Novelist Thomas Wolfe, who wrote the Southern Gothic novel Look Homeward Angel, once made the claim, “You can’t go home again.”
Today, he’d be biting his tongue. I just got back from his home town, Asheville, North Carolina, and I can tell you he’d love what it has become: one of the premiere arts communities in the United States. At the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains (a scenic drive; in fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway begins near there), this mid-sized city of eighty-three thousand forward-thinking souls is a fun place to hang, and get inspired.
But for Wolfe, it was not a happy place, which is probably why the book is such a classic.
Which brings us to The Big Chicken.
My ‘tween and teen years were spent in Kennesaw, Georgia, a small town known for a big Confederate war battle, located just northeast of the bigger North Georgia city of Marietta. Besides being the county seat, in that era shopping took place on or around Highway 41 (known to the natives as “41”), the six-lane spine of the county.
Because it ran north to south from the Fulton County (where Atlanta is located) line, if you wanted to give a directional marker as to exactly where on 41, you’d say, “It’s just north (or south) of The Big Chicken.”
Yep, I know, I know: you’re thinking: Um….what the heck is The Big Chicken?
Back in 1956, some very bright restaurateur named S.R. “Tubby” Davis had to make Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck and Shake, his fast food joint, stand out to the battalion of cars that zoomed by at fifty miles an hour in a sea of strip centers. His solution: build a 56-foot-tall structure, shaped like a chicken.
He hired a Georgia Tech student to design it. The kid did right by him. It looks like something the mobile sculptor, Alexander Calder, would have put up.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. Three glasses of wine will do that to you.
In my time, and today, it is a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
When I was in high school and started to drive, every pizza, burger and ice cream place that was a hangout was on U.S. 41, either north or south of The Big Chicken, by a mile, a stop light, or whatever.
Do I miss high school? No, not really. But I do miss some of the friendships I’ve made there. My trip to Asheville meant passing through Atlanta, which gave me the opportunity to reunite with a few of my high school buds. They live full, wonderful lives. Some have children, and others even have grandchildren. Some are happily married, others happily divorced. They have jobs like elementary school teachers and college professors. They work in retail. They live their lives to the fullest.
They are proud of me, and I am proud of them.
If you ask me where I grew up, I smile when I say, “just six miles east of the Big Chicken.”
You had to be there.
No, you have to go there. It’s worth seeing in person.
(Pssssst: Need more of an incentive? The Big Chicken is just north of the KrispyKreme….so there you go.)
Is there some city icon that has made a big impact on you, or perhaps reminds you of home?
SQUEEEEEEEE! THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING releases this week! Read the excerpt here, then email me at MailFromJosie@gmail.com with the answer to this question:
Name the song that Prince Harry is dancing to, and the artist who sings it.
All correct entries will be entered in a contest to win a copy of this digital eBook. Good luck!