Social event of the year
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2004
They come from miles away, twice each year, and more people than usually vote in any Suffolk
borough, to attend the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department fish fry. One gentleman said he came all the way from Carolina Road and a lady journeyed from Norfolk at the suggestion of a Chuckatuck cousin. Both were pleased with the gourmet Tilapia, hush puppies, coleslaw, and boiled potatoes lavishly splashed with butter. My role was to sit on a stool, take tickets, and greet the guests. I sat there 3 1/2 hours as they poured in at a steady rate from 3:30-7 p.m.
You know the size of the fire hall and it was jammed continuously, finding an empty seat was not easy but everyone managed. The event is planned to perfection and there were three lines of production. One was the main chow line where you pick up your load, then the line for ”seconds,” and a third line just for carryout. All were busy from the git-go. The building is a safe place to eat, the fire department was right there and all the huge doors were wide open and the cooking is done in a separate fireproof room.
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You never saw such a well-oiled kitchen machine. Everyone seems to be a specialist and must be so there are no holdups at the lines. Everything but the coleslaw is hot. Looking into that kitchen is like looking into a beehive, the in and out traffic is tuned so that a man carrying hush puppies through the one and only door will never collide with a pan of fish in transport. How they can see through all that steam is a wonder. I think I counted twenty scurrying volunteer firemen in the kitchen alone. Other firemen and volunteers, wives and friends, served the food. There was even one fireman, about the size of a mountain, pouring iced tea as fast as another put ice in the glasses. Apparently that is his specialty. I’ve seen him do it for years. I saw no one from city hall but I saw our stalwart Chris Jones handling hot fish with aplomb.
What I especially like to see is old friends greet each other, sometimes in the waiting line but most when they spot someone already seated that they know. Lots of hugs, kisses, and handshakes like it’s been years but they probably saw each other last June at the first 2004 Firemen Fish Fry. I asked two old-timer firemen how many years they have held the fish fry and both said it was either since 1968 or 1772. Either way a lot of fish have made the trip through the frying process. And at each event there are many moms with new babies and that indicates there will always be a Chuckatuck.
If they ever put in that new Kings Highway Bridge in a different location where they say it will be, the little village of Chuckatuck will become nearly a pedestrian stroll except for that part on Godwin. Many homes in Chuckatuck appear to be under restoration construction and the village could become a sort of &uot;twilight zone,&uot; quiet and peaceful like the old days. The old fashioned streetlights added a measure of quaintness. The post-office is unique and the &uot;postmaster,&uot; is cute as a bug. When she came through the chow line she looked different because there were no bars in front of her face.
There is still the question of the dangerous intersection, unattractive at this point, but I’ve seen colorful renderings of how it could look. I’d be inclined to wait changes until the new bridge is installed, as there will be far less traffic east and west. Right now it’s take your chances coming, scoot and go off Kings Highway…a VDOT triumph.
We saw in the Suffolk News Herald the new mayor taking his turn at extolling the virtues of our &uot;Downtown.&uot; My first thought was that there must be one huge hunk of the population of Suffolk that never see downtown unless Court or DMV business forces them to travel. Most all of the mayor’s praise we’ve heard from other officials over time but I notice now it’s becoming customary to add new restaurants to the list as they come on line.
When I total the sheer number of Suffolk eateries, including &uot;fast&uot; food outlets, the word &uot;cannibal&uot; comes to mind. I have the feeling, with so many choices available for meals; they can’t all maintain a sufficient steady clientele. I hope I’m wrong but the supply of hungry people willing to eat out Downtown seems quite limited to me. I get the feeling that diners shift around looking, for the niche that satisfies them. Opening week is one thing; maintaining a steady flow of regulars is something else. But a five-movie theatre could change things.
Robert Pocklington is a regular News-Herald columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org