Columns/Opinion, John Samsell

Moving closer changes old to new

It was fun recalling local clothing enterprises…so much so that it should just as entertaining to look at eating places and how they followed, or led the way, for development of the region.
For instance, this area once had more than 60 “restaurants and lunch rooms.” Some I remember, many I don’t. When the coal mines and glass factories were in full operation there were restaurants and beer gardens within walking distance.
They had names that I don’t recall, such as the Hawk’s Nest on then Star City Road in Evansdale. Only one lunch room, Jimmy’s, was across from Men’s Hall on the WVU downtown campus when I was attending classes there.
Before that there were at least two others in earlier years. One was Demo’s Lunch at 630 North High St. It was operated by Demosthenes Stamation. There also was University Lunch at 650 North High. Downtown there was Mountaineer Sandwich Shop at 141 High.
There were a bunch of restaurants that changed names, such as Beechurst Avenue Restaurant at 1 Beechurst Ave. that once became Gold and Blue Restaurant.
Beechurst was filled with restaurants and beer gardens that catered to glass factory workers. The same goes for the Sunnyside area. The latter also catered to university students, and football stadium spectators.
Two downtown restaurants that were popular in the 1950s and before were Comuntzis uptown and Richard Restaurant. Comuntzis overcame a fire in 1927 and rebuilt from a confectionary to a restaurant (and also built the Metropolitan Theatre across the street).
Richard was at High and Kirk, and rebuilt a new restaurant on Fairmont road (WV73), where it became popular for a while, with ample parking space.
When Mountaineer Mall was built the downtown area lost its Murphy’s 5&10, which had a lunch bar, as did McCrory’s.
At first downtown drug stores all eventually had lunch counters. When they returned to handling drugs and other items, some folded, and others made changes.
Some of the earlier eating places and beer joints aren’t familiar to me. A few of them:
— Lincoln Beer Garden in Sabraton.
— Corner Room, 495 High.
— Crosby’s Barbecue, Holland Avenue.
— Old Stone House lunchroom, Chestnut Street.
— Old Virginia Restaurant, Walnut Street.
— Presto Lunch, 236 Walnut.
— The Spot, 454-456 High (I do recall this, as a pool room that catered mainly to young adults.)
Two of the best donut shops included, for a brief period of time, the Spudnut shop on Willey Street. Known for its two for 5-cents glazed donuts was Pike’s restaurant. The price went up when the restaurant moved to High Street from Pleasant.
Construction of I-79 made it easier to reach larger restaurants within driving distance. Fairmont and Clarksburg became closer, as did restaurants in Pennsylvania, such as the Golden Spike near Pittsburgh. Also Ryan’s near Clarksburg was different than those in Morgantown.
In recent years many more restaurants have been springing up in the Morgantown area, offering more than pizza.
New restaurants south on the interstate have made changes for motorists. Flatwoods near Sutton have once was a gasoline stop for motorists traveling south. Now they can stop for food also.
A restaurant off the main road through Summersville was a popular stop. The opening of the New River Bridge has made change in traffic there, leaving the once-popular eating place in the dust. Fast food is more popular.
The concrete highways around Beckley are more convenient, thus making those once prized highways of the mid-1950s and before practically obsolete.
The same goes for Princeton. Stopping there isn’t as popular as it once was.