THE WEEMS WEEKLY
(WHISTLE STOP, ALABAMA'S WEEKLY BULLETIN)
June 12, 1929
The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking. All the cooking is being done by two colored women, Sipsey and Onzell, and the barbecue is being cooked by Big George, who is Onzell's husband. If there is anybody that has not been there yet, Idgie says that the breakfast hours are from 5:30-7:30, and you can get eggs, grits, biscuits, bacon, sausage, ham and red-eye gravy, and coffee for 25 [cts.]. For lunch and supper you can have: fried chicken; pork chops and gravy; catfish; chicken and dumplings; or a barbecue plate; and your choice of three vegetables, biscuits or cornbread, and your drink and dessert--for 35 [cts.]. She said the vegetables are: creamed corn; fried green tomatoes; fried okra; collard or turnip greens; black-eyed peas; candied yams; butter beans or lima beans. And pie for dessert. My other half, Wilbur, and I ate there the other night, and it was so good he says he might not ever eat at home again. Ha. Ha. I wish this were true. I spend all my time cooking for the big lug, and still can't keep him filled up. By the way, Idgie says that one of her hens laid an egg with a ten-dollar bill in it. ... Dot Weems ...
ROSE TERRACE NURSING HOME
OLD MONTGOMERY HIGHWAY
DECEMBER 15, 1985
Evelyn Couch had come to Rose Terrace with her husband, Ed, who was visiting his mother, Big Momma, a recent but reluctant arrival. Evelyn had just escaped them both and had gone into the visitors' lounge in the back, where she could enjoy her candy bar in peace and quiet. But the moment she sat down, the old woman beside her began to talk ...
"Now, you ask me the year somebody got married ... who they married ... or what the bride's mother wore, and nine times out of ten I can tell you, but for the life of me, I cain't tell you when it was I got to be so old. It just sorta slipped up on me. The first time I noticed it was June of this year, when I was in the hospital for my gallbladder, which they still have, or maybe they threw it out by now ... who knows. That heavyset nurse had just given me another one of those Fleet enemas they're so fond of over there when I noticed what they had on my arm. It was a white band that said: Mrs. Cleo Threadgoode ... an eighty-six-year-old woman.
"When I got back home, I told my friend Mrs. Otis, I guess the only thing left for us to do is to sit around and get ready to croak.... She said she preferred the term pass over to the other side. Poor thing, I didn't have the heart to tell her that no matter what you call it, we're all gonna croak, just the same ...
"It's funny, when you're a child you think time will never go by, but when you hit about twenty, time passes like you're on the fast train to Memphis. I guess life just slips up on everybody. It sure did on me. One day I was a little girl and the next I was a grown woman, with bosoms and hair on my private parts. I missed the whole thing. But then, I never was too smart in school or otherwise ...
"Mrs. Otis and I are from Whistle Stop, a little town about ten miles from here, out by the railroad yards.... She's lived down the street from me for the past thirty years or so, and after her husband died, her son and daughter-in-law had a fit for her to come and live at the nursing home, and they asked me to come with her. I told them I'd stay with her for a while--she doesn't know it yet, but I'm going back home just as soon as she gets settled in good.
"It's not too bad out here. The other day, we all got Christmas corsages to wear on our coats. Mine had little shiny red Christmas balls on it, and Mrs. Otis had a Santy Claus face on hers. But I was sad to give up my kitty, though. "They won't let you have one here, and I miss her. I've always had a kitty or two, my whole life. I gave her to that little girl next door, the one who's been watering my geraniums. I've got me four cement pots on the front porch, just full of geraniums. "My friend Mrs. Otis is only seventy-eight and real sweet, but she's a nervous kind of person. I had my gallstones in a Mason jar by my bed, and she made me hide them. Said they made her depressed. Mrs. Otis is just a little bit of somethin', but as you can see, I'm a big woman. Big bones and all. "But I never drove a car ... I've been stranded most all my life. Always stayed close to home. Always had to wait for somebody to come and carry me to the store or to the doctor or down to the church. Years ago, you used to be able to take a trolley to Birmingham, but they stopped running a long time ago. The only thing I'd do different if I could go back would be to get myself a driver's license.
"You know, it's funny what you'll miss when you're away from home. Now me, I miss the smell of coffee ... and bacon frying in the morning. You cain't smell anything they've got cooking out here, and you cain't get a thing that's fried. Everything here is boiled up, with not a piece of salt on it! I wouldn't give you a plugged nickel for anything boiled, would you?"
The old lady didn't wait for an answer ".... I used to love my crackers and buttermilk, or my buttermilk and cornbread, in the afternoon. I like to smash it all up in my glass and eat it with a spoon, but you cain't eat in public like you can at home ... can you? ... And I miss wood.
"My house is nothing but just a little old railroad shack of a house, with a living room, bedroom, and a kitchen. But it's wood, with pine walls inside. Just what I like. I don't like a plaster wall. They seem ... oh, I don't know, kinda cold and stark-like. "I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I've had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don't think the old men they've got here can see well enough to notice that she's bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she's in the closet with my gallstones.
"I'll be glad to get home.... Of course, my house is a mess. I haven't been able to sweep for a while. I went out and threw my broom at some old, noisy bluejays that were fighting and, wouldn't you know it, my broom stuck up there in the tree. I've got to get someone to get it down for me when I get back.
"Anyway, the other night, when Mrs. Otis's son took us home from the Christmas tea they had at the church, he drove us over the railroad tracks, out by where the cafe used to be, and on up First Street, right past the old Threadgoode place. Of course, most of the house is all boarded up and falling down now, but when we came down the street, the headlights hit the windows in such a way that, just for a minute, that house looked to me just like it had so many of those nights, some seventy years ago, all lit up and full of fun and noise. I could hear people laughing, and Essie Rue pounding away at the piano in the parlor; `Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight' or `The Big Rock Candy Mountain,' and I could almost see Idgie Threadgoode sitting in the chinaberry tree, howling like a dog every time Essie Rue tried to sing. She always said that Essie Rue could sing about as well as a cow could dance. I guess, driving by that house and me being so homesick made me go back in my mind ...
"I remember it just like it was yesterday, but then I don't think there's anything about the Threadgoode family I don't remember. Good Lord, I should, I've lived right next door to them from the day I was born, and I married one of the boys. "There were nine children, and three of the girls, Essie Rue and the twins, were more or less my own age, so I was always over there playing and having spend-the-night parties. My own mother died of consumption when I was four, and when my daddy died, up in Nashville, I just stayed on for good. I guess you might say the spend-the-night party never ended..."