Thursday, March 8, 2012

How do you leave your home town?

Back in 1991 I retired from my banking career. At the end of December 1994, my husband Michael took the golden hand shake from Sears. We had an entire world in front of us.  Where to go? And what would we do? 

Leaving Wheeling at the age of 43 was very hard for us.  My Dad, sister, niece, Michael’s mother and our extended families lived in the Wheeling area.  But we were ready for a change.  Looking at a pack of seeds, my husband thought we should head for a warmer climate.  This may have had something to do with him shoveling 30 inches of snow from our driveway in 1994.
So wanting to find a good location with lifestyle and economic advantages we went off to the library.  Hoping to find the best location where we could find opportunity, we passed by the magazine display.  There in living color was the best place to live in America…the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.

Okay, it was a warmer climate and only eight hours from Wheeling.  So we decided we should make a trip to check the area out before any decisions were made.
The day we planned on going to North Carolina we woke to six inches of snow.  Now we thought, do we go or not.  My reaction; we packed the night before so we should go.  Of course, I was not the one who had to shovel the snow again to back out of the driveway.  But we decided to go for the adventure.  I should mention that the snow stopped by the time we made it to Parkersburg, so the rest of the journey was uneventful.

We arrived in Raleigh and got a hotel room for the next couple of days.  We started the next day by going out and having breakfast while checking out the local mall.  Michael had been in retail for 24 years, so we decided we would grab a paper and check out the classified ads.
Just as we found a parking place in the mall’s lot, a woman excitedly approached us, and with almost a full embrace said “It’s snowing; it’s snowing.”  Yes, they had enough snow to lie on top of the grass for maybe an hour.  We spent three days in Raleigh.  We checked out housing, jobs and tried to get a feel for the people.

Our next stop was Durham.  We decided to stop at the Visitors Center where a pleasant elderly man greeted us.  He told us about the places we should visit.  He told us to go to the Chamber of Commerce and check out a relocation package and suggested we leave our car to his care and walk.  When we arrived in Raleigh just a few days before we saw the smallest snowfall; but now we were walking around Durham in shirt sleeves.  The gentleman suggested we eat lunch at one of the restaurants in Bright Leaf Square area but we could not come to Durham and not go to Bullock’s Barbeque Restaurant.  Now remember we are from above that Mason Dixon Line.  To us barbeque is an adjective, but in the Carolinas it is a noun.

We did go to the Chamber and collected some information.  There was a lot to review.  We walked through downtown Durham, and arrived at the Bright Leaf Square Mall.  We had lunch while we looked over some of the material.  The people in this town were and still are very friendly.  Strangers on the street greeted you.  Now Wheeling was considered a friendly town; but Durham surpassed what we knew as friendly.
After lunch we walked back to the car and stopped in again at the Visitor’s Center and thanked the gentleman for his suggestions.

We rode around the Durham area looking at housing subdivisions and just enjoyed the rest of the day.  We then returned to the motel we were staying in Durham.  We looked over all sorts of information on both Raleigh and Durham.  By now our eyes were beginning to swim and we were getting hungry again.  So we decided to again take the gentleman’s advice and go to Bullock’s. 
We arrived and were seated immediately.  We were given menus and we looked over the choices. I am a rib fan; there was no doubt as to what I would order.  Michael isn’t like me I have a favorite I stick to it, but he eats different things all the time.  So he got the Brunswick stew and the chicken.  The food was good, and we were ready to head back to the motel and do some more reading. 

As we approached the checkout, a man was there to take our bill.  He looked at us and knew immediately we were new in town.  He asked if we had friends or family in the area.  We told him no, we were just considering relocation.  Now how he knew we were new amazed us.  People were lined up out the door waiting to get a table, so how did he know we were new?
Then this gentleman did something amazing.  He reached behind the chair he was sitting on and gave us a business card.  He told us that when we arrived with our things to give him a call and he would send his kitchen help over to help us unpack. 

We were in total shock, Mr. Bullock had no idea who we were, but he was going out of his way to help us.  That is when I told Michael if we move to North Carolina, we are going to live in Durham.  The people here are amazing. 
We also told everyone back in Wheeling, just how great Durham was, and most of all how Mr. Bullock treated us and how helpful he had been to perfect strangers.

To this day, I still tell the story of our search for a new “hometown”; and I also tell them of Bullock’s Restaurant and the wonderful Mr. Bullock.


  1. After one of your earlier posts, I checked out real estate in Wheeling, WV. I fell in love with the area. Such history! We simply don't have it here in Alberta. If a building is 50 years old, it's torn down to make way for the 'new and better'. :( Anyways, I enjoyed many virtual tours of your home town. Started with the Island, and moved outward from there. What a nice place! I know it probably seems cold to you, but to someone from the frozen north, it seemed balmy!

  2. Sounds great Jan. We need more Mr. Bullocks in the world! Things are a little snowier here in Colorado. Jim

  3. My husband and I went through a similar process but with a different outcome. We traveled over much of the country with our 5th wheel only to come back home to Sonoma County, CA. We went as far as to start buying property in Utah only to change our minds. In our case, the exploration brought us to the understanding that this area offers all we wanted...incredible scenery and resources, friends and family.
    I'm glad your relocation has worked for you! Arletta