Once upon a time, when autumn leaves began falling, four known world-class, full-time oyster bars, and one multi-faceted outfit, occupied Enterprise Baby Boomer radar screens scanning Coffee/Geneva counties.
The Duck-In Oyster Bar, on North Main, alongside Murdock’s Barbershop and Reese’s Diner, served three dozen on the half-shell, a cold drank and advice on porcelain trays for $1.
In the South Watson/South Main confluence, diagonally across from Bob and Cumi Washburn’s Store and, after 1968, City Hall, was (Leroy) Powers’ Oyster Bar, where conversation and cocktail sauce were always spicy.
Chancellor was home to the legendary Judge’s Oyster Bar, where ice-cold oysters, gourmet chilidogs and sage wisdom were served for piddling money.
A gentleman named Sam Creel was chief shucker in Geneva’s Hall’s Oyster Bar; short in stature, Sam could shuck with the best of ’em anywhere.
Marsh’s Snooker & Eat on South Main, besides serving One’s-a-Meal Hamburgers, Scrambled Dogs, steaming bowls of beef stew and chili, etc., had a three-stool oyster bar and Ed Paschal.
A late-arriving fifth bar occupied a once-revered building no longer standing on East Park Avenue, after the Tastee-Freez had served its last broasted chicken basket; alas, the Welch family, seemingly, operated this village’s last pure oyster bar.
Your scribe learned valuable lessons in all five places, including a painful one in Enterprise Oyster Bar, years before Windell Vickers and Herbert Gibson died: “Never sit between those guys, both world-ranked amateur oyster-eaters who practiced medicine during bidness hours.”
Ever had both sides of your rib cage bruised?
From inside out?
The late Ralph Marsh once told your scribe how he’d educated a disgruntled customer who’d entered a large oyster bar Ralph owned, raucously complaining before packed stools of eaters about having eaten a bad oyster there the previous night.
Ralph encouraged, ahem, the big mouth to wait until the evening’s oyster rush was over and he’d resolve the complaint.
After half an hour of full-bore shucking almost emptied the place, Ralph invited the customer to take Stool No. 1.
Ralph knew a bad oyster would eventually get shucked … there’s always at least one bad oyster per bushel.
In minutes, Ralph popped the lid off a bad’un, placed a $100 bill on the bar, set the oyster in its gleaming half-shell atop the cash, and explained the $100 belonged to the customer after he ate the oyster.
Ralph recalled the guy wallered the oyster around his mouth long as he could … before spitting it out, then spluttered if that was a bad oyster, he’d never eaten one.
Ralph kept the cash.
A newcomer entered Judge Massey’s one afternoon asking, “Can I buy half a sack of oysters?”
Judge, never looking up, explained, “You can buy a whole sack if you want ’em.”
As Jimmy Durante often said, “STOP THE MUSIC! STOP THE MUSIC!”
Instead of fulfilling this column’s original intent, here’s a special bulletin:
One word, stamped in all CAPS in a former library book that moments ago arrived in the House of Adams, Allen Barra’s “Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age,” instantly proved eye-opening.
The word’s so obvious it’d been overlooked here.
This one common word explains what’s happened to many once-upon-a-time blessings of being Americans.
Like shells in oyster bars hereabouts, they’ve been: