped to enter the online ticket lottery. By April, I was notified I had won tickets — a feat compared to getting into Stanford. 

On average, at least 8,000 applicants vie for 3,500 tickets. Those selected are limited to two objects (more allowed if a collection) for appraisal by the on-site volunteer experts. Fans are legion.

O.Henry colleague Ross Howell Jr. shares insight into just how far-reaching AR is, describing a scene from the former Foggy Rock Eatery & Pub in Blowing Rock. 

“There was a row of flat screen TVs along the length of the bar featuring the usual sports options, but, one night, things were fairly rowdy at the head of the bar, where the cash register was located. I thought maybe it was a football game, but instead it was a group watching Antiques Roadshow.” Fans included “preppies and trust fund babies,” but also “strapping mountain boys” in ball caps.   

“The bartender that night was a bearded, 6-foot-5-inch App State grad who now has his own flower growing business. Somehow, he was keeping a loose record of the valuations proffered by others at the bar as the item was being described by the expert on TV. I never quite gathered what the prize for guessing the valuation closest to the expert’s without going over was, but I think it had to do with who would be responsible for buying the next round of drinks.”

The experts, who gain national celebrity, come from some of the nation’s top auction houses.

At least 6,000 objects are appraised per event, according to the AR website. Raleigh featured 64 appraisers in 23 areas ranging from Ancient Art to Rugs and Textiles.

But, if I’ve learned anything since experiencing AR in person, it’s how I badly want to steal something — nothing I saw hauled in by the show’s many acolytes. Something cerebral, like the sharp and witty descriptions of the participants in Jay Kang’s Liars, Losers and the Lessons of Antiques Roadshow. Now that, I wanted to steal. Because Kang has broken down exactly what it means to, like me, become one with legions of liars and losers. 

The lesson? I, too, was prepared to fake amazement on live television. As if unsure whether baubles I dragged along truly merited the golden AR spotlight — before summarily learning said baubles were unworthy. 

That was the lesson. 

Am I a sore loser? I’m scouring the internet to find fellow liars and losers because . . . well, misery loves company. 

But I digress. Because the reason you’re here is my liar-to-loser exposé.

Learning my ticket admitted two, I gave one to fellow AR fan Larry. [Last name withheld because, well, there’s some shame in our game.] Thereafter, we weighed what items we would take for evaluation. 

On event day, May 16, we left Greensboro for Raleigh at 11 a.m., although our admission time wasn’t until well after lunch. We amused ourselves on the drive by practicing reactions: “Wow! You’re kidding me, right? I had no idea!” and pulling astonished faces.

If you’ve seen the show, you understand. For the rest of you, “Wow” is the conditioned response. It’s Pavlovian. When appraisers tell owners their signed baseball is worth a gazillion, or grandma’s churn is worth thousands, they all mutter the same dazed response: “Wow.”

As if they’ve never heard of Google search.

Nervously excited, we stop off for a slice of pizza and can barely eat for yakking. We have high hopes our treasures might astonish even the most jaded AR appraiser. 

Larry brings some prizes from estate sales: most importantly, a French painting along with some decorative objects, including Bactrian, or “mud,” camels. I have some heirlooms from my husband’s family, small enough to tuck into my purse. 

Pulling into the parking lot, heat radiates on the horizon. Waved through successive lots by the guards, we notice the decidedly older crowd, gesturing and animated. 

Collapsible wagons, the main accessory of the day, are being popped open and filled.

AR flags fly merrily, and navy-blue tents marked the museum grounds — like what exactly? “This looks like a geriatric Taylor Swift concert,” I mumble to Larry, who scored the prize he’s driving at an estate sale. The 2012 350 E Mercedes with only 81,000 miles is a honey of a find. (A great talisman, we had agreed en route.)

“We’ll either come home excited or come home with our tails between our legs,” he predicts. We grow suddenly sober. We had taken time away from work. But clearly, here is a crowd with nothing but time — and suspected valuables — on their hands.

Scores lug boxes or tug arcana and indescribable objects. Confusingly, some enter as others exited, given our staggered ticket times. On his way out, a white-haired man drags a darkly stained and shellacked tree stump festooned with carved stallions, legs pawing and tails flailing.

