I didn’t actually stumble on Huggin’ Molly’s restaurant in Abbeville, I went looking for it on someone’s recommendation. It’s fairly easy to find if you don’t get nervous about traveling along two-lane back roads with very few signs. My granddaughter Chloe was still on Christmas break from school, and after several days of drizzle and cold weather the sun finally came out and off we went. Some people take their grandkids to a kiddie park or cartoon movie, but most people don’t have their grand kids living with them 24/7 either. She is seven and we’ve been exploring like this for the past four years.

Abbeville is a cool place. It’s tiny, only 3,000 residents, but mostly thanks to Jimmy Rane the town doesn’t look like countless other ghost towns far past their prime. The south is full of small towns that seem almost deserted with empty stores and no people on the street. What time didn’t ravage the ongoing recession did. As factories and plants shut down, towns dried up. The rural south is once again suffering from northern economic policies, or lack of them. This town seems to thrive thanks to the efforts of one man and a successful business he built himself.

mch103tsChloe was delighted with the place and didn’t stop chattering the whole time we were there. Well, actually, Chloe only stops chattering when she’s asleep, but she was even more animated than usual, helped along by a large dose of chocolate and soda. After leaving the restaurant and assuring her that the ghost of Molly only came out at night, we poked around the town to see what else was there.

At the edge of a town is a unique war memorial consisting of multiple granite slabs with names of soldiers engraved. It looks a bit like a small version of Stonehenge, and the modern design is in sharp contrast to the otherwise historic looking town. The head office for YellaWood is located in town in what used to be an old filling station. Rane’s handiwork is on display there too since he restored the outside to look just like the original. We drove past it several times before realizing it wasn’t a gas station anymore.

The other historic footnote about the town is that it was once home to Rosa Parks, the courageous woman who stood up against racism in Montgomery in 1955. She lived in Abbeville for a short time as a child and her old home is now an historic site.

To get home we took the original north-south two-lane road and for 20 miles didn’t see one single human anywhere. The road itself is in great shape, there are rolling hills and gentle curves, and for a sports car enthusiast it’s about as close to heaven as you can get. I wasn’t paying attention and ended up a good 10 miles out of my way, but the ride itself was worth the extra time.

So that is how we spent one whole day of Christmas vacation this year. Not a very exciting backstory to be sure, but then not every story is a blockbuster or full of drama. Life is made up of small bits, both good and bad. Lucky for us, finding this cool soda fountain was one of the good bits.

Have a happy and prosperous New Year!