Before there was Cheers, there was Melear’s: Thanks for memories


How many plates of barbeque and big sweet tea glasses have you had there?

As a babe in arms one of my first memories is making the pilgrimage from the city (Atlanta) to Fayetteville on Sunday afternoon. Our weekend entertainment was going for a ride on Sunday after church. I fell into a deep sleep in the back of a crowded car and woke up to the smell of barbeque and a magical piano that played by itself.

I was from Lakewood, the home of Harold’s barbeque, so not until I got much more mature did I understand why my family had to come to the middle of nowhere (Fayetteville), to get good barbeque. I didn’t realize till later that my dad had five hungry teenagers to feed, four of them boys, and that Melear’s had refillable plates and a never-ending BIG sweet tea glasses.

Being picky, barbeque was too spicy for me, but I loved the tea and potato chips, the ceramic pigs on the wall and all the commotion.

Going out to eat was a memorable occasion. Melear’s was in the middle of a foreign country and with always a lot of commotion. The waitresses smiling, moving tables for a family of seven with ease and refilling plates and glasses countless times. All the time Mr. Melear was there with his cigar, ceramic pigs and candy jar at the register.

Moving to Fayetteville at 16 in 1973 Melear’s was still our place for special occasions, birthday, visitors from out of town, where eating out was still an occasion. My choices were Dairy Queen, Chow Now, Dell’s Diner and, yes, always Melear’s.

My dad was a barbeque man; Melear’s always won out. I had learned to like the chopped outside meat and spicy stew, but still passed the sweet pickles on to my dad, but I LOVED the sweet tea.

I moved out to discover the world, but when I came home, the treat was still Melear’s. However, now without the drive we added breakfast and country cured ham to our favorites.

The ham was to die for, literally, in your arteries, but what a lovely way to go. My dad, at 86, died very content with lots of country cured ham in his arteries.

As I moved into adulthood and found Fayetteville a perfect place to raise children, I frequented Melear’s on Saturday morning. As my Yankee husband was politicking, this is where the mainstream of Fayetteville hung out. This is where you really found out what was happening in Fayetteille.

The knights of the round table congregated: Jack Dettmerring and Aubrey Varner, just two of the characters who I was fortunate to know and admire, but many of the characters which made Fayetteville one of the most desired places to live. And always Kenny was at the register with his cigar, ceramic pigs and candy jar.

On Tuesday night, Kiwanians met, for the bottomless big tea glasses, which kept my Yankee husband up all night, because of the sugar and caffeine (but he never turned it down).

This was only one meeting I was privy to, but how many Rotary, Kiwanis, civic organizations and projects were planned while drinking tea at Melear’s? How many race fans stopped on their way to Hampton? How many Christmas trees were sold in Melear’s front lot?

When ABC National news came to ask what the country was thinking about the election, where did we send them but to Melear’s? And always, Kenny was at the register with his cigar, ceramics pigs and candy jar.

As my dad became Paw Paw, we always had to take the kids to see Kenny’s Pig Carousel at Christmas. How many years did he entertain our kids with the one and only Merry Go Round of pigs?

Being from Atlanta, I was an afficionado of the Pink Pig. I wonder what it is with Georgia and pigs? Could it be “the south in your mouth”? But that’s another story.

When Louise passed away (probably working that day), I thought Melear’s would close down. She was our favorite, because she had been there with her starched apron and sweet smile as long as I could remember. But no, there were many more who Kenny kept going with his wood piles, barbeque and hospitality of a Southern town.

He gave the many characters who made Fayetteville what it is today a place to meet, eat and be merry. And always Kenny was at the cash register with his cigar, ceramic pigs and candy jar.

Before Boston had Cheers, we had Melear’s.

So, Kenny, thanks for the memories; we hope now you can sleep in one morning.

Tami Kemberling

Fayetteville, Ga.