Part 2: Lloyd Kellam Remembers Cape Charles
November 30, 2013
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cape Charles Historical Society has for more than a decade been recording oral histories of the area’s earlier days. In 2002, as one in a series of lectures sponsored by the Cape Charles Library entitled “The Way We Were,” Cape Charles native Lloyd Kellam shared the following account. In 2012, funded by a grant by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the recording, along with 14 others, was transcribed. The Historical Society has now made it available for readers of the Wave. All the transcriptions are also available for reading at the Museum. This is Part 2 of Mr. Kellam’s reminiscences. Click here to read Part 1.)
Anyway, where was Sample’s [Barbershop]?
[Audience member]: Near Wing Sing’s Laundry. Right in that group.
I don’t remember that. I remember apartments being over top. Anyway, to change the subject, in my time, Sample’s Barbershop was down that same street. He moved it. His son’s picture is in the paper this week, Johnny Sample. If you wonder who he is, Tommy Savage taught him all he knew about football!
When you turned the corner, there was Savage’s Drugstore and then, I can’t remember what was next to that. Was it a dress shop? OK, there was a dress shop there. Then the Palace Theatre was my first recollection, but I do remember when the Palace was built and I remember them tearing all those old buildings down. But I can’t remember who was there. I do remember Mr. Tilghman and I spent many a day in Mr. Tilghman’s place watching him fix watches. Back in those days, a watch was probably the most important thing that people had. And then there was Adam’s Quality Shop [?], Harry Rudy had a barbershop in there. And Lee Hart had a plumbing place, I forgot what it was called. And then Byrd Vick and then a Western Auto. The Radium was between Waddell’s Popcorn Shop, I called it, and Slim Colonna’s Barbershop. Then about the time I really remember, they opened up a beauty parlor upstairs and F. Winslow Toussaint’s. F. Winslow Toussaint and he started taking pictures. In looking back on it, I think that he didn’t have a bad deal with having the Miss Virginia Pageant in the Palace Theatre, which is another story. The newspaper that had that in it had nothing in there but pictures of all those beautiful girls from F. Winslow Toussaint. They were great, he could make a local girl look like a movie star! He was good.
Mr. Sak’s was down there. Where the building burned, I can’t remember exactly what was there, but my recollection was it was a grocery store.
[Audience]: Gaskill’s Grocery Store.
Then last but not least on that corner, in my memory, is the Palm Tavern. If Cape Charles ever really does come back, I want to go in there and open up a restaurant called Peach Street Chicken!
CONTINUED FROM FIRST PAGE
Anyway, the only other place I remember was Taylor Jefferson had a store. Before I get to that, Nectarine Street, right there by the Lambertsons Garage, there was a little building next to that, there was a grocery store there. That was right across from the American Legion Hall which was at the foot of the overpass. For those of you who don’t remember, or if you haven’t see pictures, that was a three story building that the bottom basement, or ground level, was the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts met there. The first floor was American Legion and they had pool and a meeting hall and all that. Third floor was the dance hall that all of the dances in Cape Charles were held there. The high school had their dances there. It was a big dance place and I have nothing but fond memories. And it was the USO, too.
Anyway, then came the ice plant. You’d turn the corner and you had a gas station. Norman Taylor had a Dodge and Plymouth place there. Don’t let me forget to tell you about our family’s first car, it’s sort of interesting and it has to do with Norman Taylor. And after that, Mr. Warner Barnes had a place there and he repaired radios and did mechanic work. And Mr. Barnes had a gas station at one time. Going to the highway you had Fitzhugh’s Garage, he sold Pontiacs. I lost a little bit there, but I remember Paul Watson had a gas station there, old man Paul. Mr. Powell had a gas station. And Hiram Ward, he was my last, because I spent also a lot of time with Hiram Ward either hiding his bottle or he would teach me how to do woodwork. As a little boy, I spent many a day in his shop. I never got in his way, and I know I did, but then again he would make way for me. He would take a drink. [laughter]
There’s one other place I missed along the way when I got to Peach Street, where the chicken place is going to be, across the street where that big building is, there was a gas station on the corner. I don’t know who ran it then, but Joe Bosse ran it later on. Donahue and McLean had a place there that came probably in my mind in the ’40s because they had Studebakers and later had Chevrolets. They had a Jewish synagogue upstairs. Cape Charles had a synagogue. That was on Peach Street. We had quite a few Jewish families at one time.
