The Honeymoon's Over
Selling Souvenirs on U.S. Route 50
Text and photographs by Carl E. Feather
|Carl Doll stands outside the New Creek souvenir stand that his late wife Margie Crites Doll started in the 1930s by selling the wooden lawn ornaments she made. Carl Doll closed the shop June 30, 1999.|
"Come back after 1:00. Mr. Doll should be up by then," says Betty Thompson, a clerk handling the checkout counter at Doll's Honeymooners Gifts in New Creek.
It's 11:00 a.m. on a Wednesday in late June 1999 when I stop at the white souvenir stand in Mineral County located on a narrow strip of land between U.S. Route 50 and the town's namesake stream. I am stopping on a whim, hoping that a Doll family member still has a hand in the store and would make time for an interview.
My interest in the stand was piqued some 35 years earlier when, as a child, I traveled with my parents from Thomas in Tucker County to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on vacations. The souvenir stand, located just a few miles east of treacherous Saddle Mountain, provided a good place to rest our '63 Ford Falcon at the foot of the mountain. While Dad checked the oil, my mother shopped for salt-and-pepper shakers, rooster collectibles, and chenille bedspreads. To this day, she still owns a fancy bedspread plus various nicknacks purchased at Doll's.
More than once, I left the stand owning a genuine West Virginia souvenir, most likely made in a Far East nation. I particularly recall the Confederate flags sold during the Civil War centennial years and the felt "hillbilly" hats - a Chico Marx-style Alpine with a feather stuck in the top and "West Virginia" embroidered on the front. I owned one. It was purple, and I wore it proudly as I marched around my grandparents' home in Thomas. In Ohio, however, I discovered that such souvenirs were best kept concealed in my bedroom. Buckeyes had little appreciation for Confederate flags. Further, the comical hat would only confirm some people's stereotypical image of a "genuine" West Virginian.
With those memories in mind, I'm expecting to see a yard full of birdbaths, gazing balls, painted concrete lawn ornaments, and bedspreads when I pull into Doll's this June morning. What I find instead are a solitary Confederate flag and a faded "Almost Heaven" T-shirt dancing in the breeze, a couple of tacky plastic lawn ornaments, and a sign - "All items, 50% off."
You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.