October 28, 2018
Who could resist taking a little detour to visit the home town of a U.S. President? Certainly not the Gazette! So Saturday afternoon when we found ourselves fewer than a hundred miles from Plains, Georgia we hooked that left and followed our hood ornament to the birthplace of Jimmy Carter.
With a population under a thousand it’s been easy for Plains to slide off the nation’s radar in the decades since it was intensely famous in the latter half of the 1970s. Back then it was a regular point of reference in the news. The first thing you notice upon entering downtown Plains is the scale: it’s just a block long. This is literally Small Town America. Surrounded by farms, locals and out of town visitors can browse antiques, sample delicious peanut ice cream (“it’s kinda famous ’round here”), or grab a decent meal at the Buffalo Cafe here.
The overhead menu at Buffalo’s says their burgers were voted top ten in Georgia, so we tried one. It was very good and came with the works (lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard, and mayo) on a good bun. The crinkle fries were cooked to crisp perfection and not greasy at all. We asked our host Jimmy if President Carter ever eats here and he told us that he comes often. In fact, he donated $90,000 for the Cafe to build an enclosed patio in the back. That’s where he usually eats, Jimmy shared. Asked what he orders, Jimmy said chicken and dumplings with a house salad.
Just a few doors down from the cafe is the Carter Warehouse, which actually was the Carter’s warehouse back in the day. Here you can buy one of several books authored by the former President, taste that delicious peanut ice cream, or buy a six pack of the legendary Billy beer. The vibe here is humble and friendly, with the books arrayed on a simple wooden rack and the helpful staff on standby if you have a question. We bought three postcards for a buck. Curious about this sign
we returned to the cafe to learn more. “Oh yes sir. He still teaches Sunday School,” Jimmy told us. “He used to come around pretty often, mostly on Saturdays, but lately not so much. Seems to have settled down a bit.” Jimmy looked to be about 20 years old so he’s only known Carter as a former President.
A short drive out of town will bring you to the boyhood farm of President Carter, a humble wooden affair surrounded by a corral in which two horses grazed serenely. The visit was a reminder of another time in our country. Before wall to wall agit-news or up to the second updates, the internet or social media. America’s bicentennial birthday celebration took place in 1976, the year Carter campaigned and was elected. He was derisively mocked by the elites as a peanut farmer with a smile too big for his face. A hick, in other words. But he was a peanut farmer and he did have a great big smile. That was the knock on him back then. Imagine!
The Vietnam war was over at long last, tall ships from many countries converged on New York harbor to celebrate our 200th birthday and anything seemed possible. Looking back, that year may have been our peak as a nation, or perhaps the beginning of our decline.