Lloyd Kellam Remembers Cape Charles (and Ol’ Sud Bell)

"Sud" Bell c. 1940 (Hog Island Life, Yvonne Widgeon)

“Sud” Bell c. 1940 (Hog Island Life, Yvonne Widgeon)

(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 3 of Mr. Kellam’s reminiscences.  Click here to read Part 1 and click here for Part 2.)

December 8, 2013

I’m trying to bring back memories to people who lived here and describe what the town was like [if you] didn’t live here. But we had a dairy and I remember, I don’t think you got it all the time, but I remember him delivering milk in the horse and buggy. And there were cars, we had cars. I can remember when the cars parked catty corner in the streets. One other story that I forgot to tell you. Later on as I was walking down the street, Ray Lassiter came here with a music store. He had a store on Pine Street and moved it right next to your drugstore, right?

[Audience member:] Lloyd, at one time, you know, Dad moved down next to the Wilsons.

Yes, he did. He had two stores at one time. The store next to the bank was Lloyd’s until he bought the store from Louis Getzel. For a period of about a year he ran both stores. But he renamed the one down the by the bank, “The Capital.” He sold that to Toad Ewell and a guy named Harry Johnson ran that for a time. Then Lloyd’s was up close to town.

Another story of when Daddy bought the store from Getzel — I smiled when I think of Miss Getzel because her little bulldog she had, she would never let me in the store to get any of that ice cream. I think the first ice cream I got was when Daddy bought it! I didn’t know this and I don’t know if anyone else does, but Mr. Getzel used to sell ice cream up and down the Shore and he put it on the train. He’d loaded ice cream on the train. He had these freezers in the back and all this ice cream ice, I guess, block ice and rock salt, and metal cans. He had freezers back there. But when Daddy bought the business from him, he filled every metal can full of ice cream before he left. I’ve never talked to you about this, but the worst thing he ever did to you, was Daddy had a halfway decent ice grinder down at the one down next to the bank, but the ice grinder he left Daddy at Getzel’s was just horrible. And that was my job, ground ice. If you had one of those hand grinders, it would kill you.


Another thing, I can remember when the Pocahontas made its maiden voyage and they had a big shindig. I remember Daddy taking me over there and buying me a hot dog. I thought it was a big deal. And on my ninth birthday, Daddy took me to Norfolk to go to the penny arcades. He had some business over there. I can remember getting on the steamer and getting off right in downtown Norfolk. I don’t think I’d ever been before that. Just the thrill of eating on the boat. The way it was it really sort of fascinated me after that — steamers. I can remember people talking about it, I never did it, but they had moonlight excursions on weekends. Saturday nights where you could get on, have dinner and a band would play and you’d go over and back and over and back and get off. Get off whenever you wanted. I did a little research in the newspaper this week to make sure of some of my facts. And several times they had more than one band so that you’d have continuous music. Another thing, I don’t remember this, but it happened, there were times that they’d have to make 20 or 30 arrests when the ferries would come in because the drinking and the bands and whatever would cause some problems. Fisticuffs, as they said.

Another thing I remember is summer, again this is through a child’s eyes and where I was, if you lived in town, you may not have had the benefit of seeing all this. There used to be a couple of brothers from Quinby. They were called Len and Sud Bell. Does anybody remember them? Well, they’d come down and sit on the bank steps in the summertime, next to Daddy’s store, and they had banjos and the stories are, (and the stories are greater up the road then they are down here) but the stories are that they entertained presidents. Governor Tuck one time flew a private plane over here to pick those boys up to come to some kind of big shindig that he had in Richmond. But I got so fascinated by them. They’d play the banjo and they never finished a song. They would start out and the next thing you know they’d be doing it over their back and under their legs and all that sort of stuff. They’d toss one banjo to the other one and keep on going. As a little kid — probably ’45 or ’44. They’d drop a hat out on the street and people would give them money between ferries. Talking to one of their daughters, she said they made a living in the summer time going across on the ferries on Friday nights just playing all night long and leaving a hat out to make a living.

[Audience member:] Did they go from town to town to do this?

When I moved to Exmore, I remember them one time coming in my store with banjos and entertaining people, yes. Len and Sud Bell. Annabelle’s Scott’s father. They ended up on Hog Island.

