Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

September 14, 2011

Italian Festival, oyster dinner and Pocahontas memories

There once was a time that you could purchase almost anything you needed in Pocahontas, Va. There were hardware stores, automobile dealers, feed stores, shoe stores, dry goods stores, pharmacies, barber shops, beauty salons and a Western Auto Store. You could purchase appliances at several locations including the Pocahontas Fuel Store, Western Auto Store or George Butt Garage. Yes, the GM auto dealer sold Frigidaire appliances many years ago. Jim Taylor’s shoe shop would repair your shoes. Mr. Taylor, one of the best shoe repairmen in the country, would put new soles and heels on your shoes or boots and make other repairs. Fine men’s suits from the best shops in Chicago could be bought at the Pocahontas Fuels Company Store.

A factory representative would fit you and the suit would be made and shipped to Pocahontas. The customer would then be treated to another fitting by the expert to make sure everything was satisfactory. A new suit was a major investment. Now we just throw on whatever and wear it. Things aren’t the same anymore. If you want a new suit that actually fits, you will have to go to Charlotte, Charleston or Roanoke to find it. There is one exception. Downtown Beckley still has a fine tailor. Pocahontas is not the same booming little town as it was when I was small and I miss that.

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Sixty years ago the grocers in Pocahontas would deliver your groceries to the door. Oscar Asbury, then with Pocahontas Fuel Company, delivered groceries to our door in Bramwell many times in a black Chevy sedan delivery. Most young folks probably have no idea what a sedan delivery might be. A sedan delivery is basically a two-door station wagon with no rear seats or rear side windows. Ken Jenkins over in Freeman has a 1953 sedan delivery and it is usually parked near his hot dog stand.

Ellett’s at the time was a large grocery store that was probably a forerunner of the modern day supermarket. Folks could either go to the store or order their groceries by phone and have them delivered. My father and Frank Ellett were friends. My father once asked Mr. Ellett the secret of their retail grocery success. Mr. Ellet said to him “Irvin, see all of this produce and meat here in the store, this is what is left. We sent the best cuts of meat and the freshest and best produce to be delivered to our phone customers. They cannot see what is here, so we pick out the best we have and send it to them. What is left is here in the store for our walk in customers.”

Times have changed, but I have noticed that many small merchants in our area still take pride in the goods and services they have to offer their customers.

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The Ramey Auto Group is sponsoring the 17th Annual Southern West Virginia Italian-American Festival presented by the Bluefield-Princeton Italian Lodge Fratelli Tricolore (OSIA) 2631 Sons and Daughters of Italy that will be held Oct. 7-8 at the Bluefield City Auditorium near Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield. Get ready for a great time and a good meal. The festival has something to offer for every age group. According to the sponsors, this year’s entertainment is destined to be the best yet with performers from Nashville to Chicago and Rhode Island. The money raised by the lodge is used to support scholarships for worthy students and other worthwhile community projects. The lodge will again offer their famed spaghetti sauce for sale.

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Oysters are going be served at the Brushfork National Guard Armory on Oct. 22. The 32nd Annual Bluefield Shrine Patrol Oyster Dinner is coming up soon. Rodney Butcher, Chip Brooks and head oyster chef Marvin Edwards will be frying up the delicacies for everyone to enjoy. The trio is renowned for their culinary arts in this limited area. Brooks — a food loving truck parts salesman, Butcher — a retired postmaster and Edward — a retired Marine, can measure up to the best of them when it comes to frying oysters. These guys have this down to an art form. Tickets to the local event are now on sale and may be purchased from any Shriner or the following area businesses:

Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce (304) 327-7184, Hardware Charlie’s, Bluewell (304) 589-6910, Gary’s Market, Bluewell (304) 589-4279, Graham Jewelry, Bluefield, Va. (276) 322-4385, Seaver Funeral Home, Princeton (304) 425-2282, Jimmy Hampton of Jimmy’s Hardware in Roderfield (304) 436-6835, or from Joe Vinciguerra in Bramwell (304) 248-7347. Doors will open at 6:15 p.m.. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door.

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Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will be at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Oakvale Public Service District water project scheduled for Oct. 22. When completed, the water project will serve approximately 300 residential and commercial customers. It will also serve the Oakvale Elementary School.

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The Mercer County Commission has received new X-ray scanners to be used at the courthouse and the annex. The scanners will enable security officers to check handbags, carrying cases and other containers more efficiently.

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Burke’s Outlet will be opening soon in Bluefield Va. Town officials did a walk through last Friday and reported that the store is fully stocked and is ready to open for business. According to town officials, the store is now training new employees in anticipation of the store’s grand opening.

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There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. Autumn is a week away. I hope you are enjoying the last few days of summer’s blue skies.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

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