Driving Down Memory Lane

Posted February 26, 2007 11:27 a.m. EST

Certain things in life just spark a memory from years past. Maybe it’s a juicy burger that reminds you of the first drive-in joint you ate at once your dad finally let you drive the car. Maybe it’s a movie that reminds you of your first date with your high school sweetheart.

There are dozens of things that, if we allow them to, will make us feel nostalgic -- almost homesick -- for a place we once knew. Here are a few spots in the Carolinas to visit when you long for yesteryear:

Ava Gardner Museum (325 E. Market St., Smithfield)

With 6,000 square feet of exhibit space, movie lovers can get lost in displays, ranging from awards, personal items and costumes this silver screen beauty wore. Through the spring, the museum will have on display costumes from "Mogambo," a movie starring Gardner, Clark Gable and Grace Kelley.

Gardner was born about seven miles from the museum and is buried just down the road.

Mayberry Days (Mount Airy)

Typically held in September, Mayberry Days brings fan and friends from all over together in Andy Griffith’s hometown. The festival brings to mind a time when the sheriff didn’t carry a gun.

During the rest of the year, visitors can listen to Merry-Go-Round, the country’s third-longest-running live bluegrass radio show, held every Saturday morning in the Downtown Cinema Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. Show up early for a jam session where newcomers can dance or play an instrument.

Mast General Store (Valle Crucis, Boone, Waynesville, Hendersonville and Asheville, N.C., and Greenville, S.C.)

A stop in one of these stores will take you back to the days when a general store tried to carry just about everything neighbors needed. These stores include a candy room, where you can buy by the pound or sort through specialty candy like cigar bubble gum. The child’s play area includes toys and games – no batteries are needed for any of them.

Shelby’s City Park Carousel (Shelby)

This restored 1920s-era carrousel is the only year-round operated carrousel in North Carolina. For just 50 cents, visitors can climb aboard and sit on one of 29 original wooden horses and three hand-carved replacements. The city received the attraction in 1951 after it had traveled for years with a carnival. It is one of only five wooden carrousels in the state.

Beacon Drive-in, 255 John B. White Sr. Blvd. (Spartanburg, S.C.)

Greasy drive-in restaurants make us think of big cars, slicked back hair and Olivia Newton-John singing “Summer Love,” and the Beacon will deliver all that with a side order of “Call it Out!” if you aren’t quick with your order. Menu items include catfish sandwiches, banana sandwiches and a chicken liver plate. Don’t forget to give the sweet tea a try.

Drive-in movie theaters

Two in South Carolina to try are the Monetta Drive-in Theatre in Monetta and the Plaza 21 Drive-in Theatre in Beaufort. North Carolina drive-ins include Belmont Drive-in in Belmont, Bessemer/Kings Mountain Drive-in in Bessemer City, Starlite Drive-in in Durham and Eden Drive-in in Eden. For those that charge by the carload, it’s fun to pile in the people for a cheap night of fun.