Riding The Pink Pig ~ A Not So Jolly Holiday Story (OS Archive - 2010)

We had been standing in line for ages that December day, a long snake of chattering children, mothers, and grandmothers, slowly inching up through the department store's levels. My gloved hand was clutched in my mother's, she and I standing silently together in this cheerful crowd of well-dressed humanity. 

This was my mother's and my first experience taking part in a long-standing Southern Christmas Tradition.

We were going to ride The Pink Pig at Rich's Department Store in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

jun07_pig1 

For southern children at that time, this was a well-loved ritual:  dressing in one's Sunday best and flocking downtown in droves with family and friends to Rich's flagship department store so the children could ride the Pink Pig.

The Pink Pig was a monorail which rode through and above Santa's Workshop, around the giant Christmas tree in a loop that went outside on the rooftop, showing a view of the other downtown buildings. 

The pièce de résistance for all on this yearly occasion was the luncheon in the store's Magnolia Room, not only for the good food but as an opportunity to See and Be Seen. For children, a sticker saying, "I rode The Pink Pig" was quite the status symbol in area elementary schools.

As my mother and I waited, I wasn't exactly sure what I was waiting for. I hadn't seen any pictures of the Pink Pig and I wasn't the type to ask. The only part of the Pink Pig experience I knew about was that sticker worn proudly by any child who'd ridden.

When my family had moved to Atlanta the year before, I'd noticed these stickers sprouting on coats all throughout December, at school (and in our neighborhood.) They spread through the classrooms like a singular measle on each child - a much-coveted pink spot it was...and this year I would have one too. Maybe then this new world of tight-knit Southerners would feel friendlier.

Finally, our turn came to step up with the crowd to the ride's platform -- the excitement was palpable. The Pink Pig would be here any moment.

I, who'd spent most of my young life reading and dreaming, secretly hoped my fantasy of a flying pig with wings, who would land gracefully in front of me and take me on a soaring tour of Santa's workshop, would be true. I'd just turned seven and knew it was unlikely. But maybe....

I didn't notice the steel monorail above my head. I couldn't see much of anything at all except coat fabric on all sides, as I was shorter than many in that crowd of children. 

Suddenly the crowd shifted as we heard the ride's approach. These were not the sounds of wings, I thought, slightly disappointedly.  

I got my first glimpse of the longed-for Pink Pig...

 3001476490_f3b88015e2

...and burst into tears.

 What I saw was a painted metal pig head coming towards me...towing cages for children!

There were disturbed looks coming from the mothers at my tears, but I couldn't quell the rising panic that I was going to be put into that small space, the door would shut, and then the Pink Pig would take us children all away. 

 My mother, with my gloved hand in firm grip, gave me a shake. "Don't cry." A familiar refrain. This was hissed with the accompanying scary face.  I stopped. 

Everyone raced - and I was pushed - to get on board the monorail. The doors were shut and locked, and the Pink Pig lurched away to fly above Santa's workshop with its cargo of happy children. 

Add white gloves, a navy-blue wool jumper with white Peter Pan-collared shirt to the child below, a tear-streaked face and a tightened grip, and this might have been me. 

                      new_pig1

I had that much fun. 

After the ride, as we trooped back down the stairs toward The Magnolia Room for lunch, my mother remarked, "Well, that could've gone better, but we'll enjoy lunch." She always enjoyed lunch.

As we were seated in The Magnolia Room - that crowded, over-heated, noisy room - I automatically took off my gloves and pulled the linen napkin onto my lap under the heavy white also-linen tablecloth.

I felt a little queasy from the heat and all of the tension...and immediately threw up on the table. There were many horrified gasps from all directions, with several Sunday-best-dressed children being yanked out of the way.

"I hate The Pink Pig!" I managed to wail. This brought on the worst looks of all. 

It was going to take a little more time for us to fit in.

 

imgres 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of, from the top: 

1 -- chrisqueen.wordpress.com    

(There is a much happier story at #1...actually everyone's Pink Pig memory seems to be happier than mine)

2 -- next-stop-decatur-ga.blogspot.com

3 -- normsradio.com

4 -- christyhulsey.wordpress.com 

 

