LLOYD KELLAM PT 4:
Hambone, ‘Jersey,’ Casinos, Rationing, School Fights,
and What Made Cape Charles Different
(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.
There’s so many things. I can remember one time they had a little Austin automobile and a bunch of high school boys picked it up and put it in the bank window. Do you remember that? You go by sometime and look at those windows on the bank. And it was not on the side street, it was on the front. Right up next to Daddy’s store. They packed that thing in there and there was about an inch on each side.
But we had some characters in town and these are characters! One of my favorite characters was a guy named Pat Richardson. Pat hung around a lot. One of the reasons he was such a character was he was supposed to have, and I think it’s true, he was supposed to have been wealthy at one time or had a lot of land, left home and sold it. But he was a real true sport in his day in that, this money burnt a hole in his pocket, he rented two train cars and took his friends to Philadelphia, put them up in hotels and carried them out to ball games and wined and dined them and brought them back home. That was the way he went through his money until it was gone. And I remember Daddy giving him coffee often. Cape Charles has had some characters.
[Audience member mentions learning the hambone.]
Yeah, a black man named Slim. Does everybody know what the hambone is? I was a schoolboy and I would hambone on everything. Slim used to charge us 25 cents to show us how to do it. Amos could hambone.
[Audience laughs at the sound of hands slapping knees and chest.]
I taught my boy how to hambone. There’s one more boy in here who can hambone. The Cape Charles boys could do it, but they couldn’t do it quite as good as Amos and Lloyd. In fact, at the high school annual, in my senior year, you know how you pass on something to somebody else, it said, “I passed on to Amos my ability to hambone in order to fascinate girls from other schools.” It did work!
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[Audience member: “What do you remember about Jersey” (“Colored Town”)?]
Daddy had a theater back there. Mr. Tabb used to run it. I remember Mr. Tabb. I remember Albert Raynes’ daddy had a store there. A couple of Ewells had stores back there. Charlie Woerner’s daddy had a store back there. My illustrious uncle, Ned McNally. Does anybody remember Ned? McNally had a store one block over from this. Nectarine Street.
We had the roller skating rink. I had that in here about the roller skating rink. I vaguely remember as a child a big tent that sat on the school ground. In later years, people have told me and I heard that it was everybody from Billy Sunday to . . . .
[Audience member: “He was here at one time!”]
He was down at the dock? But it was a big thing, it was a revival of some type, but it was not a normal revival.
Amos lived in town and about the time that his father moved out of town, they moved into a house that was a nightclub, called “Top Hat.” And it was, to my knowledge, a nice club. But they also had a casino down at the very northwest corner, down where the apartments are now. I remember a building being out there. It used to be a ferry terminal. It was on the old ferry terminal. And I can remember the building being out there. And my first recollection of another of my favorite people in the world named Frankie Dunton. Frankie Dunton managed it for a while. And I can remember seeing him in a white linen suit. Sunburn coming back from Florida. You all remember Frankie? I know Amos and I have a story that Amos was going to tell about Frankie!
[Audience: “You talked about the dairy and the cart drawn by the horses. You have the gentleman back here who drove the cart, Dave Mitchell.”]
Now I can put those two together! To get off that subject, getting back to Al Raynes, I wrote down here, and I didn’t want to forget this. Back in World War II there were no candy bars. You couldn’t get a candy bar and you couldn’t get a pack of cigarettes. Somebody within the last two months told me that they would never forget my mother because during the war she always had a pack of cigarettes for them. I can remember Daddy getting cigarettes. He’d go to Philadelphia on the train because the salesman didn’t have gas to come by.
If you wanted cigarettes you had go away and get them. So he’d go to Philadelphia on the train and usually took one of us kids with him. He didn’t do it for the pleasure, he did it because he’d have to take the cigarettes physically from the building and carry them to the post office and mail them. And that was some of the kids’ jobs to do all that hauling. And when I’d go, we’d sleep in the Pullman with him, get up in Philadelphia. But when we’d get them home, Mother would take all those cigarettes out and dump them in one big carton and when somebody came in and wanted some cigarettes, she’d say I think I’ve got one for you. And she’d reach down and she never would look at it. She’d pull up a Fatima or whatever it was. I can hear them now, “Miz Kellam, don’t you have a pack of Luckys?” She’d say, you’d better be lucky for what you get! But she always had some cigarettes for them.
Getting back to things at that time, there were no candy bars. I can remember going to Raynes grocery and one of my favorite things to get was a pigs foot. You had a sweet pigs foot and that brine, or whatever it is, and he’d wrap them in wax paper and we’d go back out and play. He’d wrapped it up and put it back in the bag and there’d be ants crawling all over it. But they’d be crawling all over it, but couldn’t get on it! We’d go over and shake those things off. (laughter) I don’t think a pigs foot today would be that good. If I didn’t get one of them I got a Moon Pie, which was about that wide and about that tall, honestly! You’d get a thing of brown Nehi ginger ale and you were fixed! Am I lying when I tell you it was that thick?
[Someone in the audience says it looked like a car battery!]
The other thing is, talking about the skating rink and the play field, I can remember shooting marbles. You’ve got to remember that the era we’re talking about, these guys, there was no television. Television didn’t come along much until we were in high school. As grammar school children, we shot marbles. I can remember big rings of marbles and little rings of marbles. The biggest fight that I ever saw in grammar school, when I went to grammar school, I saw Edward Bender come by running and scoop up marbles out of a game. And Harry Fred was in that game. And they got in school and he didn’t fight then. When they got out after school, they got in a big fight. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen boys go at it any worse than that. It spilled over and one of the Thole boys got in it. I think it was Leo. The Bender boy was smaller and Mr. Thole was coming down the side street, this street right here going home. And he stopped his car when he saw it was Leo. He got out and said, “Leo, that boy’s getting the best of you and I’m going to sit here and watch it. If he gets the best of you, I’m going to get the best of you when you get home!”
One of the things that I think made Cape Charles such an interesting town, is that I think of the county that surrounds us as being more English and more people that have been here a long time. Cape Charles was made up of people who came here not too long ago and have not so deep roots, although their roots might be mentally as strong and emotionally as strong, their family roots are not quite as deep. We had Germans, we had Spaniards, we had Italians, we had Chinese, we had Lithuanians, Jewish people, Polish people — we had more than one Polish family. It was just a mixture of everybody. I remember one time, talking to Bootie Shelton, you all may or may not know Bootie, but Bootie said (he was a good athlete) and he said that he wanted to leave the Northampton school system and come to Cape Charles because we were so diversified down here. He was smart enough that he wanted to go with all kinds of boys and he said Cape Charles had that. But nobody in the town liked us because that’s what we were. We were different. His father wouldn’t let him come to school here because we were different. I sort of liked that difference. I can remember going in people’s homes, I used to deliver newspapers on Sunday, that’s another story.
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