Just A Perry 'Gurl'



The New Perry Hotel

One of Perry’s most widely known landmarks is the New Perry Hotel. In the years we spent out of the South, from east coast to west, we always ran into someone that said, “.... Perry, Georgia, I remember going though there on the way to Florida as a kid, we would stop and eat at the New Perry Hotel.” Sometimes they would remember staying the night, but they always remembered “eating there”.

In my charmed and golden days of youth. the 1950s and 60s, upon obtaining the much coveted “valid Georgia Driving License”, teenagers would often pool their financial resources, purchase 50 cents worth of gasoline and just “drive around town”. Today they call it “crusin” and it is banned in many places. Of course in 1960 and in a town of five thousand there were not enough teenagers with access to a car to make “drivin” a nuisance.

Sunday afternoons were then for teenagers, a lazy, boring period between morning church and B.T.U. or M.Y.F. Not everyone had a television and for those that did programming was sparse; it was like, .. well, the Washington Redskins or nothing. So, starting Saturday morning, negotiations began for the use of the family sedan on Sunday afternoon. The one that succeeded in this delicate negotiation, then became that afternoon’s chauffeur for as many as could cram into the rolling “fun-house". The local Dairy Queen was the ultimate destination, with Hwy. 41 being the “cruise strip”.

I always wanted to cruise by the New Perry Hotel and look for ‘yankee’ tags. Now some might interpret this as a bit mischievous but in that era it was merely a way to pass a Sunday afternoon; heaven forbid, one open a text book and do any homework before 8:00 Sunday night. What was the intent if one might actually run into one of the “infamous Yankees”? Some might expect Southern capriciousness or even viciousness, if they were to believe the content of many screen plays and movies....Deliverance comes to mind. But no, upon encountering a “yankee”, my intent was to turn on the “Southern charm” and give them a memory of real Southern hospitality that they could take back up “nawth” with them.

The actual face to face meeting with these northern folk only happened on rare occasion; I mostly became acquainted with the back end of their car. I do remember one “close encounter”. I was asked, in that high pitched, northern staccato which I strained to understand, directions to Atlanta. Now just having obtained the coveted and long awaited “valid Georgia Drivers License” and seeing as how my “muther” wouldn’t allow me to venture outside the city limits of Perry, I was not the best source from which this northern brethren could have sought such advice. But I was happy to have a chance to actually talk to one of these objects of Sunday afternoon entertainment and as best I could gave directions. My “best”, I later discovered, had fallen a bit short....I had sent the unknowing traveler in the direction of Macon County. I figure somewhere in Marshallville another Sunday afternoon thrill seeker corrected my mistake.

This all reminds me of one of my favorite Southern stories which I believe was related in Spencer B. King’s book Sound of Drums. A northern college professor doing research on the War of Northern Aggression was traveling through rural Georgia. It was getting late in the day and he was pressed to return to Atlanta in time for a lecture he was to deliver that night. He became lost on Georgia’s back roads and stopped for directions at a roadside fruit stand. Attending the stand was a very old but kindly looking gentleman in overalls, a fedora and with a “chaw of tobaccy”. The traveler asked in that northern twang for the way to Atlanta. Before answering the professors inquiry, the old gentleman looked over at the traveler’s automobile and spied the Illinois license plate. He slowly turned his head, did the necessary spitting and then looked back at the stranger and said, “Reckon Sherman could find it in ‘64, so can you”; he then turned and set back down by the peanut pot.

Now back to the New Perry Hotel. While a senior at PHS, Class of 1965, I dated a “college man”. He and a buddy or two would often hitchhike from Middle Georgia College, in Cochran on Wednesday afternoon, attend Wednesday prayer meeting with a group of us Baptist kids, and then hitchhike back. Unfortunately one Wednesday night, they failed to find a ride back. It was cold and misty, so they decided to stay over at the New Perry Hotel and hopefully find a ride to Cochran in time to make their first morning class. Their plan worked great. The two young fellows awoke early and found a man going to Hawkinsville who offered them a ride; and in the greatest Southern tradition, when learning of their plight took them all the way to Cochran. The story seems to have had a happy ending; however there was the matter of the check for $9.50 that was written to the New Perry Hotel. The young man had a whole lot of “splaining” to do when his father later that month looked over the young man’s checking account ( yes, fathers did that then)! I married the fellow 33 years ago and we always remember this story when we visit the hotel.

I only remember eating at “the hotel” a couple of times as a child. These where usually momentous occasions, requiring one’s “Sunday best”. This I didn’t mind as long as it didn’t include the dreadful “hat”; to this day I have a love-hate relationship with hats. Hummm, hummm, the fried chicken was always my favorite; and of course everyone knows that fried chicken just screams for turnip greens. Top it off with pecan pie and you have yourself one fine Southern dining experience. But the one thing that I have never, ever understood is the “UN-SWEETENED Iced Tea” which I have always considered “yankee tea”. It is almost an abomination in the South not to have “SWEET Tea”. Well I guess the Good Lord knew what he was doing, sweet tea would make the New Perry Hotel just too close to heaven.

©Terrelle M. Walker


New Perry Hotel
800 Main St.
Perry, Georgia 31069

Since I wrote the above,  'The Hotel' has undergone a transformation.  After over 50 years of ownership & management by the Green family, the NPH has new owners & management who have updated the decor &  the restaurants fare; however, many of the favorite menu items remain (especially that Southern fried chicken) .  The changes to this 'grand ol' dame' have only enhanced her charm.  The warm and cozy pale yellow lobby's traditional decor invites one to sit and listen to the melodies floating from the grand piano.  Another welcome addition to the property is The Tavery; offering libations and light dining either by the warmth & glow of the fireplace or under the spreading limbs of the terrace's trees.

Heaven?......maybe so....they now have 'SWEET tea'!

Visit the hotel's website to learn more of what awaits you at the.....

New Perry Hotel



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