Anyway, one of the things I recall that when you look back and things stand out in your childhood, I can remember seeing Peanut Martin, they had a brand new Studebaker, like 1947. And that was the first Studebaker that I’d ever seen, it was the first sleek looking automobile. I had a little insight to this because Lance Fulcher’s daughter was dating Dickie Duncan and they were really a thing. Peanut Martin comes in with this brand new Studebaker and then next thing you know Peanut Martin is married to her. So you never know what a car will do for you!
Other things that I remember as a child, I could go back and think about Waddell’s Popcorn Shop, I called it. Tommy Kellam worked at Waddell’s Shop and he didn’t put popcorn in paper boxes. He put it in plasticine bags. You would get a little bag that was so thin you could see through it. Plasticine. You would have to go out of the movies to get it. You would go in and they didn’t have popcorn in the movies. You’d go in and come out and get your popcorn and go back in. I went to the movies a lot because Daddy’s store was next to the bank and Allison Mills was the teller and he ran the theater. It was one of my jobs to carry coffee over to the men at the bank. For my reward every Christmas I would get a pass to the movies for a whole year! So I went to the movies a lot. I can remember at Halloween time that one of the things that Tommy Kellam would do for the boys was to get a lot of those plasticine bags and fill them up with flour and put a rotten egg in it. And get in the back of a pickup truck and ride around and see who could throw that bag because it was so thin and it would break and you’d have the rotten egg and the flour. Everybody’s looking at me like, I can’t believe you did that!
But we were isolated. My family didn’t have a car until 1949. We walked to church, walked to school, walked to the beach. The piece I was going to tell you about, Norman Taylor, is that in 1949, Mother bought Daddy his first car. And I don’t think if Mother hadn’t done it, he never would have bought a car. He bought a ’49 Plymouth. She bought it with $2 bills. Mother had a big closet in that apartment over the store and Mother never threw away a pocket book! Sailors got paid off with $2 bills and when one of them came into the cash register, Mother would take them and put it in her pocket books upstairs. For Father’s Day 1949, she counted them all up, she had a thousand $2 bills in there! The car was $1,995.00 so she bought him a car. But Daddy got struck by the car bug. It wasn’t long before Amos’ daddy bought him a Desoto in 1950 and I bent Daddy’s arm because I didn’t want Amos to get ahead. Because I had it caught in my mind about Peanut Martin!
There’s another story about Amos. If somebody were to ask me who my best friend in high school was, it was Amos. But I always had this thing for him, that is he had a little dimple in his chin. And the girls always liked him better than they liked me. He always had a way with them. It was such a big deal in my mind, that I used to get Daddy’s adhesive tape and tape my chin! But it didn’t work! So I talked Daddy into getting a Desoto instead. And that’s the truth! That did work — it helped!
Things we did as children. I can remember skating in the fall of the year, not in the hot summer time, but we’d skate all over town. One of the things, our sidewalks were all paved, most of them were paved. And they were paved well and the only thing that ruined them in places were the roots that would come up a little bit. And if you were good, you could remember where the roots were coming up and jump and not get caught.
In the summertime, after 1945, in 1946, my sister Dorothy, she and her husband built the place down at the end of Randolph, right across from the pavilion. It was a hot spot five months out of the year. You could go to the beach and get a hot dog or hamburger and a frozen drink or a slush or whatever or frozen candy bar, that’s about all they had.
Another thing I can remember is at holiday times there were so many cars that would come in the parking lot, the parking lot that held the ferry traffic would fill up. They’d start and they’d go all the way down the beach, all the way down to Jefferson Avenue, all the way out of town. They were a captive audience and my sisters and their husband would make sandwiches and take a little basket and go sell them. We had another man who worked for me, you all may remember him, Leroy McWilliams. He was an entrepreneur and he used to make deviled crabs. You didn’t have to heat them up, because they were “hot” enough! They were good. He would sell deviled crabs. He would put them in a basket. I can see him now. He would have that basket on his arm with a checkered cloth covering them all up. He would sell them with wooden spoons. He would get wooden ice cream spoons from Daddy.
NEXT WEEK: PART 3 (CLICK HERE)