Local Grocery Stores, Old and New

A recent article in Our State magazine about family-owned Smith’s Red & White Supermarket, located in nearby Dortches, got me thinking about local Rocky Mount grocery stores back when dinosaurs roamed the earth—that is, the 1960s and ’70s when I was growing up.

I decided to take a field trip to the former locations of two of these stores, Gurganus Brothers and Wooten’s Supermarket. I wanted to see what, if anything, is going on there today.

Both locations are in areas of town that have experienced what sociologists call white flight. When I pulled into the parking lots of the stores that have replaced Gurganus Brothers and Wooten’s, I felt out of place and conspicuous, and if I’m being honest, a little afraid. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to enter either of the two stores that today stand in the locations of the old supermarkets.


Fairview Mart, location of old Gurganus Brothers









I would like to have gone inside. I was curious to see what’s being sold and whether the prices are significantly higher than those in a Food Lion or a Harris Teeter. From what I could see from my car in the parking lot, both stores seemed fairly busy, with customers coming and going.


The Family Supermarket, location of old Wooten’s Supermarket


Are local people shopping there for the convenience? For products they can’t find in other grocery stores? Or the friendliness of a small market where the cashier may actually know their name?

Or because they lack transportation to get anywhere else?

I go to Smith’s Red and White for one of the above reasons: products I can’t find in another grocery store. For example, freshly-ground sausage, homemade chicken salad, desserts from nearby Tastee Creations Bakery, and barrels of what used to be called “penny” candy.


“Penny” candy at Smith’s Red & White


If you’ve been inside either Fairview Mart, located where Gurganus Brothers used to be or The Family Supermarket, at the location of the old Wooten’s Supermarket, tell me about it. I’m curious to know what their shoppers find there.

To read more about Rocky Mount mom and pop grocery stores from days of yore, click here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/05/20/Local-grocery-stores-come-and-go.html


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Sew What?

Does anybody sew anymore? I mean make your own clothes kind of sewing.  As in buy fabric and a pattern.  Pick out thread, zipper, buttons (called “notions” in sewing lingo).  Then stitch up a dress or a pair of pants.

I know I don’t. Despite the fact that one of the first big items I remember purchasing as a young married woman was a sewing machine, I never put it to much use outfitting myself or my young daughters.  IMG_1220Oh, I made the occasional item, a skirt here and there.  This one, a toddler size 5, stills hangs in an upstairs closet, though the daughter it was made for is now 36.

Clothes got cheaper over the years with all the made-in-China /Vietnam/Jordan/Mexico imports. And I was a working mom with hardly enough time to cook, let alone sew.  My seamstress projects became limited to specialty items, like the “window treatments” (drapes) I made for my dining room. IMG_1211

Growing up, a couple of my daughters expressed a fleeting interest in sewing. In fact, the last dress I remember making was a joint venture with my youngest daughter. We IMG_1213stitched up the simple sleeveless A-line number from this pattern.  It looked a lot like the one I made in ninth-grade home economics back in 1969.  My daughter liked the dress, wore it, but never wanted to make another.

My grandchildren often ask me to set up my sewing machine. They will cut out and stitch something they can stuff, producing lopsided pillows or vague animal shapes. The boys mostly like pressing the foot pedal to make the machine run.

But maybe my only granddaughter, almost thirteen, will turn out to be a sewer who sticks to it.  School will soon be out, and she’ll need some projects.  Perhaps she’d like to make a classic A-line dress.  I already have the pattern.



To read more about my thoughts on home sewing, click here   http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/05/06/Sewing-seems-unlikely-today.html


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Garden Therapy, Part 2

If my mother had ever heard the words “garden therapy,” she would’ve rolled her eyes. “Garden” to her meant that field of vegetables planted behind the backyard of our out-in-the-country home. Long rows of corn, butterbeans, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, squash, okra, and potatoes.

There wasn’t anything therapeutic in planting, picking, and preserving all that produce. It was a job that lasted all summer.

