Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Piggly Wiggly piggy bank, a pie bird, and other Southern essentials

In her day, my mother was a passionate collector. Clocks. Pie birds. Potato mashers. Tractor seats. Raggedy Ann dolls. Mrs. Butterworth bottles.

I once ventured into a vast junk shop in Reidsville, N.C., with her. It was the size of a Wal-Mart, stacked to the ceiling with clutter (or, to my mother, treasures). Almost instantly, my mother spotted a Mrs. Butterworth bottle in a remote corner on a high shelf that she simply couldn't live without.

Perhaps this gives you some idea of the enormous task my sisters and I have faced, contending with our mother's collections. (My mother is very much alive, but lives in a memory-care facility now.) Recently, my sisters and I endeavored to sort through her stuff, so that we could give it to an auctioneer.

This post is about a few of the things I discovered and brought back with me, including something my father had set aside for me decades ago, to my surprise. This time around, I decided to show instead of tell. I hope you enjoy my first "Southerner in San Francisco" video.

Pin It!


  1. Jim, anytime you want some Cheerwine I will be more than happy to send you another CASE!!! In fact, bought a 12 pack today!!! Love it! You are the greatest!! One thing though, did NC ever have Piggy Wiggly? I recall going there in Chicago with my grandmother. Now I did move to NC in my teenage years!! Always love you!! Kathy Kraemer-Lambeth

  2. I want that cup..Love it, and you..!!
    Marcy, China girl~

  3. Love the accent and all your new-found treasures!

  4. Love your shirt and all the goodies you showed!

  5. Your description of what the pie bird does made me laugh!!

    I used to shop at Piggly Wiggly until they closed them down. I don't know....Did they all shut down or just in Texas?

  6. I need to know more about this pie bird. I've never heard of them!
    I love your mom's treasures. I'd love to see more of them. I hope you took a picture of the storage unit filled with all of the goods?

    Every time I drive by the PIG now, I'm thinking of you. :-)

  7. Thanks for the great video! It's funny how so many of these things you took home with you are everyday items here with the exception of..the pie bird. I love it!

  8. The pie birds job is not to make a mess. LOL. Still makes me giggle! Its basically like an air relief valve for the pie. It squirts up some the pie juice so the top crust doesn't bubble up.

  9. I do miss Krispy Kreme...I remember taking a tour of the one In Greensboro on Battleground as a boy scout and watched the donuts go through a shower of glaze. I remember thinking "This would be the best place in the world to work!"

  10. When I was a kid, we'd get to drink Cheerwine when we visited my grandma in Mocksville, NC. Back then, it was only available in a small region around Salisbury where it was bottled. We couldn't even get it when we lived in Durham or Charlotte.

    Now, I usually get some when I visit my mom in NC, and I've been able to find it at a few specialty stores/delis where I live in the other bay area (Tampa, FL), so I can get a fix when I'm jonesin' really hard.

    But then just a couple days ago, imagine my surprise when I saw Cheerwine in a local Publix grocery store here! I swear I did a happy dance of joy right there in the aisle! Evidently, they just began carrying it this week. Aaaah, sweet nectar of the gods. Cheers!

    (Love your blog!)

  11. Yay! A video. Love the accent, pretty cool. Also cool is all the neat little goodies that you brought home with you.

    Cheerwine? Is that like wine or is it a soft drink?

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Love the video of your treasures. I had to laugh about your pie bird quote - and would love to see a post about you baking a pie!!!!

    FYI - and you probably already know that Cheerwine is partnering with Pepsi to bring it to a national level in time for the 100th anniversary in 2017. And Pepsi better not mess with the recipe!

  14. James,

    Loved this. Made me think of my grandmother-- another Southern woman, born in Mississippi, but lived most of her life in Arkansas. She developed dementia toward the end of her life. My Mom and aunt had to move her to a care facility. I'll share a poem I wrote about her.


    She’s the smell of pickles coming through the back door
    after a day at the pickle plant;
    and the smell of cold cream at night, kisses at bedtime.
    She’s the maker of cardboard dolls
    with clothes cut from the Sears catalog,
    and we tucked them in on cardboard beds under tissue blankets—
    they were fun to play with because she said they were.
    She’s butter beans cooking on the stove,
    green beans with bacon,
    fried okra,
    corn bread with jalapeños—so exotic—
    and peach cobbler for dessert.
    She’s asking why I don’t want thirds—didn’t I like it?
    She’s a small Southern woman, strong beyond her size
    with an accent full of love.

    She’s almost a dream now,
    so long it has been since her death,
    and longer still since she knew me
    when her mind was still in the present
    and she was really herself.
    But dreams are always with us,
    and memories never die.

  15. Ahhh! I understand now! A pie bird!
    Over here we do something that works on the same principle. I call it a beer-bum chicken (the word bum is a replacement for a ruder word that refers to a donkey). It’s simple. You take an open can of beer, place it on the BBQ (here referred to as a ‘braai’) and place a chicken, in a sitting position, over it so that the can sits in the hollow. The beer heats up and spills over, cooking into the chicken as it goes. It’s best done in one of those kettle BBQ’s with the lid so the cooking’s more oven-like.

  16. I just had a falling out with my parents with the North Carolina drivers licenses who collect neat stuff and I could see making a video like this in the future and I love them dearly, but they are just too crazy to deal with (I'm not implying yours are because your mom collects neat stuff...I believe Piggly Wiggly will send me to Paris, too, and I think that because my parents believe otherwise, we don't get along) and this really hit me on a very different level than you intended it to. I am a southerner who acts like a yankee that lives in North you, I live on the fringes...