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No Wi-Fi, Limited Pie, But A Family-Style Tale From Furr’s

April 2nd, 2015 · Tags:Coffee Shops · Wi-Fi

FURRS Buffet

It was my nice, kindly gentleman uncle, on my father’s side of the family, who first introduced me to Luby’s cafeteria on one of my first trips to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.


“Sorry sir. Thanks for lunch … but Luby’s just isn’t Furr’s,” (I thought to myself).


Ha … that was more than 30 years ago.

Just prior to that Luby’s lunch in Arlington, Texas, so many years ago, I did a stint working at Furr’s headquarters one cold Christmas vacation between semesters at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. I remember several things from that temp job. The boss, Bryan, was super nice. The break room had all the canned soup I cared to eat. My hair was short and spiky as was the fashion of the day, and the product in my hair would freeze as I shoveled snow in the circle driveway, before the boss let me warm up and add up cash register receipts at a desk inside. And I remember that my friend Mark helped me get the job as his temporary replacement, and I never had to mention my connections with the once family-owned company to land the position.


Furr’s — a Lubbock and Texas Panhandle institution for both supermarkets and restaurants — has long since been bought by outside investors. But for decades it was a proud family-owned-and-operated success story.


Even so … I had never really thought about covering Furr’s on the PingWi-Fi blog until a recent visit to Moore, Okla. (I was working in Moore just a few weeks back prior to recent tornadoes …) There isn’t a lot there, tornado or no tornado … so when I saw a Furr’s Buffet, I thought “what the heck.” I’m always looking for another restaurant or coffee shop or pie kitchen to feature on the blog.


Many things have changed at Furr’s. This particular location in Moore was a buffet, rather than the old cafeteria with a line, a choice of meats, servers with white dresses and WHAT!?! No strawberry pie. I was in shock.


Other things had not changed … after all those years, there still was no Wi-Fi at the Furr’s location.


Hardly recognized the place. Did I mention there was NO STRAWBERRY PIE!?!


Even before being on assignment in Oklahoma, I had been thinking about Furr’s and here is why. Think back with me a few months.


About the same time that terrorists and murderers struck at the satire magazine in Paris — during the time when the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie had us all typing our first French — I stumbled upon a link detailing the family genealogy on my mom’s side … The Pieratt side … the French side.


Wow … I think my dad used to tease my mom about her French blood, commenting that Pieratt must have meant pirate.


Fausse, Pere!


Anywho …


I followed the links and learned that my siblings and I are direct descendants of a gentleman who fought in The American Revolution. Young Valentin Pieratt was a cannonier who crossed the pond to fight against The British with the young French aristocrat The Marquis de Lafayette. As you know, Lafayette was named a general in the American cause by our Continental Congress in 1777. (I had no idea our family roots were so deep. Our German side of the family didn’t arrive until the late 1800s …)


This seemed pertinent, because as mentioned above, there were a couple of weeks when The United States (except for our President) had felt more close to the French than in many years. Typically we hear nothing but jokes about The French and their anemic response to threats against their country. This time — and so sorry it took such a bloody event — Americans were showing full solidarity with the French, just like the rest of the civilized world. And yes, thousands of Americans died in the fight to liberate France during WWII and I think Frenchmen all know and appreciate that. “If it had not been for us, they would be speaking German right now,” being the old catch phrase.


But it was cool to see a family connection, but also to read a reminder that France had our back, from the very beginning as we broke away from The British Empire. I hope current world events only serve to make us close allies again.


What could be more important than both of our countries placing such high value on the freedom of speech? I digress …


As I continued to read the genealogy, I was more and more impressed with the body of work assembled by this relative — an amateur or hobbyist genealogist. I felt like I had “met” two very interesting family members via the Internet research. The French-American patriot and the second … the guy tracing the family tree . The family tree guy was my mother’s cousin, and I found out he lives really close. So I hopped on the scooter recently and motored across the Metroplex to meet him.




Have you ever met someone who just makes you feel like such an underachiever? Ha … it happens a lot, over in my little world … I digress. My “Cousin Sydney” is 94 and has been successfully married more than 70 years. That may be his biggest success …. but there are plenty more impressive and interesting details.


He and I shared a cold Dr. Pepper in his office — a converted bedroom in his home filled with several computer monitors for genealogy research and book compilation … a fine gun collection … a huge collection of service medals, Asian decorative swords, Little League baseball photos of children, photos of planes he had flown and photos of buildings he had designed.


Ping Family Furr Pin  sized

This hit home most. Like my grandfather, Sydney at one time drove a truck (during his college education at Texas Tech) for the family business — Furr’s Supermarkets and Furr’s Cafeterias. But while my grandfather “Dude” was happy to drive his Mack truck for Furr’s for more than 25 years, Sydney earned a degree in architecture. (Oh … more family history … Sydney and my family have a relative who was Chairman of the Board of Regents at Texas Tech … I just learned that recently … I knew Mr. Furr was a big businessman around Lubbock. I didn’t know he was the head honcho at Tech … So, my kids are related to not only a former Chairman of the Board of Regents, but also the chancellor as well. Guns Up Red Raiders!)


Anywho … My new family guy Sydney studied architecture and joined The United States Air Force because of that whole WWII breaking out thing. More cool stuff … At one time Sydney was the only architect in the entire Air Force and is proud to have designed some significant Air Force buildings … so he not only has stories about flying bi-plane fighters, and landing on tiny frozen Alaskan lakes … and being chased by an Alaskan bear … but he also represented The USAF in NATO base planning in Europe … oversaw construction of missile silos, etc., etc. In short, Sydney is the man.


“So what do you do Kent?”


“Well … uh … sir … I write first-person accounts of which coffee shops have wireless Internet.” … Ha … see my point?  My only other story that might even remotely interest this relative … I had once met and become great friends — even went out once on a first-name basis date after class drinking beer in the Texas Hill Country — with a pretty young woman in my photography class at the Texas Tech Center at Junction.  Funny thing … when I asked her last name, it was Pieratt … same as my mother’s maiden name.  Her father was also an amateur genealogist and verified that we were in fact related, but there was ample space between our two branches of the family tree … still … we didn’t date after that.  I digress …


But that is what we journalism majors do, we observe, and we write about the people who do all the important stuff.


FURRS Medals


And I hope it is okay to share one more Sydney story … perhaps the one of which he is most proud. His best, he said. When he was fairly new to The Air Force, he and his buddies were put on a train to Denver to start training. Near Denver, the train stopped and then backed up a bit. When it stopped again, there was one young woman sitting on a bench … all of the sudden faced with an audience of dozens and dozens of young airmen all staring at her from the train and I am sure, all of them trying to get her attention. Sydney was smitten. But, soon that train pulled out, so to speak. No introductions.


Weeks, if not months passed, and then one day on the very first time the young airmen were permitted to leave their base, Sydney and a buddy went to downtown Denver and popped inside a retail store. He saw an older woman in the store, talking with a young customer … he thought.


The younger woman was the sales clerk’s daughter. When she turned around, Sydney saw it was in fact the young woman from the train station.


He asked permission to give her a call. The rest is family history.


I met her too — the love of his life … this very interesting couple, all due to a very chance meeting so long ago. Nice people!


Know what I sayin?