Fast forward to me. I don’t can or freeze vegetables, but I do enjoy planting a few hills of cucumbers along with a couple of bell pepper and tomato plants. By the time I buy the seedlings and amend the soil with bags of Black Kow manure I get from Lowe’s, I spend more money producing these vegetables than I would pay for them at the farmer’s market.

But that’s not the point. I enjoy growing stuff. In small amounts so that gardening doesn’t get to be work.

IMG_1154I’ve planted my cucumber seedlings at the edge of my backyard shrubs as I have for the last few years. I’ll have to post another picture later in the summer to show how much they’ve grown. If all goes well.


I repeat, if all goes well. The biggest problem I have with trying to garden at my suburban home isn’t drought or diseases. It’s animals. Deer, rabbits, and squirrels, to be exact. I’ve learned to plant everything in my fenced-in backyard, which at least keeps out the deer.20180418_165336

But rabbits and squirrels easily slip in. So this year, I’ve beefed up security. My youngest daughter gave me her cast-off raised garden beds and around them I’ve added a tight wire-mesh fence (thank you, husband for nailing it to the boards). I’m thinking it will take a Superman rabbit or a really starving squirrel to jump this fence.


Garden therapy isn’t so therapeutic when critters get to your plants.

To read more about my gardening (plants and flowers), click here: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2018/04/29/Planting-Can-Be-Therapeutic.html


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Garden Therapy, Part 1

Yesterday was May 1, May Day if you’re old enough to remember when schoolchildren used to dance around maypoles. I celebrated by setting out my first summer flowers.  It’s been a cold spring, and I turned down a sister outing to the nursery a week or so ago, thinking I wasn’t quite ready to spring into summer annuals.

But turning the calendar page to May combined with temperatures in the low 80s this week got me in the mood to plant. I finally felt the need for garden therapy.

I love digging in the dirt. I guess it’s just the old country girl in me, but there’s something restorative about putting in a bed of flowers.  Communing with nature, I forget the minor irritations of life.

IMG_1140This week’s garden therapy began with a trip to Allen’s Nursery. I felt like a kid in a candy store as I surveyed all the types of flowers, rows upon rows of colorful options. I was almost giddy and momentarily forgot what I’d come to buy, a flat of my tried and true begonias.

Which kind do I always plant? For some reason, the begonias sold at Allen’s all have alcohol names: Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Rum.  Last year’s cocktail was a red variety, and none of the selections this year seemed to be quite the one.  I finally picked a bright pink named Brandy.


Back home, my husband volunteered to rototill my begonia bed. He’s not into garden therapy like I am but will do small jobs that require power equipment.  I spaced, dug holes, planted, and rearranged the pine straw.  These baby begonias have a lot of growing to do to catch up with crops from previous years.



I did yield to one impulse buy at the nursery. Pink petunias were calling me. I had temporary amnesia about my past struggles with keeping this flower alive and healthy.  Garden therapy is counterproductive when plants die.  But it’s May and hope springs eternal during planting season.


I’ll talk about my vegetable gardening in the next blog, Part 2 of Garden Therapy.




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Those Amazing Hummers

20180420_181125Who doesn’t love a hummingbird? I’ve put out my feeder and already spotted a couple of early birds (pun intended)!  My husband took the picture to the left through a window, which is why the photo’s a little fuzzy.  He was afraid if he opened the back door, this little birdie would fly away.  (Look closely to find the hummer!)

20180423_114613Though our guest was not a very colorful member of the hummingbird family, I was excited to see a market for my leftover bottle of  nectar.

  No, I don’t mix my own.


Last year when my backyard hostas bloomed, they were also a draw for hummingbirds. If foliage is any indication of flowers to come, it looks like another good year for hummingbirds to hover over my hostas.20180423_114413


Did you know the average hummingbird weighs only one-eighth to seven-tenths of an ounce? That’s the weight of one to eight pennies.  They aren’t tiny because they don’t eat, however.  Hummingbirds feed constantly, about 5-10 times per hour for 30-60 seconds each time.

In fact, they eat their weight in nectar or sugar water each day. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could eat our weight in sweets each day and be as small as a hummingbird?  Then again, maybe not such a good idea.  The thought of consuming that many doughnuts is a little sickening.