“What is that?” yells a hard-of-hearing AR fan. 

“A table!” chirps the owner. “It weighs 250–300 pounds.” Two people mouthed the requisite “Wow,” at which the stallion table owner glowed. For him, it’s worth it’s weight in AR gold.

Rather than exit, he suddenly heads for the AR Feedback Booth. Here one could roll the dice again in a last gambit to get on air with a self-effacing joke about how their treasure was mere trash.

We wade through the throngs. A man bearing dodgy looking brass vases howls, “They’re worth $2,000! And I only paid $300 for them!”

“Wows” follow. He bears a triumphant grin on the scale of the stallion stump table.

We trudge with the treasure-laden to Stage 1, called “triage,” to be assigned categories.

The screener in triage, now humorless as it was 1:30 p.m. and she had been on site since 6:30 a.m. — wearily inspects our objects. Her sweat-dampened hair sticks to her forehead.

We are separated for the rest of the day, Larry dispatched inside an air-conditioned museum building, first to Asian Arts then Paintings. (Later reporting that there were few in those lines.) I had no such luck, sent first to the popular Jewelry queue, the longest on the premises, before the even longer Decorative Arts and Silver line. Both are outdoors, where I crowd-watch — and bake.

Walking canes and wheelchairs are not uncommon. Some stagger past bearing weighty relics, curiosities and sundry collectibles.

As of 1:45 p.m., 35 people wait ahead of me. Occasionally, others are escorted by AR crew to the front of the line. Rather than advancing, I steadily lose ground. Standing on tiptoe, I spot natty Doyle Auctions appraiser Kevin Zavian, who wears a suit despite the heat. At the beginning, an electric energy ripples through the line, as we murmur about possibilities.

Yet, the reality goes from manic to depressive as we see stranger things by the hour. 

“Is that man carrying a tapestry on a broom or mop?” a woman asks behind me. Whatever it is, he bears it high like Joan of Arc marching into battle.

As my spirits flag, I spot AR Folk Art appraiser Ken Farmer. Which gives me a brief adrenaline blip. Thereafter, I lose track of time. The air grows stiffer, hotter, as we advance by mere inches, the tapestry bobbing ahead.

“Where did all these people come from?” I hiss in despair. I meet some people who have come all the way from northern Virginia and Charleston, S.C. I despondently imagine somebody driving from Calico Corners, North Dakot, a to break in line with a ukulele. It’s possible. Those of us in the “crowd of liars” are clearly prepared to drag said valuables to hell and back in hopes of newfound wealth, as Kang writes.

Cautionary AR emails warned, it will be a long day, one with lots of standing and waiting. But, somehow, being fabulists ourselves, we don’t quite seem to comprehend the truth of this. However, I brought along a folding chair, which I dutifully lug around all day without actually using it. (More liar madness. If I don’t sit down, hopping along with a chair, perhaps the line will go faster.)

Let’s face it. The odds are against any of us getting on air. There’s a staggering surfeit of quilts, pottery, china, swords, Bakelite jewelry, violins, signage, antique bellows and baskets.

[Fact: Of the most telegenic, rare or intriguing objects appraised at each AR location on the annual tour circuit, only an estimated 90 or so are chosen for recording. Even then, there’s the faintest possibility my precious keepsakes will make the final cut.]

Still, appraisers do their valiant best to winnow out rarities. Occasionally, video crews come through filming “B roll” of the lines of waiting hopefuls lugging everything from well buckets to Grandma’s bloomers. Some deemed “good television” are rare, but not Moon Rocks rare. 

Also curious, even the uber-confident sported shorts, T-shirts, even (gasp!) open-toed shoes. (Expressly forbidden in AR pre-event instructions. And how would that look on TV?) 

But it grows infrequent for AR crew members to randomly tap attendees for filming on set within the museum. The rest of us are left to languish with our sweaty armpits.  Merciful AR volunteers (who also scored admission and appraisals by volunteering) toss out water bottles to the parched crowd. As Larry said in one of our many debriefing conversations the whole day is about as exciting as “watching people bringing junk to a flea market. It wasn’t much better.”

