Chapter 34


Oysters were a delicacy for people who lived inland. They came to central West Virginia from Baltimore, being harvested in those environmentally happy days from the Chesapeake Bay and shipped in barrels by train. It was common knowledge you shouldn’t eat oysters in the months without an “r” in the name: June, July and August. This was a rationalization – these months were the months without refrigeration.

Many churches had oyster suppers as money making project. The women of the church would order one or more barrels of oysters in late fall and work all day getting ready for the supper. I think the church I attended as a child was typical. Our church had a basement with a kitchen, necessary for “all day meetings.” These meetings were a necessity with a far flung congregation. Travel was difficult, and the entire day was lost to make the trip, and the afternoon service helped to justify spending the day going to church. Going to church in the evening was unknown (in rural churches) until I was a teenager, except for “Revival Meetings,” a series a week or so long which were an attempt to evangelize the larger community outside the church, and revitalize the regular members of the church.

Oyster supper was a grueling day for the women. A number of men and older boys would also be present to carry heavy loads and a few other tasks, but food preparation and clean up was women’s work, and the women were used to long days on the farm. (Men weren’t considered good enough to do cooking and were too careless about washing dishes, but they were allowed to dry dishes.) Advertising was done by handbills and word of mouth. Many of the customers would be regulars who would come year after year. If you didn’t like oysters, a ham dinner was available.

At times they would serve 150 or more eat-in customers and send out twenty or thirty meals for shut-ins and people who didn’t want to dress for the meal, because most came in church clothes, which would be the best they had. These meals cost the customer about what a restaurant meal would cost, but the only cost to the church was the oysters (all the rest of the food was donated). This had the potential for several hundred dollars return, and was considered a very good thing for community relations and for church finances.

The women of the church would order one or more barrels of oysters for a certain day in late fall and work all day getting ready for the supper. In later years the church basement had a kitchen and the preparation was done there. A record from 1965 says:

The annual Oyster supper at the Brick Church is still prepared in the traditional fashion. The raw oysters are ordered direct from a Baltimore wholesale distributor. The original recipe for padding is followed using egg, milk and home ground cracker meal. Each oyster is dipped twice in the egg milk mixture and twice in cracker meal carefully manipulated in skilled hands.
Most of the oysters are fried in iron skillets over direct flame as in the old days. Even the menu is traditional:
Oyster fry or stew, Ham if preferred
Scalloped potatoes, cole slaw
Bread, butter, pickles
Cake and coffee
For an old fashioned food treat come to the
Lost Creek Seventh Day Baptist (Brick) Church
October 28, 1965 between 5 and 8 PM
Adults $1.50 Children $.75
The proceeds will be used to finish paying for furniture for the new parsonage.

The Lost Creek SDB (Seventh Day Baptist, see more below) Church had an oyster supper almost every year for over one hundred years, with time out for WWII when oysters were not available. The tradition was discontinued when TV came in, women worked outside the home more, and a considerable percentage of the congregation and leadership were not daughters of the women who had done it in previous years. They still have an oyster supper in Johnstown, in the very rural southeastern corner of Harrison County. The Christmas Light Committee in Lost Creek also has one, and the Country Fall Festival have one in each Fall and Spring.

Aside When the Interstate system was designed it was planned to have no billboards. The road signs were designed to be effective, but unobtrusive. Several thousand dollars a mile were devoted to beautification, “Ladybird” Johnson’s contribution to the system. (She was President Lyndon Johnson’s wife.) Trees, shrubs and flowers were set out. West Virginia has done a good job of keeping the sides and median strips mowed.

Congress put in a provision to allow billboards within so many feet of a commercial establishment, however. I don’t know if this was in the original enabling legislation or in something subsequent. It seems it has taken a long time for the out door advertising industry to catch on, thirty years, but catch on they have. There are now about sixty-two full size billboards between Route 50, which divides Harrison County in half, and the Harrison-Lewis County line, along with half a dozen smaller signs, and several signs identifying the businesses along the road.

The signs identifying a business are not bad. It helps people find them, and it helps identify the economic base. Billboards are inexcusable, though. I once saw a movie where the road was lined with billboards, end to end, so someone in a vehicle could see nothing else. Will it come to that eventually?

The pipe used to make the stand for the signs is very large diameter and very thick. It is not manufactured in the U. S., but is brought down from Canada. The going rate for a location for four signs on one stand is $250 a month, quite an incentive for the land owner. 2002

Copyright © 1998, 2006, 2008, 2011 S. Tom Bond (stombond at