RATE: 29

DECEMBER 15, 2010 10:08PM

I wish you and I could ride this fantastic pink pig..:)
I just loved this and rated with hugs
Linda, I would have been much braver with a friend : ) ...and some groundedness.
I felt like I just got a ride on the pig. I've always imagined it would be difficult to be an "outsider" in a tight-knit Southern town. Kids really can feel that social pressure. For what it's worth, the pig is a little creepy!
Grace, isn't it ?? Thank you for that : )
I have to admit that the ride in question would have left me crying at that age too. Sad thing is that now that I am an adult i'm the biggest fan of roller coasters you will ever see.
I'm already glad to see I am not alone here : )
and Mrs., I'm with you on rollercoasters! This was just a strange ride...
trust the force, it is strong in you.
I think you fit right in. I'd have hated it too. You were so brave.
I totally empathize, I would have done exactly the same thing. In fact I threw up every time I had to ride a bus. Great description, I could feel it all the way.
rated with love and empathy
Well told tale. My heart went out to the childhood you.
Who came up with that thing anyways? A twisted Visual no doubt. Poor kid. We waited in line at Marshall Fields for pot pies...
I love reading such excellent memory-pieces as this. r.
Isn't it strange how memory works - I rode the Pink Pig every year from probably 1978-1982 and have zero memory of being in a cage (which in the pictures looks horrifying!)....my candy coated minds eye has me sitting in a pink open rail car...but not the one they currently have. I remember the tree, I remember the roof....
Wow...now I'm perplexed...I need to speak with my mother.
I do also so miss the annual trek to Helen for decorations.
I always associate pink pigs with bar b que on July 4th. How in the world did they come up with a Christmas pig experience? What a fabulous account of an iconic, to say the least, experience.
Love the Pink Pig......
I love your advice Diana, I'll take it!
Glad you came by, phoenixwolf...thanks : ) 
Cindy: Yes! ...and I lucked out finding the creepy photo that worked perfectly here...
zul: I appreciate that! Looking at the photos now, I can't figure out how this was a beloved ritual...
Oh romantic, you poor thing -- this was the only time I've ever lost it over a ride....but it was creepy : )
lschmoopie: thanks : )
tg: Isn't that just like some twisted Visual, getting their revenge on the children who leave garbage on the display platforms?? Too funny, thanks for that laugh!
Thanks Jon : )
Sedona: Maybe they changed those cages, I mean cars?? I'm the only person I've met who didn't love The Pink Pig...I was glad to see the current reincarnation at the Lenox Macy's is on the ground, with open cars : )
This was very well told, JT. I felt the whole experience with you. I always look forward to your posts.
Also @ Sedona: Helen, GA.! I'd forgotten...although how does one forget Helen?
Thanks Linnnn, only barbeque lovin' country could come up with a Christmas Pig Ride!!???
I never rode the old Pink Pig, but the new one, the train with plenty of room, is an annual rite for my kids. I still miss the chicken salad plate at the Magnolia Room.
Algis: Glad you came by, isn't it...unique? It is a well-loved ritual to this day, with a different ride and cars altogether.
Thanks Sarah, I love it when you come by : )
Lucy: I hear it's as popular as ever...and I am the only one I know with a less-than-thrilling memory. 
I never did have lunch at the Magnolia Room, but I DO miss Miss Pittypat's Porch...yum : )
I love this story. Us southerners do take awhile to get used to strangers, but theres no way I would have gotten on that pig. The kid in the window looks like he's in jail!
Exactly, scanner, thanks !
....and our family found our way in Atlanta, but it didn't involve any southern traditions to get there : )
I still remember the ostracizing the kid from Walla Walla, Washington got when he turned up -- a Vidalia competitor, the kid had no chance.
Just Thinking, I hate to break this to you. I live near downtown Atlanta and the Pink Pig has been updated and is alive and well at Macy's, which bought Rich's years back. The annual ritual is almost as revered as the Coca-Cola Museum and the 26 different streets named Peachtree!

Poor little thing. Why are those events always so over-heated? To this day I fear throwing up in public.

Lezlie
Lezlie, isn't it a hoot? ...and it's at Lenox now, which was an open air strip mall when I was young.
I'm an old Federated employee-- Visual Merchandising was my game, and I worked at that Rich's/now Macy's before I ran out west : )
@ Lezlie: ...and the Georgia Peach comments! aaaaggghhhhhh.
(although I miss those comments now : ))
Thomas the Train in drag?! Couldn't help it!
"I hate The Pink Pig!" I managed to wail. 

I managed to ruin Thomas the Train for my then 4-yr-old son in much the same way. This was a treasure - enabling me to get inside his head at the time! thanks
Cathy: Ha! Yes! complete with the lovely eyelashes....
(I feel like a blasphemer even now, making fun... : ))
Y Heron: so glad to see you here, and glad to help --
I've messed up my sons so many times... : )
I'm struck by how your mother tried to fit in! I'd throw up too!
Loved the tentativeness you felt, well portrayed..and set us up for
the way you really felt..sick to your stomach! Loved this well-written slice of life memory.
bigvoice: I love how you get the nuances here...glad you came by!
...and thanks : )
Hi again Bigvoice : ) We miss you around here.
BV:
...and thanks for reviving this one....I think : )
I'd love the childhood Christmas memories to be...something else, I admit.
Come visit!
I just read this over at the Medium blog. I love this story. The last bit was an unexpected dramatic turn of events.
Hi PoetTESS, an old one dredged up that I posted there. Pretty quiet for me over there, although the site is busy for more like 30 somethings, all engaged with life, not letting anything get in the way.....
love the energy, sometimes, bored by it, other times.

Almost all of my childhood in Atlanta was a bit off-step with the dominant culture, everywhere except the lake, and definitely as far as the beloved Pink Pig thing.

I still set up that scenario, I've noticed, living off-step..

thanks for coming by : )
....this title reads as vaguely x rated, it all of a sudden seems....
erk.
I want to hug you and say, "You poor little thing!" You ended up in some interesting predicaments as a child.
I tend to set up an "off step" scenario myself. It is sometimes to difficult to live like that, but this off the beaten path is where I will stay. I don't think I could find my way back to the main path if I tried at this age.

I was wondering about the other blog spot. This one flared into some rather hateful language there for a minute and I was wondering if I was at the right place.
The bars on the windows (plus the hheight) would have done me in too. I think it may have served you well not to fit in.
I missed this one the first time around.
That cage-in feature would have scared the living daylights outta me!
Rated
Hi Phyllis : ) thanks for the hug to my child self.
Throwing up in public was completely and especially mortifying, but I did survive the scary pig cage ride, at least.

PoetTESS, there certainly are interesting people to meet, among those of us who dance to their own tune : )

jl, PW - thank you for confirming I'm not the only one!
I still look at that thing and wonder how in the heck that ever got to be such a tradition....and why a pig, of all things?? not reindeer? or santa's sleigh or something?
By the way, PoetTESS - and anyone - the link to the collection rather than my personal page is here:

https://medium.com/a-different-perspective

a collection for an older perspective or a back in the day kind of story or just feel you have a different view than most...a few people post there, but not many. 
I don't put energy there very often but do read other posts on the site, which is getting big in numbers, for good or bad. Founded by the twitter founders.

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