As the line crawls along, Larry calls: “Well . . .” He drawls. “I’m going home with my tail between my legs.” 

The Asian Arts expert (likely Robert Waterhouse) tells him his porcelains are newish or fake. He’s pretty sure he knows who faked them.

“The Bactrians were not the early ones, like I hoped, but still worth $3,000–4,000 for the pair.”

And Larry’s other porcelains? His prized blanc de chine dogs? 

“They were old, but not as old as they were made to look. The reason he knew they weren’t was they both had worked for Sotheby’s. A fellow agent there had them painted. If they had been real, they would have been worth $30–40 grand.” 

And the painting? Appraiser Alan Fausel of Bonhams New York evaluates it matter of factly. Larry is hoping it’s the work of famous French landscape artist Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.

If authentic, it’s invaluable. If it was painted by someone “in the school” of the painter — and it seemed many imitations were attempted — the work might be still worth mere thousands.

Not a complete wash out, but a disconsolate Larry laughs bitterly.

By this time, I had met many other attendees, including Donna and Mike Moore, Judie Mapomo, and Angela Pozeamb — and heard their items’ backstories. A former Macy’s buyer brought two signed Tiffany candy bowls. Another had costume jewelry. Yet another Raleigh woman hauled a garish silver-plated sculpture. “I don’t even like it,” she confesses, as her exasperated husband is suddenly splattered by bird poop.   

By the time I reach appraiser Jill Burgum of Heritage Auctions in Dallas she looks beyond exhausted. 

At her invitation, I produce my treasure: three engraved rose gold studs in an oval antique box.

“Well, these are charming,” she says kindly, lifting one stud, which she promptly drops. Burgum drops underneath the table, too, searching the ground. A fellow appraiser is sympathetic. “Things roll, right?” he commiserates as my heart thrums.

I join her search. Noticing a glint of gold, I find it.

Burgum knows exactly what they are: 18-carat tuxedo studs. We purchased them in a South African antique shop for a pittance — perhaps less than $25. They bore a Birmingham, England, origin mark, dating them precisely to 1899. The original box was called a “coffin” and accounted for a portion of their worth, which was anywhere from $300–500. 

She wonders if it was emblazoned with the name of the actual maker or simply the reseller, guessing it was the later. Not a humiliating outcome, but what, exactly, had I expected?

Two grueling hours later, I summit the second antiques Matterhorn: Decorative Arts and Silver, poised before ARTBnk appraiser Kelly Wright. 

Opening my bag of treasures for the exhausted Wright, I quickly surmise he’s not particularly interested in my husband’s ancestor’s riches-to rags-saga. (A London-made fortune lost to mining in South Africa. Facts in my folder under the heading “Formerly Wealthy But Ruined Ancestors.”)

Wright, having logged hours in the stifling heat, understandably appears close to collapse.

I share what I can in the two minutes allocated. His eyes flicker to mine as he examines my two engraved silver match safes, an ornate glove stretcher, shoe horn and two pairs of grape shears. He reference-checks the hallmarks.

They collectively date to the 1860s, also hallmarked Birmingham, England. “Early Victorian,” Wright determines. The marks concluded they were plated . . . naturally, because the bankrupt ancestor was forced to liquidate the sterling. 

Only the less valuable silverplate was retained.

More bad news: The glove stretchers, etc., belonged to (incomplete) “dresser sets,” Wright explains wearily but patiently. Broken sets held diminished value. 

Wright shoots a pitying look. Given their antique value, they would now be worth only about $60 per item. 

All total, the heirlooms I’d risked heat stroke for were not worth $1,000. I imagine the boys in the bar at Blowing Rock booing me off the stage if I had been filmed.

The AR website suggested, “When your appraisals are complete, please spend time to explore our event venue and enjoy the festival atmosphere.” Rejoining Larry, who’s been waiting in the shade, I announce, “I’ve no desire whatsoever to visit that durn Feedback Booth.”

“Me neither,” Larry agrees. 

“The most valuable thing I got out of today was the free bottled water,” I complain.

