Not so long ago I was traveling from Charlotte to Forest City NC. On my way I called a friend, Allen Langley. He asked what I was up to and I told him I would soon be passing through Shelby.
He said, "Great, stop by and I’ll ride with you."
I did, and as we drove along he told me about the many things he and his family enjoy doing in the area. He was very excited about eating at The Fountain at Smith's Drugs. They went into business in 1939, and are still the go to meeting place in Forest City.
After we found our table, Wendy Bennett stopped at our table with her daughters and friends. She told me that she started working at The Fountain when she was sixteen and continued there for three years before becoming a nurse. She now champions the call as the mother of three. With a smile, she said Smith's Drugs is full of great memories and is a favorite for her family.
Our waitress was Susan Donnahoe, a quick witted lady of Irish descent. I asked what the most ordered item was. Susan said that would be the grilled homemade Pimento Cheese Sandwich. So that order went in, but before she left the table, I asked if the maker of the pimento cheese was in.
"Let me check," she said.
The manager, Susan Stewart, came to the table. She is also the recipe developer and maker of The Fountain's pimento cheese. While she was not willing to share the secret ingredients, she did say they make at least 45 pounds of the amazing spread every week.
I spoke with other diners who raved about this simple yet tasty comfort food that regulars can’t seem to get enough of. Pimento cheese lovers can get upset with you if you mess with their favorite.
Case in point: some years ago amidst much controversy the traditionally served pimento cheese recipe changed at Augusta National, and is still being talked about today. In an article published by ESPN, the magazine's senior writer Wright Thompson reported that a fan, Paul Jones, said, “I’m fine with adding the female members, and I am tolerating the belly-putters, but changing the pimento cheese recipe is taking change too damn far.”
As it turns out our taste for cheese in no small matter. According to the USDA, Americans have increased their average consumption of cheese from 7.7 pounds in 1950 to 36 pounds in 1915. It was a good lunch and a great visit at Smith’s Drugs.
Allen and I then drove to the town of Rutherfordton to visit KidSenses Children’s INTERACTIVE Museum, located on Main Street. This is a great place with over twenty interactive exhibits designed to stimulate the imagination of young ones. Allen shared memories of taking his daughter to KidSenses for her birthday party when it first opened in 2004.
I had the opportunity to meet the town manager. Doug Barrick shared some very interesting local history, including the fact that Christopher Bechtler minted America’s first one-dollar gold coin here in 1832. This was almost 17 years before the U.S. minted their own. The Bechtler Mint minted more than two million dollars in gold prior to its closure in 1849.
Rutherfordton has a commemorative trail called “The Gold Mile”. It starts at the Bechtler House and winds around town, and is marked with replica Bechtler one-dollar coins. As you walk around this historic town there are information plaques with QR codes that point to additional information online. I did not have time to see everything, so I will need to return.
While a bit cheesy, it was a great day. I love the traditions of good food, education and a visit with the past.