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franklin county times

Please don't take away the peanut butter crocks

By By Katherine Horne/Special to The Star
Oct. 30, 2001
Peanut butter and crackers, shrimp remoulade, and black-bottom pie composed my favorite meal throughout my adolescent years. Only Weidmann's could render palatable such a mlange.
This, of course was my own a la carte selection, not a regular bill of fare, but Hinkle, at whose table we regularly sat, soon ceased to ask my order. Indeed, the first time I switched to something more orthodox, he was almost startled enough to write down my choice, something he rarely did for even a large party.
With the closing of Weidmann's on Oct. 4, came a freshet of memories immaculate, affable white-jacketed Hinkle of the charismatic grin and fantastic memory; Claude Terry, impish and rotund, who must have slept standing at the cashier's stand and who'd give you a pre-dawn wake-up call actually at any hour of the night; James, who hasn't changed an iota since I can remember, perpetually behind the counter, only recently retired; Mr. And Mrs. Henry Weidmann, one or the other generally near the entrance, greeting patrons.
Early recollections
Imbued with a residue of smoky autumnal exhilaration, the aftermath of Wildcat football or the fair, my earliest recollections of our town's culinary culmination converge on late night hot chocolate and snacks with friends and our parents. A flavor of exotic adventure pervaded the ambience evoked by the patina of those paneled walls lined with photographs flourished with autographs of celebrities who had dined there Gloria Vanderbilt, Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, cowboy star Tom Mix, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. Interspersed smiled and frowned Mississippi icons  Meridian's own Skeeter Webb, the Detroit Tigers shortstop; nationally renowned author James Street; Fred and Al Key, for whom during their historic flight in the Ole Miss Weidmann's had provided meals; and one fierce action poise that was to prove prophetic, All-American running back Shorty McWilliams.
Augmenting the imagery loomed the huge fireplace topped with multicolored, pewter-lidded steins; mounted swordfish, stag and elk heads; and the intricately carved Swiss clock, bristling with antlered bucks, strange fowls, woodland branches, cones, and nuts. Aladdin's cave could have boasted no more alluring treasure trove.
As the legend scored in the mahogany facing under the mantle proclaimed, "It's the food that counts." From seafood gumbo, stuffed flounder, and trout almondine to turnip greens and cracklin' bread, Weidmann's produced the most delectable, as rated by Duncan Hines, as well as other nationally published connoisseurs.
Yet, an intangible relish not culinary enhanced the flavor of that scrumptious cuisine. Prepared and served identically in other than Weidmann's milieu, those dishes, I think, would have lacked their distinctively savory elan. Fanciful, perhaps, but certain venerable places exude a vibrancy, a panache, autonomous to physical structure or practical function, the reverberations of all who have sojourned there, leaving a residual memory of their psyche. Ghosts? Perchance. Whatever spectral emanations mingle and flow there, they are enticing, hospitable, like murmurs of genial sirens offering conviviality and time's ambrosia.
Folklore
Weidmann's has several ghosts, so local folklore had it back when I was growing up, both of travelers and regular diners. The only names I ever heard were those of Adam and Sarah Jane, a young couple from rural north Mississippi who wandered in during the dark days of the great depression, on a so-far futile job-hunting journey, which, if eventually successful, would enable them to be married.
Well-mannered, nicely dressed, their clothes a bit worn and shabby, they'd heard of the legendary restaurant, and having earned a few dollars lately doing odd jobs, he'd insisted on splurging.
Leaning toward each other, she was glowing, he expansive and masterful, ordering steaks, then dessert and coffee.
As young lovers will, they caught the crowd's smiling attention. Murmurs ran,
With the characteristic affability so natural to their dynasty, the proprietor stopped by to chat. When the waiter brought the check, Mr. Weidmann picked it up, waving away Adam's protests.
Stricken
In life they never returned. Rumors ran that she died of polio, others that he was killed in the war. But on a certain date, some say, late at night you may glimpse in a quickly fading vignette against a wall near the fireplace an aura as softly yellow as candlelight over Sarah Jane and Adam, who sit holding hands under the table.
I hope Weidmann's is haunted. I'd like to spend this Hallowe'en night there. Maybe in sequence those blithe episodes and familiar personages would all come trouping back. I'd top off shrimp remoulade with black bottom pie, and my digestion would be what it was at 15.
There'd be sleepy romantic post-midnight breakfasts after dances. For the holidays the nose of the elk's head over the counter would be whimsically tinted Rudolf-red. We'd beckon Shorty to join us and get first-hand details of some significant game. The grandfather clock in the 1870 room would chime the quarter hours. I'd catch snatches of the men's mid-morning coffee club and the roundtable lunch bunch solving the world's problems. Maybe a la Rod Steiger and the Twilight Zone, the people in the pictures would come out and talk to us.
Maybe, despite modernization, the evolved quintessence of Meridian permeating the mellowed landmark will prevail.

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