“I liked my stuff better when I thought it was valuable,” Larry grouses, packing the trunk. Then we laugh. Irrationally merry.

He carefully threads his real treasure, his Mercedes, through traffic, hitting the Interstate, dissecting every hot minute.

“Do you think it’s kind of a racket?” Larry asks.

It’s, of course, a purely rhetorical question by that point.  OH

Restaurant in Peace

Restaurant in Peace

A look back at bygone ‘Boro eateries

By Billy Ingram

Join us for a retrospective of Greensboro’s rich culinary legacy. Travel back in time to when just about every place someone dined in was locally owned. Patrons not only became friends with the restaurateurs, they were able to watch their children, who served them and ran the cash register, grow into adulthood.

Our journey begins in an era when farm-raised meats and just-picked produce were delivered directly each morning from farms to cafe back doors. Every dish was painstakingly prepared daily from generations-old recipes; adventurous innovators rose up with visions for what an increasingly younger clientele yearned for. Tuck in your bib and dig into the days shortly before the soulless mediocrity of an endless chain of corporate franchises hijacked America’s taste buds.

1) Manuel’s Cafe

© Greensboro History Museum

From the early 1920s to the mid 1950s, Manuel’s was the epitome of fine dining downtown, with fresh flowers and linen tablecloths. Men, of course, wouldn’t think of arriving attired in anything but a suit and white gloves were de rigueur for the ladies, though most folks of a certain class dressed like that when they left the house back then any way. Known for its rich, savory spaghetti and massive Western-style steaks, Manuel’s shared the block with Jefferson Standard’s West Market Street entrance. “We serve the very best!”

2) Cafe Mecca

© Greensboro History Museum

A little further down West Market during the ’30s and ’40s sat “Greensboro’s Most Popular Restaurant,” Cafe Mecca, serving seafood and steaks but pretty much offering the same menu items as every other local hash house. There was very little ethnic food available in town, but one notable exception was The Lotus Restaurant, launched in the 1930s and specializing in Chinese dishes, facing the Carolina Theatre on Greene Street.

3) Matthew’s Grill

Almost every city eatery from the’30s into the ’80s was owned and operated by Greek immigrants, Matthew’s Grill, aka “The Right Place To Eat,” being no exception. Having learned the business at The Princess Cafe, his sister and son-in-law’s downtown mainstay on South Elm, owner-operator Minas Dascalakis bought Matthew’s, sandwiched between the Greensboro and O.Henry Hotels on North Elm, in 1953. For the next 36 years, that luncheonette’s counter served as a go-to spot for business leaders and city officials. Standard Southern fare dominated the menu — the Sunday Special in the ’60s was braised rabbit — but Dascalakis was always eager to whip up any off-menu Greek speciality a customer craved.

4) Your House

This always dependable, inexpensive diner began life in Greensboro in the mid-’50s, adjacent to the Journey’s End Motel on Battleground, and survived 55 years, long after that motor lodge gave way to a generic shopping center some four decades ago. In its heyday, the restaurant was part of a 12-unit chain founded by the Callicotts in Burlington in 1962. I was also partial to another house, Jan’s House, in that funky dilapidated strip mall on West Market, where you could imagine the chef was flat-topping hash browns between stints behind bars.

5) Ranch Restaurant

© Greensboro History Museum

Very much like the design and concept of Your House, The Ranch Restaurant was attached to Smith’s Ranch Motel on Randelman Road at what was then the edge of town near Interstates 40 and 85. In 1968, proprietor J. Howard Coble (no relation to U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro, whose father was Joe Howard Coble) served up a complete club steak dinner, including salad, french fries and buttered roll for the princely sum of $1.65.

6) Southern Queen Hot Shoppe

Ever notice that streamlined, train car-like building with a stainless steel exterior (recently painted over) attached to the side of La Bamba on Gate City Boulevard? Originally located across the street, this very rare example of a late-1940s Paramount built diner was constructed for Southern Queen Hot Shoppe, a drive-in hangout for post-war hipsters serviced by uniformed “curbers.” The Greensboro Hot Shoppe was one of 70 in seven states at the chain’s height.

