It’s kind of funny how your mind can find a connection between two seemingly unrelated things.
Like hamburgers and rainy days.
Hold on a second, I’ll explain.
As I’m certain you might have seen in an Index-Journal piece from James Hicks this week, demolition crews tore down the old Caravan Drive-In building on South Main Street in Greenwood. For decades it was sort of the south end of town’s answer to the Dixie Drive-In, a greasy spoon that provided both nourishment and a place for local residents to hold court and catch up on the gossip of the day.
The restaurant had been closed for a number of years, and this week the building that once housed it was reduced to rubble. Dollar General is reported to be evaluating the site for a possible store location.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how to take the Dollar General news. On one hand, it’s good that someone may be willing to take what has been, for several years, a dormant site and make it into a location for a new business. On the other hand, there are currently 10 Dollar General stores in Greenwood County. It feels like we’re heading for a future where every store is a Dollar General, kind of like in the movie “Demolition Man,” where every restaurant is a Taco Bell. (Bet you didn’t think you’d get a “Demolition Man” reference this morning.) Maybe one day we’ll all just move into Dollar General and live there.
But even as the world rolls on, it was sad to see the Caravan finally go. For years when I lived in Greenwood and worked at the Index-Journal full time, it was my go-to rainy day lunch spot.
I’m not entirely sure why I often gravitated down South Main on rainy days, but that’s how it was. Maybe it was because the Caravan had that trademark, wavy awning that stretched across the length of the parking lot, a vestige of the curb service days when people would sit in their cars on warm nights and enjoy a meal and some conversation, and maybe a little teenage mischief, there in the parking lot. But on rainy days in the later years, it served another purpose: You could park under the awning and walk most of the way to the building without being exposed to the weather.
Once I got in the door, I’d usually gravitate to the left and look for a stool down at the end of the counter. That spot afforded a good view of the parking lot and the front door, so you could see who was coming in. And, at lunch hour, you’d usually see a tapestry of the South Greenwood citizenry parade in. Construction guys, utility linemen, sleepy-eyed industrial workers who had pulled the late shift at the plant, firefighters picking up to-go orders to take back to the nearby station house. Working-class Greenwood. Salt-of-the-earth Greenwood. The real Greenwood.
I’d almost always order a cheeseburger and an iced tea, though sometimes I’d switch up and get the chicken sandwich. I’d read the paper and watch people coming and going and often end up getting in a conversation with a friend or acquaintance a couple seats away. I’d look out the window and watch as the rain fell, and hear that “swoosh” sound as police cars and work trucks and souped-up Hondas sloshed past out on South Main.
You don’t think of these small moments as memorable when they are happening. At that point, they are just part of the music of the workaday world. But, years later, when the Caravan is long closed and the wrecking ball has come, you realize they were special moments.
And you wish for one more sandwich on a rainy day on South Main Street in Greenwood, South Carolina.