About Me

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Perfect Ending!

I was in Chester, WV on Friday, July 1, 2011 for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony honoring four prominent citizens of the city, including my grandfather, Clifford Otto Comm (pictured left). My father, Clifford Lee Comm, spoke eloquently of his father in the sanctuary of the First Christian Church on the hill. Grandpa was described as the "Doc on the Corner" serving Chester as a pharmacist for over 60 years.

My family was with me on the trip and my 5-year old daughter instead of calling out “Are we there, yet?” from the back of the family truckster began asking, “How far to the Teapot?” She was referring, of course, to Chester’s roadside giant The World’s Largest Teapot.

As we took the Route 30 off ramp to Chester, I noticed some vehicles parked near the Teapot and workers restoring the old icon with a fresh coat of paint. I learned at the induction reception that a student from Oak Glen High School in New Cumberland is responsible for this latest fix up effort, part of an Eagle Scout project. Good for him!

As we turned the corner onto Carolina Avenue I took my eyes off the road and craned my neck to see if the back door of the Teapot was open. It was! It took all the strength an old Chester Kid could muster to continue to my parents’ house and not pull over for a look inside, but we were 20 minutes late already.

The World’s Largest Teapot sits on a cement pad below Marks Run very near to where the lower trolley loop entrance to Rock Springs Park was located. In fact, yellow bricks from the trolley turn around are still scattered near the site. I know, because I have one.

When I attended a Lincoln Highway teacher workshop in Pittsburgh their guest speaker was none other than Lincoln Highway aficionado, Brian Butko. Brian is the expert on the national road and has written many books on the topic. On the cover of his Greetings From The Lincoln Highway: America's First Coast-to Coast Road in the top right corner is a picture of Chester’s World’s Largest Teapot. Excited, I raised my hand during his lecture and blurted out; “I grew up next to the teapot!” My seemingly odd statement received an unintended laugh from the attendees and a smile from Brian.

Brian has worked on projects with PBS Pittsburgh documentarian Rick Sebak in the past and in 2008 Rick took on Brian’s favorite topic in a one-hour special called A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway. I heard about the project before it was scheduled to air and followed Rick on his blog about show.

Knowing I was a little late to the table, I left the following message on his blog site:

Joe Comm // Aug 22, 2008 at 2:45 pm
My son and I are really looking forward to the new Lincoln Highway documentary. I grew up in Chester, WV, a late addition to the highway route. There are still three intact concrete markers in my old neighborhood, not to mention the iconic “World’s Largest Teapot.” Will Rick visit Chester in his new road show? It’s only a stone’s throw from Pittsburgh, and has a rich history including the now defunct Rock Springs Park.

Rick responded:

2 Rick // Aug 23, 2008 at 6:15 pm
JOE: Bob the cameraman and I spent some time in Chester earlier this year, shot all three of the concrete markers, but the day was miserable, so we didn’t get any shots of the Teapot. We’re editing now, but your note may force me to send Bob back for a shot or two of that landmark. There’s just too much cool stuff all along the Lincoln.

Did you catch that? “Your note may force me to send Bob back for a shot or two of that landmark.”

Rick and his crew did return to Chester and their footage of the Teapot can be viewed in the documentary at 53:26 minutes. It shows a young-at-heart couple, Esther Oyster (Great name!) and Bernie Queneau, who met because of the Lincoln Highway Association and married when Bernie was 91-years old. Bernie was one of those boyscouts who planted concrete markers along the Lincoln Highway in 1928. How fitting that a local student is fixing up Chester's best-known landmark for an Eagle Scout project. In nearly the final scene of Rick's special, Esther and Bernie are shown approaching the big red and white Teapot holding hands. What a perfect ending!

My grandfather passed away in March 1993. He was everything a kid would want in a grandfather and more. I love him and miss him and my grandmother, Beatrice, dearly. Congratulations on your award Grandpa!

Fact 1: a large creamer once sat next to the teapot. It is now on display in the city building - the old Chester High School.

Fact 2: I nearly ran into Rick Sebak while on a Pittsburgh field trip with my students several years back. Rick was entering the gift shop building on the grounds of the Frick mansion and I was leaving. I wanted to say hello, but he was escorting his mother and looked busy.

Fact 3: The woman who showed Rick, Bernie, and Esther the inside of the teapot was none other than Susan Badgely who was also inducted in the Chester Hall of Fame along with my grandfather on July 1.

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