The weather gurus didn’t have much good to say about the forecast. The word was we’d have rain and sleet topped off with snow. Nasty.
Warnings were issued to stay off the roads, if at all possible. Well, for my wife Ann and me, it wasn’t possible and turned out to be a wonderful 24 hours.
I’d bought tickets to see Delbert McClinton’s Feb. 16 show in Morehead City. We catch much of what the Morehead Center serves up and had no intention of missing this one.
We left home three hours before the show kicked off. We wanted plenty of time to have dinner at The Sanitary.
I’ve mentioned that restaurant many times on these pages because the place is woven tightly into my memories from when we first came to the area from California in 1953. We spent our first night at the Perry Park Motel in Morehead and had dinner at the Sanitary.
Who could’ve guessed I’d be writing about that first visit 60 years later?
We have eaten there a lot over these past six decades. When family visited, that’s where we fed them. In my early teen years, going to The Sanitary meant I could drive!
Unless weather was really bad, I drove Dad and Mom to and from, and that was a big deal to me. For me, driver’s education always involved hushpuppies.
I grew up but never away from this place. Married with kids, I regularly herded my little family to the restaurant. I liked the food, the surroundings, the people, and of course the view. The place has no downside in my world.
What brought on this infomercial-like column was a nostalgia attack by a book I purchased at their counter when we were leaving for the show. On Feb. 12, The Sanitary celebrated its 75th anniversary with a published compilation of its history and the folks who made that history.
Like their food, the book was delicious. When I got home I absolutely devoured it, which is appropriate given the genesis. To me, it’s a family scrapbook of history, pictures and clippings.
Naturally without any knowledge or connection to this place, most of it will fall on blind eyes but to somebody like me it was a huge treat. That whole building is packed with personal memories of a thousand dinners with family and friends, of pulling up my boat for a snack of hushpuppies and buttermilk when headed out the inlet.
The anchor to it all is John Tunnell. He’s the friendly and familiar face of the restaurant and has been greeting generations of the Gardner family for more than 60 years. He’s "family" to thousands of their loyal customers, me included.
So what might’ve been a perilous evening turned into a stellar 24 hours. We had a wonderful meal, saw old friends, bought a great book and enjoyed a rocking show.
And if that wasn’t enough, we drove home in a beautiful snowfall, which was completely gone by the next afternoon.
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.