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  • Michelle Gill


Ernie in the Boiler Room 1980 Roanoke Times

A memory...

Walking into Ernie's, I can smell the grease from Ernie's famous potato cakes frying on the grill. I squeeze in between two older men at the counter and sit on the red stool. "Grilled cheese and pinto beans?", Dave asks smiling.

"Yep!" The conversations around me are the same every day. Most of these men have been eating at Ernie's for decades. Same time, same thing, same people every day of the week. It is kind of homey that way. Routine is homey - nice and snug and warm. You can depend on it - routine.

That is the way most men live in this town. That is the way the I have learned to live in this town.

After lunch, I walk across the street and get a Winesap apple from the gray-haired lady, who runs the shop on the corner. Every morning, I watch out the tall storefront windows as the sun is rising. The old lady pulls her big green car into the parking space and pulls out and straightens her car and pulls in again and out again and in again; finally satisfied she gets out and sets up the corner fruit and vegetable stand.

Every morning I turn the lights on, turn the ceiling fans on that are nestled high above, extending from the copper ceiling, and check the hardwood floors to make sure they have been cleaned the night before. I stop and take another look at the little old lady as she continues to open her shop and the stand out front.

I see Kann setting up crates and vines. He weaves baskets from grapevines and sells them in the downtown market on the street. He ran away from his home in Holland when he was fourteen and lived in India. Now he lives here, I wonder how he likes the town of routine. Is it comforting to him or will he be moving again soon?

(Ernie Arthur who opened Ernie's in downtown Roanoke, also owned the Boiler Room which was next door to my Great Uncles Calvin Doss and Melvin Doss's restaurant CalMel, before my time. They say he loved to cook and watch people enjoy his food.)

© 2022 Michelle Gill


107 Market Square SE

Roanoke, VA 24011

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