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It’s a potato peeler!

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The old potato peeler
Larry S. Chowning

Several years ago, Urbanna Town Administrator Lewis Filling found an unusual looking contraption in the weeds near the Urbanna Visitors Center (Old Tobacco Warehouse). It was moved into the basement of the historic building and the town recently held a contest to identify the item.

Several people correctly answered that the machine was an old potato peeler, probably used in the Old Hurley Restaurant in the 1940s and 50s.  The restaurant was where Liberty at Compass Quay is located today.

Phil Friday, Richard Thomas, Bob Calves and Dan Gill, all of the Urbanna area, got the right answer. Clarence W. Smith Jr. of Weems, Eric Reichkert of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Remi Laplace of Arlington, Nicole and Jim Chappuis of Woodbury, Conn., and Kathy and Dave Neel of Richmond also had the right answer.

The winners won gift certificates to Olivia’s Restaurant, Marshall’s Drug Store, Virginia Street Cafe, Colonial Pizza, Port Urbanna Waterfront Grill and cruises on the schooner “Serenity.”

Some of the wrong answers were “rather” interesting, said Ed Starbird, coordinator of the contest.

Larry Murray of Glen Allen thought the potato peeler was a moonshine still.

Carol Murray thought it was used to cure tobacco.

Clyde Roper of Urbanna thought is was an oyster shell cleaner.

Pete Mansfield of Urbanna thought it was used to get “skin from walnuts.”

Eileen Hastings of Richmond thought it was a steam-powered furnace.

Warren Heath of Quinton said it was an air compressor.

Other answers were that the machine was a washing machine, peanut cooker, tobacco washer, hot water heater, dishwasher, tobacco grinder, boat brander, ice cream maker, kiln, metal can melter, water purifier, and tomato peeler.

The old machine has a permanent home in the cellar of the Urbanna Visitors Center along with some other rather unusual artifacts of the town’s long history.

posted 12.16.2009

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