Around 9:30 this Sunday morning, I made the 3-minute trip over to my neighborhood Bi-Lo grocery store to take advantage of some "Saturday & Sunday Only Specials." Included was a great price on T-bone steaks as well as Mom 'n' Pop's Jumbo Sausage Biscuits, an item I love, but hadn't bought in ages.
I pretty well know every employee in this small Bi-Lo store, especially those who staff the store on Wednesday mornings when I do my Senior Day shopping. Today, however, I encountered an elderly cashier I had never seen before. I'm ready to turn 69, but this gentleman appeared to have at least a decade or more on me, so, I guess you could say we were both elderly gentlemen.
As this pleasant gentleman scanned my Mom 'n' Pop's Jumbo Sausage Biscuits, he commented on how good they were. I concurred and related that I had met the now deceased man who started the company that produced that item.
I related that the late Richard Howard of Denver, North Carolina had started the Mom 'n' Pop's restaurant chain to complement his Western Steer Steak House chain. Howard, I told this nice fellow, had owned Howard's Furniture in Denver, North Carolina and for many years sponsored world championship girls' softball teams.
I went on and explained that the originator of Mom 'n' Pop's biscuits and restaurants had also sponsored the race cars of Neil Soapy Castles under the Howard's Furniture banner and later became the bankruptcy trustee for Charlotte Motor Speedway. Howard's secretary, Judy Tucker, later went to work for Humpy Wheeler, Rod Osterlund, Wrangler Jeans, Dale Earnhardt and Raymond Beadle/Tim Richmond. Furthermore, I told him about Howard engineering the return of Chevrolet to Grand National racing in 1971 when he funded a car built by Junior Johnson and driven by Charging Charlie Glotzbach to race in his 1971 World 600 at Charlotte. That pole winning Chevy packed the grandstands I told this new acquaintance.
All the time that my elder was scanning, bagging and listening to my bragging of how much I knew, I could sense the wheels turning in his head.
This super nice fellow told me his uncle had umpired some World Series games won by Richard Howard's teams. My new friend had grown up in Atlanta and lived there most of his life, he related. He had never been to Charlotte Motor Speedway, but always wanted to see it.
My new friend also said his mother and father had operated a small neighborhood grocery and liquor store in Atlanta in the 40s and 50s. Down the street from his parents' store, a very nice man had a business and garage. He doubted I would have ever heard of him said the Bi-Lo cashier. His name was Mr. PARKS!
Raymond Parks, I asked? Why, yes said the busy cashier. When he was just 5 years old, the aged gentleman told me, Raymond Parks started taking him to a place called Lakewood Speedway. He went on to tell me of the great racing he saw at Lakewood back in the day with their business neighbor, Raymond Parks.
As he finished loading my shopping cart, the former Atlanta resident told of seeing a documentary about his old friend, Mr. Parks. I was surprised to learn of the other things Mr. Parks had a hand in, he allowed. But, he was always nice to me, he closed.
Instead of the teacher, I quickly became the student as I absorbed a new racing history lesson from someone who was there with Raymond Parks in the early days. It's sure a small world.