Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dick Skinner's Restaurant -A Family Affair

A couple times a week my father would ask Ma, "What kind of apple pie you got for desert?" I learned recently that Pop was remembering Uncle Dick's place in Orlando where apple pie was the only desert that was ever on the menu.

According to a 1977 newspaper article Uncle Dick was George Delbert Skinner (pictured at the left). That article and others mention a lunch wagon. My family only mentioned Uncle Dick's restaurant. Dick's mother Patience (Duvall) Skinner (pictured at the right; my grandmother's grandmother) worked behind the counter.1

The 1977 article says Uncle Dick's brother, Marcellus Earl, aka "Pappy," also worked there. Another source, Pappy's granddaughter Barbara Skinner Joseph, says Earl/Pappy went on to open his own establishment, Brunswick Pool Room, in Weston in 1921. Another or Patience's boys, Edmund (might she have meant Edwin Glen?), was with him for the first couple years. In the years that followed, Pappy's son Lawrence, and then Lawrence's son Larry, worked in the business. The poolroom was a fixture in Weston for 40 years. In 1961 father and son closed the poolroom and son, with Pappy's support, opened Skinner's Grill, which was still in operation in 1977, operated by Pappy's grandson Larry with the support of his dad Lawrence.2 I wonder if they are open today and I wonder if they serve apple pie.

Going back to Dick Skinner's in Orlando, I know the daughter of another brother, Gideon, also worked there, because that was my grandmother, Edith Skinner, who later married Oras Stutler. She worked at Uncle Dick's in the 19-teens. That's where she fell in love for the first time. When I was in my teens grandma told me how she had been head-over-heels crazy about a fellow, but Uncle Dick and some of the others broke them up by telling her something awful about her beau. Grandma never told me her suitor's name, or what her family had against him. But here's the romantic part: this mystery man came courting Grandma in March, 1968, one year to the day after Grandpa died. Grandma was 71 years old. Her old flame had a nice farm in PA by that time. He had never married and he had followed Grandma's life over the decades through a subscription to the Lewis County Democrat. He knew when all her kids were born and when they came to visit, knew when her oldest daughter, Virgina, had died and most every important event in Grandma's life. Grandma spurned his late courtship, but her then-teenage grandaughters could never understand why.

Back to Uncle Dick and the restaurant again. My sister, Jackie, tells me Uncle Dick's restaurant was located in the building with Mike Moran's general store, with an entrance on the side. I don't know the years of operation, but I'd guess it opened between 1912 and 1916. The Weston Democrat article says most everything in Orlando folded during the 1920s because of changes in the railroad lines but I suspect Uncle Dick's ran into the 1930s, because it was a small, family-run business with very little overhead, and because my father, who didn't get to WV until he'd met my mom, had either been to Uncle Dick's place, or it was at least still a vivid memory in the family when he got there. My sister remembers the decaying building in the 1940s. I don't remember it in the mid 1950s. Uncle Dick would have been 65 in 1934. I understand he lived up Three Lick until he died at the age of 92 in 1961.

1. Orlando:Cinderella City... . Weston Democrat Wed, Nov 2, 1977.
2. Lewis County West Virginia: Her People and Places ed. Joy Gilchrist-Stalnaker, Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants, page 181.

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