Places come and go. People pass through your life. You hang out at various places with a variety of people on your journey. Memories of the instant impressions of those places and people come and go. Sometimes they linger and some of them, occasionally, linger a long while.
And so it will be with me and “Atwood’s” which was more than just a cafe. It’s a fond farewell to Atwood’s — for me, a part of the passages of life.
Atwood’s was the Sivells family: Charles and Virginia, and just about their entire family — a very extended one. It was the hooligans with whom I came to eat breakfast with over many years. It was the faces passing through at breakfast or lunch — some just familiar, some whom I actually knew.
Atwoods was not a place but rather people. That starts with Charles and Virginia. Virginia (“Jinky” to many) was known as the “Biscuit Queen” and oh, was she ever.
If you never had her biscuits then you’ve never had a biscuit. Fortunately for the biscuit affecionados, when son Alan and his wife Melinda took over the cafe Virginia did a marvelous job of instructing the art of the biscuit. Charles (“Charley” to us) was just a friendly cafe owner on the surface, but a complex and deeply religious man in the core. He and Virginia will be known if for nothing else, for their family and moral lesson — living lessons.
The Picayune had a great article about Charley. He had a tremendous career as a geophysicist but his forte’ was simply being a man. A real man whom anyone could look up to. In addition to geophysics and the cafe, Charley was
a rancher. I think that ranch was about the only thing that could drag him away from his family and Atwood’s.
Atwood’s had a special place in my heart. I was sitting at the table in the Southeast corner when I decided to move to Marble Falls. Even then I had no intention of moving my law practice there but would simply commute from there to Big Spring where my nicely positioned law firm was thriving. In time I would settle entirely in Marble Falls and never looked back.
Each person who ate there more than once will have something special they remember about that little cafe. And it was indeed little, but you were never rushed in order to get a “table turn” and you always invited others to share the table so everyone could enjoy their favorite dish. For many, if not most, the favorite dish was enchiladas. Different, and totally wonderful enchiladas. I would be hard-pressed to describe them adequately. They came out bubbling in chili gravy and melted cheese, smothered in onions (if you wanted them), and were made with really good meat nicely spiced. Eating them was one of those you-just-had-to-be-there experiences.
I did mention the biscuits earlier. Virginia’s fame as the Biscuit Queen was known far and wide and that fact was memorialized in a great painting done by Bernie Sachs. Bernie has now opened a gallery — berniesachsart — where the print can be purchased, along with many other fine works.
In this photo of them you can see a print of the painting in the background.
Virginia was always there early getting the biscuits and (baked) “fried” pies ready. At one time I was addicted to those pies! Had to really ration myself. There were also good burgers and a number of other treats enjoyed by all. urbanspoon had a 94% “like” rating. But above all, Virginia is everyone’s perfect “grandma” with a quick smile, a kindly rebuke as needed, a little twinkle in the eye if she doesn’t catch you looking, and a heart of gold.
A lot of people came around on “closing day,” August 31, 2012. The rush started in the morning and I saw a crowd at noon as well: people I saw there frequently and some who were occasional customers but friends of the Sivells’ nonetheless.
There was my usual gang of thieves and liars. For a change I made sure that I was in one of the photos. I appear in very few since I usually have the camera, much to the chagrin of the “victims” who might be around.
The cafe will re-open in 2013 in a different format, different menus, different people. I hope it does well and I’ll be there on opening day — but it won’t be the same. Atwood’s as done by the Sivells is gone, and thus ends an era. A fond farewell to Atwood’s. Thanks for the memories (and the enchiladas!).
Here are a few of the characters who graced this little hometown cafe over the years.