By Lisa Brown
Walk into McDonald’s or Hardee’s in Rolesville on any given day and you will find table after table filled with senior citizens enjoying not just the food, but each other’s company as well. They trade stories, jokes and friendly jabs, and solve all the problems of the world.
Hardee’s in Rolesville has been in business for 20 years and Herb, a Rolesville resident, has been coming since it opened. He’s the one everyone pointed to when it was time to talk. The group’s informal leader was born in Rolesville and was in the graduating class of 1965. Back then, the school was elementary, middle and high school all together. He’s joined by two other classmates, Curtis and Wallace, and many others from neighboring towns. Some are new to the area; some have lived here their entire lives.
Although many of them have known each other for a long time, they openly and gladly welcome new “members” to the club, even Yankees, they joke. Don, a Midwesterner originally, moved from Wake Forest to Rolesville and has made friends by coming to the group. He brings with him his beloved German shepherd, Scooby, who stays in the car, but has been adopted by the group as their mascot.
They like to “cut up” as Patty put it, and have fun with each other. Politics is always a hot topic. They reminisce about the old days, and give each other wanted and unwanted advice. They’ve watched Rolesville change and grow, and are all accepting and eager to see what happens in the future.
Down the road at McDonald’s, the same conversations are being had with a different group of people. They, too, joke about solving the world’s problems and about allowing Yankees to join the club. They are as diverse as the Hardee’s bunch – former truck drivers, plumbers, policemen, firemen. Some still work but start their busy days with a biscuit and informal conversation.
McDonald’s sponsored a Christmas parade float this past December, and Ray, also known as “Radio” or “Porky,” was proud to be on it representing the McDonald’s breakfast club, which has become a second family. Norm is the informal president of the group, though during this breakfast, the title vacillated between vice president and president at least twice. He had the honors, but was stripped of them when the “membership book” was stolen from his car some two years ago.
Even though Norm was not to blame, the rest of the club jokingly demoted him to vice president. Feeling forgiving, they restored him to the presidency, but for how long remains to be seen.
When the McDonald’s was renovated, a special table was made just for the group. They point to it across from where they sit. “It doesn’t work for us because it’s round. If someone has to get up and go to the bathroom we all have to get up,” group members joke. While they all laugh and joke about it, they agree it was a nice gesture.
What’s obvious in both clubs is the respect and fondness they have for one another. When asked if they talk about each other when someone isn’t there, Radio chides, “We talk about each other when they are here.” The Hardee’s group celebrates each other’s birthdays with cake or cookies, but Norm says with a laugh, “You have to bring your own cake.”
The most apparent attribute of both groups is their sense of humor and not taking too much too seriously. They love to have fun, kid with each other, and give each other a hard time. Curtis from the Hardee’s club remarks how much he likes the coupons, while Janie loves the menu at McDonald’s.
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker once stopped in to McDonald’s, and the group invited him to join them, which he gladly did. They will do the same for anyone and, as one member put it, “This is a great place to socialize.”