The above hummingbird info came from a quick google search, but I also heard a speaker at my garden club recently whose topic was titled “Those Amazing Hummers.” One aspect of the hummingbird she talked about that I found interesting involved raising their babies.

It seems male hummingbirds are playboys whose goal in life is to see how many lady hummingbirds they can impregnate. These cads don’t stay around to help with the young, but leave the mama hummingbird to do all the baby bird work.

But, our speaker said, the male hummingbird usually lives only three years while the female averages five.  Somehow I find that fact strangely satisfying.

Got any hummingbird pictures you’d like to share on this blog? Send them to me at patsy.pridgen@gmail.com, and I’ll post.


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The Lovely Flowering Azalea

Flowering azaleas have always been a part of my spring: the blooms of the pure Snow White, the brilliant Hershey Red, and the bright pink Coral Bells.  Okay, I’m through with azalea name-dropping.  Those are the only three I know offhand.

My mother and grandmothers, on the other hand, could have rattled off the names of a dozen varieties. See, the azalea has always been a popular item in the landscape of eastern North Carolina.  There aren’t many yards owned by the natives in our part of the state that don’t have at least one species of this flowering shrub.  Down East folks, as we like to call ourselves, grew up with azaleas, often planted in the acidic soil around tall skinny pine trees.


I’ve got a mix of old and new in my yard, some that were already planted when I became the fourth owner of my current home and some that I’ve planted myself. My azaleas are a hodgepodge of colors, too, mainly because when I visit a nursery in the spring, I lose any practical landscaping plan I have to coordinate hues, and just buy what appeals to me at the moment.

Of course, can you purchase an ugly azalea? I’ve never seen a healthy blooming one of any species that wasn’t lovely.  And putting red next to white looks fine to me.


My neighbor’s yard across the street is so spectacular I dropped her a note telling her so. She’s gone with the all-one-color look, and those white azaleas really set off that pink dogwood in the midst.  I didn’t do a bit of work on this yard, yet I get to enjoy a ringside view.


Although I’ve privately declared my neighbor the winner of “Yard of the Month,” my whole neighborhood is beautiful this time of year. If only the blooms could last through summer….


To read more about the signs of spring where I live, click on http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen



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The Doggone Truth about Dogs and Me

I was watching an episode of “48 Hours Mystery” the other night where a woman goes missing—often a theme on this program now that I think about it. Anyway, the question was whether this 50-year-old wife got tired of her husband/life and decided to start over incognito somewhere new, or whether the husband killed her and got rid of the body.

One big piece of evidence supporting the husband-done-it theory was that this woman would never have left her dogs. Yep, along with all her worldly possessions, the woman’s three doggies were still in the house.  “Those dogs were her children,” said more than one person.

Hmmm.  For me, three dogs in the house would be the REASON I left home.  Three drooling, shedding, shredding dogs would drive me over the edge.  I’d be hightailing it out of any house I’d have to share with that many canines.

Yep, in case you haven’t guessed by now or read my most recent column, http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen   I’m not a dog lover.

Please don’t send me any hate mail if you are. I know already:  you love your pooches and I must be a maladjusted, cold-hearted person who’s missing one of the finer things in life by not adoring dogs.

To me, dogs are work. There’s all that feeding, grooming, cleaning up after, and taking to the vet stuff.  What are the rewards?  Slobbery nuzzles?  A shedding body on the bed next to you?  Paws that pick your clothes when you’re greeted?  No thank you.

My youngest daughter doesn’t feel this way. Recently, my husband and I were asked to dog-sit her 40-pound, one-year-old Golden Retriever, the second big dog she’s had since college.  We accommodated her request (me reluctantly) and had a week of big dog around the house.

IMG_1003To end this blog on a positive note and to throw all you dog lovers a bone, I will admit that my grandsons had a great time playing with the pooch.








And she might have earned her keep just a tad bit by temporarily chasing away all those pesky squirrels that insist on digging holes in my pine straw.


Oh, and the “48 Hours Mystery” case? Murder charges against the husband have been dismissed twice due to lack of evidence, although no one has heard from his dog-loving wife.



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