Faces in the crowd: Sweet Pryor
When Sweet Pryor was serving his country during the Viet Nam war, his mother Gladys hadn’t heard from him for awhile and so she contacted the Air Force and they couldn’t locate him. That’s because her son had shed the name she was using in her search, J.B., and taken on the moniker ‘Sweet.’ As in, ‘Sweet Oscar November,’ to be exact, ‘S.O.N.,’ the name the Air Force had him choose because of his security clearance as a crew member for the SR71 Blackbird spy plane. “Yeah, when they retired that plane, we all cried. It was like losing a member of the family,” says Pryor as he recounts his military service.He hasn’t lost the name through the years, even after 20 years in the military, a tour in both Viet Nam and Desert Storm, being stationed all over the world, ten years of college in southern California, traveling throughout all 50 states, Europe, Japan, southeast Asia, and the British Isles, and three years living in Truckee.”That’s my name, and I don’t go by any other because it just fits me,” he says. His mother, upon finding him back then, was irritated that he’d summarily changed from his Christian name to ‘Sweet,’ and to this day, she still addresses letters to him with his given name and the extension: a.k.a. ‘Sweet.’Pryor is a familiar sight to many in the Truckee area, especially during road construction season. “A few years ago, I was working as a flagman, just standing out there being bored, and so I started doing some things to make it fun,” he explains. Pryor started moonwalking as he waved cars on by, or doing a military routine and other comical body movements as he worked to see cars and heavy equipment move safely and efficiently. Drivers around the area have been amused – and amazed – at the juxtaposition of his creativity against ordinary, functional flagging duties. “I gotta do it,” he says, “because I gotta put smiles on those faces…and I do it for the kids, they get into it.”Right now, Pryor is working as a construction laborer for Herrington Construction, the contractor handling the renovations inside a portion of downtown’s historic Truckee Hotel. Local restaurant entrepreneuers Mark Estee and J.J. Morgan are putting in the Moody’s Bistro & Lounge, which will open in late June. “It’s gonna be a real nice place,” he says.Pryor is no stranger to the restaurant business, as cooking is one of his favorite things and he once owned a restaurant in Citrus Grove as well as nearly launching a special sauce with the Heinz company. He’s a student of the culture and ethnicities of the world. “I love cooking with spices, and the foods of different lands,” he says, “and my friend Brian is my guinea pig,” Pryor says. Brian Reglert and he work together at Truckee’s local access television station, Channel 6, where they collaborate with others on various programs, including the production of a small, independent movie called “The Wooly Mammoth.” Pryor often cooks up special dishes for his friends, and plans to hold a public barbecue sometime this summer.Pryor is the eldest of nine children, and he left home at nine years of age. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough love in my home,” he says, “but I was old enough to know that I could go out and get my own and my parents, they needed to give it to the other eight.” He moved in with an aunt, and then joined the service after high school. He remains close to his parents, who still live in the same house in a rural county of Virginia.In his travels, Pryor cites Scotland as his favorite place. “I made so many friends over there, and they all say ‘Sweet, when you come back, you stay with me.’ The problem is, I’d have to stay in 60 different places so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings,” he says. He claims that in his family lineage is a great-great-grandfather who was full-blooded Irish, so finding ‘kinship’ with Scots-Irish people is a natural. “Yeah, my mother’s side of the family is religious; my father’s is where the drinkers are, and that’s where that Irishman was,” he says with a robust laugh.Moving to Truckee was an odd coincidence for Pryor. “I was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base, and my brother and I drove past this pretty town with a river running through it, and I thought to myself, ‘I should go check that place out,’ ” he says. He never got the chance, and after the service he moved back home to Virginia for awhile, where he was hired by a company that offered him a chance to transfer anywhere in the U.S. On the list was ‘Truckee, California,’ and so he chose that because he always admired the Sierra Nevada mountains. When he arrived here in 1999, he realized this was the place that he’d wanted to ‘check out’ all along.Pryor says he’s glad he chose Truckee. “Man, I love this place!” he says, “and I ain’t leavin’. The people are so good here and I have made many friends…and, it’s beautiful!.”The name Pryor chose for himself long ago does seem to fit, as his enthusiasm for a diverse, adventuresome existence means, quitely simply, that he lives the Sweet life.