[Transcriber’s Note:] When researching how to spell Len and Sud Bell, I found the lyrics to a song by Bob Zentz from “The Bob Zentz Songbook.” Felt it was worth including!

Ol’ Sud Bell
From Horizons
Music and lyrics © 1999, 2010 Bob Zentz

1. Eastern Shore, Virginia, long time ago (D-G)
Out on Hog Island lived a man you should-a known (D-Em-A)
Always wore suspenders, hip boots as well (D-G)
A voice like a barn door had Ol’ Sud Bell! (G-D-A-D)

Ol’ Sud Bell, Ol’ Sud Bell
Sittin’ on the porch of the Wachapreague Hotel
Pickin’ on the banjo, he played it rather well
Gone but not forgotten, is Ol’ Sud Bell!

2. The Bells lived in Wachapreague when prohibition came
A still in the attic was their claim to fame
And down in the kitchen, two faucets in a line
The cold ran cold and the hot ran ‘shine (chorus)

3. At the Red Onion, in Broadwater town
Sud played the banjo while the people danced around
Charlie Doughty bowed the fiddle for the square dance tunes
Then they’d slip around the back for a little sip of moon-shine (chorus)

4. Along with Sud and Charlie, playin’ in the band
Was Whistlin’ John Melvin, the “squeeze-box man”
Didn’t read no music, knew ‘em all by heart!
Once, he opened up the bellows and the damn thing fell apart! (chorus)

5. Rich folks from the cities would come to Wachapreague
For fishin’ and for huntin’, perhaps to dance a jig
While someone cleaned their flounder (‘cause they didn’t like the smell)
They would frolic to the music of Ol’ Sud Bell (chorus)

6. Walter P. Chrysler said, “Sud, come go
Up to New York City, you’ll put on a little show”
In the middle of the show, Sud opened up his case
And diamondback terrapins crawled all over the place! (chorus)

7. Up in Philadelphia, he did a concert there
For the man-u-facturers of ladies’ underwear
They sent his wife some samples he could carry home that day
So underneath his clothes he wore the ladies’ lingerie! (chorus)

8. Ol’ Sud Bell, I’ve heard tell
If he isn’t up in heaven, then he’s pickin’ down in hell
Never known to end a song, and his song never will!
Long as folks keep tellin’ stories ‘bout Ol’ Sud Bell! (chorus)

Ol’ Sud Bell, Ol’ Sud Bell
The songs he would sing and the stories he would tell
Gone like the spray on a cold Atlantic swell
The last Hog Islander was Ol’ Sud Bell




3 Responses to “Lloyd Kellam Remembers Cape Charles (and Ol’ Sud Bell)”

  1. John C. Bell on May 7th, 2015 11:48 am

    Sud Bell was my Grandfather, he passed in 1957 at the age of 57 the year I was born. Do you know of any songs he may have recorded? I know he had a band called the String Quartet.

  2. Nancy Lewis on July 3rd, 2015 4:01 pm

    Sud Bell was my grandfather to whom I never met. He died before I was born. He was my mother’s (Evelyn Lewis) father (his youngest child). I was named after my grandmother Nancy Thornton Bell. She died from complications of child birth following having my mother in 1934, My grandmother’s sister, Ida Thornton (Finney, Lipscomb, Jarvis) raised my mom (she weighed 4 pounds, in 1934, premature babies didn’t survive). I have heard many tales about my grandfather and regret I did not know him. My mom always said she was musically talented as well, she could play the radio!

  3. Robert Houseknecht on July 7th, 2015 6:49 pm

    Southy (Sud) Mitchell Bell is my great-grandfather; he was born 1881 and died 1949. He visited my mother’s family, Rosemary Bell Houseknecht, in Newport News, Va. fairly often with a parade of children and folks behind him as he played the banjo walking down the street to her home on 36th Street. They always knew when he was coming 15 minutes before he arrived due to the music and parade that always seemed to follow him. To the Lewis Family: although you sold it in 2010, I ate at your restaurant, Island House, today. The food was still quite good :) I plan on taking my boat to Hog Island just to reconnect to the family past. I live in Virginia Beach. I hear you know my uncle Mitchell Bell.