7) Airport Restaurant

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

According to my dear friend, Margaret Underwood, it was at this out-of-the-way Italian eatery overlooking the tarmac at PTI that chef Steve Bartis, another Greek expat, served the Gate City’s first pizza pie back in the 1950s. According to Margaret, this joint, with a $2.25 Wednesday night buffet, “had the best tossed salads with Roquefort dressing I’ve ever tasted.”

8) Tom Tom Supper Club

From the 1940s well into the 1970s, supper clubs were all the rage. Communal dining and dancing in grand ballrooms accompanied by live entertainment dished out by B- and C-listers such as Gogi Grant, The Archers, aka “America’s Answer to the Beatles!,” and alleged comedian Joe E. Ross’ wretched stand-up act. In Greensboro alone there were over half-a-dozen supper clubs during the 1960s with names like Queen’s Inn, Canopy, Tropicana (borderline strip joint booking acts such as Ginger “Snapper” Monroe, Exotique), Green’s — famous for its beach-themed oyster bar — and the Plantation on High Point Road (now Gate City Boulevard), where occasional A-listers, including The Ames Brothers and Nat King Cole, performed.

9) S&W Cafeteria / Mayfair Cafeteria

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

Just one of many cafeterias downtown, the S&W was said to be the finest in the nation with an operation that took up three floors. Many felt it was a cut above, both culinarily and with its quietly elegant interior. Both S&W and Mayfair closed in the mid-’60s, when customers began fleeing the center of town for neighborhood retail strips, Friendly Center and, soon to follow in the ’70s, the Four Seasons Mall. 

10) Sunset Hills Restaurant

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

A fine dining establishment named for the neighborhood it bordered, Sunset Hills Restaurant opened its doors in the 1952 at 1618 Friendly Road. Offering live lobsters, thick-cut pork chops and massive steaks served in a refined setting, it closed when the entire block was demolished in the early-1960s to accommodate a modern fire station, where 1618 West is docked currently.

11) Bliss Restaurant

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

From the corner of Northwood and Huntington, this fine dining establishment seared chops and steaks for the Irving Park set from the 1940s until the mid-’60s when the place, by then renamed Al Bolling’s Charcoal Steak House, was itself reduced to charcoal after an inferno leveled the structure. That location then became home to the greatest multiscreen movie theater this city has ever or will ever know, the Janus. There’s a First Citizen’s Bank there now.

12) IPD / Cellar Anton’s

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

Across Northwood from Bliss, Bill Anton converted a grocery store into a community culinary gathering spot like no other: Irving Park Delicatessen (IPD to regulars). The look, seen here in 1960, changed drastically in later years, but upstairs was the casual cafe where beloved waitress Bertie Johnson warmly welcomed folks, serving up lasagna and beef Leonardo that couldn’t be beat. Downstairs, where maître d’ Fitz Fitzgerald presided, was the more upscale Cellar Anton’s, a cavernous, candlelit old world grotto dominated by a wooden bar for folks “brown bagging.” At the time diners brought their own liquor to be stored behind the bar, then paid a nominal fee for set-ups. When IPD closed a decade ago, an extraordinarily crucial manifestation of what defined Old Greensboro vanished along with it.

13) Casey’s “World’s Best Bar-B-Q”

© Greensboro History Museum

Very popular with the Grimsley High lunch crowd from the ’50s into the ’70s, Casey’s was known for its grab-and-go Whiz Burgers, so named because the patties were slathered in Cheez Whiz. Booths were equipped with tabletop jukeboxes and prominently displayed up front was a check for $5,000 (more than $50,000 adjusted for inflation) signed by Andy Griffith for catering a Los Angeles cast party. He’d wanted his TV co-stars and crew to experience authentic North Carolina barbecue. You may recognize this building — it’s the strip on Friendly where Bandito Bodega is today.

