Monday, August 16, 2010

Wolf Lake and Cape Girardeau Memories

Gerald graduated from Wolf Lake High School with sixteen in the class. Three years ago we celebrated their 60th graduation. Then Ermadell Eudy Elkins, a classmate noted for her spirit of service to others, started getting these classmates together for an informal supper down at Fox Hollow in East Cape Girardeau.

A truck bed used as a huge signboard at the entry road tells you that you’ve arrived, and the restaurant is spelled “Fox Hollow.” There is one small home-made craft-style sign inside more correctly spelling “Hollow” as “Holler,” which is what more folks enjoy calling this place, which is only open on weekends.

This is at the junction of Route 146 going south and the highway turning to the west to get to the Cape bridge. There are three or four somewhat picturesque storefront buildings, reminding me of a movie set for a western, that are used for a weekend flea market, althoughI’ve never been there when the market was open.
The eatery directly behind these distinct buildings, however, is about as nondescript and plain as a building can be. You walk in from the graveled parking lot through a tiny foyer. The kitchen is open in plain view of your left, and there are three low ceilinged rooms, one of which was reserved for us.

A local farmer, whose very beautiful large brick home is up the road apiece, owns and runs the restaurant, and he works extremely hard greeting guests and looking as if he enjoys this hosting/serving weekend occupation. I understand his nickname is Foxy, and that explains the inside mish mash of wall decorations that frequently feature foxes. This down-home establishment cannot exactly be described as rustic in any formalized way, but it does have a charm and excellent food that draws locals from both sides of the Cape bridge for Friday night fish and other specialties.

Seeing the regulars there makes any gathering a social occasion as much as an eating occasion. Often Gerald’s two Union County brothers and wives are there although they weren’t this particular Friday as Ginger was not feeling well. But there were others in the dining areas outside our reserved room that Gerald knew and enjoyed visiting with.

Not too long after Gerald’s 1948 class graduated, three small towns in the Mississippi
River bottoms consolidated their school systems. Wolf Lake, McClure, and Grand Tower High Schools became Shawnee High School with a new school building as well as new name. The date for Gerald’s class reunion came about because there is an annual reunion of the McClure School alumni and friends, and some of Gerald’s classmates regularly attend that reunion on Saturday night at Fox Holler. That was a much larger group as I understand it, so Fox Holler must have been full and running over the next night.

If not staying with relatives, many of the returning alumni sleep in motels in Cape and drive over for their reunion. We too drove over to Cape after our reunion, just as Gerald’s brother and wife always do when eating at Foxy’s. The cheaper Missouri gas cuts down on your traveling expense for the evening, and the new bridge is so lovely that going over it is an aesthetic joy. You are not only following one route of the Trail of Tears, but you are also in Lewis and Clark territory.

After we had filled our car with gas, we drove down to the river and enjoyed the wonderful paintings there on the river wall, which I never tire of viewing. It was still light and people were out strolling and visiting as well as viewing. We drove back through the former main shopping district close to the river. It is still an active district, but not with the name department stores of our childhood as they have moved to the new malls and shopping areas. The new riverside campus of Southeast Missouri University adjoining the old Catholic seminary buildings is quite lovely, and the brief drive near the river is replete with both historical attractions and personal memories.

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