They came to Michael's to remember.
Retirees shared tables with younger folks, even toddlers. Diners came to say good morning, and goodbye.
Guests who filled the diner Saturday spoke with owners Kelly and Ann Ware. Handshakes were as common as coffee refills and smiles.
And yes, there were tears.
News of the Wares' pending retirement had been posted in the Hill Street diner. It was the banner story in last week's The McDuffie Mirror. Bad news travels fast, and this news had reached folks who hadn't been to Michael's in a while.
Guests snapped photos and took videos on cell phones, and signed a congratulatory panel of photos.
The final day at the Thomson restaurant looked like the best day ever at most restaurants. Perhaps it was one of the best days at Michael's, too.
Guests waited for tables, but also shared tables.
When Mike and Linda Joesbury stood waiting to be seated, I waved them over to the booth I was holding. We talked for a couple minutes before Joesbury acquaintances lined up near the door. I gave up my seat for the new arrivals. "I'm like a cloud," I told Mike. "I'll settle somewhere."
Cup in hand, I wandered past the round big round table that has known no knights or noblemen, but a great many noble men. That morning, the seats of honor held a couple and their kids.
George Yarbrough waved me to the next table, and -- as you would expect of George -- extended his stay to exchange notes. He had been to a seminar in Orlando, he said, and he heard Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell. "Those guys were real heroes," George said.
Ronnie Thomaston, who had floated to George's table just as I had, told me about his years as an Air Force jet mechanic and his career as a conservation officer.
Those doses of conversation would have to last me awhile.
Many of the Michael's faithful will settle nearby this week. Some agreed to follow Hill Street up over the hill to Little G's.
We enjoy good things in their time and then we find more good things. But each time we say goodbye to a diner or drive-in or corner store we lose fragments of an era that can't be reassembled over the hill.
Kelly and Ann deserve their free time. But, if it's OK with you, I'll hang on to Saturday.
The details of the menus are still clear. I remember the bright yellow, laminated breakfast menu with 14 egg specials, 21 pancake combinations, seven French toast combos, and omelets and incidentals. I remember the pale green lunch bill, with the hamburger steak, pork chops and fried chicken. It's as though I have the menus right in front of me. It's as though the Wares gave those menus to me. It's as though I promised to give the menus to the museum, because I knew the Wares wouldn't.
So I'll take those menus, and last week's Mirror and this week's Mirror to the museum. The stack will need to age in a box. Whatever happens then is out of Ann and Kelly's hands, or the current curator's hands.
But there might come a time when former kids recognize those tattered menus, with their 2011 specials and 2001 prices. Those former kids might remember hot pancakes and a hotter spring morning.
They might remember overhearing stories about astronauts and game wardens.
They might remember breakfast with Mom and Dad.
They might remember Michael's.