Steel Pigs Over Atlanta: A Christmas Memory

Riding the Pink Pig at Rich’s Downtown was a holiday tradition in my family for many years. Every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d drive all the way into downtown Atlanta to visit the amazing Rich’s Downtown store. I remember being so excited!

For those who don’t know, the Pink Pig was a monorail of sorts that was erected at Christmas time at the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta from 1948 to 1991. It started out in the toy department and rode out on the roof of the store through a Christmas village and alongside the Rich’s Great Tree, with a view of the buildings of Atlanta all around it. (Yes, the Pink Pig exists today…sort of…at Lenox Square, but I’ll get to that in a minute…)

There aren’t too many specific memories of our trips; I think all these remembrances blend together into one tableau of images: driving into Atlanta; marvelling at the beautiful Rich’s Great Tree atop the Crystal Bridge; the huge department store unlike anything I’d seen anywhere else; the elevator with the color-code for each floor; the bustling cafeteria; the thumbprint cookies with sweet, creamy icing; the reindeer in the petting zoo; Santa’s Secret Shop (where parents weren’t allowed!); the Pink Pig itself, with its awe-inspiring view of the Great Tree and the “big city” around it; the sticker, which was the coveted free souvenir, with its red ink on a pink fabric circle, that read I Rode The Pink Pig At Rich’s. (The funny thing is that I never remember going to see Santa there; I may have, but I just don’t have any recollection…)

The Pink Pig returned in a much lesser form in 2004 at Lenox Square Mall, inside a tent, as a small train ride with cheesy narration done in a fake Southern accent. (There was no audio at the real Pink Pig, except for children’s chatter…) I’ve been to it two or three times, most recently last week with Ashley, Kenzie, and Hadley. It really hit me this last time riding it how it’s nowhere near the amazing experience we had as children. First of all, it’s at a mere mall…in Buckhead. Secondly, the tree was scrawny and sad looking…no majesty here. Last of all, there was nothing to inspire the imagination…no ride over downtown, no view of a growing, bustling city. It made me wish I had a time machine to take the girls back to the days of a truly magical Christmas experience.

Thanks for allowing me to share a Christmas memory, albeit in a cranky, “things ain’t what they used to be” kind of way… May your Christmas this year be full of memories that you’ll want to share.

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14 thoughts on “Steel Pigs Over Atlanta: A Christmas Memory

    1. Awwww, I hate that you missed out. I tell you what: when I figure out how to build a time machine, I’ll take you to ride the Pink Pig.

  1. wow! I remember this. My mom worked at Rich’s as a cake decorator from 1970 to 1985. Thank you so much for posting this.

  2. I grew up in atlanta and as a child went to Rich’s, rode the pink pig, and visited Santa’s secret shop where I bought presents for my mom and dad. We were given an envelope with money in it and a list of how many people we had to buy for. The ladies would take us in to a small area where we shopped. Our parents sat in a waiting area while we shopped. After making our selection, the ladies would wrap the gifts. I was always so excited that I probably never actually made it until christmas without telling my parents what their present was. I was trying to remember all of the rich’s christmas song from the radio. It starts like this- “we’re on our way to rich’s
    to start the yuletide season
    oh yes we have a reason
    we’re going to light the tree.”
    Do you happen to know the rest of this song? Thanks for any help. Susan

    1. I vaguely remember the song, but not enough to even try to guess at the rest of it. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  3. Lighting the Great Tree on Thanksgiving night, and then going back downtown closer to Christmas to see the Real Santa Claus (as opposed to his helpers, who manned all the other stores in our opinion) were special events for our family each year.
    The song was to the tune of ‘The Happy Farmer’ and the next part was the chorus.
    The Tree!
    The Tree!
    We’re going to light the tree!
    (and then a couple more lines that I can’t remember).

    Those are great memories!

    1. the tree
      the tree
      we’re going to light the tree
      the tree is great and big and tall
      and quite the loveliest of all
      the tree
      the tree
      we’re going to light the tree

  4. OK, so we have the whole song now! And we also recall that those prized “I rode the Pink Pig” stickers were made of cloth and sometimes became a permanent part of your coat, depending on the material of said coat. My sister went around with the sticky stuff for the remainder of that particular coat’s days (a fun reminder of Christmas that probably bothered Mama a whole lot more than it bothered her).

    And don’t forget the green jellied, sugar coated Christmas tree shaped candy that you got when you went to see Santa. Life was great!

  5. My mother worked at the downtown Rich’s from 1967-77. I would sometimes get to come to work with her – I’m not exactly sure what her job was, but her “office” was a little cubby hole behind the Men’s Dept. We would eat lunch on the Bridge – something I thought was quite remarkable since we could look down on the cars going underneath us!

    She would take me every year to ride the Pink Pig. I remember how cool it was to ride around the Great Tree and see all the HUGE ornaments hanging on it; the cloth “I Rode the Pink Pig” stickers; the over all excitement of being downtown and seeing all the big buildings decorated for Christmas!

    I have so many fond memories of Rich’s. My Mom passed away in Sept. 2011. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!!

  6. Hey Chris-I know that is has been a while since you have had anybody comment on this, however I just wanted to share with you my memories of Rich’s Pink Pig. Most of the memories are like yours, however I remember for some reason while riding and looking everything deer/reindeer under the pig and it really, really having a stink smell? Am I just dreaming? There is no doubt, when I take my kids now to ride the Pink Pig at Lenox, you are exactly right that it is really no big deal. Ashamed! However, we still take our kids and share with them everytime how neat it used to be.

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