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.