Cracker Barrel, Belk and Robert E. Lee

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last Friday night I had to scoot out of the Robert E. Lee Bicentennial Celebration a bit early. Mom was going to be taking off again Saturday for a visit with Deb in Birmingham, so we gathered at the Cracker Barrel (&#8220we” being me, Benny, my papa-in-law Mr. A.C., Mom and Debbie) for an early birthday meal. Mama turned 82 years young on Saturday, you see.

The restaurant was jumping with travelers, hunters and the local crowd; thankfully Mom and Deb had arrived early to grab us a table.

We enjoyed a delicious meal (our waiter Chris was the tops).

Debbie, who is possibly the proudest grandmother on earth, was thrilled to see the photos I had taken during the Christmas celebration at her house, especially the ones of a certain little girl named Abbi.

&#8220Ooh, I'll have to get this one enlarged, she's just so CUTE in this,” Deb squealed with a grin, as she waved a shot of the adorable Abs. The munchkin was laughing, crinkling up her little nose, wearing her fur-trimmed red Christmas dress with the sparkly snowflakes (I knew Deb would particularly love that photo).

Later that night, after we'd gotten back home and I had dropped off Mama's birthday gifts, we three &#8220girls” sat in the living room of the old farmhouse and visited for a while.

Mama had gotten a generous Christmas gift, $100, from our cousin Arthur in Hueytown and plans to go on a little shopping spree in Birmingham.

They have some nifty new Belk stores in B'ham these days, it seems, and Deb is taking Mama to check them out.

Back in the day, of course, the Belk-Hudson's here in Greenville was a regular destination for the Killough girls.

&#8220It was three stories high. I thought that was amazing,” I recalled with a laugh.

Downstairs you'd find clothing for ladies and men and a costume jewelry section, with the shoe department tucked away in the back of the store.

Climbing that tall staircase was always fun, beckoning us to explore what lay above our heads.

The second story, the mezzanine, was actually so low-ceilinged someone like my six-foot husband practically had to duck a bit. Here was where you could buy crystal vases, irons, mixers, bed and bath linens, ceramic bowls; gifts for those wedding showers, housewarmings and anniversary celebrations on the to-do list.

While Mama made her choices, I liked to walk over to the balcony to look out over the first floor, joining the blank-eyed mannequins showing off the latest fashions, their hair as stiff as their poses.

Another short flight took us up to the third floor where the fabric department and children's clothing were located.

Mama sewed most of our clothing and Belk's and Planter's, the two department stores in town, sold her hundreds of yards of materials and drawers full of buttons, thread and assorted notions over the years.

We did buy some ready-made items (when they were on sale, of course) which meant a try-on in one of the little dressing rooms. The best part of a visit to the dressing room was peeping out their little windows to see the vista of Greenville offered from such lofty heights.

Belk's has been closed for years. Today, Main Street Movies is located in the old building. Still, it is fun to remember our small-town shopping trips from days gone by.

I hope Mom and Deb make some happy new memories at the snazzed-up Belk in the big city.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at