Reflecting fondly on Follett’s Firehouse

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2014

New restaurants fire the imagination for new foods or a new aura of presentation for culinary standbys.
Additional interest is sparked when an old building is “reinvented.” The present La Cava Restaurant building started out as the First United Church of Christ on the corner of East Horah and South Church streets.
Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, but this Protestant church was “reincarnated” as an Italian restaurant (sort of a reverse step towards “Rome”).
I saw a sign in Danville the other day, reading: “Del’s Gospel Restaurant opening soon” over a building previously housing a series of past restaurants. (The soon-to-be-opened one also aspires to “heavenly food.”)
One weekend in the late 1970s, when my wife and I were visiting my mother at the Yadkin House Apartments, my mother suggested that we dine at Follett’s Firehouse, the old Salisbury Fire Station-become-restaurant.
The outside looked the same as when a fire station. (If altered too much, restaurateurs couldn’t have used the name they used.) Upon entering, we encountered a first class eating establishment. The interior was appropriately “dinner-dark,” Tiffany-style lamps providing just the right amount of light for dining.
In keeping with historic Salisbury, the tables were covered with glass-sealed “décor,” consisting of reproductions of early 20th century Salisbury Post pages, perhaps even some from the Carolina Watchman too. Glass tops aided in cleaning.
Booth seating was available next to a mirrored wall. I seem to remember someone saying the booths were once pews of an old Salisbury church which had been sectioned (the pews, not the church).
The “pole” was still there, but it was the object of neither firemen nor dancers.
That mirrored wall was the former Yadkin Hotel’s old barbershop wall, salvaged when the hotel became Yadkin House Apartments. We sat next to it, and as is the way with mirrors, it became “alive with us.”
While enjoying delicious steaks, three mute images were reflected alongside. When we talked, our voices bounced back and forth in the immediate space between; but no words arose from those mirrored, moving faces, just as silent as the films of my mother’s youth.
My mother suddenly looked to the restaurant’s entrance and said, “There’s Clyde Overcash!” I turned around, and sure enough, it was Clyde. (My just saying “Clyde” isn’t meant as posthumous correction of my mother, since the artist was “pre-mononym” then.) And by the way, as a matter of personal taste, I have always preferred Clyde’s artwork of Salisbury-Rowan, as did my mother.
My mother snipped and mailed articles from the Salisbury Post to keep me current on Salisbury and Rowan County. No doubt, if her sweet soul were still on this side of the veil, I would be receiving at least one Post article from her per week over the course of the past several years.
Sometime later, in one of those “piecemeal-Posts” posted by my mother, there was an article about Follett’s Firehouse being gutted by fire. (“Gutting” leaves room for hope, as everything is not gone.) The Yadkin Hotel was “professionally gutted” for the construction of the Yadkin House Apartments.
Sadly, a restaurant and primarily former organizational center for men and equipment dealing with the extinguishing of flames had been seriously damaged by flame — in effect, the candle snuffer becoming the candle.
I thought about the old barbershop wall, and about glass being a liquid (an extremely slow-moving one); it eventually succumbs to gravity, i.e., the “ripple” in windowpanes of very old houses. I’m sure the flames sped up the old mirror’s “liquid” descent to ground level, possibly aided first by being heat-shattered into angular “drops.”
I once saw some old glass bottles which survived the burning of the Danville train station’s tower in 1922 (first a calamitous train wreck in 1903, then a train station fire in 1922). Those bottles had a twisted, art deco look, very appropriate to the 1920s.
Looking back, I can still picture my late mother, late wife and me sitting in Follett’s Firehouse (such “third-party” picturing greatly helped by the view provided by the old barbershop wall).
Of we three once mirrored there, only one still casts reflections and shadows, while reflecting upon people and places past.

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