I take for granted what an experience it was to grow up in a place like Mary Mac’s.
When you are in the midst of it, you can not see the wonder of it until you step back to see it from the outside in. I never thought it was particularly strange to have a mom that worked though I was one of the few girls at the time who did. I was born in 1960 and mom had a small restaurant in downtown Atlanta – Margaret’s Tray Shop. It was a cafeteria style restaurant that served lunch daily to the office workers. A great many of it’s customers worked for the IRS and when they move their headquarters to the suburbs in 1962, mom lost most of her client base and had to close.
She went to work for Mary McKensie who had started Mary Mac’s in the late ’50s. A few weeks after starting, Mary announced she was getting married and moving to Florida. “Do you want to buy the place Margaret?” she asked. Thus started mom’s amazing time at the restaurant.
Mom had picked up her passion about food from her mother, Lucille Kennon. Miss Lucille, as she was known in Columbus Ga, had been widowed at a young age and left with 5 children to support. She left the family farm in Salem, Alabama and moved across the river to Columbus. In need of a job, she went to work for the school system and eventually became Georgia’s first female dietitian for the school’s. Mom would go to the kitchen with her mother in the morning before school and then meet her after for the walk back home.
Though mom graduated from Georgia Women’s College with a degree in Latin at the age of 19 and as the valedictorian!, something in that kitchen must have “cooked” her because when she moved to Atlanta several years later as a divorcée with a young son, she went to work for a hotel in Atlanta, then the tray shop and the purchase of Mary Mac’s in 1962.
When I think about it, mother had amazing courage because there wasn’t a lot of societal support for working women. Yet, she had incredible support from her family, especially my grandmother and aunts. All of them working women with college degrees- even my grandmother who had her degree from Pratt Institute.
My mother was constantly encouraging (sometimes pushing) to find a career and a passion. The subject was never about getting married and having children as might have been expected.
In my family, the women were expected to pursue the career of their choice. And like my mother who watched hers, I choose the world of food to make my mark.