Column: Nostalgia with a side of onion rings

Published 8:55 am Monday, October 2, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

When my mom was a little girl, her family would stop by Lloyd’s every time they’d drive down to Lake Martin for the weekend. 

My Grandaddy would get a box of onion rings that were as thin as shoestring, all oily and limp. He’d put extra salt on them, put the box in the middle of the console, and everybody, my mom, my aunt, my uncle and Granddaddy, would snack on it all the way to the lake.

My grandma, Mimi, preferred her onion rings without salt and would wash them down with the help of a massive cup of fresh lemonade that she rarely shared with anyone.

Lloyd’s has served as a generational staple for 86 years. In that time, it has established itself as an institution in the lives of countless members of our community.

It’s hard to believe that it’s coming to an end. It’s hard to believe that those greasy doors will be closing forever in only a few weeks.

I only went to Lloyd’s with any regularity when I was a junior board member of the AHJA, Alabama Hunter Jumper Association. We held our board meetings there, and I mostly went for the fried okra and the incredibly dramatic displays of gossip-worthy things that occurred at the meetings between a group of middle-aged horse trainers and pony-moms.

I was the sort of teenager who thrived on drama, and traditional southern cuisine. So, I loved the sheer entertainment of people arguing over where to hold different horse shows and why certain trophies had vanished without a trace, all while I tore into a big ole piece of fried chicken.

I loved Lloyd’s, but I didn’t really think about it much after my tenure at the AHJA ended.

For no reason in particular, I just stopped going.

I don’t think my experience is really unique either. Lloyd’s is the sort of place that is significant for periods of times in people’s lives, but eventually, and often without ever realizing it, you simply go for the last time.

My friend Tracy Slaughter used to go there with her husband Robert all the time for a stretch in their lives. They’d go there for the “immorally delicious fried chicken, sides and cream pies” and the general atmosphere, the way the waitresses would smile at you and call you “honey”, “darlin’” or “sweetie”. It was a fun, cute date spot for them. A place to feel southern charm and hospitality and the ability to indulge in just the right amount of fried food.

But they stopped going. Tracy and Robert moved an hour away and entered into a new chapter of their lives. Lloyd’s just wasn’t a part of it anymore. 

My mom and her family stopped going to Lloyd’s after stopping there on every lake trip for years and years on end. 

A big part of that is that their lives just changed.

My mom and Uncle went to college, and then it was just my grandparents and my Aunt driving to the lake. Other restaurants opened up, most of them around Lloyd’s and some of those places felt like better options. 

My mom’s family entered a new chapter, and Lloyd’s stopped being a part of their lives.

Even though Lloyds is no longer a part of my life, or my mom’s or Tracy’s, it doesn’t mean we still won’t miss it. 

I’ll always treasure the memories of my time there. Whenever I drive down 280, and I pass Lloyd’s, my mouth always starts to water, and I begin to think about those AHJA meetings I’d attend as a young teenager. It makes me smile.

I’m sad that I won’t have a chance to go back there again and that I won’t have the chance to make Lloyd’s part of this chapter of my life. 

But before it closes on Sunday, Oct. 15, I’m going to go back to Lloyd’s one last time. I’ll go there with my grandma and maybe my mom and we’ll get a big plate of greasy salted onion rings, and remember when Lloyd’s was such a big part of our lives.