The town of Wilson, North Carolina buried a time yesterday. The time’s name was Lee Gliarmis and he ran the hot dog stand.
The Greek service was impressive. The eulogy nailed it. The party at the Elks Club –spot on. His obit tells the story, his picture glowed. Still everyone wanted to tell “their story”. Me too. Just one.
In the 80’s, now married with kids, ordinary evenings included getting the boys in the bed, and by 8:15 pm, without even telling my wife where I was headed, I was off to the floor show at the hot dog stand.
The floor show was Lee’s sons, Lee John and Socrates (Soc). Like all family and half the town, the boys not only worked, but grew up behind the counter. Teenagers now, they spent their lives up to this point, observing the local characters. And both had the gift of mime.
By 8:20 I was settled in with a coffee and an ice cream sandwich. Closing time (8:30 till 9:00) was cleanup and recap of the day. Those of the few there, the ones finishing their fries and paying the bill, and us regulars, began to hear voices from behind the counter . Lee John had more variety, but sooner or later Soc would do Judge John Webb ordering a hot dog and a chocolate milk. Sid, Bud, Bobby Brooks, coaches, politicians – local and national, Russell Rawlings was one of the cast, the old man (Lee senior) ,with a ring finger missing (“things got tough during the depression, and I sold it for a hot dog”). Mayor Ralph El Ramey never failed to issue a complaint, via the show’s stars. If you were there, they nailed you. I responded in the voice of Dr. Jack Sanford, the college’s baseball coach (“holy hemlock, son–have an idea!”)
Like all youngsters, Lee John and Soc were ready to get off work. But encores and personal requests demanded staying till 9:30 or 10:00. Local cops wandered in after lights were lowered. Senior Lee would progressively let his guard down and just grin at the scene. Eventually we put the town to bed.
In high school I worked the counter in a small town drug store. Every where I have lived I looked for that community feeling. Only at the hot stand did I find it.
I’ve never felt so at home.