Wandering Billy

Let the Mishegoss Begin

And other musings around town

By Billy Eye

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”
— Frank A. Clark

Someone I admire most in this bourgeois burg is Kamala Lee who spent years in and out of hospitals recovering from near-fatal injuries inflicted upon her at age 6 by a drunk driver. It’s been a two-decades long process since then, with multiple corrective surgeries needed as she grew into the inspiring individual she is today. One of her talents is photography, both still and video, and lately Kamala has been documenting Greensboro’s vibrant music scene. Check out some amazing performances she’s captured on YouTube but, whatever you do, don’t even suggest you’re going to drink and drive this holiday season. She’s a diminutive but deadly martial artist.

The former Meyer’s Department Store downtown at 200 South Elm has undergone a slick makeover, the first two floors impressively reimagined as spacious offices and a meeting space for the Chamber of Commerce, taking full advantage of the magnificent picture windows ringing the building. Fifty years ago, this corner hustled and bustled around the holidays with eager shoppers having family portraits shot in the mezzanine photo studio. Some of them would then lunch in the Garden Room (what most everyone called the Tea Room), known for buttermilk pie, fudge cake sundaes and the Shopper’s Special: a bowl of soup surrounded by three miniature club sandwiches. Across the street at Ellis-Stone, on the main floor there was a fireplace bursting with wrapped gifts given out to VIP customers’ kids, all overseen by a life-size cardboard cutout of Santa, when the real Kris Kringle wasn’t present. Of course, Christmas decorations didn’t go up until after Thanksgiving when, the very next day, holiday-themed windows magically appeared, and everything inside was lavished in tinsel and bows. The store’s modern-day makeover is so extensive that only the elegant exterior stone carvings and a thick bronze plaque commemorating the opening of Meyer’s in 1924 remain from one of the city’s premier shopping destinations.

Action Greensboro, a sister organization to the Chamber of Commerce, is also headquartered inside a historic property. For two years it was ensconced in the Art Deco-inspired showroom my grandfather had built for his Ford truck dealership in the late-1940s, located a couple of blocks from The Depot on Forbis Street (now Church). Action Greensboro shares the space with contractor Frank L. Blum who, I’m surprised to learn, is not author of the Oz books. There’s not much to suggest the structure’s automotive past but the Indian Motorcycle dealer in the adjacent building operates out of what was the Ford Truck repair shop, where you can still see the original windows intact towards the rear. Wondering what Action Greensboro does? Their stellar efforts enhance the quality of life across our community — the Greenway, those “Made in Greensboro” banners, Center City Park. And in less public displays, such as K–12 education programs that partner with local universities and synerG, which exists to stem the drain of young professionals out of the city. All worthy of our gratitude.

You are undoubtedly well into Christmas shopping by now, either checking off that list or doing your utmost to avoid the whole mishegoss. That person on your list who has everything? Here’s something they don’t have: a custom-made rubber stamp made from your design. Gone the way of the buggy whip you say? Not so, just drop in at Gate City Rubber Stamp Co., right next door to the Carolina Theatre, where they’ve been for almost half a century. The proprietors are sisters Joyce Tuggle and Elaine Stringer who told me, “The business started in 1957. My sister came to work here in December of 1969, I came in July of ’70. We were right across the street from S.T. Wyrick [on North Greene]. We moved here around 1973. We laugh that we’ve got 100 years of [combined] experience almost.” Everyone feels like a kid again with an inkpad and a rubber stamp. It’s irresistible, and you’ll thank me later.

Haven’t decided yet if I’m doing Thanksgiving this year. I’ve been serving turkey with all the fixins on and off since the 1980s, for friends with no particular place to go. Sometimes as many as a dozen people arrive unexpectedly; I always end up making new acquaintances when the festivities really kick into gear, after folks fleeing their families show up in need of sanctuary. Come to think of it, I think that’s how I met Kamala Lee. I first started serving Thanksgiving while living in L.A. I had everything catered back then because I ate out every meal, never had any kind of food or drink on hand, not even a saltshaker in those bare cupboards. Now I enjoy the hours-long process making everything from scratch. It’s the only meal I know how to cook. Any other time of year if you come to my place for dinner it’s Pop-Tarts and Kool-Aid. Oh Yeaaaah!  OH

It will come as a surprise to almost no one that Billy Eye has been referred to simultaneously as both a turkey and a ham.

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