14) Honey’s Drive-In

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

With car culture in full swing by the 1950s, cruising High Point Road became a requisite teenage pastime. So the idea of downing King Bee burgers with your date sitting close enough to share your shake in an automobile the size of a small living room made perfect sense. Immaculately coiffed car hops attended to mobile meal-goers, while indoor noshers placed orders via closed-circuit telephone. Behind Honey’s (previously McClure’s) was the fabled Sky Castle, where Greensboro’s grooviest rock’n’roll radio jocks broadcasted live over 1320-AM WCOG. DJs would even take requests from diners as they tuned in while eating, parked in their beaters and crates. A great deal more exciting than current tenant Olive Garden.

15) McClure’s 

© Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

After Drew and Devore McClure sold the aforementioned drive-in, they opened this upmarket restaurant around 1964 in the Summit Shopping Center. It was considered the height of mid-century elegance, featuring the “Sir Loin Room,” where rare roast beef was carved to order. A lobster tank anchored the front window, while, in the rear, the comfy Lantern Lounge with tufted leather seating showcased local musical acts on weekends. Very Continental.

16) Jung’s

© Greensboro History Museum

In the 1970s and ’80s, this Tudor-inspired house at 314 North Church St. was one of the city’s superlative dining destinations. While Jung’s Chinese & American Restaurant featured beautiful, spacious dining rooms with high ceilings, when I would tag along with my father, he would generally order Chinese spare ribs to-go.

17) Jordan’s Steak House 

Jordan’s Steak House, established in 1972, featured an intimate, 76-seat isle of gentility on Church Street, masked by a nondescript exterior. The most sought after chophouse in the Triad for visitors during High Point Furniture Market, its limited menu ensured exceptional standards. Diners selected the cut of beef they desired from a rolling table-side cart and, in due time, that steak returned grilled to perfection. By 1999, it was well-done the moment mediocre meat merchants Outback and Longhorn rode into town uninvited.

18) Darryl’s 1890

For teenagers in the 1970s, Darryl’s was the place to congregate with friends over frosty $3 pitchers and cheap wine carafes. Immersed in a playfully garish decor obviously inspired by New Orleans cathouses, the atmosphere was unlike any other, almost every station adorned with its own singular theme. The most requested corner was the caged table resembling a jail cell. Lines were long as eager date-nighters clambered to get inside on weekends.

19) Tony’s Pizza

Another hip hangout for high schoolers in the 1970s was Tony’s Pizza on Battleground, an avenue nowhere resembling the congested corridor of car lots and fast food chains we’re accustomed to today. Conceived and owned by Aleck Alexiou, son of The Princess Cafe’s owner, Tony’s was known for its incredible submarine and grinder sandwiches, a relatively new concept for this region.

20) Baskin-Robbins

Can one wax nostalgic over a franchise store in a cinderblock hut? In the 1970s, after movies let out at the Janus Theatres, Baskin-Robbins’ parking lot on Battleground behind IPD became packed tighter than a BR pint, brimming with young people. Business was so brisk Janus launched its own ice cream parlor that failed to dampen the throngs amassing nightly in search for affection over confection anyway. After the Janus’ eight screens flickered out in 2000, the crowds melted away at 31 Flavors, resulting in its slow demise.

As an amuse bouche, here’s a partial list of restaurants that have been around for 45 years or more, still in their original locations, that remain highly recommended: Cafe Pasta; Bernie’s Bar-B-Q; Brown-Gardiner Drug Store’s lunch counter; Lucky 32; Yum-Yum Better Ice Cream; K&W Cafeteria; Lox, Stock & Bagel; First Carolina Delicatessen; Mayberry Ice Cream; and New York Pizza on Tate.  OH

Poem November 2023

Poem November 2023

After Church

When the preacher’s son told me

my aura was part halo, part rainbow,

I saw him see me

saintly. God

appeared instantly and everywhere

that summer:

smiling in the pansies,

reflecting us in the farm pond,

beside us on our bikes,

in the barn fragrant with warm cows,

glinting from the hay chaff,

the slatted light.

God touched us as we touched,

electricity in our fingers,

we were shimmery and dewy,

our skin golden, hair sun-bleached.

Angels sang in our voices.

The moon rose in heaven, love,

heaven in the moon.

— Debra Kaufman

Debra Kaufman’s newest poerty collection, Outwalking the Shadow, is forthcoming from Redhawk Publications.