LAUREL HILL – Many residents of the Richmond County/Scotland County area have traveled US Highway 74 and a little nondescript diner tucked neatly off the south side of the highway in Laurel Hill.
A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday was held to commemorate the addition of Mamie’s Drive-In as the newest member of the Scotland County Chamber of Commerce.
After a welcoming from host Sandy Callan of WLNC Broadcasting and the invocation by Reverend David Kee of Gibson Church of God, appropriate remarks were heard from the representatives of the Scotland County Commissioners (Bob Davis) and the Scotland County Chamber of Commerce (John Ferguson and Chris English).
According to the locals and the experts, Mamie’s Drive-In is definitely the place to be for possibly the best fast food that you will ever sample, compliments of owner/operator Sheila Smith, her daughter, Lauren, and the hard-working staff members who labor intensely to ensure the complete satisfaction of their customers’ liking.
“The food and the service are both great,” says Mrs. Freddie Davis, a regular who notes that that she and her husband stop by Mamie’s at every opportunity (and have been doing so “for many years”) with the cheeseburger being her recommendation for anyone unsure as to what delicacy should be sampled.
Another regular patron, Miss Triniti Kee, all of 8 years old, was quick to cite the chicken tenders, lemonade and fried Oreos as her fare of choice.
Recognized at various times as an eatery that should never be bypassed (it was named one of the top 100 eateries in the state by Our State Magazine; cited by locals as the best place to eat in Scotland County; noted by Tar Heel Traveler Scott Mason of WRAL Channel 5 as a must visit; etc.), Mamie’s offers a refreshing return (at least in the culinary sense) to the “slow down and enjoy life” of bygone years.
No, the prices listed on the 1960’s menu are no longer applicable, of course, but the food is still fresh and handmade, just as Mamie Hyatt (in whose honor Smith retains the name) did it for so many years.
Born in Robeson County in 1922, Mamie (pronounced with a “hard/long A” sound) Ellen McGirt married Grady Hyatt and, after working for Mr. and Mrs. Carl Sampson at Carl’s Drive-In (predecessor to Mamie’s in the same building/location) from the 1960s through the mid-80s, partnered with Betty Stubbs to take over ownership of the diner until she sold it in the 1990s.
Mamie’s Drive-In fame has come through a lot of hard work, but would not have been possible if not for the help of The Lord, according to owner operator Sheila Smith who purchased the business in 2009.
“It has just been a blessing,” says Smith. “God has made sure that we understand what our purpose is; and that this is where we are to do it.”
Such a calling is enthusiastically echoed by her daughter, Lauren, who gave up her dream of becoming an ultrasound technician to help her mom with the diner.
“God let me know that it was not my way that was important – it was His way,” Lauren said. “I always think about that whenever I feel like ‘packing up camp’ and moving on.”
Such a perspective is readily apparent at Mamie’s – their uniform work shirts are emblazoned with the phrase “It’s not just flavor – it’s the favor (of Jesus)” on the back.
Perhaps the most telling evidence of what Mamie’s has meant to the community was the fact that even the officials overseeing the ceremony had some degree of difficulty in holding back their emotions when speaking of what the Smiths have represented in the way of charitable contributions to the area.
But alas, after the ceremonial red ribbon was cut by the Smiths, a hot dog eating contest was held, and complimentary cake was distributed, it was again back to serving the customers at the best place to eat in Scotland County.