by Malinda Fillingim
Back in 1977, my senior year in high school, I worked at Hicks Pharmacy in Walnut Cove, NC. I knew what ailed everyone and what medicines they took to help cure those ails. But, as an added bonus when they were short staffed, I also got to help out at the in-house snack bar/diner known as Red Rooster Grill.
I didn’t know anything about being a waitress, but I knew how to handle one gentleman who liked to taunt my inexperience. “I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich, hold the cheese,” Frank would say, waiting for my reaction. “Give me one hot dog all the way, plain.” I’d usually ignore him and just give him whatever I wrote down. He’d laugh as he ate, saying he’d get me next time.
That experience taught me a lot about dealing with the public, especially old men who wanted an excuse to get out of the house and socialize. It also taught me that food unites people, gathering hungry for more than what was on their plate. People came to the Red Rooster to visit, see what was happening in the community, and wait for Mr. Hicks to tell them their pills were ready. I watched as they talked and commented about politics in between bites and sips of hot coffee. I knew who would order the daily specials or splurge on a piece of pie they really didn’t need.
Sometimes I’d pocket a huge tip from Frank with a good-natured note that might read, “Hang in there. You might amount to something.”
I returned to the Red Rooster the other day and true to my experiences, men gathered in the morning to drink coffee and socialize about random things under the blue sky of Stokes County while eating good country cooking from a place that feels like a second home.
I wonder what it was Frank thought I might amount to as I grew older. I hope it was a woman who appreciates her roots and knows the value of community, one plate at a time.
All photos by Malinda Dunlap Fillingim.
Red Rooster Grill (inside Hicks Pharmacy)
1072 N Main Street
Walnut Cove NC 27052
Malinda Dunlap Fillingim had the good fortune to move to her step-father’s hometown, Walnut Cove, NC when she was in eighth grade. Curious by nature, Malinda asked Mama Dunlap so many questions about her cooking that she finally gave up some of the old recipes she carried in her head. Malinda is an ESL teacher at Cape Fear Community College and lives in Leland